Erika Millard on Empowering Small Business Owners through Bookkeeping
In this episode, I’m joined by Erika Millard, a bookkeeping coach with a passion for empowering female entrepreneurs. She’s here to share her unique coaching services and insights into the world of small business bookkeeping. You’ll learn why you need to understand bookkeeping for your small business and how to get started tracking your expenses and income to make better decisions.
Erika believes in the value of entrepreneurs starting with their own bookkeeping to grasp the basics and understand daily transactions better. She’ll break down the differences between accounting and bookkeeping, underlining the importance of keeping your financial records accurate and organized for making informed business decisions.
But it’s not just about numbers; Erika dives into the mindset issues around money that can trip up potential clients. She’s got some valuable thoughts on why QuickBooks is the top-notch software for bookkeeping and how she uses pre-recorded and custom video trainings to support her clients.
The episode wraps up with Erika sharing some of her favorite resources and the things that are sparking her curiousity and interest in business lately! Be sure to follow Erika and listen to her podcast “Get Comfy With Numbers”
00:00 Introduction and Guest Presentation
00:19 Erika’s Journey into Bookkeeping
01:34 Building a Business Around Family Life
03:31 The Birth of a Bookkeeping Coach
04:30 Understanding Accounting and Bookkeeping
05:44 The Importance of Good Bookkeeping
07:45 Overcoming Roadblocks in Bookkeeping
11:41 DIY vs Hiring a Bookkeeper
14:17 Transitioning to Informed Bookkeeping
17:23 Overcoming the Fear of Numbers
19:33 Erika’s Favorite Resources and Offers
22:10 Lightning Round Questions
25:36 Conclusion and Farewell
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100066650323250
Be Your Own Bookkeeper in 6 Simple Steps https://erikamillard.com/bookkeeping-checklist
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[00:00:00] Kate: Today I’m here with Erika Millard of Erika Millard Bookkeeping and the Get Comfy with Numbers podcast. Hi, Erika.
[00:00:06] Erika: Hey, thanks so much for having me today.
[00:00:09] Kate: Thanks so much for being here. Can you go ahead and introduce yourself to our audience and tell them a little bit about you, what you do, who you do it for, and then tell us a little bit about who you are as a person too.
[00:00:19] Erika: Yeah, so I’m Erika Millard. I’m a bookkeeping coach, which I think I kind of coined that phrase. Um, and so I love teaching female business owners how to get organized with bookkeeping, how to set up their system so that it’s simple and easy, and then actually understand. So you can really understand their numbers and use them to make better decisions.
so if you DIY your bookkeeping, or Sometimes I even work with people who have a bookkeeper, but just don’t have that level of knowledge around their numbers. Um, those are the people that I love to serve. And we currently live in Birmingham, Alabama. My husband and [00:01:00] three kids, and I have a fourth on the way.
So we are Crazy, but fun over here. And we love, well, when it’s not blazing hot here, we love to be outside and I love any and all sweets, so we’re pretty much always at an ice cream place or getting slushies or all of that kind of stuff.
[00:01:18] Kate: I, we have an ice cream problem here too. My family loves ice cream and I have to be honest, a lot of the times I skip out on it because like I have to be in the right mood for ice cream for it to be my thing. So let’s talk about a little bit about how you’re building your business currently to fit the life that you had pictured.
[00:01:40] Erika: Yeah. So it’s crazy. You know, I actually went into accounting in college because I knew I wanted to stay at home. And I knew that it had some flexibility also because I wanted to be in the FBI, which is a funny story. Um, but at the time they were hiring people for white collar crimes and I thought that’d be so cool, but [00:02:00] that dream didn’t happen.
But what I am excited for is that I got to use the accounting skills and be home. And I never pictured running my own business that was never really in that picture, but. Um, it has just been such a flexible thing for our family, and I’ve been able to really do pieces that I enjoy, and so part of accounting just started to get a little boring, and I wasn’t fully fulfilled with it, but when I started working with female business owners who really wanted to understand their numbers, and actually not do the actual bookkeeping for them anymore, but really empower people to do.
Make the decisions and see that transformation. That’s when I was like, Oh my gosh, I could do this all day. And so it has. Yeah, just been such a sweet blessing to be able to be home and be flexible, but also like really help and serve people. [00:03:00] And so I, I feel like that is the life that I pictured, right? Of just like feeling fulfilled and passionate, but also being able to bring an income and help support our family while also doing it in hours that serve kids.
