This post was written by Amanda Aguillard, owner of Aguillard Accounting and Xero evangelist.
I’m a serial entrepreneur. I always have been. I remember being single digits in age, trying to get people to buy handmade leaf decorations on the side of the road. I had lemonade stands all the time. In college I even “helped” folks with their papers for a little extra cash. In my 20s, I had a children’s clothing company, because, well, I was bored and had children.
As I write this post, I am a principal, cofounder, or partner in four companies: an accounting firm, a training company, a strategy consulting group, and an app. And I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m actually thinking about launching another entity. This is the new normal.
You know people who are starting businesses. They might call it a “contract gig” or “side hustle,” but those are legitimate small businesses. All of these new businesses are started by all kinds of people. It points to how much the entire underlying economy is changing.
When I was a young accountant in south Louisiana, businesses were started by middle-aged men who mortgaged their homes to buy oil field service equipment. Now, because of technology, anyone can start a business. And to some degree, it’s our obligation to be founders.
The best product or service comes from those who are passionate about creating it. It comes from those who stare at a problem and design a solution, from improving how we cook and serve oysters to coaching social entrepreneurs in strategy and pitching (those are two of my actual clients, by the way).
Taking a passion project and turning it into a business often means wearing many hats. With limited resources, entrepreneurs will often act in a variety of roles within their businesses, from sole marketer to customer service manager to salesperson — the list goes on. Today, technology is creating efficiencies that give entrepreneurs more time back in their day and enable them to get back to doing what they love.
Take the basic back office of a business. It is and will always be the same: Ask people to pay you, pay the people you owe, keep track of it for government compliance. It’s unavoidable. But what is changing at an exponential rate is how we do it.
A successful 21st-century business doesn’t use 1990s technology like spreadsheets and cash. It leverages SaaS (software as a service) products like Xero and Square to eliminate the friction between customer service and administration. A business that accepts electronic payments gets data that automatically transfers all the way through the back-office system, without touch.
The invoice is delivered to the customer, money is deposited in the business account, the sale is recorded as paid, the customer is marked as having purchased a certain product, the accounting system recognizes revenue, and a line on a tax return is completed. And the aggregate of this happening over and over means that you get quality business data that you can use for performance analytics and marketing campaigns instantly. For a business not using technology, these are separate, labor-intensive steps, prone to error.
A business owner has limited capacity. A smart entrepreneur puts the person in the product, not the back office. Technology runs the back office. Whether your goal is to scale for growth, have a lifestyle business, or be poised for acquisition, one thing is universally true: You, the business owner, have to get out of the way.
On Friday, March 23, I’ll be on a panel of experts discussing what it’s like to be an entrepreneur at Talk Shop New Orleans. Who knows, I might even reveal business number five.
About Amanda Aguillard
Amanda Aguillard decided to become a CPA when she was 16, and never looked back. She started Aguillard Accounting LLC in 2012, committed to running a cloud-based practice from anywhere in the world. She was the Xero Evangelist of the Year in 2016 and used her experience as an instructor of the Xero Certification Course to cofound Elefant, a software training company. While she holds a master’s degree in taxation from the University of Denver, she would much rather craft and implement ecosystems for small businesses.
Xero is beautiful, easy-to-use online accounting software for small businesses and their advisors. The company has more than 1.2 million subscribers in more than 180 countries. Xero seamlessly integrates with more than 600 apps. It was ranked No. 1 by Forbes as the World’s Most Innovative Growth Company for two years running, won Technology Provider of the Year at the 2017 British Small Business Awards, and was rated by Canstar Blue as Australia’s best accounting software three consecutive years from 2015 to 2017.