Conversation with Jessica Hornbeck, Founder of Big Picture Bookkeeping Inc.
On Thriving in the Uncomfortable
February 14, 2018
1. What is your business?
I’m the founder of Big Picture Bookkeeping. We are a bookkeeping and business development company. I do things a little differently than your traditional bookkeeping practice in that we partner with our clients, eliminate or reduce pain points, and improve workflow process. We educate on financial analysis, begin a conversation on strategy and help them steer their business for the long term. Ultimately, my goal is to empower business owners to be freed up to focus what they do well – run their business so that they have room to define strategy and build a future.
I have a team of bookkeepers who support my clients initially, they manage the sorting and clean up, and liaise with clients on monthly bookkeeping workflow. The team works remotely. We only hire bookkeepers that have either accounting education or experience and who are adept in QuickBooks Online. I also screen for soft skills and want my team to be good communicators as well as pay attention to detail. I’m committed to supporting and working with moms who are looking for part-time remote work as they re-integrate into the workforce following having a baby.
After the initial evaluation and clean up, I come in to help with financial analysis and education. I’m really able to now add value to my clients because I’m leveraging my business the way I should where I’m freed up for them, for strategic discussions and to really be a partner, from picking their brain to sort of push them a little bit outside of their comfort zone. I appreciate that running a small business is an ever-changing game and you have to constantly pivot and be responsive. I’m very aware that the communication between my clients and myself is not one way, it’s a very much an open dialogue which allows me to continually improve my business.
Big Picture offers a few different packages that range from very basic monthly bookkeeping, where you will get a profit and loss statement, up to a much more robust package where we do cleanup and management of accounts receivable.
2. What made you decide to start your business and/or switch careers?
This is my second entrepreneurial endeavor. I spent the first ten years after college working for Investment Banks JP Morgan and Credit Suisse. After getting laid off in 2008, I opened a restaurant in Brooklyn, something that had been a dream of mine since I was a teenager. The restaurant was very well received by the neighborhood and was packed every weekend for brunch, but it was sucking the life out of me. I was the owner-manager, chef, marketing expert, and bookkeeper. I could not have worn any more hats, and after four years of 90 hour work weeks, I was tapped out. Nor would it have been possible to start or raise a family – a pregnancy in my overtired body was just not happening.
So like any trying experience, it was also a growth opportunity. I learned a ton about contracts, working with community boards, managing your overhead, staffing, legal, and the many professionals that come with promises to assist you. I translate that experience into value-add for my clients today. Not to mention how things come full circle – from having to have learned how to do my own bookkeeping morphing into a full-on business far more successful than the first, years later. As luck would have it, we got pregnant three months after I closed my restaurant, and I made the decision then that raising my daughter was a priority. I began taking on clients I found on Craigslist so that I can work from home and here we are!
3. Were your family and friends helpful or obstacles in launching your business? How so?
I think the common thread that ties most entrepreneurs together is being a little more comfortable in the uncomfortable than most people and just figuring stuff out along the way. I sort of thrive being in the uncomfortable, I think because my baseline was very low. I come from very humble beginnings and the only way to go from there has been up. I credit the support of my Cuban grandmother with a lot of my success. I started living with her at 13 years old, and she was always extremely supportive and nurturing of me. She didn’t necessarily understand the things that I was learning in school, but she was always very encouraging and made me feel loved & confident in myself. That’s all I needed! I’m honored and beyond thrilled as of late to have found my place and be able to pay that forward in both my entrepreneurial ventures and personal activism by supporting and collaborating with other smart women change-makers.
4. What are some successes you have had with your business that make you proud?
I am consistently strengthening my client relationships, and am proud that my clients trust me. I’m learning to become a better communicator and presenter, as well as adding technology to help me leverage my time. I’m thrilled that Big Picture Bookkeeping has allowed me to consistently grow my income, doubled in 2017 vs. 2016 and on pace to do it again in 2018. I also would say a big accomplishment for me is having a sense of freedom, being able to be present for my daughter and husband as well as contribute to our financial stability. The more financial stability my husband and I are able to create, the more I realize that life is a choice.
5. What are some of your current challenges?
One of my biggest challenges, by far, is finding and retaining good bookkeepers for the team who can work independently. My goal is to scale in my business and rely on the team to do the majority of the bookkeeping work so that I am freed up for family, political activism, and other entrepreneurial projects. I have my eye on that end by continually improving workflow processes, communications, checks and balances, and leveraging technology for efficiencies. I swear by apps such as Evernote (for note taking, it’s a series of notes within notebooks) and HubDoc (behind the scenes statement collection) to streamline and manage workflow.
6. What are some of the biggest positive or negative surprises in your business?
I would say the biggest surprises have been people who don’t really seem to be what they are at first. Sometimes what looks to be like an incredible project, whether it’s potentially very profitable or long-term or big, sometimes it can end up becoming a nightmare. Now I’m at the point where I only take my ideal client. If individuals or small businesses don’t fit my ideal client checklist or if they’re not going to trust me to be the expert in what I’m the expert in, I can’t mess with that. And that’s fine. I have a very defined business plan, so it’s important that I stay true to that.
7. Have there ever been moments when you regretted what you started or had to abandon part of the plan?
I’ve never had a moment where I’ve regretted anything I’ve done, even in my younger years I can truthfully say each year this better than the next. I’m smarter, I’m a much better human being, I’m a better communicator, and I am able to live much more inauthenticity as the years roll by. So, there’s nothing that I regret –it’s all part of my life.
8. What would be your biggest piece of advice you would give to yourself ten years ago?
Slow down a bit, be more present, and willing to engage in real ways with the people and world around me. Also, don’t operate so much out of ego!
9. Do you use social media for marketing your business?
I do not. I have Facebook and LinkedIn pages set up for my business, but I haven’t turned them on. I am very fortunate in that. I would say all my clients are really happy with me, and I get a lot of word-of-mouth referrals.
10. What are your hopes for your business for the next five years?
My hope is that my business scales significantly and that I have a dozen bookkeepers doing full-time work with a few managing work – instead of me. Ultimately, my goal is freedom. I envision a time when I am spending more of my time checking in on the business rather than running it. I can do that by staying in touch with those I put in charge.
My other goal is through this business, that I am empowering women, stay at home moms, those who might not necessarily have a fair shot to doing this work at a brick-and-mortar company.
Conversation date: December 7, 2017
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