And my husband is really busy right now. So Just being able to tailor it to a crazy schedule has been awesome.
[00:03:21] Kate: Yeah, it sounds like you’ve really found your kind of zone of genius and been able to play into that, into those strengths and make it fit with your family life too. That’s awesome.
[00:03:31] Erika: Yeah, it was cool to see, you know, I kind of, like I said, I kind of felt like made up the bookkeeping coach term, but I had several people within a month say, Erika, I can’t afford a full service bookkeeper, but could you just teach me how to use QuickBooks? Or could you just make sure that I’m not missing anything on my spreadsheet?
Or could you just explain what these words mean to me? And after I did some of those calls, I was like, Oh, I could do this all day. And so I thought, well, maybe there’s something [00:04:00] here. Maybe there’s a gap where there are some people who can’t quite afford a full service bookkeeper, but do need some support and guidance.
And maybe I can provide that. And I think it’s unique because not everyone with an accounting mind also can teach. Um, I think those two things are not always go together. And so. Anyway, so I feel like that is one unique thing that I can bring to people looking for that kind of service.
[00:04:30] Kate: So we’ve talked a little bit, you’ve said the words accounting and bookkeeping. Can you tell me a little bit about what the difference between those two are, um, and what they mean?
[00:04:39] Erika: Yeah, I actually just released an episode today all about the differences between a bookkeeper, a CPA, a CFO, a tax professional, and it can be really confusing because people use them all interchangeably. So, um, I’m gonna, I’ll explain, but then also kind of caveat by saying there’s a lot of [00:05:00] unique differences or exceptions to the general rules, but in general.
A bookkeeper is going to help you with the day to day transactions. They’re going to help you categorize your income and expenses. They may help you run payroll. They may help you get prepared for taxes. But then typically when you hear the word accounting, that’s usually kind of the next level. And that’s usually where you’ll find the tax preparers.
or people like CFOs who will come in and help you with financial strategies. So that’s kind of the difference is that a bookkeeping is usually more about day to day transactions and then accounting is typically the piece that comes in with taxes and strategies.
[00:05:44] Kate: So what are some of the benefits of having good books and keeping books?
[00:05:49] Erika: Yeah, you know, I feel like it is so hard to make informed decisions if you don’t know your numbers and you can’t. actually look at your numbers [00:06:00] unless they’re complete and accurate, meaning everything’s categorized, everything’s in order, everything’s organized. And that can sound very tedious and sometimes it can be, um, but really I feel like this is where the fun and excitement can come in and this is where I’ve seen some transformation in my clients too of just Once you can get over like, well, I’m not a numbers person, or I’m not good at math.
Honestly, your system will really do a lot of the math for you. It’s really more the organization that you need to be part of. And after that, you can really see, okay, what are these numbers telling me? Are my sales where they want, where I want them to be? Are certain packages or services that I offer?
actually doing better than others. Maybe it’s time to focus on those. Where are some expenses? That’s the one I need to cut. Where’s that networking group that I forgot that I signed up for that is not really giving me a return on my investment [00:07:00] anymore. So that’s where once you have those books organized, then you can see, Oh, now I get to make decisions based on what is happening.
And I think that’s where the shift comes in of feeling empowered and informed to make those decisions versus just never really knowing. Well, yeah, I have some cash in the bank, but I don’t really know what’s actually selling and what’s not, or if these are smart decisions. So I think that’s. Obviously, aside from taxes and being, um, in line and being organized for tax season, but really taking it a step further, the real reason is so that you can actually understand what the numbers are meaning.
[00:07:45] Kate: So what kind of roadblocks do you find your clients have before they seek out help with their books?
[00:07:52] Erika: Yeah, you know, I think the financial industry has done a lot of people a disservice, I think. That there’s [00:08:00] so much of, let’s just leave that to the expert, or let’s just, that’s, you know, that’s just something you just outsource, we don’t even touch numbers. And so I see a lot of fear and shame around it, and embarrassment, because a lot of people know that they should be doing their bookkeeping, but they aren’t.
And so I see a lot of fear, too, of, well, I want to ask this question, but I feel like I should probably already know the answer. So I don’t want to look dumb. And so there’s just not a lot of safe places to ask those kinds of questions and to really get that knowledge. And then I think it’s also a struggle, even, even things that I’ve tried to Google, I can’t get a good answer for.
