Can an age-old profession be reinvented? That was the challenge that corporate accountant Daniel Talkins set for himself. Tired of the nine-to-five grind, Talkins escaped not just his cubicle, but an office space altogether when he started his ‘virtual’ business. Here, the entrepreneur tells his story of the highs and lows of working for himself, learning about cloud-based technology and escaping from the pack.
After four years working as a senior corporate accountant for one of Canada’s largest public accounting firms, I was beginning to grow tired of the stuffy nine-to-five corporate culture. Accounting is very traditional and tends to rely on antiquated business models, but I saw room for innovation.
So in 2015, I took a leap of faith. I quit my salaried job and co-founded Future Balance CPAs, a virtual accounting firm, with colleague Sarah Allison.
For many accountants, their path is already mapped out – you do your time at an established firm, learn all the internal operations and then either stay the course and climb the corporate ladder or if more adventurous you open your own business based on that same model.
For Future Balance CPAs, we had to chart our own course. I wanted my firm to be drastically different, with a focus on providing accounting and bookkeeping services to startups and small businesses. Most importantly, I didn’t want to be confined to a brick-and-mortar space. My work as an accountant doesn’t require me to be stuck in an office, and by using technology and software solutions, I can work online from anywhere and anytime.
We’re based out of a co-working space in Toronto, which has the added bonus of lower overheads, and we work remotely using cloud-based technologies.
Much like any other entrepreneur trying to break away from an established business model, it wasn’t always easy. As pioneers, everything was trial and error. It even took months just to convince the Institute of Chartered Accountants to register our business name (they were used to names like “Smith & Smith LLP”). We also needed to figure out the right pricing structure. Since startups and small businesses need to know how to budget, we decided to offer progressive fixed pricing.
But these weren’t the only challenges. For instance, we had to figure out how to make accounting relevant to small business owners. For many small businesses, visiting an accountant to file taxes is a yearly chore. They’re often not aware of the finer points of what accountants do, or how important their own numbers are. Real-time information can really help enhance crucial business decisions. Without the information being current, you’re going to lose out, but if you’re on top of it, it may improve your bottom line.
Unfortunately, for the businesses that only visit their accountant once a year, it’s not front and centre. As a result, many have problems with cash flow.
My favourite part of my job is helping businesses reach the next level and watching them grow. But for our clients to reach their financial goals – and for us to support them – we needed them to have better books with real-time information at their fingertips.
When I discovered QuickBooks Online, the light bulb really went off. I realized that we could deliver the same product remotely, all while helping companies move forward, make smarter decisions and get to their goals faster.
QuickBooks Online allows everyone involved, including Future Balance CPAs, bookkeepers and business owners, to collaborate. Amazing features like the dashboard allow them to see their real-time financials, including what they’re owed. There are also other add-ons they can integrate, and these apps help them pay bills on time and speed up bookkeeping processes.
It’s so simple and obvious. What business wouldn’t prefer this over and above the traditional model?
Today, we’re not even a year old and we have clients across Canada – from real estate agents to fashion designers to photographers – who we work with entirely remotely. Regardless of location, we’ve been able to establish strong rapport and professional relationships with our clients using cloud-based technology.
Location independence has also opened other doors. I’m a keen traveler and my best years are still ahead of me. Being able to work remotely using QuickBooks Online also means that I’m no longer limited to two or three weeks of vacation per year.
Overall, the growth of our business has been fantastic. I don’t think we would have had this kind of growth if we had opened up a brick-and-mortar accounting firm. Online accounting is the future and we’re riding the crest of that wave.
To learn more about how easy it is to operate a small business remotely, visit QuickBooks Online.
Daniel Talkins is a Canadian Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CA) who founded Future Balance CPAs to help growing businesses manage their accounting and bookkeeping needs via the cloud, while incorporating the subscription pricing model. Daniel is located in Toronto and presently serves all of Canada.
Browse his website for further information and webinars geared towards the modern entrepreneur. www.futurebalance.ca Facebook + Instagram: @Future Balance CPAs