EP118: Jennifer Walsh - Managing Your Business In Times Of Crisis


All bookkeeping business owners go through them.

Our guest, Jennifer Walsh, who is the president of Censea Accounting & Business Solutions, is no different.She's experienced everything from being in the middle of a bad recession, competing with a lot of bookkeepers and staffing issues, but she has persevered because of her passion and desire to be successful.

Today, her business helps small to medium sized business owners achieve financial success and has over 165 clients.

During this interview, you'll discover...

  • The importance of keeping track of your books

  • Strategies on how to handle your business

  • How the Pure Bookkeeping System can help your business

To learn more about her, visit her website here.

For her LinkedIn page, click here.


Michael Palmer: 01:16 Welcome back to The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. I'm your host, Michael Palmer, and today's show is going to be an awesome one. Our guest is the president of Sensia accounting and business solutions. She has over 14 years of experience providing financial bookkeeping in the public and private sectors covering a broad range of industries and a breadth of expertise in different financial disciplines. Jennifer Walsh, welcome to the podcast.

Jennifer Walsh: 01:45 Hi Michael. Thank you for having me.

MP: 01:47 I am so happy to have you. You were nominated at the Institute of Professional bookkeepers conferences for an award and I had an opportunity to speak with you before that award was presented and I absolutely loved Your Business Journey story and I will, before we get into that, well, I'd like to actually start with that and have you share your career journey leading up to this point?

JW: 02:17 Oh, absolutely. It's a little bit of a long one. Um, but it pretty much, you know, started off, um, a long time ago. I had a really great mentor. I worked in a hotel who taught me everything, everything I need to know about accounting. But she gave me a really good, good start and I enjoyed it so much. I decided to pursue a career in it. So I went back to school in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and I got my diploma in accounting with honors and graduated. And unfortunately, during that time there just was not a lot of work. So I did some bookkeeping and taxes on the side. But I also ended up getting my nursing. So I was a nurse slash, bookkeeper. So I kind of had dual roles. And then when I went back to Calgary in 2012 it was a huge opportunity to get back into what I really love doing, which is accounting and helping people.

JW: 03:11 Unfortunately, cause I'm not a designated accounting, the jobs were limited, it was junior level. And finally with the downturn happened in 2015 I had enough and said that set, I'm going to make this jumping, go on my own. I do my own bookkeeping business and that's what I did. And from there it's been an up and down battle. So we've been incorporated full time since January 2016 had no idea how to run a business. I think that's a general consensus with anybody starting thought I knew and I thought it was going to be easy. Right? I was like, oh, get the freedom. Yeah, no, that is different story. End Up working 50 to 60 hours a week and weekends, uh, that doesn't happen so quickly. So I was working from my Home Office at the time and I really didn't get out networking because I didn't really know about it.

JW: 03:59 And I went to my very first networking event where I met a bunch of people and actually built some relationships with them and ended up moving into a virtual office and the sky was the limit. I ended up building my business from five clients to 105 clients within a year. And a lot of them were within the building, the workshop building that I worked and I continue to grow. I'm about 165 now and that is, I'm with tax and bookkeeping clients and we're trying to change, really jump on board and she's, the future of bookkeeping was offering a full-on virtual package so that we can get out there and serve communities and business owners anywhere in Canada doesn't have to be in Calgary. I'm so passionate about what I do. I really want to be able to show my skill and help others achieve financial success. But then their business, well that really came across when I spoke to you.

MP: 04:54 You're, you're passionate about what you do for people, small business owners and, and that, I love that. I, I, I think it's, it's very honorable to do that. And as well, you're passionate about being successful, you're for yourself. You, you faced a ton of challenges growing your business and it's remarkable what you've accomplished in your lifetime. It's, uh, I can't not be inspired by, you know, you're going back to school and the doing two different jobs coming across the country and then starting a business in a, in a place that you were not originally from. I mean, I, I've heard, I've heard it all, I've heard all the excuses. You've had all of the problems, but yet you persevered and you were successful, which I think anyone can do if they have the desire, passion and persistence to go out and do it. But there are going to be challenges. Like you said, it's not all rosy growing a business. Tell us about some of those challenges.

JW: 05:55 I think one of the biggest challenges had is where the time to start a business in the middle of a bad recession.

MP: 06:02 That's not a great time.

