Often, it’s a lack of courage that keeps us from living our passions. Instead of going after our dreams, we do what’s practical or most tried and true. We avoid confronting our weaknesses, in favor of a life that caters to our strengths. Even if what we’re good at doesn’t make us happy.
Kellie and Dan Francis are not those people. Not anymore. In early 2019, the Francis family quit their old life and took a leap of faith. That’s how a former construction worker and an 11-year-veteran bookkeeper ended up purchasing The Wilds Resort and Campground. Now, with nearly a full year of resort ownership down, they’re sharing their story. And if there’s one lesson they’ve learned along the way, it’s that dreams aren’t so different than work. It takes many hands to make them come true.
Life at the lodge: Family and business become one
Kellie and Dan have always loved the outdoors and sharing the wilderness with their three kids. A couple of years ago, back when they both worked for other people, adventuring near the Detroit Lakes was a way to escape.
“We’d been looking for a way out of our jobs for a few years, and it just kept getting more miserable,” says Kellie. “We weren’t happy.”
Then, fate. “We were doing a lot of camping with our family, and we just happened to stay at a place where another couple had recently purchased their own campground resort. We started looking at it, and we’re like, ‘We could do this too!’”
Kellie and Dan began to reconsider the life they lived and what they wanted to do. “We went to a couple of conferences for resort owners before we purchased,” Kellie says. Their main takeaway: Buying a campground could be a win for the whole family. “With the kids, you couldn’t ask for a better way to grow up. They learn so many different things about life and work ethic.”
Of course, running a resort isn’t a vacation—something Kellie and Dan know well. “My husband does a lot of groundwork,” says Kellie. That includes mowing, cabin upkeep, picking up garbage, and constant fix-it projects.
For her part, Kellie manages a lot of the guest relations and backend business needs like advertising, taking reservations, and keeping the books. That’s on top of driving the kids to school and back—40 minutes each way. “It’s a lot more work than a normal eight-to-five job, especially in the summer,” Kellie says.
Fortunately, Kellie and Dan have a great support system. “We had a ton of help this year from our parents and siblings,” Kellie says. “They came out and helped us through the whole summer, so that was a ginormous relief. They helped us with parenting, and they gave us some time to spend with our kids.”
Yet even as family came to lend a helping hand, Kellie knew she was missing something crucial.
Bookkeeper to bookkeeper: QuickBooks Live helps out
Now that she’s a business owner, Kellie doesn’t have a lot of time to learn new systems and tools. Particularly when she’s already busy figuring out how to run a 72-year-old resort.
“I have bookkeeping experience,” she says, “but the accounting programs I used were specific to car dealerships. I’d never used QuickBooks® before.”
Kellie felt like she was heading into uncharted territory that had nothing to do with the surrounding Detroit Lakes wilderness. “When I switched to QuickBooks, I had to figure out how to do the bookkeeping in relation to our reservation system. Like how to tie it all in. But QuickBooks was—and still is—very confusing to me.”
Then, one day, while she was clicking through her account, Kellie stumbled across QuickBooks Live. The service offers bookkeeping to small business owners looking for better organization, accuracy in their financials, and increased confidence. “Live” bookkeepers are available over video conference or the phone, to help create workflows, get accounts up to date, and prepare the books for tax season. “It’s been so helpful,” says Kellie. “It saved me.”
Before she started using QuickBooks Live, Kellie was behind. “It was, like, two months into our main season, and I hadn’t kept track of anything yet because I hadn’t figured out how,” she says. “I mean, I kept track of it on paper and stuff, but I hadn’t put it into QuickBooks or anything.”
Kellie’s QuickBooks Live bookkeepers, Camala and Debbie, stepped right in to help. “Camala listened to me and let me tell her what my problems were and where I was trying to go with everything. I told her what I needed to do and what my goal was. And then she told me what she saw, by looking at what I had so far in my QuickBooks account. Then she started setting things up for me.”
Taming the Wilds: Camala and Debbie balance the books
“With all my experience, I thought I would be OK going into this business,” Kellie says. I thought I could handle it. But it was just the whole aspect of learning a new accounting program that threw me off.”
Now, Kellie is learning how to make better use of her QuickBooks account. And she’s got a team of bookkeepers to help her along the way. “I feel like I have a better handle on what I’m doing,” she says. “And honestly, it’s all thanks to the help I got from my bookkeepers. Because without them, I wouldn’t have a clue.”
As Kellie looks ahead, she also looks back on the support system that’s helped her family. Not every tool can boost revenue right away, but Kelly says QuickBooks Live is making a difference on the backend. “It’s made everything easier and better for our business,” she says.
With a lifetime of adventure ahead, who knows what the future holds for Kellie and Dan? But with the courage to start again, and the right support system and tools, anything is possible.