Will Bachman 00:01
Welcome to Unleashed the show that explores how to thrive as an independent professional Unleashed is produced by Umbrex. That connects you with the world’s top independent management consultants. And I’m your host, Will Bachman. I’m so pleased to be here today with our guests, Oscar wilmshurst, who works at bench, which is a really cool firm that I just discovered recently, I was searching for information on the paycheck protection program. And they have a fantastic amount of content on that, as well as just how to run a small business. So Oscar, I’m delighted to have you on the show. We’re gonna talk about you know, bench as in the services you offer, as well as some of the guidance you have on dealing with Coronavirus. But first, tell us a little bit about yourself and about what bench does.
Sure, thanks well, and well, where to start. So So bench we are, believe it or not, even though you haven’t heard of us, we are America’s largest bookkeeping services, small businesses. So we work with over 8000 small business clients, typical business size, anything between sort of Norton for employees that we kind of really specialize in the micro business, if you if you call it that. And really, our aim is to kind of take bookkeeping off your hands. So we have almost as I always like to call it a small army of bookkeepers. But our headquarters is nothing it’s not outsourced or anything like that. And really, we we use as much tech as we possibly can to kind of connect directly up to our clients bank statements. But we’ll just reconcile your books on a monthly basis, try and make it as hands free as possible, and help our clients get get on with just running that business. It’s not a sort of do it yourself software said is that different from your likes of you QuickBooks with zeros? And it truly is a it is a service based business, but just using using a software platform?
Will Bachman 02:01
Yeah. So tell us how that works. Oscar. So let’s take one of our listeners who may have just, let’s say they’ve set up an entity so they have an LLC, maybe they have no employees? Or maybe the person has one employee or two employees, analysts in the firm? How would working with bench be different than using QuickBooks? What are what’s the additional services that you would get? You know, just explain explain to me the process of working with bench and what you would offer?
Yeah, well, I always say the first thing here is that I would say probably 75% of our clients use QuickBooks before they came to us. And, and what we usually hear from them is that QuickBooks can be as kind of good and as easy to use software as possible. But it still requires that kind of manual assets, that little bit of kind of those hours in your week that it takes to do the work combined with a sort of a base level kind of knowledge of where you should be categorizing things, and so on and so forth. Where Ben’s is different is that we will connect that the ideally would directly straight to your business bank account, so he can draw information in real time. And behind the scenes, while you’re getting on with running your business, we’ll be just doing those books for you. And just checking in with you once a month to make sure everything’s accurate to make sure we’ve got things got the the expenses categorized in the right way. And then on top of that, we’ll actually prepare a sort of a real time cash flow analysis in an app that you can look through. So you can look through on a on a daily, almost on an hourly basis and just kind of see what where your cash position is where you’re spending your money, and get and get real time insights into it into your business’s health.
Will Bachman 03:49
Okay, so that is one thing I hear from independent consultants who use QuickBooks, a lot of it is automated. it you know, connects to your credit card into your bank, but you still have, you know, and once you’ve categorized, let’s say, Uber, as a taxi expense, it will recognize any future Uber as a taxi expense. But still the first time you did go to any vendor, you have to kind of go in there and classify, okay, this was a restaurant, this was an airplane ticket, or this is a hotel, the first time you have any vendor and there can be a pretty long tail of vendors. So that can take a bunch of time. And then it’s not the most friendly in terms of showing you your current cash position or your cash flow. So it sounds like your team would, you know, get logins or somehow get plugged into the business’s accounts. And then, so you’re not like sort of riding on top of QuickBooks, you have your own software solution that you’re using. Yeah,
exactly. We’ve got our own proprietary software and you’re exactly right. We’ll get third party logins to pretty much everything that that your clients or your sort of audiences business will use to run their business. And then we’ll just pull that information ourselves. If we do ever need any input from the clients, we’ll be proactive in asking for it. But it’s really truly designed to be just a completely hands off experience in getting your bookkeeping done.
