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Mary Susan Anderson: Embracing Change

After years of balancing a full-time accounting career, Mary Susan Anderson wanted an employment opportunity that could adapt along with her.


When Mary Susan’s children were born, the rigors of a full-time position made it difficult to spend quality time with her children. Looking for an alternative that would better work with the new season in her life, she joined Bookminders part-time in 2008. “I was looking for a more flexible position that would afford me more time with my family. I had been paying for full-time childcare so the change to part-time was offset by the absence of that cost.”


Mary Susan spent over 21 years as a fulltime auditor and bookkeeper for Arthur Young and several other accounting firms. When she joined Bookminders, she recalled the opportunity to begin working immediately with a variety of clients and on different projects which was exciting and something she enjoyed. “I was doing similar work for my clients but each one had a different spin to it.”


Once her children started a full-time school schedule, she expanded her role with Bookminders; moving to the position of Senior Accountant in 2013. Despite the growth in her client roster and the adoption of new responsibilities, Mary Susan knew that she would always have an unparalleled level of flexibility. “The great part about Bookminders is you can pick up clients when you have time for more and say no when you don’t.”


After her children entered high school and were more independent, Mary Susan began to take on more responsibilities and accepted the position of full-time Project Manager in 2017. And while the transition from Senior Accountant to a management role required a greater time and work commitment, once completed, she was able to focus on the new duties and serve as a mentor to other staff. “Most importantly,” she reflects, “I continued to grow my career at a pace that fit my life.”


In early 2019, Mary Susan once again took advantage of Bookminders’ flexible growth opportunities as she began assuming Client Relation Manager duties. While she stepped out of her comfort zone in the new position, Mary Susan values the level of support available to her. “There’s always direction and resources available any time I’m asked to do something different. Bookminders has created that culture and takes responsibility for keeping it going.”


About Mary Susan: Mary Susan Anderson, a graduate of West Virginia University, is a Client Relations Manager for Bookminders Pittsburgh. She is a talented musician and avid volunteer for her children’s school activities, local church and Senior Citizens Aide.

Lisa Wentz: Creating Harmony

Lisa Wentz has leveraged Bookminders’ flexible workplace to achieve the optimum balance of career growth and personal fulfillment.

After working in DC as a Financial Analyst and Controller with US News & World Report, Lisa was excited to return to her Philadelphia roots in 1995 to raise her three children. In 2007, while working as an independent bookkeeper, Lisa learned that Bookminders had opened a Philadelphia office and was looking for part-time accountants. “I liked being self-employed since it gave me the ability to work my schedule around my family’s needs. On the other hand, finding new clients was time consuming and I didn’t enjoy it. I needed more harmony between work and family life, but I was only willing to change if it didn’t require full time hours. The flexibility offered at Bookminders, and the ability to be instrumental in growing a new office was the perfect opportunity for me.”


Over the next few years, Lisa became an expert bookminder, leading to an increase in clients and special project work. “I was enjoying myself immensely and I had all the personal time I needed. It was the perfect blend of work and family time for me.” In 2013, a promotion to Project Manager expanded her responsibilities and earning potential, without a move to full-time. “I was continuing to progress in my career while maintaining my part-time status.” In 2015, Lisa was promoted again to Client Relations Manager. “I enjoy being a valued resource for our accountants, leading them as they grow with Bookminders. As a manager, the variety of my work keeps me challenged and engaged without consuming every hour of my day.”


Lisa feels the growth opportunities at Bookminders have provided incredible personal and financial rewards. “It was great to contribute to my kids’ education without missing any time with them. Now that they are grown, I can focus on saving for retirement while exploring my personal interests.” Full-time work might be possible for Lisa at this point in her life, but it’s certainly not a move she’s planning to make anytime soon. “Why would I go full-time? I’m not missing out on anything. With Bookminders, my work and personal lives are already perfectly balanced.”


About Lisa: Lisa Wentz, a graduate of Gettysburg College, is the Client Relations Manager for Bookminders’ Philadelphia office. She is an avid runner and community volunteer. Lisa currently resides in West Chester, PA.

Anne Marie Wiegmann: Valuing Flexibility

Anne Marie Wiegmann has obtained full-time professional growth and support in her flexible role with Bookminders.

