Today I got to Interview Jordan Menashy from Bench. I hope you enjoy it!
Links from the Show: Bench
Ari: Hey, today we’re talking with Jordan Menashy from Bench. Hi, Jordan. Jordan: Hey, Ari. How you doing? Ari: Good, how are you? Thanks for taking the time to talk to me today. So, first of all, tell everybody what Bench is. Jordan: Yeah. So, we like to describe Bench as a modern online bookkeeping service for small businesses, startups, freelances; really someone you can turn to to get both the expertise and the apps you need to get your books. What's unique about us is that not only with Bench do you get to work with a real person but we also provide you with all the apps that you would need to complete this process. Ari: Right. So, now, as you said, you're unique because you do have those two sides of it; there are obviously lots of bookkeeping, “bookkeeping solutions” out there. Can you tell us and because it always confusing for me, what is really the difference between bookkeeping and accounting? Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. Bookkeeping is really a subset of accounting where accounting can really encompass many, many different things. It can be for managerial purposes where you're trying to track the performance of your different departments, of your different projects, just for information purposes and it can also be for tax purposes where you need to be able to determine how much money your business is making, provide all the proof of the purchases and the remedies that you’ve had so effectively you can report that information to the government. Bookkeeping is a subset of that and what that specifically does is takes the information, the raw financial data of your business, and converts it into very useable documents effectively called financial statements. You have a balance sheet and a profit/loss statement. That process is, if you break it down, is literally taking every transaction that’s gone through your business, bank, and credit card accounts and taking every single document that is explaining those transactions (these are your receipts and invoices) and effectively amalgamating those together and categorizing them in a way where you can then get a high-level overview of everything that’s happened in your business and then that way you can then take that to your tax accountant, you can take that to a bank for a loan. Effectively, that’s what the bookkeeping function does. Ari: Okay. So now one of the places that Mint.com and things like that have constantly and always failed me is I do something that my accountant kind of hates which is that I use my Amex card for personal stuff as well as about 6 different businesses. Then at the end they kind of separate it out for me which is fine, it’s not something I want to spend time on. So, I'm assuming that that’s really one of the great things that you're going to be getting here when you have a person looking at this stuff, right? Jordan: Yeah, exactly. I mean, the way you described it is a pretty common kind of scenario for small business owners especially one or two person shops probably like yourself where they will often times mix business and personal on their credit cards and in their personal accounts. Now, that becomes an issue. This is a very specific situation because that becomes an issue where we actually, usually the only person who can determine whether that was a business expense or a personal expense is you, the entrepreneur. Ari: Exactly. Jordan: We just end up adding a lot of work for you. So for example, if you were to come to Bench, one of the first things we would do and we would explain and not only in terms that are helpful for you in a sense that if you were to split those accounts. If you were to have a specific business account and a specific personal account, not only would it save you time but it also helps your accountant effectively do their work so that ultimately you can kind of get to a cleaner set of books or financial statements for when it comes time to file taxes. So, what we would do in that situation is we’d actually help kind of coach you, explain why that’s a good thing to do and if you needed help kind of selecting a really good bank for business purposes we’d be able to help you out with that. But that’s also on the ….. Ari? Ari: Yes. Jordan, can you hear me? Jordan: Yep. Ari: Jordan? It’s okay; we’ll edit that part out. Jordan: Okay, sure. Ari: So… which is great. Now when you say you're a bookkeeper, are you getting a dedicated bookkeeper or do you have kind of a team that they all work with all the clients? Jordan: Yeah. So, everyone who works with Bench gets a dedicated bookkeeper. They get to know this person; they have access to them by phone or by email and this person in turn gets to know them as well as their business. So, that’s one thing that we've always really try to preserve is the relationship you have with any service provider even though Bench is online and I would say a technologically advanced bookkeeping service. What we never wanted to do was compromise the relationship and experience that you can have with a trusted advisor, the trusted person to be doing this work for you. Ari: Right. I’ve talked many times about the difference between a dedicated virtual assistant and an on demand assistant. In this situation, you really are going to benefit from somebody learning your spending habits or knowing that if you're buying something from a particular location that’s this kind of expense. So that’s enormously helpful especially for a lot of freelancers or people who want to quantify this information about their business without adding the work in the knowledge area that they don’t have. Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. not only is it a, in the central service, to be able to track your performance as a business or as an entrepreneur but really where it also ultimately saves a lot of potential pain and headaches is that the output that Bench provides is ultimately professional quality books. It’s professional quality accounting statements that then allows you as an entrepreneur to work with your tax accountant to file taxes or to go to a bank. Where if you don’t have that then, like the situation you described earlier where you tax accountant kind of chives you a little bit, ultimately if that information isn’t done correctly, if it isn’t done accurately, then someone’s going to have to redo it. It’s one of those things where it can’t be done wrong because ultimately you're recording these documents as the source for how much money you made to the government which in turn tells the government how much money they can tax you. It preserves the integrity of that. Ari: now, how much is the service? Jordan: So, the service right now is tiered; it starts at $100 a month to $250 a month. The way that we actually tier is it based on the amount of expenses that you have on a monthly basis. Right now, for example, if you have up to $30,000 in expenses every month, about $360,000 a year, then your package would be $150. If you had up to $150,000 in expenses a month, now we’re talking about 1.8 million a year, then your package is $250 a month. So what we really try to do is make sure that, and this is was kind of our proxy for this, generally the amount of bookkeeping work that is required by your bookkeeper is determined by the number of transactions running in and out of your business. So we looked at really kind of expenditures to be the proxy to determine how much work it would take for us but also, obviously, if you're able to spend that money then we know also know that these packages should be