SARA FINS BRINGS EASY BOOKKEEPING
Sara Fins is an accountant, financial coach and mom of two who helps solopreneurs and small business owners discover how simple it can be to take control of their business finances. In doing so, Sara helps them save time, stress less and keep more of the money they earn. Sara is the creator of Easy Business Bookkeeping, a course and system that teaches business owners how to keep track of their business finances and prepare for tax season confidently and with ease.
IN THIS EPISODE
[00:45] On what she is most passionate about
[01:10] On how she found her passion
[02:21] On her childhood and her early interests in math
[04:36] On her time living abroad as an accountant
[06:23] On her company and the services she provides
[08:31] How her training as a coach has helped her address tough money issues
[10:56] On the biggest financial mistake small business owners make
[12:10] What Sara wishes she knew before starting her own business, and what she’s learned
[14:52] A success story Sara is most proud of
[17:17] On her best habit
[18:15] On advice to her younger self
[19:30] How a professional setback ended up being a blessing
[20:38] What her mother taught her about women’s roles
[21:50] On her dream for women
Passionistas: Hi, and welcome to The Passionistas Project Podcast, where we talk with women who are following their passions to inspire you to do the same. We're Amy and Nancy Harrington, and today we're talking with Sara Fins, an accountant, financial coach, and mom of two. She helps solopreneurs and small business owners discover how simple it can be to take control of their business finances so that they can save time, stress less, and keep more of the money that they earn.
Sara is the creator of Easy Business Bookkeeping, a course and system that teaches business owners how to track their business finances and prepare for tax time confidently and with ease. So please welcome to the show, Sara Fins.
So Sara, what's the one thing you're most passionate about.
Sara: The one thing I'm most passionate about is empowering entrepreneurs to learn to manage the finances of their business, so that they know that they can do it themselves and feel confident in that area of their business. Because I feel like once that's unlocked for them, they can take their business wherever they want it to go.
Passionistas: And why is that a passion of yours?
Sara: I started out as an accountant in my previous, previous life. And then I went into health coaching and I became a health coach before circling back to do finance coaching. And what I found during that time is that so many of my colleagues were amazing at the coaching. They were so passionate about what they were doing. But when it came to the number side of their business, they were either afraid to look. They didn't know what to do. They felt uncomfortable. They felt overwhelmed by it.
And it was preventing many of them from moving forward in their businesses. And so I discovered that. If they had that knowledge, it kind of unblocked a whole new path for them. And they could feel more confident moving forward because they were actually able to make the money they needed to make their businesses businesses as opposed to hobbies.
And so that's kind of how I came about that. And I just realized by seeing the transformation in their businesses and their selves, that this was something that could really help them, and then, on the, you know, the ripple effect, help their clients and help other people and other women succeed.
Passionistas: Let's take a step back. Tell us about your childhood, where you grew up and were you always interested in math?
Sara: So I'm from Long Island, New York. I grew up in Suffolk County and when I was young, there were lots of farms around where I lived. And, you know, over time it's become more suburban. But I went to college in Pennsylvania. And then I studied accounting and I actually, wasn't always interested in numbers. I really was interested in psychology and I was interested in those types of classes. And that's where I excelled. However, the practical side of my brain said, you need to have a good job.
So I had an uncle who's an accountant, you know, very successful. And so I thought, Hmm, okay, let me try this. And I went into accounting and I just jumped right in and I graduated with a degree in accounting. And then I went and got my CPA and I worked in various corporate accounting roles in New York City. And then also moved to London and worked in London and lived abroad for a couple of years.
And when my daughter was born, I resigned from the position that I was in and went back to school to get my health coaching certification, because that was always something I was really passionate about. And it kind of pulled back in the interest I had in helping people from when I was young. You know, I wanted to be into psychology and helping professions.
And I wasn't feeling that from the accounting rules that I was in. And so I, you know, merged my passion for health with my passion for business and helping people. And I started my health coaching practice. Then I ran that practice for 10 years and it went really well. But like I mentioned earlier, I discovered through that time that I could really help from a finance perspective, because what came easy for me in those two areas, other people were struggling with.