After starting her career as an Auditor and Manager in public accounting, Anne Marie’s expanding family necessitated flexible employment.” At first, I considered striking out on my own, but I didn’t want the responsibility of running a business. I wanted some freedom, yet I wanted a team behind me offering resources and support. Bookminders was exactly what I had been looking for!”

Over time Anne Marie took on more complex clients and project management roles, eventually becoming the Quality Assurance Manager in 2013. “Both my kids were in college. I wanted to grow professionally but still maintain my part-time status. Bookminders allowed me to progress without working full-time. It’s rare to find a company that will heavily invest in a part-time employee.”

In 2016, Anne Marie’s roll expanded to include that of Client Relations Manager.” My manager said I was
considered an expert resource by everyone. I felt fortunate to work for a company that recognizes the value of part-time staff.”

In 2017, the company opened two new offices, changing and temporarily increasing Anne Marie’s management duties. “It has been an exciting time for us as an organization. I am glad to support our expansion by taking care of our business in Pittsburgh.”

Equally motivating to Anne Marie is Bookminders’ culture of open collaboration and structured independence.” Our senior management team is receptive to ideas and works right alongside us as needed. It’s a cooperative rather than competitive environment, everyone’s goal is to maximize the client’s experience.”

Anne Marie is thankful for a company that puts action to the usual claims of employee support and investment. “Bookminders was created to provide meaningful roles for accountants needing flexibility, just like me. The opportunities and support given to me, and every bookminder is exceptional and very rare in the part-time realm.”

About Anne Marie:  Anne Marie, a graduate of the University of Michigan, is the Client Relations Manager for Bookminders Pittsburgh. She is a long-time volunteer for Meals on Wheels and serves on multiple committees at St. Benedict the Abbot Church in McMurray.

Melanie Rutan: Growing Connections

After 12 years as a Bank Examiner with the FDIC, Melanie Rutan needed more flexibility in her career but still wanted growth.

Despite enjoying the professional challenges her position afforded, Melanie wasn’t satisfied with the balance between her work and family commitments. “I wanted to continue my work in accounting without the travel that conflicted with my time at home.” In 2001, with two children under five, Melanie responded to an ad for a part-time accountant at Bookminders. “I sought both flexibility and challenging work. Bookminders was a perfect fit!”

As Melanie’s children aged, she expanded her client portfolio. “I worked extensively with nonprofits, our most complex clients.” Her development continued as Melanie’s prior experience led her into a teaching role at Bookminders. “I led a lot of training at the FDIC so stepping into that role for Bookminders was easy.”

Melanie’s personal and social commitments expanded her accounting connections, further enhancing her career progression. Volunteer work Melanie performed for North Allegheny School District allowed her to develop relationships with CPAs she might not have met otherwise. “I was involved in PTA and boosters for Cheer, Swim and Diving in a variety of capacities. Because I spent so much time working with numbers during the day, I usually selected nonfinancial roles for my volunteer work. But, I always ended up somehow meeting CPAs. I think we just gravitated towards one another!”

The relationships Melanie developed created new opportunities with Bookminders, first as a Business Development Specialist and most recently with her promotion to a full-time management position. “My youngest went to college in 2017 so I was ready for the next challenge. I enjoyed talking about Bookminders and networking, so it was just a natural step. The professional growth I’ve experienced can largely be attributed to relationships I developed. I wouldn’t be where I am today without those connections.”

About Melanie: Melanie Rutan, a graduate of West Virginia State University, is the Business Development Manager for Bookminders Pittsburgh. She serves as Vice-President for the North Allegheny Unified Boosters and recently joined the Pittsburgh Youth Chorus Board as the Treasurer.

Francoise Wilson: Finding Balance

Like many parents, Francoise Wilson yearned to find a way to combine her personal obligations with a return to the accounting world.


Francoise’s family commitments meant that a regular, full-time position would not fit well. “I didn’t want to give up anything,” Francoise recalls, “The school events, the kids’ games, volunteering. I wanted time to do all that and work too.”
Francoise, previously an auditor with Coopers & Lybrand and a 1993 Baltimore-to-Pittsburgh transplant, had heard that Bookminders was offering opportunities for accountants that wanted to work part-time. She joined the company in 2005.

“With the ability to work primarily from home, my personal life and business commitments were balanced. As my children grew and I had more time, I took on more clients. I was able to easily adjust my workload. Over time, I experienced a gradual evolution of growth in both clients and responsibilities.”


