How does someone who first learned accounting at age 14, on green ledger sheets, end up building a 100% virtual accounting practice on top of QuickBooks Online?
This podcast episode features Candy Bellau of Kramerica Business Solutions.
- How Candy, a New York native, ended up in New Orleans
- Why some of Intuit's best-intentioned suggestions need to be taken with a grain of salt and subject to human review
- The big a-ha moment when Candy knew it made sense to move out of traditional office space and build Kramerica Business Solutions in the cloud
(While QuickBooks Online certainly made this possible, it was the birth of Candy's daughter that provided the urgency. And now Kramerica Business Solutions can have clients everywhere. And it does!)
Candy also shared some great tips on QuickBooks Online for beginner and expert users:
- Don't accept Intuit's bank feed suggestions without manually reviewing first.
- Be very wary of using the transfer feature when entering credit card transactions.
- Don't use PayPal for both invoicing clients and paying bills.
- Use filtering and reports to help clients figure out when they make mistakes.
- Seek out other third-party solutions for clients to work around limitations of QuickBooks Online.
- Be careful of undeposited funds masking problems around double-stating revenue.
- Become certified as a ProAdvisor if you're performing booking for others.
- Get to know your clients' tax advisers.
- Don't take on work that you're not qualified to perform.
- Embrace technology. It will make your life a lot easier.
- Do whatever you can to make your clients successful.
Candy Bellau's advice on QBO is also featured in QuickBooks Online and the Emerging Outsourced Accounting Practice | Expert Tips from Four ProAdvisors [Download the Free eBook].
A lightly-edited transcript follows below:
Candy Bellau (00:00):
Intuit makes a lot of suggestions in those bank feeds. And you really can't just take the suggestions that they make. You need to look at it. It's not; it's not, you just can't do it. It needs a person to look at it.
Speaker 2 (00:18):
Welcome to the AI in Accounting Podcast. Now here's your host, Joshua Feinberg of Vic.ai.
Joshua Feinberg (00:31):
So I'm Joshua Feinberg from Vic.ai with the AI in Accounting Podcast. And I'm here with Candy Bellau from Kramerica Business Solutions based in New Orleans, New York native. And we're going to talk today about QuickBooks Online. But before we do that, I want to understand a little more about your background, your accounting practice, the clients you work with. What got you to where you are on your journey.
How Candy Bellau Built Her Accounting Career
Candy Bellau (00:56):
First. Thank you so much for having me. Bookkeeping. Accounting was something I fell into. I started when I was 14 working in an office, and I learned on green ledger sheets, you know, the old school way. I had to write out a financial statement of profit and loss of balance sheet. I learned old school, and when I got a computer, they decided those things weren't going to stick around. So they decided I should work on it, which was great because I learned how to set up full systems. By the time I was 16. And it just was so easy for me that I stayed in this field. I had no desire ever to be an accountant. But it just came naturally for me. I started my career, I'm from New York, and I worked for companies as a controller and general manager, but always dealt with the money and the finances and the planning and the budgeting.
Candy Bellau (01:53):
And I ended up leaving the corporate world, and I started working for a consulting firm, which just blew my mind. It just blew my mind to work with so many different people to be working in so many different areas. And it was always interesting. I was always meeting new people. I felt like I was really helpful, and it wasn't just working for one person. And I started my own firm in New York. The person that had hired me for consulting ended up mentoring me and helping me start my own firm. I then moved to New Orleans when I met a cute guy in a bar during Mardi Gras. So I left my firm and started fresh in New Orleans with no contacts, no clients. I had to start all over. I use different platforms, but primarily QuickBooks, because that's what I felt most small business owners were using.
Candy Bellau (02:49):
It was the most user-friendly, and l it's crucial for a business owner to be empowered and know how to pull reports and get information. So that made it a lot easier than some of these more robust, robust systems that are easier for you or I to use. But as a business owner, it may be a little bit more difficult. So I've been using QuickBooks for a very long time. I've been a ProAdvisor for a very long time. I moved to QuickBooks Online, kicking and screaming. I didn't see any need for it. I was a diehard Desktop, and I had clients asking for it. Once I learned it, and I learned the beauty of it, and it was magical to me, it was just life-changing to be able to do all this work and not have to go to the client that every time that we're not transferring files, that we're not going to see people. I fell in love, and we converted our entire practice to we're primarily QuickBooks Online, and we've moved to a completely virtual setting.
