Owner Stories: Helen Papazian, Bookkeeper, Ville-Saint-Laurent, Quebec
Helen Papazian is a member of The Networking Club, a West Island based group that meets every second Tuesday. Helen is a Certified Bookkeeper and QBO Advanced Pro-Advisor who, having started and successfully run a wholesale/distribution company for 16 years and a bookkeeping firm for the last 6 years, is distinctively qualified to understand the plight of the entrepreneur. Having gone through learning about marketing, sales, HR, and finance, Helen is now able to share her knowledge with clients and support them with various aspects of their business.
Like we have with our other spotlight guests, we spent a few days going back and forth via email to discuss Helen’s business and where she stands out among bookkeepers. Our interview with Helen is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Also, make sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series and support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place.
Interview with Helen Papazian, Bookkeeper
10|20 Marketing: Hi, Helen. Thank you for doing this with us! Can you tell us a little bit about your bookkeeping business and some of the philosophy you have that sets you apart?
Helen Papazian: Thank you, Mark, for including me as one of your spotlight businesses. I appreciate this opportunity. You ask what sets me apart as a bookkeeper, well, I work to empower my customers to make better, more informed financial decisions. I do this by continuously upgrading my skills. I regularly meet with my clients and review their goals and help them plan for profit, setup processes, and implement new technologies. I am not merely their bookkeeper. I am their advisor, their company comptroller. My clients tend to call me before making significant financial decisions. I treat their money as if it were my own. This is what sets me apart from other bookkeepers. I can give you some of my business background if you like.
10|20 Marketing: Sounds great, Helen! Please go right ahead.
Helen Papazian: I started my first business venture at the age of 7, it was not a lemonade stand 😊, but I can tell you about that some other time. I started several companies in my life, some with partners, most on my own. In 2002, I started a wholesale company. I grew the business working part-time for 14 years, building the sales to $500K a year, I was selling to Costco and Indigo Chapters, yes all that part-time. I did this purely on intuition, creativity and innovation.
Throughout those years, I had hired several bookkeepers and accountants. I realized that neither was giving me any information or financial guidance. I was ready to take the next step and needed advice. I needed processes, a financial plan. So I decided to go back to school and learn all about accounting and finance myself. That is when I realized I was less interested in building the wholesale company and enjoyed managing the financials of the business, planning for profit. I finished my classes, passed the test with the IPBC, Institute of Professional Bookkeepers of Canada, and became a certified bookkeeper. I also got my certification as a pro advisor with Intuit. Then I started my firm some six years ago, we are now two in the office, and planning to grow.
10|20 Marketing: So you must really understand the entrepreneur’s mindset then.
I understand the anxiety they feel around numbers or their lack of accounting knowledge, the stress around navigating Revenue, Quebec and the CRA. I intimately know how it feels to have a vision for your business but not know what it takes, financially, and how to plan to get there. Because of this lack of financial planning, most startups fail. And for those companies who have successfully operated and want to grow their business, they can’t because it takes a new and higher level of understanding to grow the business without becoming overwhelmed and losing control. Planned growth is essential at that stage.
I am their advisor, their company comptroller. It is important to me that my clients succeed. I treat their businesses as if they were my own. If I am not able to help, it weighs on me, and I try to find ways I can be helpful. That said, not all clients require or ask for this level of help, so I listen to them, I try to understand what their goals are, and I guide them accordingly. I train them if they want or need training. I help them with implementing new online technology.
10|20 Marketing: So what are your core values as an advisor?
Helen Papazian: My core values are gratitude, innovation, creativity and mindset. We are grateful for our client’s trust in us and respect our client’s goals and vision and work to support it the best we can through my life experiences, creativity, mindset and accurate, relevant financial data.
10|20 Marketing: This is great, Helen! Can you give us some examples of how you’ve made a difference for a client of yours? Something that you noticed that most bookkeepers wouldn’t flag?
Helen Papazian: I don’t just enter data and call it a day I analyze it, I pay attention to the customers purchasing habits. I had a client who had posted a job ad on one of the websites after he had hired his employee I noticed that the job site kept charging him a monthly fee of $500, I flagged it and sent him the information so he could have them reverse the payment. You can’t just assume it’s a legitimate expense and pass it through.
I also look at the income statement at the end of each month to see if anything looks like it does not make sense. I’ve caught many errors this way! Paying bills twice, for instance, even some credit card fraudulent activities. It’s important to ask a lot of questions! I don’t plug the numbers just to get the month closed. I ask questions.
10|20 Marketing: Do you have any other examples?
Helen Papazian: Of course! Another way I help my clients is by reviewing their data. I had a client who owned a corporation and kept trying to pin him down for a review meeting. He kept postponing it. When I finally got him to sit with me, we went through his financial statements I told him even if he was showing an $80K profit, his cash flow was in a bad position. He was offering terms to his customers and had no terms with his vendors, this was creating a cash flow problem since he had an immediate cash outlay, but his receivables were 30 – 90 days down the line. He was using his line of credit to keep him floating.
As a result, I implemented two procedures. First, I got him to collect from customers sooner since most of them were passing the 30 days. We implemented monthly reminders, every 15th of the month, a statement would be sent to the client reminding them of upcoming due dates, and if over 45 days, a phone call would be made. Secondly, I told him to work on getting terms with his largest suppliers to defer the payments. After the review, my customer understood how important it was to sit with me every quarter to go over his financial statements and make adjustments and corrections. He never postponed another meeting request since.
I also have smaller clients who are registered businesses. I take the time to sit with them as well and review their data and always start by asking them what their goals are. What kind of income they are looking for, just enough to be comfortable or do they want to grow their business and eventually hire employees? These questions are important since their answer will determine the strategy. I had a client who was struggling with her finances. She had no idea what kind of income she needed to be comfortable, no clue as to her expenses so I gave her some homework. I gave her a spreadsheet and asked her to fill it in, list all household expenses, credit card balances and minimum payments. We did some analysis to see how much income she needed to generate to be financially comfortable, pay all her bills, bring down her credit cards and line of credit as well as save.
I empower my customers to make better, more informed financial decisions. This is what sets me apart from other bookkeepers.
10|20 Marketing: This has been great, Helen! Thank you for taking the time to participate. It sure sounds like you really do make an effort to help your clients in real important ways!
Helen Papazian: My pleasure, Mark! Thank you for including me in your spotlight series.
This interview is part of our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to email@example.com. And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.