Once Francoise’s children went to college, she accepted a full-time management position. “As a Client Relations Manager, I coached others through the process of integrating personal and professional responsibilities.”


In 2017, the long-awaited opportunity to transfer home to Maryland arose at her husband’s company. Bookminders decided that rather than see a valuable employee leave, they would open an office in the Baltimore market, with Francoise at its helm. As the Baltimore CRM, Francoise enjoys the structured flexibility she has come to expect from Bookminders, as well as the opportunity to positively impact the company’s small business and nonprofit clients.


Francoise is glad to be home, extending optimal work-life balance to accountants in the Baltimore-Annapolis area. “I raised my family without missing anything and I had a job I loved. I’ve been able to move back home and stay with Bookminders. My work-life balance is ideal. The best part is, now I get to help others in this region achieve it too.


About Francoise: Francoise Wilson, a graduate of the University of Baltimore, is the Client Relations Manager for Bookminders Baltimore. She also serves as the Quality Assurance Manager for all Bookminders locations and is a Meals on Wheels America volunteer.

11 Steps Nonprofits Can Take to Minimize Risk of Theft and Fraud

Shield Financial Controls

Are reports about financial abuses at other nonprofits causing you to reexamine the security of your own organization? In the wake of the recent articles1,2 on fraud in the nonprofit sector, executives and board members remain busy assuring funders, constituents, and themselves that they too won’t end up in the news.

Fraud can occur any time assets are managed without a system of “checks and balances”. Many nonprofits operate with minimal overhead, causing overlap of duties and resulting in weakened controls. As organizations grow in size and complexity, more sophisticated systems are required to address the increasing variety and volume of financial transactions.

While it’s not feasible to eliminate the possibility of fraud, there are ways to minimize your exposure. Implementing the following procedures will aid in establishing an environment where tight fiscal controls are the norm.

  1. Do not delegate e-bill approval or check signing responsibility. Top management is responsible for the finances and should always retain authority for approving payments. Signature stamps are problematic by nature and should be prohibited.
  2. Implement electronic safeguards. Make sure you aren’t unintentionally giving check signing privileges to those who aren’t authorized. Employees with debit cards and electronic access to transfer funds essentially have the same authority as a check signer.
  3. Have checks printed directly from your accounting system. Paying bills with system generated checks reduces the risk of alteration. A system reliant on handwritten checks is more vulnerable to document manipulation.
  4. When appropriate, let vendors draft routine payments. Allowing certain companies to automatically withdraw their payments is the most efficient way to pay a bill, while also eliminating the chance that your bank account and routing number will fall into the wrong hands.
  5. Keep check archives accessible. Make sure your bank returns all original cancelled checks (preferred) or maintains electronic images so that you can easily verify payees. Many banks only provide online access to check images for 90 days.
  6. Use two people when processing payments by mail. If your organization receives cash, check or credit card payments, these duties need to be separated and handled by at least two staff members.
  7. Always give customers a receipt for point-of-sale (POS) transactions. Since cash registers are most often operated by one person, the receipt serves to verify proper posting of sales. If receipts can’t be printed, then be sure the display on the cash register faces the customer so the sale can be verified.
  8. Outsource or automate customer payments. A variety of services allow donors and members to make payments by credit card via the web or mobile device. Use a bank lock box if you can’t establish separation of duties for payments received by mail. If possible, eliminate all cash and check payments for small transactions.
  9. Monitor your revenue. Membership, donor management, and POS systems provide reports to help identify irregularities. Be familiar with key revenue metrics and check them on a regular basis.
  10. Know your numbers. Managers who have a firm grasp of their financial results are rarely subject to malfeasance. When management is hands-off, the organization is vulnerable to theft that may go undetected for an extended period.
  11. Communicate with staff. Statistically, fraud is most often discovered as the result of a tip. Management must foster a culture where all constituents are encouraged to keep a watchful eye. It is imperative that everyone understands their respective stake in protecting the organizations’ assets.

It’s important to note that Financial Statement audits are not intended to detect fraud. Their purpose is to validate the accuracy of the financial statements. Although fraud may be discovered during an annual audit, that alone is not an effective measure for prevention.

