Author: Alexi Goncalves, BSU student
OnTime Bookkeeping opened in July 2020 in Abington, Massachusetts. I interviewed the owner, Aileen Borders, to find out more about the business and how it got started. OnTime Bookkeeping is a virtual business that can be utilized by small businesses to help them manage their finances and give them time to focus on their business, instead of on accounting. The business also offers the option to clean up financial records and start new accounting systems. Aileen started this business a few months ago, but she has a background in accounting and has always wanted to work for a small business so it was a perfect fit. Aileen started her career in Maryland working in the corporate world doing the opposite of what she wanted to do. She always wanted to work for small businesses, so in 2018 she moved to the South Shore and started her business.
The toughest thing about starting this business is that since Aileen just started the business, during the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been very hard to gain new clients. Many new clients don't think they can afford her services right now, but Aileen hopes that when the economy settles, more companies will find her services helpful. Since Aileen just started the business she doesn't think she would do anything differently. A lot of her current challenges come from the current climate of physical distancing and not being able to meet with business owners in person. Since some of the ideal clients for Aileen are uncertain about their future due to Covid-19, they may not reach out right now but she hopes that in the future they will think of her. Since Aileen’s business is new, she thinks that some customers many not pick her company first. However, though her business is new her experience is not. Aileen’s 20+ years of corporate experience have allowed her to develop accounting and analytical skills. She can do normal bookkeeping, like record transactions and reconcile accounts, but also can help with budgeting and forecasting plans for the future. She is also able to help owners interpret data points that they've been able to gather.
Luckily Aileen’s services can be offered completely virtual and accessible to both clients and herself, which is especially good during a time like this with such uncertainty. The number one way that Aileen is working on getting new customers is by virtual networking. She has social networking accounts on Facebook and Linkedin and posts useful articles for small businesses. She hopes to gain new customers also through word-of-mouth. Since everything is virtual currently, Aileen has relied a lot on technology to grow her new business. Virtual networking in groups on social media has helped to spread the word about her company. In addition to marketing, all of the tools currently used for OnTime Bookkeeping can be accessed online such as accounting software, document management and communication tools.
In the future Aileen would like to have at least six more clients for routine services in addition to clean up projects. Her goal for her business overall is to sustain a way of life from the income received while helping others. She also hopes to work on her long-term retirement plan to have a small business and keep herself busy when she retires from full-time work.
The best way for customers to connect with Aileen and to take advantage of what her company has to offer is to reach her by email or phone. Her website also has a calendar to schedule a getting-to-know-you conversation or send messages. Aileen is also offering discounts throughout the end of 2020 of 15% off of a cleanup project or 10% off within the first three months of service.
Thank you Aileen for talking with me.
Author: Zachariah Longinidis, BSU student
I interviewed one of the owners of the Morgan & Morgan CPA firm, Tim MacLellan, for some background info on both himself and the company. CPA stands for Certified Public Accountant, and the firm provides accounting services, business consulting, and various other services that can be found listed on their website. The firm itself has been around since 1917, but Tim joined the firm in 1980.
One of the first questions I asked was why he chose this line of business to begin with. He said, “I was always good in math and I liked the prestige of being a CPA. It allows us to be involved in many businesses at a high level.” There certainly is a prestige that comes with the title. It shows that anyone who calls themselves a CPA needed to be able to pass an exam to get a license, and is good at the job to be able to effectively work in, and in this case run, a business with that knowledge.
My next question was what made him want to start the business. He told me, “It was a business operated by people who wanted to retire, so it was a good opportunity to get ownership without starting from scratch.” Acquiring a business that already has an established reputation for doing excellent work is a great way to save money on things like branding and advertising, especially when first starting out.
