When it comes to his law practice, Nashville attorney Mark Daly admits he does what he likes and puts off what he doesn’t.
Daly, president of Immigration and Naturalization Attorneys, PC, likes helping clients with immigration and deportation cases and advising foreign nationals looking for visas to open businesses here.
He doesn’t like the billing that goes along with the 50 or 60 open cases he works on at any given time. Until last year, Daly avoided sending out invoices for services rendered, sometimes for months. Not surprisingly, that led to major cash flow problems for his five-year-old, three-person firm. “With the downturn in the economy even really good customers that didn’t need to be reminded were falling behind,” Daly says.
It was also an ego thing. “I thought, I’m an attorney, I don’t do collections. But that was holding me back,” he says.
Small business owners wear a lot of hats, but when trying to do everything themselves starts affecting your ability to make money, it can pay to hire someone to take some of that work off your hands.
Daly had taken steps in the right direction by billing through Quickbooks, the small business accounting software, customizing it to fit the specifics of his practice. But he still needed to review bills before sending them to clients and couldn’t justify hiring someone full-time to take on the work.
Eventually he realized if he wanted the business to grow he had to find an outside firm to manage billings and track cash flow.
That turned out to be easier said than done. Between the particular needs of his legal practice – clients often submit one check to cover his fees as well as immigration filing fees but the funds can’t be comingled in a single bank account – and local firms misrepresenting how much they knew about Quickbooks, Daly went through five outside bookkeepers before finding one that stuck. The keeper was Tennessee Business Services, a husband-and-wife team based in a Nashville suburb that specialized in Quickbooks and got rave reviews from customers.
Over times, Tennessee Business Services’ owners Ken and Merry Ann Lewellyn took over making Daly’s bank deposits, paying bills, managing accounts receivables and handling all his Quickbooks entries and billings. They developed a cash flow program to help him project revenue and expenses on a weekly basis.
Today, Daly meets with the Lewellyns every Wednesday morning for two hours to go over billings, cash flow and projected spending. “I tell all my clients no matter who you have doing it or how they do it, you have to stay involved so you know everything’s on the up and up,” Ken Lewellyn says.
Daly’s happy with the arrangement too. “They coach me on how to run my money system and how to time spending,” he says. “With billing going out more consistently I have better faith in the accounts receivables coming in that I can make purchases with more knowledge of whether or not I have the money to cover them, which I never had before.”
The service isn’t cheap. Quickbooks pros such as the Lewellyns who have gone through advanced training and certification can charge retainers of $1,000 to $1,200 a month.
But to Daly it’s worth every penny. By going with an outside service, he estimates annual revenue will jump from $250,000 to $320,000 or more this year despite the economy, mainly because he can devote more time to marketing. “They work with other businesses so they can take a step back and say, here’s what this other business is doing that’s applicable,” Daly says. “It’s totally worth it for me.”