And so there’s just like layers and layers of frustration that I see a lot of people work through. And then on top of that, I hear a lot of. Well, I talked to a CPA and they made me cry or I went to the bank to try [00:09:00] to open an account and they belittled me or made me feel super dumb like my business wasn’t worth anything or that I didn’t know what I was talking about.
And so it’s also then reinforced when you talk to certain financial professionals. And so just having all of that, all those feelings around money swarming through, not even to then mention anything that you grew up with that are money mindset blocks, or if you struggle with even success, or if you struggle with the fear of failure.
There’s just so many factors that can come in when we’re talking about money. that it can be really hard to overcome all of those things. So that’s what I typically see is fear, shame, embarrassment, just even not knowing what you don’t know. And so sometimes that can create a lot of struggle too. And honestly, I usually find people are in better shape than they think they are.
Um, people usually [00:10:00] say, Oh, I’m such a hot mess. And. Really you, you understand some of the basics, you just need a little bit more of a push and a little bit more of an understanding. The gap isn’t that big is what I’m trying to say. Your knowledge gap isn’t as big as you think it is, it’s just that we’ve been told that it’s so mystical that it’s hard to understand and that’s another thing that I love to debunk is that yes, there are some challenging accounting principles, but for the most part, the things that you need to know to make informed decisions.
You can understand.
[00:10:34] Kate: Well, and I have to say that Definitely that, um, just not understanding, like, what your books mean and what they can tell you has been something that’s, uh, been a problem for me in the past, in the early years of my business, I didn’t really look at, you know, should I spend this money on XYZ or should I save it or should I, like, be paying myself more or should I raise my prices?
I [00:11:00] didn’t have that, like, background knowledge of, well, my Books are what’s going to tell me the answer to those questions. And I think that that is probably a common theme for a lot of small business owners, especially like in the photography industry or like our mom owned businesses where we’re kind of maybe started out as a hobby and then have grown to something where we’re bringing in more money, not knowing like what we don’t even know.
Like you said, you don’t know what you don’t know. There. So, um, and I love your comment about not knowing what to Google, too. I think that’s a huge thing, not being able to ask the question right to get the answer that you need to. So let’s talk about why someone would choose to DIY versus hiring this app.
[00:11:47] Erika: Yeah, so I think this is where I have an unpopular opinion, um, and I am really an advocate for business owners doing their own books for a season, and that’s because of a few [00:12:00] reasons. One is that I often hear, well, I hired this bookkeeper, but I don’t really know what I’m doing, and I don’t think she knows what she’s doing, but I don’t know enough of what I’m doing to know if she’s doing what she’s supposed to be doing, and so there’s this gap of… It’s just kind of distrust, I think, that can be built just because of the lack of knowledge of what they should be offering you because everyone just says, well, just outsource it, outsource it, outsource it. And so when you don’t have that basic knowledge, it can kind of put those doubts in your mind, even if they are doing a good job, just because you don’t fully understand what all goes into it.
So that’s one piece of it. But also, I think, again, we’ve just been sold, we’ll just outsource it. Well, it’s actually really good for you to understand just the basics of ins and outs of what’s coming in, what’s going out, how do we categorize that, how do we choose Does this go to office supplies or subscriptions and fees?
Like a lot of times [00:13:00] it honestly doesn’t really matter, but just understanding how those things flow together can be really beneficial later on. So even if you do choose to outsource it, Then you can have that confidence of, okay, my bookkeeper is doing what I’m supposed to be doing. You can know what to look for when you look at your reports because you have a general understanding of how the transactions flow together, how invoicing works, all of that kind of stuff, I think is really valuable for a season.
Now, obviously, there’s a point where it’s time to graduate and hire that bookkeeper because your time is… obviously a great investment. And so you want to know when that tipping point is, but I think it’s really empowering to at least understand the basics in the beginning, especially so that you can feel like you’re making confident decisions.
And when you have a bookkeeper who is potentially working through reviewing the numbers with you, You can make [00:14:00] informed decisions too and not just always trust what the professional is saying, but have a good understanding, like I said, of just knowing, okay, yes, this is good advice because of this and I know why they’re advising me this way.
[00:14:15] Kate: That’s really great information. So say someone has only done their books to file their taxes. How would someone get started? Moving out of that kind of phase of just bare minimum bookkeeping into more informed bookkeeping, consistent record keeping, and um, just doing a better job overall.
