This week Vivid Minds Vivid Futures interviews Rachel Fenn, CEO of Early Bird Bookkeeping. Early Bird Bookkeeping offers more than just a bookkeeping service; they specialise in providing complete outsourced financial services to SMEs with multi-million-dollar turnovers and helping start-ups get a handle on their financials.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am 45 years old, married with four kids, three of whom have special needs. I’m very involved in my kids’ education and I while I enjoy this, I sometimes think I run a business in order to stay sane. I’m also a black belt in Taekwondo. I started doing it with my eldest two boys when they were 4 and 5 years old. I thought they needed the discipline martial arts can instil. They are now 11 and 13 years old and while they don’t do it anymore, I fell in love with it and still go every week. This year I am gunning for my second Dan if I pull off my next black belt.
When did you start your business?
I started in 2013. At that time, I had been on maternity leave and had contacted my employer to arrange a return-to-work plan, but instead I was made redundant. Sadly, this is a common experience, but it did give me the push I needed to start my own business. I had been a tax agent and had often felt I could do a better job of bookkeeping than what I was seeing come across my desk. I had to spend the next 12 months learning how to do the job because it is very different to being a tax agent.
What does Early Bird Bookkeeping do?
Predominantly we provide two categories of service. The biggest of these is providing a complete outsourced finance department for businesses with multimillion dollar turnovers. For them, we do all aspects of the day-to-day financial management of their business, chasing, preparing statutory lodgement, and liaising with tax agents etc. We also help the business owner to better understand their financials. I probably like doing this the most.
The second aspect is working with start-ups. Businesses that have arisen from a wonderful idea and have some idea of how to start but don’t understand the money side. We help them get a handle on things.
What have been some of your challenges in starting Early Bird Bookkeeping?
The big one has always been, and probably always will be, having the confidence to get out there and meet people and being able to successfully present the Early Bird Bookkeeping business concept forward.
Another big one I experienced at the start up stage was learning to be a bookkeeper. I had thought as an accountant I knew what I was doing, but the work is really quite different. However, the experience of my team and I in accounting has proven to be an advantage as we know what accountants need and we work hard deliver to that.
How has the pandemic affected you?
In many ways, it created more demand for our services. Businesses needed financial management more than ever, in part because JobKeeper relies on accurate figures, which helped drive demand. For me, COVID-19 showed how important it is to have your finances sorted. All my clients were able to think outside the box and, in some instances, came out of the lockdown stronger because of it. Those that did close used the time to reposition themselves. We had their finances taken care of for them, freeing them to focus on their business throughout, and I love watching my clients do that.
What do you like most about running your own business?
The people. I love the people. I meet so many different people who know so many different things. There is always something new to learn, and always someone different to talk to. The favourite part of any day is when I get to sit down with a cup of coffee with a client for a general chat.
What advice would you give a business just starting out?
I think first and foremost would be to surround yourself with a team of people who know what you don’t. Recognise that you can’t know it all, do it all, or be it all. With finances in particular, the legalities change all the time and it’s hard to get on top of if you are not working in the environment consistently.
The secret to success is to get the right team behind your business.
What inspires you?
Success stories. I love to help people succeed. One of my favourite things is helping a start-up go from knowing nothing to knowing exactly what they are doing, seeing their business grow, and the personal development they get out of that. I guess I like the ‘rags to riches’ stories.
Personally, I like to look back and see what has changed in the last six to twelve months, how I’ve performed against my goals, what goals have changed and so on.
What is your secret for success?
Relationships! I love people; I just want to be around people. Most accountants aren’t great with people. For me, business is not about the numbers, it’s about the people doing it, what they want, and what is going to help them achieve their goals.
What’s next for Early Bird Bookkeeping
We are intending to expand our client base into the greater New England, particularly in the Armidale, Inverell, and Gunnedah area. While I’m not a fan of Zoom, I’ve found it very useful professionally in supporting clients across an extended geographic area.
We are also rebranding from Early Bird Bookkeeping to Early Bird Accounts, simply because we focus much more on financial management than just doing the books.