“What drives me is a love of small business and entrepreneurship. I’m an entrepreneur myself. What I love more than anything else is to help small business owners. That’s what drives me,” says Kevin Marshall, CPA, owner, president and CEO of Better Office Solutions.
His firm provides outsource accounting, bookkeeping, payroll and tax preparation for clients in Tucson and, with an office in Tempe, the greater Phoenix area. The firm also helps businesses in other areas such as HR issues and hiring employees through a strong network of service providers.
As a certified public accountant, his firm is licensed as a CPA firm. It’s an important advantage for his clients. “We don’t do any reviews or audits and we only do a few taxes. We like to do bookkeeping and accounting. That’s what we do day in and day out.”
He notes two significant differences between his and other firms. One is that his bookkeepers are overseen and managed by a CPA.
“I’ve been doing this 25 years. I’ve looked at thousands of books, so I can do this almost in my sleep. It almost comes naturally to me. It’s rare that you would find a bookkeeping service run by a CPA.”
Another advantage is that Marshall is a successful small businessman in other areas. He is a manager and owner who understands the needs, frustrations, joys and mindset of a small businessman. “I’ve launched five or six businesses and sold three. Three accounting businesses, a bed and breakfast, an alternative funding company for small businesses that have difficult time getting funding from traditional resources, and an outsourced HR firm. That firm was just listed to the Inc 500 list.”
Better Office Solutions’ client base runs the gamut of small business from charter schools and nonprofits to doctors and dentists, and attorneys and restaurants. There’s no niche market. All clients use QuickBooks, which the firm backs up nightly.
Fast turnaround is one of the firm’s strong points, Marshall says. A big problem for small business is the long waiting time associated with acquiring important information. By the time they get the information it is so dated it’s hard for the owner or the bank to make decisions. Better Office Solutions has a program in which a client’s bank account is reconciled on a daily instead of a monthly basis and is provided financial statements by the first business day of the following month instead of the usual 10th or the 15th of the following month.
Marshall says, “I get the same response to this as I did when I told people we were going virtual five years ago – ‘Are you crazy!’ When I tell people I can close their books and give them a balance and an income statement by the first day of the month, they look at me like I’m an alien. They tell me it’s impossible, but it’s not. I’ve done it for years. It’s very possible.”
Marshall wanted to convert his firm to a virtual organization five years ago with just a UPS store as an office for clients to pick up or drop off any materials. “My staff did not like that at all. They wanted an actual office for face-to-face interaction with a client if needed. I said fine. And that’s why even though we work almost entirely virtual, we have an office today,” he says.
The transition went well and his clients adjusted because there was still an actual office. “Their response was fine. There were no hiccups or issues from the clients whatsoever. That worked out well. If clients need something delivered we have a courier who picks it up at their location,” Marshall says.
The initial response to the change was not always positive. Marshall says, “People thought we were nuts. Marshall’s employees work primarily from home or clients’ offices. The firm uses virtual servers where the employees can log in and access email QuickBooks and excel.
Some of his early employees agreed with those who thought him nuts. Marshall says, “We had some who left. They needed to have more interaction, but the employees I have now really enjoy it. I get emails from the staff at all hours of the day or night. It doesn’t work for everybody, but it works for us and our clients very well.”
Marshall saves on office supplies, too. “It was comical. The office supply expense significantly decreased the first month we went virtual. We had to adapt. We have a courier and we rely on UPS a lot. I do reimburse the staff for their toner cartridges, their reams of paper, and what-have-you. We still pay those expenses, but it’s far less than before going virtual. This was the biggest surprise to me – the huge reduction in office supply costs.”
His employees really enjoy the virtual work environment. The only downside is that there is not that much interaction. “But we’re accountants,” Marshall says. “The huge upside is that we are so much more productive. There were no big, unpleasant surprises during the transition. It was a remarkably smooth transition.”
1011 S McClintock Dr
Tempe, AZ 85281
Bookkeeping & Accountingt
Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Bob Jones University, 1987
CPA Certification, 1989
Wife: Belma, born in Puerto Rico, raised in Istanbul
Children: Bria (10), Bren (7), Asia (4)
Who you are five years from now is determined by the people you meet and the books you read. – Charlie “Tremendous” Jones