[00:14:38] Erika: Yeah, well, I think the first step, I have a free checklist. It’s a monthly checklist that just goes through six simple steps that if you could do this every month, you’d be in really good shape with your bookkeeping. I think Just creating that consistent routine and habit is a good place to start versus just being stressed in April when it’s time to file and [00:15:00] you’re trying to frantically get everything together.
This way you can be at more peace and even if you don’t do it monthly, even if you just get to it quarterly, you’re taking a step to Getting it more together than just that frantic place. And so that is better. Um, taking a step towards that is better than staying stuck like that. Um, another thing, a lot of my clients like to do is make a fun ritual or routine around doing their bookkeeping.
So tying it to something fun. So go to your favorite coffee shop, get your favorite drink, light a candle. Um, I’ve had all kinds of fun ideas of just. Trying to make it fun, especially when you’re trying to create a new habit. Sometimes we need that extra motivation and encouragement to actually do it. And so that’s another kind of brain trick you can try.
Now some of my clients, this might sound kind of harsh. Some of them actually won’t pay themselves [00:16:00] until they’ve done their bookkeeping. And so that’s another motivator, probably a negative motivator. So it depends which way. that you operate if you want to try to do the fun thing or the harsh thing. But, um, that can be another just way to actually get yourself to do it.
Um, the main thing is just doing it, right? So setting aside that time in your calendar. Really taking this step towards, okay, I’m going to categorize everything, but then also I think then the next step is just getting familiar. How do you run a report in whatever software you’re using? Or if you’re looking at a spreadsheet, you know, just trying to understand, okay, what is this trying to tell me?
Can I see which months did my sales do better? Is that because I ran some ads? Is that because of just a fluke? Is that because. something else. It was, am I really like a seasonal business? And then like we kind of mentioned [00:17:00] before too, are any of these expenses things that I can cut? Are there things that I’m not really using and starting to get more familiar with what they’re telling you?
I think the more that you look at it, sometimes the more you can see too. Okay. Now I know I have some questions, um, but if you never look at it, then it’s just going to stay intimidating in your head.
[00:17:23] Kate: Yeah, so let’s get to the mindset piece a little bit more. What Would you suggest for someone who just has that mindset of like I don’t want to know I don’t want to see the numbers You know the numbers scare me. I’m not a numbers person. How do you kind of break people out of that? mindset
[00:17:43] Erika: Yeah. You know, I think the first step is just finding someone you trust that you can have these conversations with. So whether that is someone like me or a business coach or any, even a business friend, just someone else that you can have these [00:18:00] conversations of. Okay, I actually don’t really understand this.
Can you explain it to me? I think that can be hard to admit, but it’s a great first step. So just finding that support group and community. I feel like I’ve found that in other areas, like sometimes business tech can be intimidating. And so I’m trying to find places where I can ask those kinds of questions and not feel like you don’t know that as a business owner.
So just finding those safe places. Sometimes it’s even working with a mindset coach. Uh, okay. Let me dig deeper into, is there some fear and shame? Is there some. Deep rooted childhood things that I need to root out. And then a tip from a mindset coach specifically was just to start journaling about some of that.
You know, if you encounter a financial professional that made you feel a certain way, just kind of journal about what was it about that person. And, you know, I think it’s helpful to [00:19:00] know, I think sometimes we can walk away from people feeling like, well, that must just be how the industry is. And so, but we get to choose who we work with.
And so maybe that just wasn’t the right fit for you. And so continuing to work with people that will teach us and just give us that support is another important factor too. So just don’t stay stuck. Just take a step is usually what I advise people, whatever you feel like. That next step is for you. Just keep taking steps towards that understanding.
[00:19:33] Kate: I, and it sounds like that, uh, checklist that you mentioned is a good first step. I, I really want to do, I’m bringing a new thing to the podcast with the lightning round questions, but we’re going to get to that in a second. First I want you to tell people where they can find that checklist and what your favorite thing that you offer is right now.
[00:19:52] Erika: Yeah. So if you go to ErikaMiller. com, you can find that free checklist and yeah, it’s helped so many people. One of [00:20:00] my clients even said that she takes it and she prints it off every month so that she can physically check market. And she said, once she started going through it, she could do her whole bookkeeping, including invoicing and an hour a month.
And so that’s what I’m really trying to help people with is that. That’s probably not even worth outsourcing. And that’s why I kind of talk about my unpopular opinions around it. But if you can get into a simple and easy routine where it just flows, that’s really what I want for people. And so, yeah, so my checklist is there and I’d love for you to grab it.