Will Bachman 05:12
Okay, now what about so that helps with all pulling in all the expenses? What about say preparing invoices? In some cases, you know, different clients may require you know, different things on the invoice. Someone wants a Pio number, someone else wants this kind of payment information someone else once Oh, please list all you know the day’s work, the hours work the fixed price. So sometimes invoices for consultants require some customization is that service that you provide? Is that like, just add on additional or tell me about the invoicing process?
Well, at the moment, we’ll Our philosophy is just do one thing and do it really well. And that’s the bookkeeping, for invoicing, we work with a fantastic partner. So we work with fresh books. And that’s who we kind of recommend for all our clients to take care of their invoices, not something that we do ourselves. Okay, so
Will Bachman 06:08
you’re, you’re doing the bookkeeping, and then the sort of the actual accountancy part of the tax accounting part. Sounds, do you do that part? Or do you say no?
Well, we do yeah, so so we have a, we have a service called bench tax, where we will do the tax prep and the tax filing for you. We also work kind of really well with whoever your kind of audience use it, they have a CPA that they use, and they’re happy using, at the end of every year, or kind of export all the kind of years financials as well as an annual p&l and an annual income statement, and sorry, and an annual balance sheet, and we’ll get that sent over to your CPA. So everything’s kind of everything’s right there. Ready, ready for tax season?
Will Bachman 06:56
Okay, got it. And I imagine that when you first start working with someone, do you come up with a How do you come up with the chart of accounts of figuring out for that particular business, how, you know, the expenses should be structured and organized?
Yeah. So that that twofold. The first is through a detailed discovery with the client. So anyone that anyone that kind of expresses interest in invention kind of signs up through our website, they’ll get a detailed discovery call with a number of us sort of inbound sales team. As part of that process, every prospective client will get a free trial of bench. And so what that means is we’ll kind of gather all the statements and connect to the bank accounts that we need to in order to do one month of bookkeeping for them completely for free. And typically will turn around that month of bookkeeping in 24 hours. And we’ll get back on the phone within the next day just to run them through the chart of accounts, how it sets up, make any amendments that that we’ve been asked to, and make sure that the client knows exactly sort of the deliverables that were producing before before they kind of agreed to press the button as it were.
Will Bachman 08:06
Right. Tell me a little bit about the pricing structure that you charge.
Sure, it’s, it’s all I would before I kind of get into that outro, I would always say it’s all very kind of clear and aboveboard, and it’s on our website, and to get the bench.co forward slash pricing, it’s all there. And we just charge kind of flat monthly rates per month of bookkeeping, there’s no add ons or extras or anything like that. And we we work out exactly how much to charge based on the average monthly expense level. So dollar value, and prices per month starts as low as 139 a month.
Will Bachman 08:46
Okay, great. So if you want to check out the current pricing for your size business, you can go to bench.co slash pricing. What about security? So, you know, folks handing over their logins to their banks and credit cards and all that? How do you? How do you handle that?
Well, I mean, we use we use bank grade security. So it is, it’s just the same as us, as is used by bio kind of audience, mainstream banks. Everything’s kind of end to end encrypted. So we are we’re super secure and nothing is outsourced or like all our sort of staff are all all hired in houses. Yeah, we take security very seriously.
Will Bachman 09:32
Great. Um, so as I mentioned before, when we started the call, I discovered your firm and, you know, I feel you know, a little bit foolish given you know, what a big business you are, how many that you’re the biggest, you know, bookkeeping firm in the US. I admit, I hadn’t hadn’t heard of bench but you’re doing a fantastic job of content creation and content marketing, obviously, because you were at the top of the Google search results with with my query about the paycheck. program. I’d like to get a little bit into your advice around just the you know that’s Coronavirus, specific. But before we do that, tell me a little bit about it looks like you have a wealth of information in there for small businesses. Tell me a little bit about your content creation strategy and the types of information that someone could find on your website?