Relying on outside vendors vigilance is another common error in fraud prevention planning. A misperception exists that banks closely monitor checking accounts. Banks may catch the occasional unauthorized, forged, or missing signature(s), but this is not a reliable method for preventing fraud. Conducting random reviews of bank account activity is the best way to deter felonious activity.

These basic precautions can help protect nonprofits from financial losses and damage to their credibility. Finally, if you are still concerned about the vulnerability of your organization, seek an independent review. Public loss of financial integrity is not the kind of news that any nonprofit should be making.

(1) Nonprofit Fraud: How Good are Your Internal Controls?, Strategic Finance, March 2017
(2) Inside the Hidden World of Theft, Scams, and Phantom Purchases at the Nation’s Nonprofits, Washington Post, October 2013

Author: Tom Joseph, Founder & CEO, Bookminders

This article was recently featured on the Maryland Nonprofits website as a guest blog post.

Bookminders Enters Baltimore Area with Fourth Office Opening

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – Baltimore, MD – November, 2017 –  Bookminders, a premier provider of outsourced bookkeeping services, made Pikesville, MD the location of its fourth office. Client Relations Manager, Francoise Wilson, who has been with the company since 2005, is returning to her hometown and will oversee Bookminders’ expansion into the Baltimore market. Founded in Pittsburgh, Bookminders is known for its commitment to work-life balance offered to 80 home-based employees who work for their nearly 400 clients. 
 
Founder and CEO, Tom Joseph, states “The inspiration for Bookminders occurred when my college educated sisters, who were busy raising families, had difficulty finding jobs with flexible work hours. This led to the creation of a corporate culture where work-life balance is the rule, not the exception. Bookminders success is due to our ability to attract highly skilled accountants and our cloud-based platform which provides the backbone for our network of home-based accountants.” 
 
It is precisely this combination that has garnered a host of awards for the organization. Bookminders has been recognized by the American Society of Women Accountants as the Work/Life Balance “Company of the Year”, named Pennsylvania’s “Home-based Business Champion” by the U.S. SBA, and was a seven-time recipient of the Pittsburgh Business Times’ “100 Fastest Growing Private Companies”.
 
Bookminders provides timely, accurate and cost-effective bookkeeping for a variety of nonprofits and small businesses in Pittsburgh, Delaware Valley, and now, Baltimore. Their unique approach affords work-life balance to a staff of degreed accountants, while providing clients access to highly skilled professionals they otherwise could not afford. 

Bookminders offers flexibility in an often inflexible industry.

Improved Work-Life Balance Benefits Women in Accounting

Interest in increasing work-life balance is on the rise. “More than one in four employees (27 percent) at organizations that are not perceived to support work-life balance plan to leave their companies within the next two years.”1 This issue especially impacts women in accounting. The AICPA recognizes that, while women initially represent 50% of new accountants, a lack of family-friendly environments leads to poor staff retention.2 Many firms attempt to offer flex programs to combat this, but in many cases, those programs don’t go far enough in restoring work-life balance, and the loss of key talent persists.

One solution to providing a work-life balanced environment can be found in the virtual workplace. The demand for this type of remote work continues to increase. Global Workplace Analytics reports that “79% of people want to work from home [and] 36% would choose it over a pay raise.”3 Happily for accountants, “Acceptance of cloud-based solutions in the finance function continues to rise. 72 percent of U.S. respondents said they are either using cloud-based solutions or plan to do so in the future, compared to 62 percent in 2016.”4

Bookminders knows that combining flexible work policies and cloud based technologies permits professional growth and unparalleled work-life integration. In fact, we’ve been recognized by the American Society of Women Accountants for doing just that. Our employees enjoy a flexible part-time schedule, access to training and support, and opportunities to work on challenging assignments.

Bookminders provides timely, accurate and cost effective accounting services to small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Clients use Bookminders as an alternative to hiring in-house staff and benefit from cost savings, improved financial management, access to qualified staff and elimination of distractions due to turnover. Click here to learn more about our services.

Sources:
[1] Haygroup: http://bit.ly/2rMxvN3
[2] AICPA: http://bit.ly/2sSmmKu
[3] Global Workplace Analytics: http://bit.ly/2sSnr50
[4] 2017 RHT Benchmarking Report: http://bit.ly/2rzhOog

Bookminders 2018 Year-in-Review