EP104: Traci Yates – Tips From A Former Corporate Controller

Bringing peace of mind to clients so they can focus on their businesses and not have to worry about daily financial operations are passions of our guest, Traci Yates.

She is the founder and owner of Tralissa Inc. which offers bookkeeping, tax, and controller services to small and mid-sized businesses in Texas. Prior to founding Tralissa Inc, Traci served as corporate controller for three businesses. Her experience includes the automotive, lending, and startup industries.

During this interview, you'll discover...

  • Importance of the 8300 form to your bookkeeping business

  • How to communicate accurate financial information

  • Tips on saving companies money and improving their efficiency through automation

To learn more about Traci Yates, visit here.

To reach her via email, here's her address - info@tralissainc.com.

For her Facebook page, click here.

For her LinkedIn page, go here.

To check out Tralissa Inc, click this link.

PLEASE NOTE:  In this episode, a Jennifer North interview was mentioned as being a past episode, that is incorrect. Jennifer's episode will be released on Sept. 11th. Our apologies for the error.


Michael Palmer: 01:07 Welcome back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I'm your host, Michael Palmer, and today's show is going to be a good one. Our guest is the founder of bookkeeping from Tra Lissa Inc. She has served as a corporate controller for three businesses. Her experience includes the automotive lending and startup industries. She has more than 20 years experience in the automotive buy here, pay here industry. She also earned a BBA in finance and an MBA in finance and real estate from the University of Texas at Arlington. We actually met through the successful bookkeeper Facebook group. Tracy Yates, welcome to the podcast.

Traci Yates: 01:47 Hi Michael. Thanks for having me.

MP: 01:49 It's great to have you. And you know, it's such an interesting way that we met. You were, you were helping post info or you were posting information to the group to be helpful to our members, some of our members that, that were struggling with their, their experience and education and you offered to help. And so that led to a conversation and I just, I loved it so much. I wanted to have you on to talk about this whole concept of experience and what does it take to actually be a bookkeeper that can truly serve small business.

TY: 02:24 Right Michael. And one of the things I noticed is, is there were a lot of people out there with little to no experience asking some very basic questions. And, um, the concern is that they didn't have the experience or knowledge to really put themselves out there. And I see that a lot. I see that happening a lot. I see there's a lot of marketing people and marketing schemes going on right now where, hey, start a bookkeeping service with no experience, no, no this, no, that will teach you how in three men shall be up and running. And that's just absolutely not. The case. Takes years to learn how to be a bookkeeper and be able to do all of the tasks on your own. And you can maybe be an accounts payable specialist, but to know how to do the full scale, it takes a long time and you really need a strong mentor if you're going to be out on your own.

MP: 03:16 I love the, I love that and I, I love that you actually versus sort of just saying, well Geez, these people don't know what they're doing. So you know, good luck to them. You actually put your hand up and said, look, I can help the best that I can to help you. And that what that speaks to me is your, your, your, your professionalism and real commitment to the industry and making sure that people are, you know, not getting themselves into trouble. I mean it's massively impactful to them. They could end up in really serious hot water, uh, with a whole bunch of different parties at. But as well, the people that they serve, these are small businesses that, you know, the implications if you're not doing it right or making mistakes could be catastrophic for employees and families. And so this is serious, serious business.

TY: 04:06 Yes, I agree. One of the things that's very important is that bookkeepers understand what the 8,304 minutes and how it relates to them. This is a form that is for homeland security and I am in a border state, Texas and many of the people I spoke to are in a border state, California. And you need to understand when you start seeing some strange transactions, you must report them to homeland security. And I see, I see a lot of these businesses targeting very inexperienced bookkeepers to try and get the minimum amount done to get their taxes done, things like that. And, and these girls had a lot of strange questions and I, my advice to them is run, don't walk away from these types of establishments. They will do you look good and, and especially when you're new, just just, just walk away.

MP: 04:59 Yeah. And some of the, some of the issues that they were having when, when you and I were talking were, were things like, you know, that it actually looked like there was, they were breaking the law.