JW: 06:04 It's not a great time. But you know what? Surprisingly, um, I just fairly wow compared to other people who try to go out. Um, I've heard all of this story. So that was probably the biggest challenge is really getting my name out there. Also, you know, you're competing against Calgary's not a small city. It's a big city. You're competing against a lot of bookkeepers and people who may feel that they're bookkeepers because they worked in, you know, apps or something like that and really don't have the experience behind them. Um, so you're competing with that. How do you make yourself stand out? So for me to be able to do that, to allow myself to be noticed by others. If I'm a people person, I went out and I networked. I networked until my feet hurt. And I build up connections. Some of the connections I've become my clients.

JW: 06:53 I've also become close personal friends and I've known within the business community now, um, you say my name, they're like, oh, that's Jennifer with, since accounting. Yeah, I know her. She's fantastic. So it has been a huge benefit that way for me. Some of the other challenges I had was when you start getting to that point where you've got lots of clients coming in, you're only one person can't do it all. So you start hiring and then that doesn't work out. The skillset isn't where it should be. I got told I hire with my heart. So instead of the actual experience and really making sure that the person grasp the understanding of bookkeeping and what my clients need, um, so that was a huge struggle. I made that mistake, unfortunately twice. And it costs me thousands of dollars and I'm from there. My husband has joined, he's an accountant, has joined the business as well and it's just him and I right now, but we're making it work and it's been successful and we're starting to really follow the process of the pure bookkeeping we're fairing to follow like where we should be when we should start hiring.

JW: 08:04 Let's get our clients on a virtual package, let's make things simple for them. And also, um, I'm a huge fan of The Successful Bookkeeper, huge fan. Read the book. I really resonate a lot with Debbie Roberts on her struggles and it's almost like she was telling my story. There was lot of challenges, but we persevere and we get through it. And the summer was probably the hardest one with does everything dropping and it was kind of like, Whoa, what's going on? I have employees to pay and all that, but we

JW: 08:36 got through it and now we're back rocking and rolling again.

MP: 08:47 It's amazing how difficult staffing can be. It doesn't matter what business you're in, people, when people are added to the, there's a lot that can go wrong and it's extremely costly. Not only are you, not only are you having to train people, you know, spend all the time finding them, training them, getting them up to speed. If they don't do the work right, you have to spend a lot of time fixing that work. And, and that's a, and that's the least of what can go wrong. There's all the implications of how that can impact your business and as well other your client's business. What, what, how did you deal with that when you had staffing challenges?

JW: 09:28 Oh, I will be honest. I did not deal with it very well. I got really scared because it, um, started to, uh, really reflected in the work and the clients, you know, oh, QuickBooks online, I'm having access to these online resources. The clients are able to deal their information a lot quicker than before, if it was on desktop. So they were able to see what was going on. And every now and again I would get a Tufts text or email. Jennifer, what the heck is going off my books? Why am I books looking like that? I don't understand why. What are you doing? You're a lot better than this. So for me, hearing this from clients who have given me the trust of their finances, their business, I really took it hard. It was really hard on me. So we've basically remapped that, that okay, maybe me hiring employees is not my strong point.

JW: 10:18 My strong point is business development and the bookkeeping. Uh, the hiring of staff from point is my husband operations and all of that. So what we've done is we switched up the roads and he's going to be in and we put checklists together. Things have criteria of what we want, what they must have and how it's going to be checked on a regular basis. You know, you can't always blame the employee, the bad employee, because sometimes it could be things like we were really swamped. I didn't get to chance to really, um, do the review. So that accountability lies on me, right? So it's making sure that we have all of our eyes done or t's craft. We're going to be implementing assessments for them so that when we are interviewing them, we know, okay, they are saying the skills that they have on paper is exactly what they have. So those are some of the things that we're doing to rectify those challenges so that we don't feel that way again because the fear of wondering how your clients are going to react and if they're going to stay with you or not is not a good, not a good feeling.

MP: 11:23 That's absolutely right. Well, I love it. It sounds like you're doing, doing it the way now that it will bring much more success and listen, the, the, the unfortunate part of life is that we get better at it through time and no different in business as we make mistakes and, and, uh, learn from those mistakes we're able to battle on and we can't be excellent at everything. You are excellent. However, at bringing in new business, share with me, you, you, you said you're an amazing networker. Share with me how you, a typical day in the life of Jennifer Walsh when you're going out to network with people in the community?

