I started my first company, VistaGroup, in 2001. We focus on helping clients with organizational strategy and change. I formed COACT in 2003, born at a strategic planning session with a VistaGroup client. He was keen on business development and marketing models that I’d built some years before.
Reality is Real
Life was good, then I hired someone. Next, came payroll taxes. As it turns out, both models were experiencing success that I couldn’t have imagined the day I opened their bank accounts. More people, new clients, more people.
I’m passionate about helping leaders see and achieve things they otherwise could never imagine possible. I live to watch doubt convert to hope, hope to reality. But, here’s the rub… the faster I grew my businesses, the more I was becoming an accountant. Sending invoices at night. Reconciling accounts on the weekend. Blocking out time in my week to pay bills. Preparing payroll the day before and paying taxes… paying taxes, paying taxes. I was spending more time in QuickBooks than I was helping leaders – remember, that is what I get paid to do.
I went to my CPA. I told him I couldn’t afford a controller. I needed him to supply more discipline to my accounting structures. Long story short, most CPAs are built to do your taxes and advise you on certain aspects of adding and subtracting numbers in accordance with the tax law. Even that would be useful if it didn’t cost such a large portion of my small-business GDP, if you know what I mean. His solution was impractical. The irony was the more I did on my own, the more it cost me to have him rejigger my work.
Help is on the Way
COACT had hired a general office, administrative support person for its burgeoning operation. For you, it could be your spouse, your aunt or your retired father who is anxious to help. “Do you have any experience in accounting?” “No, but I’m sure I can learn it.” Better, but not good.
I was finally unchained from the kitchen table and late nights. Slowly the impressions of QuickBooks burned into to my brain, faded. But, there were errors made while I was busily growing my businesses. What did I expect? I took a person with the heart and eagerness to help and put her in a position for which she had no experience. It turns out that adding and subtracting numbers in accordance with the tax law is really important.
I remembered years before, my CPA referred me to a person who was a bookkeeper, working from home. Someone who could post transactions correctly and administratively support my accounting needs. I made the call. You know how it works. You gather your bills, receipts and supporting documents, make an envelope transfer a couple of times a week, and the numbers add up.
Just about the time we started to get it figured out, she decided to go back into the workforce. I queried my CPA for another and started over. What I discovered is that most bookkeepers are good at supporting the workload but aren’t in the position to work with you more strategically, building the accounting structures that are needed. I remained frustrated by the lack of integrity in our accounting system.
I was having a moment. I was dealing with yet another disconnect in our accounting process. That’s when it came to me. What I really needed was a service that could “shoot the gap” between a CPA and a bookkeeper. I needed a solution that was less expensive than what a CPA charges, but more sophisticated than what a bookkeeper could supply. I needed accounting strategy, structure, tools and automation. I needed the talent to help me develop best practices in accounting and manage the process, but I was still not prepared to support the cost of a full-time accounting person.
Once again, I visited my CPA. I asked him if he knew someone who I could partner with, to start a new accounting advisory firm designed to support small- to mid-size businesses, assuming they had similar issues to mine. I don’t want to do taxes, but I want to deliver CPA-like expertise. To my surprise, Mike Hunter, our managing partner, replied, “What about me?”
We are just about to celebrate our fifth year in business. Mike and his team supply accounting advisory services to more than twenty clients across the United States. They complete their work inside a budgetable, flat retainer. They work with each client to build quality accounting systems, automate their transactions, manage their administrative needs, complete payroll, reconcile their accounts, run month end reports, build dashboards and advise them on course corrections, if needed.
After nearly fifteen years of fits-and-starts, I now have a solution that is suitable, appropriate, and fitting.
Ap’tus: Latin meaning, suitable, appropriate, fitting.
APTUS is a full-service financial and managerial accounting practice. We supply the talent, technology, tools and processes that deliver on-time, quality reporting and advisory services. Our solution is designed to give organizations better financial information, in a performance management system that enables them to make faster, fact-based decisions.