TY: 05:09 Oh, they were in it, especially with the fact of paying employees under the table using cash for everything constant. Um, we not being able to reach their client because of the going back and forth over the border. Things just didn't add up.

MP: 05:26 Yeah. Yeah. Well before we, we kind of jumped right into it before we go too much further down this conversation and tell, tell us a little bit about your career and how you ended up being the Tracy you are today.

TY: 05:40 Okay. I actually started out as, I'm a receptionist, I'm in a company where very quickly they started throwing small bookkeeping assignments, reconciling the cash daily. I got some accounts payable, ended up landing payroll and I worked my way up. We had a CPA firm that worked for the company and it was a small company, but the CPA really mentored me when I didn't know how to do things. This was back by the way, before we didn't have excel, we had spreadsheets, we had greenlight spreadsheets. I was trying to calculate depreciation, things like that didn't understand. I had a CPA who, who was also a professor and he would say, well, pull out your book and look it up, and he really taught me a lot of things, so I kind of did it backwards. I learned a lot about the bookkeeping world. And then once my children were in school for full time, I put myself through college and went all the way through. And then I landed corporate controller jobs for companies that required you to have an MBA to work for them. And I've now I mentor people who were just like me when I started out. And it's, it's a really great experience.

MP: 06:51 Yeah, that's great. I think it's an interesting, and I would say many fall into the profession and, and you've, you've made it your life, your life career around finance and managing finance. And then you've also started a bookkeeping firm and now this bookkeeping firm is very small. It's, it's brand new really. And, and so I just love having you on the show to talk about your perspective because the need is there in the industry for bookkeepers, not just any bookkeepers but great bookkeepers, but keepers that are passionate about what they do and passionate about helping small business. So if, if someone doesn't have any experience or any education, what can you recommend to them?

TY: 07:34 I recommend to them that they absorb as much as they can. There there are so many online courses that are free. I mean, my son sits in his room and he googles how to code something bizarre. And next thing you know, he's coding. I don't even know what coding means. So you can, you can find just about any, anything on the Internet for free. But with bookkeeping, it's about repetition. And it's really, you can't just go into your own business, but keeping it, in my opinion, unless you have had on the job experience and had people teach you, look over you, your work show you what you've done wrong, you can get really confused on your debits and credits and what the natural balances of counts are. If you don't understand those basic things, you're gonna look really foolish when you turn in financials to your new customer and your client. You just can't do that. So the best way to get that is to have a mentor or someone that you're working with that is a second glance at a higher level over everything you turn into your clients. That is key.

MP: 08:47 You've had a lot of experience as well in doing this work and working for people and having these mentors. And I think if there's, and then there's experience and often what I find when I'm talking with people who are just starting is that also they can not look at the experiences that they had, right? The being a controller for 20 years is worth a lot in terms of, of being able to transfer those skillsets and experiences over to your own business. But at the same time you also have to think about, well, what is the missing gaps that you would have from an education standpoint? Do you need to go and work for somebody else? You need to go and take some courses from a reputable place that provides education, that can give you the right foundation and to do it right.

CS: 09:36 Right. So for me, where I am in my career, I w the one thing I've learned is every day I learn something new. If you are not continuing to educate yourself in this business, you're just going to crash and burn. And I, the very niche market, which is finance and the automotive industry, so somebody from oil and gas came up to me and asked me to take over their business. I would have to tell them, I don't know anything more than what I learned in school in two chapters. Oprah's four days. That is my experience in oil and gas. Now, if you want me to take that on, I'm willing to go take some courses, go to some conferences and do what needs to be done, but you need to know that's where I stand. I would never misrepresent myself to the client and if I saw a lot of people coming to me in a specific industry, then I would certainly seek out opportunities. Maybe even go to Robert half or something like that and ask them if they had a temporary job where I could start getting some skills in that area. Kind of did my fit in the pool there.