JW: 12:05 I'm really, so one of the bit, I'm part of the organization, it'd be an I as well. So I grew out weekly network with them. And outside of that, for me, I find when you go to a lot of these networking events, it's like a spray and pray and spray your prisons cards. Hope that somebody's going to contact you. But at the same time it becomes very so pitch. So what I do, like when I go on networking, I actually listen, I do the active listening, listen to the client's needs. Think of all the different ways I can help them. Not necessarily in bookkeeping, but in other ways because I have so many different resources, uh, people in different, other, in other professions that could help them. The I trust, right? So it's really more so getting to know them. I get to know about their business, why they love their business, what are the struggles they're having?

JW: 12:53 And that conversation they enjoy talking to me so much that they want to book a one-to-one and have a further discussion with me doesn't mean I'm going to bring them on as a client. Not necessarily, but it allows them to know that I care. I truly care about their business. And that's how I have, um, helped, you know, build some of my client's businesses as well as bring new businesses in. Um, one statement I can remember from a client that he made is, you know, the one thing about Jennifer is she comes up to you. She goes, have you tried contacting this person maybe like this was the life coach to maybe see if you could talk to this set of group. And he goes, this is coming of my bookkeeper who thinks about how to help me get sales. He goes, that's not, that's not normal. And it's because I generally care about their business. It's not about getting the money in the door or just data entry and let's get their books crack. I want to make sure everything in their business is running smoothly because I want them to be successful because that's how I feel. I've been successful.

MP: 14:02 Beautiful. You know, I think that's words and advice to live by. If you simply just put others in front of you and make it about them, it gets really easy. And I know that networking for many is, is difficult in you. You've done a great thing which is join BNI business networking international, which is a fantastic, fantastic organization, very effective. And we've had Ivan Meisner on the podcast and he is just brilliant. So anyone who's interested in learning more about networking, Ivan Meisner, BNI, it's a great place. Every commute, almost every community has a BNI check it out, it's fantastic. But I think with you, you've made it accessible because you're leading with your passion and your, your desire, your true to help other people.

JW: 14:53 Absolutely.

MP: 14:54 And you mentioned you're a fan of the EMF bookkeeper.

JW: 14:59 Oh, the book.

MP: 15:00 You read the book and your, Your Debbie Story. What was it about the book that helped you on your business journey?

JW: 15:06 I think the biggest thing is realizing that you're not alone. Other people go through the same struggles, right? You want to try to be very good at your job. You want to make sure, well not that job. This isn't a job to me, this is my livelihood, this is my business. And hearing her story and basically on how, you know, she did kind of what I do work type of hours by herself having bad luck with staff. A lot of things were very, very similar and it was like, oh, it's like a breath of fresh air to know somebody else experienced the same thing who is across the country and it makes me wonder how many other bookkeepers are feeling that way. I know for myself, I've actually brought a couple on that I've met under my wing and we just have weekly chats and so not sure about something about what they should do in their business. They'll call me, and I'm not an expert in any means, but I, I know what works and I'm still learning myself. I've only been in business for three years and I'm always learning and always wanting to learn more. So just Debbie having that courage to put her processes in place and be able to push through the bad stuff that happened and just overcome it and now look at where she's at. It's inspiring.

MP: 16:25 Yeah. Thank you. Thank you for, for being a supporter, uh, of the, of the book and the journey. It's, uh, it's evident when I've looked at your business that you're, you're someone who is completely passionate about your business. One of the things that identifies that as your website, you have an incredible website, I think aesthetically pleasing, very clear messaging. Do you want to share the story of how you came about having such a great website?

JW: 16:53 I am very lucky when it comes to my marketing and the reason why is the person who did my website is actually my brother and we worked very timely on what my vision was and how I wanted my website to be. It was something that was very important to me that I didn't want it to be just about, you know, bookkeeping accounting. It's boring. It's not exciting. And how do you make it exciting? Right? So what I really wanted to do is put it out there as something that was relating to the clients and fitness is, and this is a relation. So that's where I kind of came up with my theme and thought, okay, you know what? Everybody wants their books to be in a fit way. So how could we do what we do best on bookkeeping and accounting and really transpose out to some in the web world, look in the app. And that's what we did. I worked with copywriters, I worked with my brother who is my web designer, and we're constantly changing and improving to really bring more traffic. Also to really put a piece of me in it. Purple is one of my favorite colors. So there was no question that when a sensia came up that purple had to be it because that is who I am. I love purple and the need to represent me.

MP: 18:09 I love it at a well. Hats off to you and your brother on it. You've done a fantastic job. I think it's important to put your, your personality into your business and you're doing that all over the place and it's, it's why you likely have so many clients. You have a ton of clients. I'm sure many listeners right now are wondering how do you, how do you make it all happen and keep it all together?