In addition to hearing about why he wanted to start the business, I was curious what the toughest part about this type of business is. I was told, “The toughest part is getting the clients to warm up to you. It is a very personal relationship business.” From what I know of him, he’s very personable, so I can’t imagine it’s too hard for him. He also told me that what kept him going while starting the business was that “I was committed to exceeding the client’s expectations,” which is exactly what you would want to hear from someone you want to hire to do work for you. When I asked him what sets him apart from any other companies, he said, “It comes down to the personal relationship, because it is a trust business. We meet and see if it is a good fit, but we don’t try to bring in customers that don’t feel right.” That’s a really good way to do business, because as the client, you would want to be doing business with someone who actually cares about who they’re dealing with, instead of someone who would consider you just another face in the crowd.
Lastly, I asked about how technology has affected his business. He told me, “Technology is an important tool for our business, but we haven’t participated much in marketing through social media. We use it more to push information out and allow people to find us.” However, he also said that, in the future, “We are looking to redesign our website and work on our social media presence,” even though most of their customers are brought in through referrals.
Buying or Selling a Home? Call the Real Estate Conveyancing Firm of Kellem and Kellem in Hingham, MA
Author: Tiana Romans, BSU student
Are you looking to buy or sell a house? Why not do it through Kellem and Kellem. This company was founded in 1984 by Steven Kellem and his father Larry Kellem. Steven grew up in Hull, MA and he watched his father growing up running his own small business doing real estate law. At first Steven did not know what he wanted to do with his future so he majored in political science/history, shortly after he realized that was not what he wanted to do so he did what many people do and followed the family business and went to law school. Steven graduated in 1984 and he was a “law clerk” for Caroline Glassman. Justice Glassman was the first women to be appointed to the Main Supreme court and it was also her first year.
Then in 1984, Kellem and Kellem opened their doors. What made Steven want to start this career was that his father, Larry, had a single attorney general practice in their hometown Hull. Larry did everything that had come through the door from real estate to personal injury. Steven saw joining his dad as a huge opportunity to learn from him and also be exposed to different practices. From the beginning and for a few years Kellem and Kellem was having a tough time keeping its head above water. Larry, the father had a heart attack and was unable to work for a long period of time and then Steven’s brother Dave had joined the family business. In the early 1990s there was a steep decline in real estate prices and sales, people just did not have the money to buy or sell. What kept Kellem and Kellem going was the family’s love for the business, they knew this is what they wanted to do. They were able to still run a business but also still be a part of their children’s lives, and not miss out on their important events and games. I asked Steven if there was anything he could have changed, what would it be? He said, “As strange as it sounds, I’m not sure I would do a single thing different, and to be able to say that is a real privilege.” You can see Steven is really proud of his business and what his family has created, they just love their business and want it to succeed. One of the toughest parts of having a business in 2020 is that for Steven it really is a mix of both real estate practice and a business. He has seven attorneys and about twelve staff that depend on the success of the business to be able to help support their own families.
I asked Steven, if a customer was trying to decide between what company they should use compared to his competitors, what would make you stand out? Steven is very confident in his business and he said, “This one is easy. ‘Been there, done that’ we have many years of experience, have dealt with a wide breadth of issues. If we cannot fix it, then it’s likely it cannot be fixed. I do not think this is true of most of our competitors.” This seems to be true because Kellem and Kellem have been open for thirty-five years. Steven also learned from his father who would do more than real estate, so they do have a lot of experience compared to other law offices.
So far while Kellem and Kellem has been opened they have not used social media and online advertisements. They believe in their business being spread around by word of mouth, that if a buyer or seller has a great experience they will tell people. Then that person will search on their strong website. Looking six months into the future Steven sees his company doing great, but obviously the real estate market is great right now and that cannot be controlled. It was a great experience meeting and interviewing Steven Kellem, and all the staff you can tell they truly want the best for their clients and they will not settle for anything less than that.
Visit Kellem & Kellem at:
100 Recreation Park Drive, Suite 101, Hingham, MA
Contact them via:
Author: Wanessa Polo, BSU student
John P. Kolentsas financial services is named after the owner John Kolentsas. John served for three years in the Vietnam War right out of high school. Coming back still very young, trying to figure out what to do, his friend Nick advised him to go to a junior college. Still unsure of his path he decided to major in Accounting with his friend also named John at Quincy Junior College for about a year and a half, took a summer semester at Massasoit, then both transferred to Suffolk University where he earned his bachelor degree in Business Administration with an Accounting concentration.