[00:20:33] Kate: So what’s your favorite thing that you offer in your business right now? Tell me about your coaching offers and how that works.
[00:20:39] Erika: Yeah. So I help people in several ways. I think this time of year. A lot of people are thinking, is it time to set up a new system or, you know, change my system? And so right now I’m really loving doing QuickBooks setups or bookkeeping intensive. So let’s say if you’re brand new to QuickBooks, [00:21:00] I’ll set it up for you and then train you on how to use it.
But there’s also a lot of people who have probably Signed up for QuickBooks, then got intimidated by it and were like I might break something in here and then never look at it. And so I also offer a bookkeeping intensive so it’s partially pre recorded and then partially customized. So you’ll go through my training and then I’ll send you custom videos too.
specifically answering all your questions. So again, you can feel empowered to actually use the system that you have and actually understand the things around it and not have to deal with QuickBooks customer support because they’re not always the best, sadly, but they’re still the best bookkeeping software, in my opinion, that’s out there right now.
So those are some things that I’m loving helping people with.
[00:21:51] Kate: I love that. That’s such a useful thing. And like you said, pretty rare to find someone who will help you with your books and not just do [00:22:00] them for you so that you do feel empowered to make those decisions, um, and to understand your numbers and what they mean for you and for your business. All right, let’s get into our lightning round questions.
Um, first, what is your favorite book that you’ve read lately, business or, uh, for fun?
[00:22:16] Erika: Yeah, I’ve been in a for fun kick and so I’ve been reading the Miss Julia series and it’s like this older lady and she just has like a dry witty humor. So every book is written from her perspective and all these crazy things happen to her and I find myself just like giggling as I read it. So it’s a really fun thing to kind of unwind at night and that’s what I find I need.
in a fun book right now.
[00:22:44] Kate: That’s fun. Are you a hard copy book person or an audio book person?
[00:22:48] Erika: Yeah, I’ve been checking them all out from the library, if that tells you how old school I am.
[00:22:54] Kate: I love it. I, I cannot read books on paper anymore because I get so [00:23:00] like focused on it that I can’t do anything else. So I’m an audio book girl, but I love that you can do the paper books and I love that you can use the library. I use the library for my audio books too. Um, okay. What is the best free resource you’ve accessed in your business lately?
[00:23:15] Erika: I am a huge fan of the Society of Women Business Owners, Sowbo. And if you join their Facebook group, they have a free work less, pay more. That’s what it’s called challenge. And so anyway, so they have you go through just all of these things, every single thing that you’re doing in your business. And then what are some things you could be outsourcing and what are the things that you have to do?
And I just love working through that challenge because it helps me just change my perspective, get kind of in more of that CEO mindset of, okay, what do I actually have to do myself? And then what do I need to outsource? And so it just helps me kind of give fresh perspective. on my business. So that’s one thing that I love to work through every [00:24:00] year as I’m planning for the year of, it kind of helps me see like, okay, what should my next hire be?
Or what are some other things that don’t actually need my attention? So I love that.
[00:24:11] Kate: That’s super valuable. I, I’m a member of Sowbo, too, and that’s where we met, so that’s a fun, uh, tie together, too. What new thing have you learned lately that’s helping you?
[00:24:21] Erika: Oh man, I feel like I could go so many directions with that. Um, but I just launched my podcast, so I’m kind of in the learning all things podcasting and it’s just been fun to see. And just see a whole new world of how AI and those kinds of things can help automate things in your business. Um, I’ve been using ClickUp and setting new workflows of how to do my podcast too.
So I’m definitely in like a learning about all things podcasting phase and just trying to figure out, okay, how to, what is my system going to look like? And so trying to set [00:25:00] that up, um, I’m kind of, I’m getting there, but I feel like I, I’ve got a long way to go too.
[00:25:05] Kate: Well, and I think those things are always evolving, too. Like, no matter what, you’re never gonna have, like, the perfect system. It’s gonna change. It’s gonna have to grow with you. So that is a good one, too. All right, Erika. Thank you so much for joining me today. We can find you at ErikaMillard. com, um, and you can find the link in the show notes. It’s Erika with a K, so that is helpful too, and on podcasts you can find Erika at Get Comfy With Numbers, and listen in to her advice there. It was so great having you. Anything else you want to add, Erika?
[00:25:38] Erika: No, thanks so much for having me. I love talking all things bookkeeping. So thanks again.
[00:25:44] Kate: Thank you.