affordable to your business here as well. Ari: Honestly, that sounds beyond affordable to me. As far a percentage of business expenses, what you're talking about is so affordable in mind that it’s almost worth getting it in addition to the bookkeeper you have just to check numbers. Now, where are your bookkeepers? Are they overseas or America? Jordan: Good question. I think what's interesting about that was when we were first had this idea on a whiteboard two and a half years ago, we were going through the process of trying to decide if this is going to be an entirely North American based service? Are we going to have kind of a hybrid service with service providers overseas as well as North America? One of the first pieces of feedback we got from just about everyone was that they ultimately for this specific service, when it comes to dealing with their financials, they did not want their information going overseas. So, from day one we realized that was a constraint that we had to work with and our goal was to always do something disruptive, to do something that was for our cost often times is usually about a half a bread, people are used to spending on equivalent services. So, we always wanted to kind of reach that level in terms of clients and cost efficiency but without being able to brute force it with cheap labor and we had to think of another direction that we took which was we can effectively get there through technology. So what we built was a set of tools on the backend that actually aides your bookkeeper in accomplishing their tasks by removing some of the things that traditionally are done manually and automating that with just the available technologies that are out there today. That really is what kind of gives us an edge and makes it really unique but the idea is that it’s never at any point meant to compromise the experience of the client. That’s why we will never exclusively rely on technology; that’s why we always include a person in there because at some point the computer can only take it so far at which point then it’s either the client or a service provider who is going to take care of the rest. We take care of the rest to make sure it’s 100% accurate, 100% right. In effect, what that allows us to do is be much more efficient and because of that we’re also able to pass those savings along to you as a client. Ari: Now, that’s very in line with how I kind of approach things with the optimized automated outsource mentality of Less Doing where we’re really trying to automate as much as possible if not all of it. Then whatever, that little bit that’s let over, where you really do need human interaction, a lot of times I find that efficiency is really finding a balance between humans and technology. I think that you're doing it in a really beautiful way. Jordan: Thank you. I think that really sums up our philosophies as well and I'm glad you pointed that out. We’re starting to see this a little bit more and more in the technology space where people are realizing an app isn’t enough when it comes to specific tasks that we as entrepreneurs are trying to solve for our markets. in the past you actually could get away with just building the technology and just selling that or building software and selling that but really when it comes to specific things like bookkeeping it isn’t complete with software. It’s complete when someone else who can do this for you does it as well. So, we’re starting to see this happen a little more and more in the kind of start up space and I think this is probably why it’s such a good compliment to the type of company that you like to connect with. Because, yes, with like between the oovers and lifts and the one ones of the world, a lot of people are thinking pass beyond just the app. We get that software is great but really let’s now get back to thinking about the problem we’re ultimately trying to solve and let’s do whatever it takes to get there. Ari: Right; which is great. So now a question that I like to ask everybody at the end of the interviews is, what are your top three personal productivity tips that you kind of live by that you could share with us that just make you more effective? Jordan: Yeah, absolutely. So, for me, number one, it comes down to constraints. There's so many different ways to do so many different things and at one point or another we’ll be pulled in too many direction for us to be effective at anything. So, we always internally try to apply, whether they're arbitrary or whether they're hard, whatever the case is, some restraint. Like say, okay, with these available tools we have to get this done or within this timeframe we have to do whatever we can to accomplish this feature. I have to say, that is probably the number one thing that has helped us to be able to focus and actually execute and go deep in the respective areas we’re trying to go deep. The second thing, and it’s almost a subset of this one, is I would recommend having something that you're passionate about other than just your work. Obviously be passionate about your work; go to sleep thinking about it, wake up thinking about it but also have other things to get you out of there so that when you're at work you're not dragging out your time. You're staying focused; you're executing because you got something else that you're excited to do as well. So, a good example is allotted art team members. They have everything from musicians and mountain bikers or really just any range of interest that they're all really passionate outside of work and we find that creates a really effective environment. When people are in the office, it’s game on and then when it’s a reasonable time to leave or when the jobs done, they're out there and having fun in other areas of their life. Yeah, I think that the third one that I would recommend is try to always effectively identify areas where you are good at something but there's gonna be people who are going to be more talented than you at that. I mean for example, back at when we started out with Bench, I was actually doing the design myself. I could do it but I always knew there were people that were going to be better than me at that. That’s something, especially as you grow as a company, that whether you're working with contractors – I think this goes to your model of kind of outsourcing – but just identify ways in which you could hand something off where if you don’t do it, it’s something that will get better than it was done before. What that allows you to do is ultimately concentrate on what are the things that only you spend time. Generally, everything else around you gets better as a result. So, I would say those are my top three things. Ari: Those are awesome. So, wrapping up now, Jordan, tell people first of all what the URL is. Jordan: Yeah, you could find us at Bench.co, www.Bench.co, C-O not COM, just to clarify there. Ari: Then you very generously offered a discount code for my listeners. Jordan: Yeah. So, first off, for everyone on the Less Doing podcast, we’d like to offer $150 in bookkeeping credit. All you have to do to do that is – there's no codes necessary – just sign up. When you sign up you actually get connected with your bookkeeper. Just mention that you heard about us on this podcast and we’ll let the whole bookkeeping team know that if anyone mentions that to apply $150 credit. Yeah, sign up and hopefully we can take this work off your plate so you can get back to doing what you love. Ari: Perfect. Jordan thank you for that generous offer, thank you for your time, and good luck with everything. Jordan: You too, Ari. Thanks so much and looking forward to connecting in the future.