When Jesse met Jeni: QuickBooks unites bookkeepers and business owners
By Danielle Higley
As any small business owner can attest, it’s easy to get attached to the person who handles your books. Letting someone see your record of sales and expenses—your record of successes and failures—is personal. If your accounts are unbalanced or out of date, it can feel like showing someone your messy house.
For bookkeepers, too, such a relationship isn’t always just business. Clients come and go, but there’s a special bond in mending something broken. And that relationship, business or personal, can be stronger than you might think.
This is the story of one such bond.
Restaurateurs make a mean Cubano, need help managing their books
Jesse Gaddy was in his senior year at Pitzer College when he got the call from his friend Julian. “I want to open up a restaurant,” Julian said, “and I want you to be my business partner.” Even six years later, when asked to describe that call, Jesse says, “I remember a feeling of joy—of being more excited than words. I don’t think I’ll ever feel something like that again.”
In August 2014, Jesse and Julian’s dream became a reality, with the grand opening of their first restaurant: Barbareño, in Santa Barbara.
“In the beginning, we thought we would both be able to do part of the chef work and part of the admin side of things,” says Jesse. But as months became years, Julian spent more time in the kitchen, and Jesse took over business operations. Unfortunately, Jesse’s business background consisted of just a few college economy and accounting courses.
“There were moments of being overwhelmed,” he says. “But in general, I think my feeling was there was a task to be done. I just had to learn it and do it and figure it out.”
From the beginning, Jesse knew the odds weren’t on his side. If he dropped the ball, Barbareño could easily become a statistic—one of the many restaurants that fails within its first five years. But Jesse wasn’t about to let that happen. So he and Julian leaned in. And in May of 2019, they opened their second restaurant, Cubaneo.
Small-town bookkeeper joins a national network
Jeni Freeman grew up in a small town in Idaho. “It’s about 600 people,” she says. “In high school, I was related to half of them.” Her mother still lives in the house where Jeni spent her childhood. It looks out on potato fields that are so close, during harvest season, you can hear the grain bins running all night.
That small-town community helped Jeni fall in love with bookkeeping at 15 years old. “My cousin owned a tanning salon, and once a month, she would bring in a ledger book,” Jeni says. Jeni would add up and balance the columns. “It was old school,” she laughs. “I don’t even think I had a calculator.”
A couple of years later, Jeni took her first accounting class. “They gave us these workbooks that were supposed to take months to complete,” she says. “I took mine home over the weekend, and it was so fun and exciting, I stayed up all night to finish it.”
“Jeni was hooked. She went to college for accounting and bookkeeping. And 26 years later, her work still brings her joy. “I’m a nerd. I love bookkeeping,” she says.
But like any professional, there have been times in her career when Jeni wondered what the future would bring. That’s why she was so excited when she found out QuickBooks was hiring bookkeepers for a new pilot program. “When the opportunity to work for QuickBooks came up, I thought, ‘That’s it! That’s my Holy Grail. I can’t imagine where I would go after this.”
In February 2019, Jeni signed on with Intuit to become a QuickBooks Live Bookkeeper. Two months later, she met Jesse.
Cubaneo’s bookkeeper serves up trust and confidence
“We were just opening Cubaneo when I was researching a bunch of different things,” Jesse says. “I saw this offer to try out QuickBooks Live, and I thought, ‘Why not?’”
Jesse had already started the process of getting Cubaneo on QuickBooks. Bookkeeping seemed like a good idea. “I thought, worst-case scenario, I end up spending a couple weeks of my life watching YouTube tutorials and doing everything myself,” Jesse says. “But that’s what I would have done anyway.” So with all the confidence of someone who’s opened two restaurants before age 30, Jesse signed up.
And that’s when he met Jeni.
“I remember feeling really relieved that she understood everything. She understood what I was looking for,” Jesse says. “She had a sort of game plan for us to get from A to B. It was timely to find that in this start-up phase, I could have a knowledgeable person who I trusted—who had proficiency with the software—to kind of set me up properly.”
For Jeni, working with Jesse was an unexpected pleasure, given that Jesse lived hundreds of miles away in California. Live Bookkeeping consults are over the phone and a one-way video chat.
“It was as if I was sitting right next to him, saying ‘click here,’ ‘do this,’ and ‘do that.’” says Jeni. “The distance didn’t matter. In fact, I think it helped because he could tell me a little bit about Santa Barbara, and I could tell him a little bit about Idaho.”
Over six months and 17 sessions, Jeni and Jesse poured over Jesse’s books. Together, they worked on streamlining Cubaneo’s daily sales. And they created a workflow pattern Jesse could follow. That way, in between calls, he could feel confident that his accounts were all in order.
“It was easy to work on his books,” says Jeni. “He treated us like part of his team—like I was part of his team.”
Jeni’s recipe for success leaves lasting effects
Within six months of opening, Cubaneo earned an average 4.5-star rating on Yelp. And in 2019, Barbareño earned its first nod from Michelin, along with six other restaurants in the Santa Barbara area.
Thanks to Jeni’s help, Jesse now spends less time on his books and more time doing the things only he can do for his business. He has ideas for automating his QuickBooks account even further, to keep up with Cubaneo’s incredible growth. He’s no longer afraid that his restaurants will fail—he’s just focused on building their success.
“As a small business owner, it really is awesome to have that personalized attention—to have someone who knows your accounts helping you,” he says. “Especially if you start with them in the beginning. They can help you set up your workflow. Having that personalized attention and that kind of security is huge.”