MP: 10:41 Yeah. Beautiful. Now you're, you're, you're growing your firm and you know, I'm always curious to know, you've got lots of experience, lots of training. You've got a, a, a bachelor of business administration and Finance and MBA in finance, lots of education, 20 years experience, and yet you have barriers and walls in front of you. When it comes to growing your business. How do you feel about your own barriers and growing your business? What are they and what are you going to do about them?

TY: 11:10 Okay, well, one of the things, I've spent most of my life in accounting. I'm an, I'm a bean counter basically. So I'm going out and marketing my business is very difficult and I can see how these things look so glamorous on the Internet. Hey, we can teach you how to market your business and get you all those clients. All you do, all you have to do is pay us thousands of dollars upfront and you'll be rolling in the client's before you know it. Those things scare me. I'm wise enough to know better. Um, and, and I'm not saying that they will not give you some great marketing advice, certainly better marketing advice than I could give anyone. But I believe there are better ways to get that, more reputable ways to get that and I am starting my business. I will be putting some money. Don't think you can start a business for free. I will be putting money that I budgeted into a marketing campaign and that may involve hiring a part-time marketing person to set these things up for me. Better use of my time to focus on bookkeeping and then than it is for me to try to figure out how the marketing world works.

MP: 12:19 Yeah, beautiful. Well, you know that's an area that I can tell you. Marketing your bookkeeping business is not very difficult. It's it and it should not cost thousands of dollars to learn how to do it. And in fact, in the resources of the successful bookkeeper, many, many have already joined the community, the successful bookkeeper, Facebook community. Once you join, there is a portal, an online portal with a couple of different free courses. One of them is the seven by five marketing strategy and this is seven strategies to find five new clients for your bookkeeping business. Now, the key is that the message, and we're constantly have to remember this, is that being a bookkeeper is a technical job. It requires certain experiences and knowledges to, to be able to do the job. So you know, people who say you can just start a bookkeeping business without any education or experience is leading into a bit of a difficult situation.

TY: 13:19 Anybody can start a bookkeeping business that is true, but to be able to do it correctly and do it well, you need to have those. So that as a base, before I talk about marketing and finding clients, that is a base. Now, these seven strategies have worked for hundreds if not thousands of bookkeepers. And there's no Ninja moves. There's no paper click advertising. There's no, none of that. Uh, the market right now does not need that. It is there less bookkeepers in the marketplace than there are clients that need help understanding their financials, making sure that things are done correctly, making sure that they have the information and clarity that they need in order to grow their business and make, make business decisions. So I'd recommend that as a starting place. For everyone that's listening that wants help with their marketing, go check that out. The seven by five marketing program online, free in the successful bookkeeper resources. If you go to the section and just sign up, you'll be able to get access to that. And so I agree with you Tracy. It's uh, it's daunting. People want to be successful. In fact, we've surveyed thousands of bookkeepers. You know, what the number one fear of bookkeepers that are getting started in their business or even expanding their business. Do you want to take a guess at what that number one fear is?

MP: 14:38 I would guess marketing,

TY: 14:40 It's actually close. It's, it's number two. Number one is fear of failure.

MP: 14:46 Um,

MP: 14:47 fear of failure. And so what fear of failure can do is it can lead people to make rash decisions and, and think that they have to do a whole bunch of different things, you know, that they might not necessarily have to do. And that's, that's where, uh, as well the, the Facebook group where we met having that conversations, people like you actually giving advice, uh, and sharing their story is extremely valuable. So if you're thinking about doing something, ask the group as what have other people done what's worked for them, uh, where have they gotten their experience? Where have they gotten their education? I think that's a valuable thing to think about is that I remember traveling and when I was young in my twenties and I got lost a lot. You know, it's like we didn't have Jake Google gps or anything like that. It was like these old outdated, because we were cheap, so were buying outdated, like used travel books.

MP: 15:42 So all the information was like dated and old. Couldn't get much more if you bought the new book. It was outdated anyways. But I quickly realized that if I was going to ask directions, I'm going to ask three people and I'm going to ask and see is the, is it three same answers are there, you know, different answers. And guess what? I got lost a lot. Well when I did get lost, I found my way a lot more quickly when I did that. So ask people, do research, find out what the best route is going to be based on where others have gone.