Right after graduation, he worked with a large CPA firm for about two years but then decided to join a friend who had a small CPA firm in Boston. After three or four years in public accounting, while generating clients preparing the tax returns, he went to the private sector as an auditor for about 4-5 years. Meanwhile, he was building up clientele in the accounting field and was building a real estate rental type of business, then he decided to go on his own 30+ years ago. Although his real estate business was growing too to some extent, his hurries were in accounting. Mostly doing individual taxes (1040) clients and few business clients when he started but grow very quickly.
John shared that starting this business or any successful business, you must be ready to work. The 9 to 5 five days a week was no longer applied to him. He worked as many hours that he needed to get the job. To John, the important thing was and still is to be good to people. Clear communication, honesty, and a good relationship are great tools to connect and build trust with clients. Being openly transparent, providing total disclosure and being himself contributed to his success. His advice was no playing games with people, always put your real card on the table right away so you don’t run to any surprises. John serves his clients with respect. He feels like his clients are the boss and he is there to serve them. Most of his clients are generated from mouth to mouth. No matter how he feels or what is going on in his personal life, John shows up every morning with the mindset to serve.
As a self-employed person, he knew from the beginning that he must be prepared to work. Over the years, challenges with the long working hours and balancing his family occurred. Yet family is number one for him, even with his employees. John says, “When self-employed you create your own opportunity.” The accounting business has his peak, with the 1040 clients cash flows increases from January to April and make enough to sustain yourself. Over the years, he had also built payroll, tax consultant, and corporate and partnership tax return.
Since he learned to connect and be accountable to and available to his clients, through referral is how he generated new clients. John is confident that if his computers break down that will be full in business and go back to sharped pencil and paper to serve his clients. However, the internet help cut down the work process and all is mostly done through the internet. To extend the company, John thinks that he will need a partner with equal knowledge in tax preparation like a CPA or enroll agent because he can only service his clients with the amount of time he has.
Five years from now, John is looking to work less hopefully with a partnership that is will to buy 49% of the business until John can’t physically work anymore. With the agreement that even after that he can come and help during tax season.
Visit John P. Kolentsas Financial Services at:
19 Beaumont Ave, Brockton, MA
Contact them via telephone at: 508-584-0030
Author: Joseph Ulrich, BSU student
Peter Bergstrom is a Bridgewater native who graduated from Boston University with an undergraduate in accounting, and an MBA from the Boston University School of Management. Mr. Bergstrom went on to work in public accounting, working for a large accounting firm in Boston. Today, and for the last 31 years, he prepares tax returns for clients as the President of The Tax Center Inc. in West Bridgewater. When asked about his decision to enter the tax return business all those years ago he replied, “Well, I have been a CPA, I’ve worked in public and I really decided in the late 80’s that I didn’t want to go through the twelve-month grind, so I started this in 1989.” Despite escaping the twelve-month grind, Mr. Bergstrom still had other challenges to face as he was getting his business up and running.
As is the case with many startups, finding a way to make your business profitable is an important hurdle to clear. This was one of Mr. Bergstrom’s biggest challenges as he was building his business saying, “The first five years or so I made nearly nothing. It was a struggle; my spouse was an attorney, basically supporting us the first five years, that was the toughest thing.” Times like these can make or break a new business, making ends much more difficult to meet when there are little to no profits for the new business owner to support themselves financially. Yet, being a passionate business owner, Mr. Bergstrom found inspiration and satisfaction in the service he and his business were providing to their customers which helped him push through the tough times. He explained, “…quite frankly I love what I do. I’m at a point where I could have retired five or six years ago. I’m not going to retire. I’m never going to retire. I just plain love what I do.”
