After having worked in Bermuda for two multinationals (PwC and ING), Ronika Khanna decided to return to Montreal where she landed a job as a controller for a payment processing company. While this was exciting, and the work was fulfilling she felt a disconnect due to the hierarchical constraints that inevitably comes with working for a medium sized company. Her desire was to work directly with business owners with a focus on small business which is where she felt she could provide the most value.
Below is Ronika’s own story of how she started her own business in Montreal to provide accounting, tax and financial advisory services to small businesses, startups and the self-employed.
Starting My Business
In 2008, after having worked in industry for almost 15 years, I decided to start my own business. I didn’t have any clients or prospects, however, I felt that since I was a professional accountant I would be able to land another position fairly easily, if the business did not work out. I also didn’t have any significant family or financial obligations. I chose “Montreal Financial” as my business name which wasn’t hugely imaginative but has been very helpful in terms of SEO. My business goal was to focus on helping small businesses and startups with their financial needs.
I started by working as a consultant for my previous employer, which was helpful as I got my business off the ground. I started researching what I needed to build my business and it occurred to me that creating a blog that could not only bring attention to my business but also allow me to learn technical concepts and ideas that I would need to know if I wanted to provide accounting and tax services. This was extremely helpful, as potential clients started to find me through internet searches.
I also signed up with some recruiting agencies for temporary work while I had time on my hands with the goal of networking with some business owners. This worked out better than I hoped as I was introduced to a business owner who was simply looking for someone to provide training to their bookkeeper that ended up being one of my most ongoing important clients to this day.
Perhaps one of the most important ways I was able to build my client portfolio was through word of mouth, specifically with clients that I had already worked with. One of the major advantages of my business is that I provide recurring services, so once you have a client there is a high chance they will require your services, on an ongoing basis, as long as they have their business.
Differentiating My Business
With numerous competitors who provide the identical services, it became important to differentiate myself. The most important way in which I was able to do this was by maintaining my blog, which allowed potential customers to not only solve a problem that they might be having but also gain some insight into my own expertise. I was also flexible in the way that I worked with my clients and adapted my services to suit their budget. Many of my clients sought me out as they were not getting enough attention from their own accountants. Ensuring that I answered my clients concerns promptly is an essential part of the service I offer.
Keeping on Top of Technology
I have an ongoing interest in technological advances as they relate to small business with a focus on accounting and tax. I attended conferences and seminars to improve my skills and gain exposure to various types of technology as they were emerging. I looked at accounting and tax software as well as the various add-ons that allowed me to both improve efficiency and accuracy while being able to focus on more value added services.
I signed on to services that allowed me to work virtually with clients (I have many clients whom I have never met in person) which has become an integral component of the services that I offer. One of the apps of course that has been extremely helpful, has been Plooto.
Like many accountants, I would invoice my clients and wait patiently for a “cheque in the mail”. This was an unnecessary administrative burden and impacted cash flow. I then heard about Plooto, after attending a conference that was geared to accountants. I signed up immediately and started changing my invoicing structure where I started billing my clients monthly instead of after completion of work. This has been an excellent solution to my problem, as now Plooto sends a monthly request for payment, automatically, without any intervention on my side. The payments also integrate with my accounting software, thereby saving additional time on data entry. To date, once I have signed up a client using a PAD agreement, the process has worked seamlessly.
As the business environment is changing largely due to technological innovation and evolving business needs, it is essential to be aware and be able to adapt to these changes to ensure that you are able to help your clients as much as possible and ensure an ongoing and productive relationship. It certainly helps that as a small business owner myself, I have a personal interest and as such am able to leverage my own experience.
Ronika Khanna is a Montreal based accountant who provides accounting, tax and financial advisory services to small businesses, startups and the self employed. She also likes to blog about topics of interest to small business whenever possible.