Joshua Feinberg (04:02):
That's fascinating. It's interesting. I spoke with a CPA a couple of weeks ago, and he was talking about how his local clients are disappointed that they can't drop off the jump drive anymore, disappointed. And he can't go to their office and physically pick up reports anymore. So a lot of, a lot of what's in, been in the works for the last couple of years with cloud accounting and digital transformation and all of a sudden overnight in a matter of weeks. It's hard to imagine too many resource constraints, small businesses having a valid reason not to want to go.
Candy Bellau (04:41):
Yeah. And I'm so grateful. We had already gone through that transition. I mean, I had a large office with, you know, everybody coming in every day, we were all set up, and it was the birth of my daughter that prompted me to reevaluate what we were doing and why. And the team said almost every one of our clients is on QuickBooks Online. We don't even see people anymore. Why do we need this office? Why don't we have to come here? And it just made so much sense. We gave up the office, and we went virtual.
Joshua Feinberg (05:13):
This way too, you can have clients everywhere.
Candy Bellau (05:16):
True. And now we do.
Favorite QuickBooks Online Tips for Beginners
Joshua Feinberg (05:19):
Yeah. Changes change. It changes everything. So shifting gears a little bit more of the tactical when it comes to QuickBooks Online, what's your favorite tip that you'd give to beginners that are just starting. And this could be a small business owner. That's a client that's just starting out or somebody in school right out of school, maybe interning for you in an entry-level role, that's brand new to QBO. What's your favorite advice for them?
Candy Bellau (05:48):
So it's interesting. I threw these questions out to my team to see what they would think and what advice they would give. Now, I always think: don't take the information that Intuit provides for you in the bank feeds. They make a lot of suggestions, and I think that's the biggest rookie mistake I see is that people take whatever suggestions come in the bank feeds. My team calls it, follow the money. And what they say is: Make sure that you're putting in transactions at the banking level. Let's say you have credit cards attached, or sometimes it loans don't do any transactions in there when it comes to making the payments. Make sure you're doing those from the bank account that you made the payment. And let it follow through to the credit card. Whenever they're done in the credit card feature, it's just a disaster whenever they use the transfer feature that Intuit suggests. Don't do it unless you know what you're doing; never use the transfer feature.
Joshua Feinberg (06:57):
Let's start by getting the data entry done in the bank side, as opposed to in the credit card side and don't transfer from the bank to the credit card,
Candy Bellau (07:05):
Don't do the transfer feature. Intuit makes a lot of suggestions in those bank feeds. And you really can't just take the suggestions that they make. You need to look at it. It's not; it's not, you just can't do it. It needs a person to look at it.
Joshua Feinberg (07:24):
Well-intentioned, but maybe too general or,
Candy Bellau (07:28):
Oh, it's just, it's a disaster. That's why our firm specializes in cleanups.
Joshua Feinberg (07:34):
What's the biggest disaster you can think of in recent months or years where you had to do one of these cleanup jobs from well-intentioned advice, suggestions
Candy Bellau (07:47):
I'll tell you the biggest messes and cleanups are with PayPal. When they use PayPal to invoice clients and pay bills that so much ends up missing. And then they double enter all the transactions because they're trying to do a PayPal bank feed and their bank feed. And we usually have to scrap everything and start over. It's usually a disaster.
Joshua Feinberg (08:16):
Are there other electronic payment platforms that have similar problems, or is it seem to be unique to how they integrate with PayPal?