JW: 18:37 Oh, it's a lot of, lot of processes, a lot of processes for sure. I have workflow systems, I have calendars all over my, well one main calendar that's highlighted with my different clients for when things are due because I have anything monthly clients, a quarterly clients to Annie recline. So it's keeping track of remembering first of all when your end dates are because you want to make sure that you get right on top of that rate right away. For example, I've got several coming up, October 31st my letters have already been sent out to remind people and the processes have started. So it's a matter of really kind of keeping myself organized and there's Times where ice gel at that, but I find if I don't have those processes in place, I'm all over the place. I have no idea what's going from one minute to the next, so I have to have a schedule for when I do payroll for clients. When I do taxes, when I do their monthly bookkeeping, some clients I have to do their bookkeeping once a week because they're a little bit bigger, so it's really managing that workflow system and I actually use just in QuickBooks online free work full system that I used to manage everything to manage when things are due, know when things are due and it's incorporated with my slack account and then I just, it pops up. It reminds me all Jennifer, you have to do this and between my husband and I would just go at it.

MP: 20:07 It's exciting to hear it and you're making great use of it. You've, you've also, as I mentioned, nominated for an award with Institute of Professional Bookkeepers. What was that like?

JW: 20:19 Oh, that was so unexpected. I honestly didn't know that was going to happen. I don't even know how my client, it was, I was nominated by my clients. I didn't even know about, they did it until I got the email. And honestly when I got the, I typed them back, I said, are you sure? Are you sure that's for the hell? Because I knew nothing about it. So it was Hudson honor. Of course, you want to win. But you know, why won in 10 of Canada who is nominated? That's a huge thing. And by my clients, which is even huge are because it means that they appreciate what I do for them and now I've changed something in their business and something to make their business better and they're thankful for that. So that to me is the greatest gift that even they took the time to send in a nomination and it, um, it just meant more than anything to me. And there's always next time, but I'm still one in 10, I suppose too, versus in the, in Canada nominated. So I'm happy.

MP: 21:23 Congratulations on it. And it, and it really is a test a bit to who you are in business. The fact that someone that is your client actually took the time to get out there and nominate you. It's, it's fantastic. It really, it really does show, you know, if you were, if you were going to give advice to our listener, they're in various levels of their business from start up to be about just getting a bunch of clients to, you know, being full up, maybe even tearing their hair out a or even, you know, having a really large business. We have all sorts of listeners. What advice can you give to them in growing their business?

JW: 22:03 I think the biggest thing is have patients trust the systems. User processes. Talk to other bookkeepers. A lot of people think right away, well I don't want to talk to another bookkeeper cause they're my competitor. They're not your competitor. You use them as your allies. I have several strategic partnerships with many different bookkeepers. Some, you know, for business back and forth. Sometimes we don't. Sometimes we just go out and have a glass of wine and talk and you know, give suggestions on different things that we do have that group, because nobody will understand which you do better than a bookkeeper. So use them as their support system. If he knows somebody who's been doing it for quite a long time and your startup, you have no idea, get in touch with them, contact them. I recommend you call it like contact me. I'm more than willing to give any advice to help somebody because I wish I had someone when I started and I didn't. So having that mentor or support system is very, very important. Make sure that you have that because if you don't do a little crash.

MP: 23:06 It's fantastic. You know, it's so wonderful having people like you in our community. You're so generous. I think that's one of the key reasons you're so successful in your business. You're generous with your customers, you're generous with the community and your peers. Competitors are, are not your competitors. They're there, they're your allies. It's very refreshing. I th I, I encourage people in our community to reach out and connect with you. Jennifer, you're, you're such a wonderful person and I thank you for the work that you do.

JW: 23:38 Oh, thank you so much.

MP: 23:40 It's been a pleasure having you on the podcast. Is is anything you'd like to share in terms of how people could get in touch with you or reach out to you?

JW: 23:50 Yeah, they can. Um, get in touch with me via my website at the email address and contact form. Is there, um, they're more than welcome to reach out at any time and I'll be happy to, you know, have a chat with them.

MP: 24:04 Beautiful. And we'll put that link right into the show notes for anyone who's interested to have a look at your website and as well get in touch with you. Uh, Jennifer, this has been great.

JW: 24:13 Well thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.

MP: 24:17 The pleasure is all ours. And with that, that wraps another episode of The Successful Bookkeeper podcast. To learn more about today's wonderful guest and to get access to all sorts of valuable free business-building resources. You can go to Thesuccessfulbookkeeper.com until next time,

MP: 24:34 goodbye.