Accounting for Fun and Profit

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Accounting for Fun and Profit

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Stephanie Gibney has been a NASE member since 2013. In 2009, she founded Accounting 4 DC, an accounting firm in Washington, DC that she says “provides high-quality, hands-on custom outsourced accounting solutions, allowing clients to focus on what’s important…running the day-to-day business.”

What inspired you to enter the field you are in?

Luck. The first job I had was advertised as a receptionist position but was actually for a bookkeeper. The company was using an outsourced bookkeeping firm and wanted to start doing it themselves. They had purchased an accounting software package but had no idea how to set it up. After a year I switched my major from psychology to accounting and never looked back.

When and why did you start your business?

In 2009 I was laid off from a small accounting firm in the Washington, DC area that focused on nonprofit organizations. I went to work for a large national corporation but missed the interaction with local people and thought tax work was something I could do on the side. We quickly became the most reviewed and highest-rated accounting firm in the Washington, DC metropolitan area on Yelp and I realized that rather than trying to cap the growth of the company it was time for me to do this full time. It also allowed me to work with a variety of companies in a variety of industries as a part-time controller. I love helping business owners set up sound accounting policies and plan on how to grow their businesses.

How do you market your business?

We have a strict policy of not paying for any advertising. We still see 90 percent of new clients come from referral sites like Yelp and LinkedIn. Nothing beats a satisfied client referral. I also do speaking engagements and networking events as a way of meeting new people and business owners.

Your website notes that your company is “catering to many of DC’s most influential residents.” How did you make the connections to get these high-level clients?

Having the office located on Capitol Hill and the up-and-coming Atlas District helped. We also attend events and conferences for CEOs and industry leaders that we aim to serve. High-level clients are no different than any other client;
if you do a great job they are happy to refer you.

What challenges have you faced in your business? How have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge we faced in our business is finding local college student interns who plan on staying in the area after they graduate. The majority of our interns are not from the Washington, DC area and have no plans on residing here once they graduate. Many are foreign students who are only here for a semester or two. We would love for our interns to transition to employees whenever possible. For 2014 I plan to focus on speaking with high school seniors and college freshman on why accounting should be high on their list of possible careers.

What’s the best thing about being self-employed?

Being able to work with people I enjoy working with, be it interns, employees, or clients. Sometimes working relationships are not a good fit for whatever reason. I like being able to make the decision that if it’s not a great fit and starts to feel like “work” then I can pull the plug. I enjoy what I do and I want everyone I interact with to walk away feeling great about the experience.

I see that Nino is your official office greeter and morale booster. How did he get started in your company and how did he develop his fondness for bow ties?

When the company first started I ran it out of my house so all the legacy clients knew Nino as did the employees. I always thought if I had my own company I would love to bring my dog to work, so I did. Nino loves meeting new people so it made sense.

Nino is a bit of a ham. He loves getting dressed up, whether it’s sweaters, coats, or bow ties. He and I like to match our outfits. He started wearing bow ties because it is a signal for him that he’s going to work rather than just going out for a walk. I put on his bow tie and as we leave I say “go to work” and he knows where to go.

What’s the best compliment you’ve ever received from a client?

I love when clients say I’ve made accounting or tax easier for them to understand. Or that I’m different then what they thought accountants are like. Many people have a misconception that accountants are stuffy boring people who are going to explain things to them in a way that is unrelatable.

Which NASE member benefit is most important to you?

Initially I thought it would be the discounts, because everyone loves discounts, and as a small business we need all the help we can get to reduce costs. It turns out that I actually like the “Self Informed” magazine the best. It is a great resource to stay up-to-date on hot topics that impact small businesses like mine.

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