Most startups cannot afford a full-time, qualified bookkeeper. In fact, early-stage startups usually tie up a lot of their cash in product development so they can generate cash that requires bookkeeping. But once you start having an ebb and flow of cash, now what?
This is where Wanda M. Medina enters the conversation. Thanks to founding Simple Bookkeeping Solutions in 2009, small business owners now have a cost-effective 21st Century, cloud-based accounting and bookkeeping option.
“We use a range of specialist software, such as Xero, Freshbooks and Quickbooks Online,” Medina said. “We provide small businesses with an online accounting department at an affordable monthly rate, for less than the cost of a full-time bookkeeper.”
She found that the biggest difficulties facing small business owners and new startups are cash flow and time. Most small businesses cannot afford, in terms of cash or time, to hire a qualified bookkeeper, or spend huge sums on new accounting technology and the training to use it. Entrepreneurs do it all —tracking income and expenses, planning for taxes, trying (and maybe failing) to figure out cash flows, and handling payroll. Business owners lose valuable time that could be spent on building their enterprise.
Medina and her four employees in Ashburn, Virginia aim to tackle the accounting problems of the average entrepreneur in an efficient way. So in addition to processing bills, receipts and documents, Simple’s monthly plans include tax ready financials, a bookkeeper assigned to their business, a controller to reviews the work and analyze their financials.
“We become a true partner, collaborating with business owners on their strategic business planning and then managing the financials—forecasting and cash flows included—so that they can focus on what they do best,” she explained.
A Woman in a Man’s World
Medina has been an accountant for more than 30 years. She started out in public accounting as an auditor, worked with Fortune 500 companies and later worked with small businesses and startups. As the National Women’s Business Council has noted in the past, women need equal access to markets. Medina acknowledges that breaking into the small business accounting market was tough, but a lack of resources for female entrepreneurs also added difficulty because female entrepreneurs are often underfunded and underexposed.
“Like many small businesses, I don’t have a surplus of cash to spend on marketing, so I turn to friends, online forums, social media tools and publications like Lioness Magazine that offer advice on growing your business,” Medina shared. “My business pitch focuses on what makes Simple unique. My niche is small businesses only, offering a flat monthly fee. Big firms charge per hour and most of the time, you don’t know who or how many people are handling your books. I’ve gained more market by referrals, SEO and networking locally. I don’t think about who I’m competing against.”
She didn’t go after traditional funding sources when she launched Simple. She made the difficult decision of quitting her six-figure paying job to put all her energy into growing her business. She admits it was a bold move.
“I discussed it with my husband and we knew we were going to have to tighten our belts for a while. His support was a huge blessing for me. My children were out of the nest and I figured now or never, I have to give it my all. My initial source of funding was our savings. I prepared my business plan and a budget to maintain focus and monitor my financials. The profits that I make, I re-invest in the business. Having a plan and a budget are essential tools. You need to know how much cash is needed to keep your business alive.”
She credits her former boss with giving her a fire approach to seeing things through – for better or for worse. “[He] is a top performer and wasn’t always easy. He pushed my buttons, didn’t accept excuses. He pushed me outside of my comfort zone. We had lots of friction, but it was positive friction, where growth, development and breakthroughs happen.”
The Evolution of Accounting
Throughout her career, Medina has experienced a number of dramatic changes in small business needs. Most notably, changes in the way that today’s small businesses, startups and entrepreneurs have evolved to expect immediate results in a rapidly-changing marketplace. Financial information is a key component in making fast, accurate business decisions.
“With all the great leaps in technology, and the need for real time financial information, bookkeeping and accounting have evolved into more of a support or advisor role, the day-to-day work now takes significantly less time leaving more time to look at the big picture. I think the bookkeeper or even controller positions will eventually fade to the new breed of online accountants and virtual accounting department.
“With all the new online affordable software, many small businesses take care of their day-to-day and seek help to reconcile, analyze and get financial advice anytime, anywhere on any device. I love technology,” Medina said.
Finding Her Way
“My mother was my mentor, my rock. She taught me to shake my fears and be bold. When I had those moments of doubt, she helped me remember what’s most important. She kept me grounded and supported,” Medina added. “My husband, when I need a jolt of creativity, business brainstorming or a push, he is my go to person. He doesn’t have much patience for indecision, he reminds me that if I miss a shot, just keep shooting. The piece of advice I try to live by is what my mother always reminded me of: keep that fire in your belly going. Shake your fears and take bold actions. God created women to nurture, manage and lead. No space for fear – just determination and self-confidence.”