If you’ve read the stories on our side, it’s a familiar refrain. A small bookkeeper wants to grow but hits the limits of handling physical paperwork. Just a small switch to the cloud and a bit of retraining often triples the business of these firms and lets them scale as much as they desire. We have another story in this vein for you today.

Today’s guest is Lisa Channell, founder and owner of Bonfire Bookkeeping. In our research to find guests who have taken this path, we started encountering her name a lot and reached out to her. In our interview, we talk about how she moved to the cloud by leveraging the power of QuickBooks Online and a special mentorship program they offer.

In this episode of the Growing Your Firm Podcast, David Cristello and Lisa Channell talks about:

  • How Lisa got started making her business
  • What drove her to succeed, and what common trap did she fall into?
  • How the cloud and a bit of mentoring helped her get the flexibility she desired
  • What steps did she take to grow once she transitioned

Additional Links:
Lisa’s Pro Advisor Page
Lisa’s Firm

Lisa’s Email: lchannell@bonfirebookkeeping.com
Intuit’s Mentorship Program
Jennifer Moore’s Website

How Lisa Got Started With Making Bonfire Bookkeeping

Lisa got into bookkeeping by accident. She tried to come back from a full-time job after maternity leave and the job had been eliminated. By that point, she knew she loved bookkeeping but she had to decide quickly if she wanted to find another full-time job or try to create something of her own that offered more flexibility.

Fortunately, Lisa was able to use a program in Canada that gives new entrepreneurs training on starting a business. After a 12 week course, she and her husband both started businesses within a month of each other. The course taught her the basics of running and operating a business in Canada, but she still didn’t have the business mindset yet. That came later with experience. At the start, like many new business owners, she was very nervous.

What Had To Change To Succeed?

One of the things that kept her going at the start was that she was in a sink or swim situation. With two children to raise, it would be very difficult for her to find flexibility with another employer. She was nervous to leave her children behind and that pressure pushed her into creating the flexible business she needed.

That deep purpose got her over her nervousness about making sales calls, meeting with strangers, and pitching her services. Having a deeper need driving your entrepreneurial activity can help overcome a lot of fear. However, Lisa was also smart, and perhaps a little overcautious, in the beginning. She started by reaching out to previous clients for work. It took about a year for the real changes to appear.

Caught In The Work Trap

Lisa found that she was too wrapped up in her business and lost the flexibility she wanted in the first place. Like many bookkeepers, she was traveling to offices to pick up paperwork and spending a full 8+ hours in the office. There was a disconnect between the flexible lifestyle she craved for her and her children and the reality of where her business was at that point.

She had to refocus on her original goal to get out of the work trap and find some way to make it a reality. Two experiences helped her. The first was a client who signed up for QuickBooks Online and started keeping a separate set of books. Lisa asked the client why they wanted that and she investigated the product. It was still in the early days and Lisa didn’t like the program.

Three months later, the client went out of business and Lisa stopped using the program. A representative from QuickBooks called her and asked about her inactive profile.

They offered an Intuit-sponsored mentorship program and the rep caught Lisa at a fortunate time.

Lisa was looking online for people in her situation and wasn’t finding anyone, but then stumbled onto the blog of Jennifer Moore (now defunct, but see her business site at https://bellevillebookkeeping.com/) which had a lot of information about working with QBO. The rep mentioned that the mentorship program would be with Jennifer

Moore and that sold her.

The training that she received through the program showed her where the future of bookkeeping was going. It was a roadmap of all the reasons to use the cloud to do bookkeeping, how to convince clients to use it, and how it saves time, all topics we’re familiar with here at Jetpack!

Did Moving To The Cloud Help?

Lisa says in the interview that moving to the cloud changed her whole life. Cloud-based accounting turned what had been a passion into an obsession, in her words. She tripled her business in the first year using a combination of apps that she had learned in her mentorship, notably QBO and HubDoc.

She was also smart about folding these apps into her business by choosing to implement one app at a time and bring on her clients slowly. She would start using a new app with her own books first so she would understand how everything worked. Then she would work on her husband’s business, and then slowly bring in clients.
Sometimes she had to make significant changes to her workflow that were challenging. She ran into a problem that Kellie Parks, a former guest, had mentioned about needing a second monitor. That was a game changer as well.

Just by using these apps and the power of the cloud, she no longer had to travel as much. She could do three times as much work without needing to hire any staff.

What Was The Next Step?

Like many of the firm owners we’ve interviewed, once you’re in the cloud you’re able to scale your business and start looking at higher-priced services like advisory. Lisa leaned into the services that Intuit offers by joining their pro adviser network and got several referrals through that, plus she was receiving word-of-mouth referrals.

Her profile on the network is worthy of note because it’s not like a resume. It’s much better. It shows off parts of her personality and explains how she works with clients at a high level of detail, plus has links to her social channels. It’s a little like a mini-FAQ plus just enough personality to make a connection with readers without boring them with mundane details about their bookkeeper. You can view her profile in the resources section.

Also, she leveraged the power of reviews by soliciting feedback from her clients. As of this writing, she has 19 five-star reviews on her QBO profile. There are lots of details about when and how she asks for these towards the end of the interview.

We want to thank Lisa Channell for her time and for sharing her experiences taking her small bookkeeping business to the next level. Bookkeepers who haven’t transitioned to the cloud yet are really missing out on a vital piece of the puzzle. Using the cloud gives so much flexibility and time back to your business and to your life. Many of the bookkeepers we’ve interviewed have followed a similar path. If you’re in the same situation, it’s time for you to start!


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