Candy Bellau (08:24):
I would say PayPal is the worst. Primarily because people use it, they'll invoice somebody, they get money in, and then decide to pay bills, and then they can use PayPal as a bank They'll transfer some money over as they want it, but it doesn't necessarily correspond with the income. So it's not going to match up with an invoice, and it's not going to be paying a specific bill. So maybe they moved a hundred dollars over, but really they received a thousand, and then they paid a $900 bill. Now trying to break that all out and get that information is troublesome. Plus, I had a client that I kept seeing money come over from PayPal. And I said, well, I'm going to need your PayPal statement. I said, why? I said, well, I need to get the revenue and the information that's in there. And when they gave me the PayPal statement, there was a million dollars in the PayPal account. And I said, what are you doing? They said, well, we only take what we need for reporting. This is mind-blowing.
Advice for Power Users of QuickBooks Online
Joshua Feinberg (09:32):
Okay. Whether it's the API not working well or just a different cultural way of not coding and breaking things out. Right. But yeah, it's an interesting thing to watch for. Yeah. Yeah. So that's kind of the beginner scenario of what to watch out for being careful with that. Working with the credit card, coding, working with the transfers, working with PayPal. What do you tell a power user, someone you might meet at a conference or introduced through a mutual friend, and you're exchanging tips on like the thorniest issues like war stories you've been through with, with QBO?
Candy Bellau (10:09):
A lot of that people don't utilize is there are filters within QuickBooks Online, whether it's on the registers on the bank feeds. And it's pretty interesting. How, if somebody has a question, I can usually get the answer so quickly, and they're like, how did you do that? And I'm like, well, I just filtered all the data, excluded what I didn't need. And I put in what I did need, or I'll run a report and fine-tune what transactions I need or what vendor I'm looking for. You know, it's those filters, and the detail on the reports that you're looking for that will create reports to find problems so that it, we see a client has a recurring issue. We'll create a report that will show them it'll populate when they make that mistake. And, you know, we build a lot of those using filters using the transactions and saying, you know, just pull up deposits that are to this vendor or this account because typically that's going to be wrong. Then the client can fix it themselves and start to see where those problems are happening. I love the reporting and the filtering and QuickBooks Online.
Joshua Feinberg (11:39):
Do you find that there are enough power and flexibility that you're able to take the same kind of filters and same kind of reports that you use and deploy those across a big chunk of your client base?
Candy Bellau (11:51):
It's first of all, things, and we can get a lot, we figured out workarounds for most of the issues we have. It's not, I mean, QuickBooks Online has so many limitations. So you have to be very familiar with the software to figure out a workaround that you have without having to, and, there are so many resources you can bring to add on and third party apps in that that make it so much easier. So we try to keep it simple for the clients, and depending on their size, we'll try to work within the parameters, but you have to seek other solutions depending on the client size and their needs.
Joshua Feinberg (12:33):
Great. No, that's good to know for so power users, it's all about the filters. It's all about the reports. And a lot of it is customized to the context of their business, their challenges, their problems, and then things that you identify, things they may see and things they may not see until you start to get under the hood. What do you see as across the board, the single biggest mistake that people make with QuickBooks, you, your clients, you mentioned a few of them with already with going directly to credit cards, relying on, on transferring you were talking about, yeah. So all the bank feeds across the
Candy Bellau (13:16):
Bank feeds are the most horrific, you know, a lot of times we just go in, and we're like, okay, we're going to clean this up, just go right to everything. That's reviewed, select all and undo. And we're just going to start fresh. They'll leave the vendor names off, which is problematic for many reasons. One is, you know, if you want to bulk reclassify, you can't bulk reclassify without an aide. When you go to do 1099s, I need a better name for that. Small business owners may not realize that, and they just classify everything, and they're not worried about vendor names. The other big issue is undeposited funds and a lack of understanding of how that works. I will go into a client and, you know, we could care less what the P and L says. We just want to see the balance sheet. And if I go onto the balance sheet and see $200,000 of undeposited funds with a net income of $2,000, I know there is historical information and these undeposited funds that have not been processed correctly. More than likely, the revenue was double-stated, which is problematic. So, you know, it's, it's, I feel like people would benefit from just having a basic understanding of the software before just diving in or wanting to do it all on their own.