TY: 16:14 Yes, I agree with that wholeheartedly. And I would also say that they probably, what I've heard is time and again is the number one way to get your next group as a bookkeeping keeping clients is through word of mouth. So if you are delivering the goods, then you're delivering them well and your clients are happy, then you're going to continue to get more and more referrals.

MP: 16:42 Yeah,

MP: 16:43 that that really is the gold standard is referrals. Uh, building strong relationships with CPAs, tax accountants, and really just networking. I mean those are the top three networking with other small business owners that no other small business owners to get to get connected. Now there's a lot there. And as simple as that is, there's lots of different steps. There's lots of different things to think about when doing that. But at the core of it is that if you don't know what you're doing, it's not going to take very long for people to figure that out. And, and literally if your, your reputation will be ruined or, or spoiled and that will not be a good way to get referrals.

TY: 17:21 Yeah, I agree with that wholeheartedly. And a lot of people out there are being trained right now, have some kind of misrepresent themselves. Just go out there and bring in that business and then you can find somebody to take care of the cow, the customers, what they want to hear, get the engagement and an outsource it very quickly. And, and I just don't think that's the way to go. It's about building that relationship with the client.

MP: 17:43 Yeah. So Tracy, in terms of your, your career, what have been some of the big learning that you were able to glean out throughout your 20 year career?

TY: 17:56 Well, I've had a lot of Ben. Um, number one, um, I've had to reinvent myself a few times. I've had companies that I've worked for that have gone out of business and then you're stuck and you think, Hey, I've done all this work. I've made myself a name in this industry and now here I am starting all over again. Or at least it feels that way for a little while. But if you can just get through the panic, maybe weighted out a month or two, you'll find that that you can build yourself back up very quickly.

MP: 18:28 Beautiful. And in you, you've had a lot of mentors throughout your career, what would you recommend in terms of finding and sourcing a mentor if you're just getting started?

TY: 18:40 I was very fortunate. My mentors fell right into my lap. I have had excellent teachers around me. If I had never gone to college, not a single day, I think I would be just fine because I have, I was blessed with having great people around me who were very knowledgeable in accounting and also educators and they flocked to me. They saw something in me and they wanted to help me succeed. I, I'm so blessed in that area. I don't know what to say about going out and finding one, but I would say you would start with providing value to our mentor. Going out and seeing if you can help them with something. You're struggling with them during busy season. You go in there, you do a good job, you help them, they're going to want to invest time in you. So I think that's what it's all about is finding somebody who wants to invest their time in you.

MP: 19:34 Wonderful. I think that's, that's great advice and a great way to actually take it into action. We, we, in a previous podcast, we had a, a woman by the name of Jennifer north talk about risk management and so often with risk management it's like it's what you don't know. You don't know in the business. Right. So what, what can, what's at risk, I would imagine in your career you've tackled risk yourself. What have been some of your insights around preparing yourself to be able to mitigate risk for yourself as a business owner and as well for your clients?

TY: 20:16 I think that you have to diversify and not put all of your eggs in one basket. That is, that is the thing I'm seeing right now. And people will tell you the opposite. They'll say, you know, niche down so, so tiny that you're the only person they want. But at the same time you need to be able to market yourself to more than one community, especially as these different communities have had that been downs with the economy. And so definitely become an expert in two or three areas that help you in one

TY: 20:48 area. Falls have a backup plan. You know, I, I knew I'm a corporate controller and I knew things weren't going so well, so I started planning and starting my business months ago so that I could have a foundation for when the stay finally came and I could decide and have a choice, hey, do I want to go back into these long hours as a corporate controller or do I want to take it easy, cut back a little bit and focus on my new business. So I think just diversification is key in helping mitigate risks.