The Tax Center, Inc. has been in West Bridgewater since the day it was founded. Mr. Bergstrom believes the location of his business has been instrumental in its success, saying, “You know, when you’re in a public business, you have got to have location and you’ve got to have exposure. You can’t work out of your house. And I had originally bought this building in 1982 because I had a real estate company at that time. Come 1989, the real estate business went down the drain, and that’s when I decided to do tax returns. So, I had the building with location and visibility.” An easy to find and access location, and a steady stream of traffic driving by has helped The Tax Center, Inc. attract customers that might have otherwise not have known about his business.
The toughest thing about owning a business in 2020 according to Mr. Bergstrom is quite simply- “The costs. I mean insurance, errors and omission insurance; I mean, just buying my software every year. I’ve been with the same company for 30 years, I’m paying tens of thousands of dollars a year just for my software.” Despite these costs, Mr. Bergstrom insists on using the best software available because it helps him maintain efficiency. “I do 2,000 returns a year, if I was using something less than what I’m using, it would be a lot tougher.” Technology has played a part in the growth and success of The Tax Center, Inc. In the early years of his business, tax returns would have to be filed by mail. Now they can be filed with the IRS in “the click of a button” according to Mr. Bergstrom, which gets his clients their returns faster.
Every business is looking to seek competitive advantage over their competitors. In the case of The Tax Center, Inc., excellent service, price, and unparalleled experience is what sets them apart. “I’ve seen everything, done everything, I’ve probably got thirty thousand returns under my belt” Mr. Bergstrom said, “my partner is a tax attorney. Compare us to anybody out there, it’s no comparison. We’re head and shoulders above [the competition].”
Mr. Bergstrom’s business is currently not spending on advertising. Instead, Mr. Bergstrom has been relying on referrals, word of mouth, and internet reviews. He often has customers referred to him by other customers who were happy with his work. Additionally, he frequently gets customers who found their way to his office by reading “all kinds of good reviews” from websites such as Yelp.com and Google.
Author: Alec Pontbriand, BSU student
Scappini & Pina is small accounting office in Norwell on the corner of Washington and Oak Street. People often see the services CPAs provide as relatively interchangeable. Norwell and the surrounding area have a very different opinion on the matter.
Leonetta Scappini, (a Hingham native, originally from Rockland) and Emily Pina (a Hanson native) have set their business apart in the few short years since Leo first opened the doors after leaving the firm the pair had worked at together for 10 years prior.
When asked about when the time came they knew starting this business was the right move, Leo responded “when did we know? We didn’t. We just knew that we wanted to leave the other firm.” Both young mothers, the rigidity of working at the other company made it difficult to juggle family and work. Despite the uncertainty of going out on her own, Leonetta signed the lease to open the office.
Starting out was obviously not without trials and tribulations, from “figuring out what software to buy and how to load it onto a computer,” then “as we grew figuring out how to allow our employees to access the files and to be able to share them securely” there were a lot of “nuts and bolts” to figure out. After a little over a year Leo was joined by Emily and Scappini & Pina was formed.
“Then we got sued by our former employers…” Leo mentioned matter-of-factly, further explaining “a bunch of clients found out that we had left and then moved over here,” and the other, much larger, company “found out the clients were leaving to come to us and they sued us.” Despite the legal fees that accompany the legal action, Scappini & Pina continues to thrive even though “that took three years to resolve.”
Scappini & Pina’s presence has been felt in the marketplace, as clearly evidenced not only by its negative attention in the form of litigation, but also in the form of positive attention evidenced by its social media presence which drives new sales. Emily explains, “we never in a million years thought Facebook would be a way that we would get business. It’s not anything we actively do on Facebook. People go on the local pages and say ‘CPA’ and all of our clients go on there and recommend us.”
It’s this word of mouth that drives new business. “Existing customers and word of mouth are the main way we bring in customers,” Leo explains.
Emily continues, “A client came in who had seen us on ‘Hingham Pinboard’ and ‘Norwell Social’” who had mentioned that when “someone asks for a contractor, you get 15 different answers and if they ask for a CPA, you are the answer from 15 different people.”