Well, I mean, the strategy in today’s world is totally different from normal. And, you know, in a kind of, in 2019 world, our content creation strategy is developed by kind of groups of people sitting around and figuring out and trying to figure out what’s important to our clients, whether or not that’s a list of tax deductions that might be available at tax time, or, or how to what’s the advantages of QuickBooks versus Excel or things like that. In the kind of current climate, that’s just a complete, you know, sea change. Our content is actually largely client driven. And the kind of the reason I say that is that our client base that kind of lots of for employees, local businesses are like an amazing barometer for what’s going on with the economy. Often, often before you read about it. If we noticed that, you know, we noticed two or three weeks ago that clients were inquiring about how they could use bench to help with these disaster loan applications. And we’re like, Rob, we’ve got to get some stuff out on this. And so we pivoted pretty quickly to actually repurpose in repurchasing a whole group of staff to become full time research analysts on this on this topic. And actually poring through all the primary resources or the Treasury guidance, SBA guidance, and just pumping out as much information we could that we thought would be useful to our client base based on what they are asking us. And even now we’re having daily webinars with us. And with all of our clients that they can, they can join, and we’re looking through the q&a and thinking about what do people need is it and if we think there’s a trend towards people asking about how the PPP affects them as a self employed individual, we will try and, you know, be as agile as possible and get content out as quickly as quickly as so in this environment, you know, it’s completely what we’re seeing from our client base.
Will Bachman 12:19
Okay, that’s great. So, for a lot of broadbased, useful information there. Let’s, let’s talk a little bit more about the content you’ve been publishing around how to deal with the Coronavirus impact. What if some, what if some of the more more popular articles been that you have maybe tell us some of the things that have really resonated with the audience?
Yeah, well, I’d say sort of, earlier on, we produced a few sort of a few more generic articles, which which performed really well. And they were things like, we’ve got a, an article called Getting through COVID-19 and financial gameplan for small businesses. And that’s a lot broader, which is sort of things like implementing the agency budgets, getting low interest loans, and seeing what programs are available to you is before a lot of the a lot of the sort of the cares act and other related SBA programs came out. So there was a few more, and just kind of scanning through a library now. And there was another 166 steps to take if COVID-19 shuts down your business. So there’s a lot of general stuff which has been really well received, however, I mean, in terms of in terms of performance, in terms of what people are searching for, and reading the two, or I suppose the three real stands out, stand out. So what’s the paycheck protection program? So the simple guide, and we’ve also got one on self employment and the paycheck protection program. And then actually, in the last, I mean, giving you the most up to date information, we actually have an article about the unemployment benefits and how that has changed as a result of the COVID-19. And that’s getting a huge amount of traction. Just today.
Will Bachman 14:04
Yeah, that is a big question mark. A lot of folks have normally, of course, independent consultants, contractors self employed are not eligible for unemployment. Tell us what you’ve learned and what you know, what are some of the key points in that piece about unemployment insurance for self employed? How does that work? Does it does your does your revenue have to go to zero? How do you qualify for it? Is it state by state? What are some of the key findings there?
Well, you’re gonna have to give me a second as I’m going to get it up in front of me, bear with me.
Will Bachman 14:43
And while while while Oscar is pointing that up, I’ll just mention that we will include obviously will include the links these articles that he’s mentioned in the show notes, so I’ll include that link to this unemployment piece that he’s pulling up if you want to read the full piece, as well as to the most Recent Posts on the paycheck Protection Program, and, and more. Because that that’s, that’s what we’re hearing from independent consultants, and we just held a webinar today for Umbrex and Veritux members is that, you know, the guidelines are evolving. And a lot of different banks are taking different approaches, some banks require you have a checking account with them, some banks require a checking account, and you already have a loan with them. Some banks are saying, you know, we’ll take new new customers. So there’s, it’s important to apply quickly before the funds run out for those programs. And, you know, just sort of sorting out how much you’re eligible for and how the forgiveness works. A lot to learn there.