MP: 21:10 Yeah, that's wonderful. That's wonderful. You know, it's so interesting speaking to you on this topic because you're, you have a lot of the experience, you still have your own business to grow and develop and, and I'm gonna love having you back to talk about, you know, where are you, where are you won and where he had setbacks and you know, there is no failure. There's only learning, right? And so, um, uh, it's been wonderful having this conversation before. Before we go, I, I wanted to talk a little bit more about the 8,300 form. I mean, many people may have not even heard about this and I think is a really important, it's one of the things that we talked about and, and reasons why we, why we got together and actually had a conversation. What is the 8,300 form?

TY: 22:08 Again, I wasn't prepared to give a training on it, but the basics of the 8,300 form, you should have every single person in your business trained on it. In fact, at my business, every three months we do a training where people sign off on it. If you're dealing with someone who gives you more than $10,000 cash within a certain amount of time, you have to report that to homeland security using the 8,300 forms. And additionally, if you're dealing with anybody, you, you just feel might be doing something wrong and they didn't hit that $10,000 mark, you must report that to homeland security using the 8,300 form and in border states and in certain industries where they feel there, they're more at risk to have these types of people come around, especially used cars. That's a great way where someone could come in and just pay cash for a car quickly.

TY: 23:04 You must be reporting that. So if you're seeing transactions of cash coming and going and your clients, it's not only the company that could get in trouble, but you yourself could land in jail by not reporting on the 8,300 I don't want to train anybody on it, but I'm telling you, you should. You need to go look it up. They have step-by-step trainings out there that are very simple and easy to follow. And the three. And, and understand what, what it means to report bizarre behavior. You need to know that about the 8,300 and every employee that comes into contact with cash within your business. They need to be filling out the 8,300 for theirselves. If they have a transaction that meets those, the criteria.

MP: 23:58 You know, it's great and, and I think that gives us an understanding of what it's all about. And your recommendation is bang on. Go learn about it. It's not only for you to learn and protect for yourself as the a, as the bookkeeper in these businesses, but as well to make sure that business owners know about it, that they're adhering to it. That is a value-added service to, to be the one who knows about what's going on in government and tax changes and different things that are happening that this information can be then translated back to your clients. And so, um, this is a big one. This is an important one. Absolutely. And I think in the future it will only grow to be more. Uh, a part of the role of the bookkeeper is to help business owners understand these things and make sure that they have these pieces in place in their business. We are not going to less regulation in business. We're only going towards more, which I'm not going to debate whether that's good or bad, uh, but it's the way of the world right now. And so it creates a lot of confusion at, creates a lot of stress for business owners that need to work inside of heavily regulated industries and, and uh, and states. So be the one that understands it, that knows it and get that information in the front of your clients so that they can make better business decisions.

TY: 25:24 Right, right. I think it's also important that whenever you talk to your client, whether it be monthly or quarterly, that you have some something like this to talk to them about that, hey, are you aware of the 8,300, hey, are you aware of this new law coming out? That just adds value. It's conversation and it makes your client feel like, okay, I'm dealing with someone who's keeping up with things. They're going to make me aware when things change. I felt much better about the services being provided by my bookkeeper.

MP: 25:54 Beautiful. That is a great gold tip. Use that to have conversation and the positioning of that. Absolutely right. Tracy will make them view you as a leader, uh, that they can rely on for their business. So this is absolutely great. Tracy, if people wanted to have a conversation with you or learn more about you, what would be the best way to do that?

TY: 26:17 Yes, you can reach me at Info at Tomasa, t r a l I s s a n I n z.com and I will be happy to speak to anybody who wants to find me. I'm also on Facebook at um, Trulytracey.com oh and LinkedIn look me up on LinkedIn as well. I'm, I'm pretty big on LinkedIn.

MP: 26:40 Oh Great. Well we'll, we'll have those links in the show notes and as well you're in the successful bookkeeper group, so feel free to reach out to Tracy there. Tracy again, on behalf of the listener, thank you so much for being here and generously giving us your time and sharing your experience on where you're at with your business and what you're seeing in the market place. And, uh, I've really truly enjoyed this.

TY: 27:05 Michael, thanks for having me. And that wraps another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. To learn more about today's guest and to get access to all sorts of valuable free business-building resources, you can go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com. Until next time,

MP: 27:20 goodbye