Joshua Feinberg (14:47):
What do you think is the best way for somebody to get that basic understanding if they're motivated, both as an end-user client, and someone that wants to be a ProAdvisor.
Candy Bellau (14:58):
Well, so a ProAdvisor, I would strongly suggest going through the certification process. If you can work with somebody or I, definitely suggest if you're not a tax preparer and you're just working on people's books, get to know your client's tax preparers, talk to them, ask them what the problems are, ask them what the pain points are within the books. Ask for the tax returns to see if they even tie out for the prior year. I think that there's so much to be said for having those relationships with tax preparers and, and feeling that comfort zone. I know I have a question that I'm not sure if I have people to ask, and I want to know if I'm doing something wrong. So I feel like our clients have a team. It's not just us. It's the tax preparers. We're working with their insurance agents.
Candy Bellau (15:51):
You know, we're the people surrounding this client to make sure they're taken care of. And there are no egos. We're all working together to get things done. And if I don't know something, I'm going to ask. So it's important if you're starting to drop the ego and ask for help, it's also important. I think, to not take on work that you're not qualified for. I think that's wrong. The client, I think everybody has to start somewhere, but at least get some help and guidance, maybe work under somebody. Don't charge people things when you don't know what you're doing. You know, we all started somewhere, but there's training out there. It's a business owner. If there's plenty of YouTube training, but your chamber of commerce, your community college will give you classes and courses, and they're all low price. Don't try to take it upon yourself to just figure this all out. Either if you're not going to go for a class, get some help, at least reach out to somebody to help you do the setup, or have somebody on call that can check in monthly, quarterly, annually that you can speak with.
Solving the Bank Feeds Problem with More Granular User Access
Joshua Feinberg (17:08):
Yeah, no, that makes a lot of sense. One more quick question. You mentioned that the bank feeds are especially problematic. If you were to get the ear of a product manager who works on that part of QBO, what's your big advice?
Candy Bellau (17:24):
So the huge thing that I've been asking for for years, every time I go to QuickBooks Connect or Scaling New Heights, or I call my rep and have my conversations with them, is I beg them, beg them, beg them that if you see a ProAdvisor or an accountant is working with a client, can you shut off the ability for the client to work in the bank feed? Just let them see the balances and just have the option to turn on or off for that I could go in. And when I take a new client on, I can immediately shut off their ability to work in the bank feeds, but they can still go in and see what's there, they can see the balances from the bank. They could see the balances in QuickBooks Online, but they can't do anything. You know, I want them to write a check and do stuff within the program, but don't touch my bank because I just spend so much time doing things. It's, it's very frustrating.
Joshua Feinberg (18:25):
So it's like a read-only, or like view-only access for that part of QBO for that one module. So they have to break it up by module and have user roles within that particular module.
Candy Bellau (18:34):
Yeah. I, I even thought I'm going to figure this out and program at myself, which, you know, I don't have the time for that, but I was so aggravated, I signed up with QuickBooks Online and on their thing where you could get the code. Yeah. You're, you know, this stuff better than me, but I was so bad. I was like I say, we're not going to do it. I'm going to figure out how to write this myself. I just tell clients, please don't touch it.
Joshua Feinberg (19:02):
Part of that trusted advisor relationship that they are willing to have; that doctor-patient relationship to you, and it can be helpful.
Candy Bellau (19:14):
Well, you could write that. Right.
The Future of the ProAdvisor-Centric Accounting Practice
Joshua Feinberg (19:19):
The final question that I wanted to ask you about today is thinking again, like in the mode of a product manager, but imagine your accounting firm, where you're going to go with a slightly larger accounting firm. Everyone wears so many different hats. Still, at some point, you're likely thinking about what is the future of your practice looks like. Where are you going to make the big bets what's going to be really in demand and needed from your clients one to three years, even three to five years out from now, where are you making the big resource investments? Where are we headed?