Well, thank you very much to give me that breathing room. I appreciate it. You bet.
Will Bachman 15:56
We’re doing this like basically almost live here. unedited?
Yeah. So I’ve been scrambling in the background to get it open. And really, again, as with all of our, all of our articles, they’re designed to be as kind of broad as possible, why including as much specific information as we can without making it too targeted. So in this article, we give a kind of a breakdown of how the calves actors as affected the existing unemployment, the unemployment benefits program. So the additional $600 a week is the is a real headline there, as well as an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits. The third key point, as I’m scanning through it, is that the pandemic unemployment assistance provision actually has expanded the program to apply to a whole bunch of people that wouldn’t, wouldn’t otherwise apply, as you were mentioning, so now self employed individuals, independent contractors, all find themselves actually eligible for unemployment benefits. So that’s a question that a lot of our clients are having to ask themselves is looking at all these different programs available, which which route makes the most sense for me to go down?
Will Bachman 17:06
Makes sense? Okay, well, so I’ll include a link to that article, Oscar, as well as to those other pieces that you mentioned. So, and I’m sure you guys are going to continue to produce a lot of content related to this. It’s, you know, I was impressed at the comprehensiveness of it, I found your article on the paycheck Protection Program, the day after it was passed by Congress or like the morning after it was passed by Congress the night before. So it sounds like you really have people working 24 seven, on looking at the latest information and making it available for your customers, as well as it’s obviously a great customer acquisition tool.
You know, it’s a, you know, it’s a double edged sword, because the the downside of being so responsive is that we found that a lot of what we write can be obsolete in a matter of hours. So you know, we’ve got people that are even updating these things two, three times a day, so we’re doing our best to be kind of finger on the pulse. We, just like everybody else, we face the challenge of sometimes differing information from different even different government bodies, but we’re doing our best to kind of work through the noise.
Will Bachman 18:17
Yeah, it’s evolving. So we’re talking here on Wednesday, April 8, what have you heard so far, in terms of businesses applying for the paycheck protection program? Have you heard any businesses that have actually received disbursements yet? Have you heard of any, you know, any kind of perspective on how that process is going for businesses and guidance that you’re giving out?
We’ve had none yet in services of disbursements. That would be be news to me, in terms of I mean, I’m not saying that none of our clients haven’t received the money yet, but I’ve just nothing’s come across, come across my desk. You know, what we’ve seen is that a lot of our clients are finding this process a lot easier than they thought it might be. And even when, you know, an interesting point on this is that the guidance from the from the Treasury and even on the on the actual application form itself is that the self employed and independent contractors should wait until the 10th of April to actually apply for these loans. Now, I think that when they are sorry, and just to add on to that is that sole proprietors according to that program can apply as of April the third now I think the line and distinction there between sole proprietors and self employed and independent contractors is kind of blurry enough for I think I’ve kind of what we’re kind of leaning towards saying people is just just applied just go and apply. Because chances are that your bank or your community bank are gonna look at you and probably qualify you as a sole proprietor anyway. So if you’re hanging around waiting for the 10th of April, the worst They can tell you is to come back in two days, so you might as well apply.
Will Bachman 20:03
Fantastic. So, Oscar, I think we mentioned your website a couple times and include a link in the show notes. I want to thank you for, you know, agreeing to hop on this call really quickly. And so we can get this information out there. And thanks so much for joining today.
Not at all. And yes, if anyone if anyone wants any more information, we’ve got a whole team of people fielding calls from from clients from people out there who just reading our information. So always at the other end of the phone. If anyone needs to get their books in order just to apply for these loans, then, yeah, do reach out, but thanks very much. Well, I’ve really, really enjoyed it.
Will Bachman 20:44
Fantastic. I’m glad that you mentioned that last point. Oscar, thank you for joining today. No problem. Thank you.