The main reason people are so staunchly supportive to their friends and on social media? According to Emily: “Client relations. We have a good relationship with many, many of our clients. Part of our problem saying no is that we go above and beyond. Obviously, our kids still do come first but we respond to emails at 10:30 at night… We get feedback all the time…’Oh my God thank you for calling me back.’ We do try to go above and beyond.”
Since being able to support, achieve, and maintain a positive work-life balance was a major goal in starting the business, it is no surprise the office at Scappini & Pina is an extremely kid-friendly place. When asked if this is perceived by clients as a good thing, Leo responds “Yes, if the clients need to bring their kids with them to the meeting we make it more convenient by having a kids’ room.” And sometimes “No, in the sense that someone doesn’t understand when we need to reschedule or get delayed by family.”
Having worked out the kinks in the beginning, Scappini & Pina has been able “really take advantage of [Internet Technology]. We have cloud-based systems so we can work remotely anywhere which is key for us with the work-life balance.”
With increased business comes more work. One of the hardest challenges Scappini & Pina faces today is finding good people help shoulder the weight of supporting a thriving business. Leo says, “finding good help has been a tough road. You can tell pretty quickly if someone is going to work out. Then again, we don’t know how to say no to people. You end up spending a lot of time training people who don’t work out and it’s costly.”
Business has been booming, if anything a little too much. Recently the company has had better luck hiring, employing both local professionals from the community they serve as well as students eager to learn. In the future Emily has a goal of improving on the “work-life balance. We said yes to all these things and we’re thinking of scaling back on the audit side of it to try to give us our balance back. We like the tax and that work keeps coming so continue to develop that.”
Money Experience launched in early 2019 and since then has paired up with various organizations throughout Massachusetts to offer classes to people of all ages to help increase their understanding of finances.
Through their partnerships with Girls Inc.; YMCA of Greater Boston; Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston; South Shore Bank; Boston Children’s Hospital; State Street Corporation, and other companies, organizations, and school districts, they can reach a diverse audience throughout the state.
In a recent report about financial literacy, Massachusetts was among nine states that received a failing grade. This doesn’t come as a surprise to residents, as there are no financial literacy requirements, curriculum available for schools, and no associated budget.
There has been a really strong response from the community. Many of the schools, nonprofits, and financial institutions in the state recognize the need for this type of education. They no longer want to wait for legislation and are determined to do what they can to improve the state's rating. They began to think creatively about ways to offer financial literacy programs.
The Money Experience personal finance program is a simulator and courses that help teach a new generation about how their life choices can have a lasting effect on their finances and their quality of life. The curriculum is aimed at helping them to see a broader picture of the way critical decisions regarding finances are processed by the newest generation of adults by allowing the user to test causes and effects. It will allow them to see how the life choices they make will impact them both economically and overall. Money Experience is setting the way for the next generation of adults to be prepared with important information so that they can make educated decisions about their finances.
This summer, Money Experience worked with the YMCA of Greater Boston. They offered simulations at the Oak Square YMCA in Brighton and the Parkway Community YMCA in West Roxbury. The Greater Boston community benefits from these programs because they focus on youth development, social responsibility, and healthy living. This is how the Money Experience aligns with the nonprofit.
They also partnered with Canton Co-operative Bank to teach students of Canton High School how to be successful with money. The bank felt that this was a great opportunity for them to get involved in a community initiative that was in line with what they have been attempting to do for some time now.
An initiative with South Shore Bank is introducing the Money Experience to high school students across South Shore. Students will see how the decisions that they make today can impact their long-term financial health. The schools that are preparing to take part in this initiative are Braintree High School, East Bridgewater High School, Hingham High School, North Quincy High School, East Bridgewater High School, Hingham High School, Quincy High School, Weymouth High School, Stoughton High School, Norwell High School, and Pembroke High School.
A lot of organizations and schools will benefit from the Money Experience offered throughout Massachusetts.