Candy Bellau (19:54):
I feel like I'm successful when I can develop a team member that can now support themselves with a skill that they've learned. And we like trying to teach people and building them up. You know, I think there's plenty of clients out there. I think with what's going on in the virtual world. I think accountants, bookkeepers, and CPAs are such a needed area. And I think people realize it. So I think there's plenty of people out there. There's plenty of, I don't see it as competition. I think we're all peers working together, and there's enough work to go around. So I like to surround myself with really good firms that I can talk to, and we can collaborate. But I think the big opportunity for me, success is seeing a team that I love and seeing them care as much as I do. Seeing them work hard, learning, and developing. We need the clients to support a bigger team, but I feel like we're lucky at a point where we just want to work with nice people.
Candy Bellau (21:09):
And we're happy. We're content. We get all of our business from referrals. We get all of our business from CPA firms we work with. So we're not actively trying to bring in clients. We take clients, and we add to our team as needed. But my goal is to sleep well at night to feel like I've helped people. And to feel like my team has a work-life balance, that they do a good job. I don't penalize my team for being efficient. If they can figure out a way to save time and get the job done, they're not going to get paid less, you know, so I encourage them to embrace technology and, I want them to do whatever they can to help the customer to succeed. It's I feel like part of our, our mission to embrace the small business owner and see them succeed and see them do well. So I think there's so much opportunity out there. There's going to be so much more coming our way. And just with what's just happened with the PPP and we help all of our clients plus plus plus, and didn't charge a penny for it. And we just said, every small business owner that stays in business keeps us in business, and that's all, all our, that's what our mission is
Joshua Feinberg (22:33):
Brings loyalty, loyalty, and trust are such precious, precious things in this world.
Candy Bellau (22:42):
I can say I love almost all of my clients. I talked to them on the phone; they have my cell phone number. These are people that I would want to spend my time with, and if they're not, they don't stay clients.
Joshua Feinberg (22:57):
It's great to be able to use that as the foundation for what's a good fit, and what's not if you can make them happy and make you happy and feel a sense of professional gratification when there's a genuinely mutual, mutual respect from both sides. That's awesome. Candy. What's the best way for somebody to follow what you're working on, to learn more about your firm, to connect up with you?
Learning More About Candy Bellau of Kramerica Business Solutions
Candy Bellau (23:24):
So we have a business Facebook page, which is Kramerica Business Solutions. But a little pet project of ours that we've been working on is a Facebook page called QBO Coach. As time permits, I like to do helpful tips and hints and to put on webinars just to teach people, one of the big things to teach people is a balance sheet, you know, and not being afraid of it. Cause it's so awesome. And we're on Kramerica Business Solutions.com. And QBO coach is a pet project of ours where we're hoping to reach out to more spin ups for small business owners and help them navigate the world of QuickBooks Online.
Joshua Feinberg (24:15):
Sounds like a great project. Anything else you think that would be helpful for people to know with your outlook and all your years of experience working with QBO?
Candy Bellau (24:25):
Just don't put your head in the sand. You know, embrace technology. It's not so bad. It'll make your life a lot easier. And there's a lot of people that love it. There's a lot of people that hate it. I happen to be one that loves it. I don't have all the problems that people talk about. I don't necessarily experience them, and I'd say 95% of my clients are on QuickBooks Online, and we hardly have any issues at all. So I think it's, it's fun. It's easy. It's real-time. Go for it.
Joshua Feinberg (25:00):
This is excellent. Thanks so much, Candy, for joining me for today's podcast episode, and I wish you and your clients great success.
Candy Bellau (25:07):
Oh, thank you so much for having me. I really, really enjoyed this.
Speaker 2 (25:11):
Thanks for listening to this episode of the AI in Accounting Podcast. To subscribe and leave a review, check us at blog.vic.ai or wherever you like to consume podcast episodes, including Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and YouTube.
What's your favorite QBO tip? And what did you find most valuable from Candy's Bellau's podcast interview? Let us know in the Comments section below.
And if you're serious about taking your QuickBooks Online knowledge to the next level, download the free eBook: QuickBooks Online and the Emerging Outsourced Accounting Practice | Expert Tips from Four ProAdvisors.