How to Manage a 10 Person Firm Without Burning Out

Ean Price Murphy is the owner of Moxie Bookkeeping and is a Profit First Professional business coach, a certification created by one of our favorites, Mike Michalowicz. This interview is part of a series where we’ve been focusing on trials and obstacles, successes and slam dunks, that sometimes come with managing a team by giving you a snapshot of how a typical week may look in different firms. Hopefully, these interviews can give you, the first- or multiple-time manager, the insight needed to see what goes into managing a team in a successful enterprise.

Podcast

Summary

  • Moxie Bookkeeping
  • Business Partner and Assistant
  • Managing Communications
  • Tech Stack

Moxie Bookkeeping

Moxie Bookkeeping is a New York City business with a virtual team, with only about half also living in the New York area. Moxie Bookkeeping’s clients are creative service-based businesses like designers, architects, and photographers. Ean mentions that their clients may span different industries, but she always recommends “that people stick with someone who’s specialized because there’s some extra juice you can get from somebody that’s really niched.”

Her business currently has 10 team members. Ean herself has hired Tracy as the business/office manager to tackle the functional, boots-on-the-ground, tasks involved with the firm. Ean says, “She proved her worth immediately,” and she eventually became a partner in the business, assuming the role of a functional manager. 

Tracy also has an assistant, Brita, to help her because the workload had increased. Finally, Ean mentions that her old roommate was the senior bookkeeper in her company. Even though there seems to be a hierarchy, Ean explained, “I don't know if this is more true of female-owned businesses, but I feel like we have a very collaborative team approach.” Sandy and Tracy report to each other about as much as they individually report to her. Later on, we discovered, in part, why the hierarchy seems to function more flatly.

Business Partner and Assistant

Ean speaks highly of Tracy, but many business and firm owners would ask if it's appropriate to hire an assistant. If so, when is the best time to do it?

Moxie Business didn’t have a business manager until it was making over $500,000 in revenue. Before then, Ean notes that she could have delegated some of those tasks over to automation or Acuity; but these options weren’t available when she was getting started. “If I could have handed over the scheduling,” she noted, “all of the things that we automate now, that would have been fantastic!”

Now, both Tracy and Stacy act as a resource for bookkeepers’ questions: How do I work around this issue I'm finding in Quickbooks or Xero? How can I best explain this problem or solution to the clients? Sometimes the bookkeepers reference Tracy for all billing questions and ask Sandy more technical questions about bookkeeping.
The work that Tracy and Sandy do is pivotal. One important metrics is billable versus non-billable client time and administrative versus client work. In order to calculate both accurately, there must be transparency about what the bookkeepers are doing and how to delegate the time being billed to the client. In the same vein, sometimes the bookkeepers have not entered their time in their timesheet correctly against the right job. After processing all the information, Tracy can identify who works too much. Ean explained further:

If any of our bookkeepers was doing more than 20% non-billable work, that's too much. If they're doing more than 10% admin, that's probably too much, or we just need to know why.

Managing Communications

Ean continues to explain how she, Tracy, and Sandy stay in communication with each other to resolve problems that affect those metrics. If Tracy discovers such anomalies, how does she go about reconciling the problem? 

Because the working relationship between Ean, Tracy, and Sandy is collaborative, their communication practices are more fast-paced. For example, if Tracy were to discover that one bookkeeper exceeded the 20% for non-billable hours, Tracy may contact the bookkeeper directly to investigate. If she doesn’t find the answers she’s looking for, or if the bookkeeper doesn’t give her a straightforward answer, then she may copy Ean to the email. Ean explains a valuable rule:

As a management rule of thumb, which is true for the bookkeepers as well, is do nothing more than twice if you're not getting the result that you want. So if I emailed you something twice and I'm not hearing the response, I need to call you. If I've called you and left messages twice, and I'm not getting a response, I need to text you. If I've done all of that, then I need to loop somebody else in.

The key is to avoid wasting time. According to Ean, it is inefficient to continue a pattern that has not yielded consistent results; in Tracy’s case, she may have to loop in her or Sandy. Many would say that time is a valuable resource, but Ean disagrees. What’s more valuable than time? Energy.

The value of time is only as valuable as the availability of your energy. The value of 6 hours changes when your productivity levels are low and aren’t able to get anything done due to fatigue; time is wasted. So, if you can manage your energy well, then it’s possible to make the best use of your time. 

Tech Stack

Based on the communication practice previously explained, one may assume that there were many types of technology at play to enable a diverse manner of communication between team members; however, the opposite is true. Ean prefers to keep her technology “slim.”

When communicating with each other, Tracy, Sandy, and Ean may simply converse via email or even text message. Further, Moxie Bookkeeper’s tech stack is similarly lean and cost-effective, using Google.  Ean says, “I just think that without Google, I don't know that my business would have been nearly as successful as it has been because I would have just been crippled by software costs early on.”

Of course, they do bookkeeping in Xero or Quickbooks, and the business has Profit First as well. Since there’s a focus on interpreting data to help businesses make smart decisions, they also use Jetpack Workflow as their accounting practice management software. Tracy uses Zapier for her work, and Ean recalls the business using Active Campaign for its CRM system.

There was a lot of valuable information covered in the interview, and we highly advise you listen in! If you would like to reach out to Ean directly, you can contact her at moxiebookkeeping.com or on their Facebook page.

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