Jeni is excited to see Jesse succeed. And she’s planning to do just that in person when she and her boyfriend take their next trip to Santa Barbara. “I don’t know what else is around Santa Barbara,” she says, “but Cubaneo will definitely be one of our stops.”
Live Bookkeeping builds confidence for entrepreneurs in the Wilds
By Danielle Higley
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.
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 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 Bookkeeping. 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.
QuickBooks Live helps jazz club owners harmonize spending and accounts
By Danielle Higley
Beverly Williams’ first experience with live jazz was a performance by the Mingus Big Band. She was 21 years old. And after it was over, she went out and bought all of Charles Mingus’ records. That night changed everything.
After that first performance, Beverly saw Noel Pointer, Kenny Barron, and Joe Henderson. Then she saw Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis perform together in the spring of 1988. She gravitated toward swing and hard bop like a singer to a microphone.
So when a friend mentioned he was giving his restaurant a facelift and needed some inspiration, Beverly had just two words: live jazz
Beverly takes over talent and financials
Before she became the general manager and talent finder for Headroom Bar & Social, Beverly led software development teams. “I worked in software for over 30 years,” she says.
Managing developers is a far cry from headhunting musicians, but Beverly says her experience guided her in this new role. “There are just some fundamental things about running a business that translate across all businesses. You need good people. You need to hire correctly and train them. Those skills, I’m finding, are really useful. [Skills] that are specific to the food and beverage business are important, but there are plenty of people who know that stuff. The challenge is running everything else.”
Now, Beverly is invested in making Headroom Bar & Social successful. In June 2019, she began booking jazz acts to come play in the space. But even before that, she was focusing her efforts on helping out with the financials.
“I had helped the owners get information together to do their taxes for 2018, and it was painful,” she says. “Even though the bank statements had a lot of information for most transactions, there wasn’t enough detail to categorize things accurately.”
It became clear to Beverly that there had to be one financial source of truth. Or the pain of hunting down tax information would keep coming back year after year.
When it’s time to face the music, QuickBooks Live sets the records straight
Beverly knew Headroom needed a bookkeeper—someone who could get the records and accounts up to date. “I was going to get a QuickBooks account and then find a freelancer to do the bookkeeping for us,” explains Beverly. “But when I was looking up freelancers, I saw a lot of people had this QuickBooks certification. I looked at that further and thought, ‘Oh, QuickBooks has bookkeepers,’ and that’s when I decided to go with Live Bookkeeping.”
Going into her first call with QuickBooks Live Bookkeeper, Pamela, Beverly says she was feeling overwhelmed. “I felt like I didn’t have a handle on what was happening in the business. I thought I should have been better prepared for the call. Like I should have all this financial information together.”
But as the call progressed, Beverly felt that stress slip away. “I realized she was not expecting that. There was no ‘homework’ for me to have brought into that initial call.” Beverly went from feeling like things were out of control to thinking she could get a handle on the situation.
After that initial talk, Beverly and her bookkeeper worked together to establish a baseline, incorporating bank statements, payroll reports, and previous years’ tax returns. Those are things every business must take into account. But one part of Beverly’s job—somewhat exclusive to what makes Headroom so special—is extra tricky. Coincidentally, it’s also the part that brings Beverly the most joy.
Live Bookkeepers tackle Headroom’s expenses, from live talent to toilet paper
One of the biggest challenges for Headroom Bar & Social is keeping track of all the 1099 workers who make the restaurant what it is. Because that’s what the musicians who play at the venue are: 1099 vendors.
“Providing a venue for musicians where they can showcase their work is one of the things I enjoy most,” Beverly says. “The music world is very competitive, and someone who’s up and coming doesn’t have many opportunities to showcase their work. Even well-established and accomplished musicians have a hard time finding venues.”
Still, it’s one thing to dream of showcasing the next Aretha Franklin and another to manage all the backend accounting to pay the talent. “We have a lot of musicians who come through and play,” Beverly says. Getting 1099s set up for each of them, so taxes run smoother next year, is one of the goals she plans to accomplish with her bookkeeper.
Fortunately, Beverly says she’s seen a difference in the business, since getting their books more on track. It’s even helped her avoid crucial spending mistakes.
“We were going to do a liquor order because inventory was low on certain brands,” she says. Then we said, ‘OK, time out. Let’s see what we spent money on last month and what’s coming up.’”
To everyone’s surprise, there was a staple they needed that no one had thought to account for: toilet paper. “It was like, ‘Oh, yeah, are we out of toilet paper? We’re going to need some.’ So instead of getting those extra bottles of wine, we bought toilet paper.”
Headroom makes headway with better organization and accurate books
Toiletries might be less glamorous than saxophones and soloists, but organizing expenses for accurate projections is a huge win for Beverly.
“Being able to look back and account for all the things we need is crucial,” Beverly says. “I mean, it doesn’t make us more money, but it means we’re not running out of money, either. We’re not spending too much on the liquor inventory and then scrambling because we don’t have toilet paper, you know?”
When asked if QuickBooks Live has made the business more successful, Beverly says it has. “It informs our decision-making,” she says. “It gives us a point of reference to make decisions from.”
Thinking of the bookkeepers who helped her get where she is, she adds, “I didn’t expect the hand-holding and the level of support I got. All the guidance and suggestions my bookkeeper gave—I didn’t expect that. That was a big plus for me.”
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