Networking

Keep Moving. Make It Happen.

Patti Beres is entrepreneur and owner of Be Green Pro, LLC, a business providing earth- and pet-friendly lawncare solutions. If you need to be reminded of why you started your own business, read Part 1 of my interview with Patti.

Being a business owner for seven years, Patti provided a unique perspective. I believe you will enjoy her responses to the general business and accounting questions I asked her. Patti’s responses are paraphrased and italicized below.

BPpt2.jpg

What was the hardest obstacle to overcome as you started your business? There were two obstacles: (1) finding our niche and (2) helping people understand what they were receiving: something with quality and of value, despite paying more.

Women Making an Impact (WMAI) network group that meets in Delafield, WI was a big catalyst for me in the initial stages of my business because the women in the group were receptive to what I was representing and, as a result, they helped build my confidence as we began overcoming our obstacles.

What is the hardest thing about owning your business? At the end of the day, the hardest thing is the people who entrust us with their business. In a world where customer service has become dead, providing quality customer service weighs heavily on me. Your customer is all you have. We won’t always be perfect, but I want people to know that we care for our customer.

What accounting or tax issue caught you by surprise? Finding the right accountant to match the needs of our business. We really struggled with a budget. Maybe things looked good on paper, but in reality things were different.

What is your least favorite thing about accounting or taxes? Not knowing all the rules and regulations, or what changes affected us. We also didn’t know what deductions we were eligible to take, or that I should have made paying myself a priority.

What accounting software do you use? In June 2016, we switched to QuickBooks Online (QBO). This was recommended by our accountant at the time to aid in working remotely.

What are your most useful phone apps?

  • QBO App: I can record expenses and take pictures of receipts when I’m on-the-go.
  • AUTOsist – Car Maintenance Log: This app costs us $100 a year, but it used by our whole fleet. Drivers record gas purchases, vehicle maintenance, and mileage.
  • Waze: Provides navigation to our truck drivers.
  • Google Calendar and FaceBook App

What is one piece of advice you have for someone just starting a business?  If you love what you do and are passionate about what you do, keep moving. Make it happen.

In addition, Patti shared something that is very important to her as a woman business owner. Patti said: Even though I am responsible for a business, my most important job is to raise my children into responsible human beings. God, family, and work is the order in which I operate. While I’m not perfect and sometimes have allowed work to get in the way, I actively strive to put my family first. Doing so does not mean I—as a woman—am less important, or less smart, or less capable. I believe other mothers who are business owners need to remember this as well.

New Beginnings Require Courage

ObstaclesCourage.jpg

I recently met with Christine Richards, licensed insurance sales professional and co-founder and entrepreneur of The Richards Group. Normally when I meet with someone from my Women Making an Impact (WMAI) networking group, I take notes so I can write a blog post. My brain was a bit tired the day we met, so I have no notes. But my mind keeps thinking about my discussion with Christine.

Life has a way of changing the path we take. If you’re like me, you may have had one path you started, but life took you in a different direction. Do we feel like a failure for not staying with the original plan? Do we think others will look down upon us for making decisions that don’t align with others’ perceptions?

Christine has a background in education, teaching business and marketing to high school and college students. Christine’s heart was in teaching. As Christine talked, I could tell she was the type of teacher that when her students shone, she was shining brighter. But unplanned circumstances happened and turned her life upside down. After 11 years of teaching, she had to step away from teaching.

What do we do when life crushes us? We cry. We learn who we are. We ask questions. We seek direction for a new beginning.

In the fall of 2015, Christine and her husband Dennis established The Richards Group with a goal to meet a need in the insurance industry—to educate others and be trusted advisors to clients. I hear Christine speak each week at WMAI, and I am impressed by several things: She has fun selling insurance. She is willing to learn. She wants to help you.

But do you want to know what inspires me most about Christine? She has a passion for life, and while Christine never thought she’d be selling insurance, she is embracing the new direction in her life. She is an inspiration because she is an example of moving forward and thriving despite past obstacles.

If you are interested in learning more about Christine and The Richards Group (and would like an insurance quote!), please visit her website. I know Christine would enjoy meeting you... and I believe she will be an inspiration to you too!

Beds. Mattresses. Meet the owner of the Lake Country Bed Barn.

I met Elise Miller at a recent business luncheon, and I knew I wanted to talk with her again. I wanted to hear the details of her story—to learn how she started selling beds. It’s not every day that you meet someone in this industry!

Both Elise and her husband Nick grew up in families with stay-at-home moms, and they wanted the same for their children. Elise has a background in elementary education, but after the birth of their first child, Elise briefly worked in direct shipping. When Elise mentioned to her dad the desire to be a stay-at-home mom, her dad said, “Sounds like you need a Bed Barn.” (Her dad happens to be the owner of the Watertown Bed Barn.) Within 24 hours of this suggestion, Elise and Nick were looking for space to open a store.

Lake Country Bed Barn in Hartland opened March 2014. At first, it was by appointment only. In June 2016, Nick left his full-time job as a low-voltage electrician, and started full-time hours at Lake Country Bed Barn—allowing the store to have official store hours. In November 2016, they opened a store in Waukesha, their second Lake Country Bed Barn.

The Bed Barn offers a business model that fits a niche customer. Here’s what is unique about the Bed Barn.

  • The showroom offers many beds in inventory for same-day take home that are made in Wisconsin.
  • The customer sets the budget. When you visit the store, communicate this to Nick, Elise, or one of their sales representatives, and you will not be shown mattresses over your budget. They pride themselves on this strategy. They don’t want to mislead you with a product that is not right for you.
  • Beds do not have a “comfort warranty.” Meaning, you can’t return your mattress. Do you like low prices?  Having no warranty allows the store to keep prices affordable.
  • Delivery is not free. Yes, they offer delivery, but you pay extra. Once again, this helps keep prices affordable.
  • King sized beds are in stock but are made-to-order (in Wisconsin!) in less than a week.
  • The store is family friendly. A train table is set up, waiting to be used. A baby stroller is also available. Elise and Nick’s children may also be around.
  • Appointments can still be made if the store is not open at a convenient time for you.
  • The owners seek every opportunity to be involved in their community.

During our coffee meeting, Elise willingly allowed me to ask her some general business and accounting questions. Elise’s responses are paraphrased and italicized below.

What was the hardest obstacle to overcome as you started your business? Marketing. This completely caught me off guard. I took some classes at WCTC to help me get started. Bookkeeping was also another obstacle.

What do you like least about owning your business? I don’t like managing a store because Nick or I cannot always be present. It was hard to find a good manager that works just as hard as we do for the business.

What do you like best about owning your own business? I like planning events, getting involved in the community, and connecting with people. Networking is important, but I am also finding it to be enjoyable.

What accounting or tax issue caught you by surprise? Use tax! You must pay Wisconsin use tax on inventory items that are donated to charity! Also, the requirements of tracking inventory by location caught me by surprise, but we’re getting better at that.

Beds.jpg

What accounting software do you use? We use Quickbooks Online (QBO). I really like the ability for delivery drivers to use the QBO phone app to look up a customer and use the map feature for directions. We also use Quickbooks Point-of-Sale and Square at separate store locations. If you are using Square, make sure you don’t sync it to QBO—it doesn’t work properly and only gives headaches.

What is (are) your most useful phone app(s)? I like my Facebook app and MileCatcher (for tracking miles). I also like Hootsuite because I can post to all social media accounts at the same time. Our store has accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

What is one piece of advice you have for someone just starting a business? Owning your own business is more work than you ever, ever anticipated. You need to network, network, network. Keep at it—even if it initially drives no business.