And so that's kind of the long story of how I got to where I am right now. We moved back from being abroad and have been living in Long Island, more Western Long Island, closer to New York City for the past 10 years now.
Passionistas: And what was that time living abroad like? What brought you overseas and did you enjoy that time?
Sara: Yes. We really enjoyed that time. I was newly married at the time. My husband and I had just gotten married. And he's actually an accountant as well. We met at work years ago. And so I was working, actually, in a recruiting role, at the time, recruiting accounting professionals. And so he got a job offer with his company to move there and I was able to transfer with the company I was working for at the time.
And so, you know, we were young, we had just gotten married. We didn't have any children yet. And so we lived in London for two years. That was so much fun, especially working in an office environment there because it gives you such a different perspective than just being kind of an ex-pat, you know. And then we wound up actually moving to Paris because the company that my husband worked for was, is a French company. He actually still works for them in a different capacity today, and they wanted us to be... wanted him to be in Paris.
And so when my daughter, well, I may have jumped ahead a little bit, but my daughter was born in London. So while we were there, we wound up having my daughter. And when she was about six months old, we moved to Paris and lived there for about two years as well. Which was equally amazing. However, we had a little baby, so we didn't do quite as much traveling or quite as many things as we had done in London. But that was the point where I resigned from the company and went back to school for health coaching. It felt like a really good time. I could be home with my daughter while also pursuing this second career of mine.
And we came home because we found out we were having our second child and felt like we just needed to be back closer to family. So we were kind of feeling that pull. So that's what, that's what brought us back to the United States.
Passionistas: So, now tell us the name of your current company and what services you provide.
Sara: Currently, my company is Sara Fins Coaching. And so what I do is financial coaching for solopreneurs, and small business owners. And so the main thing that I offer right now is I have a course called Easy Business Bookkeeping.
And in that course, I built a very user-friendly basic spreadsheet template that I teach business owners to use to track their expenses, their revenue, and then categorize everything for tax purposes. And so it's really to help them track everything. Either, if they're not ready to outsource yet to a bookkeeper. You know, many coaches, I find even ones that have been in business for a long time, don't need to, because there's not that much, you know, going on in a business. As opposed to, if you have a company where you're manufacturing products and things like that. And so it's designed to really help them manage their finances and then get ready for tax time.
And also use the information, like I said earlier, to have the information they need to know. What offerings they have that they might want to focus on that are bringing them in more money. Where they might be spending, you know, money they don't need to be spending. Or, you know, do they have money to invest in certain things for their business? And so I teach that all within the easy business bookkeeping course.
And then I also do offer some one-on-one coaching. If someone really wants to talk through, kind of, how to personalize that very closely for their own business. How to set things up for themselves. And then if they're just at the point where, they just don't want to do it themselves. I help them get set up by taking their information and putting it all into the spreadsheet and getting them ready and then teaching them how to do it on a going forward basis.
So what I don't do, is I don't do the bookkeeping for them. Because as I talked about before, it's really bad empowerment. I want to empower business owners to look at those numbers and see what's going on and get really, really comfortable with their business finances.
Passionistas: And, you know, money can be an emotional and stressful topic for a lot of people. So how does the psychology and coaching training that you've had over the years factor into the services you provide?
Sara: Yeah, absolutely. The coaching training I've had has been invaluable in that respect. And then also, as being a business owner myself and being on the other side of it and running my health coaching practice for so long, I really know what they're going through from that perspective.
And although I didn't struggle with the financial management because I went into it having the background in accounting, I understand some of the challenges that come up as well. But yes, what I find is, that a lot of the times, what's keeping business owners from managing their finances or from looking at their finances and getting deep into the numbers is fear, like you mentioned.
Either, they're worried that there might not be enough money. They might not be bringing in enough money. They're worried that they just don't have the skills; they don't know how, they have to be a numbers person or an accountant to do that. Or they just don't have time. Right? So I try, in my coaching and in my programs, to create a really safe space, so that, any question they can ask is not a silly question.
Everyone has to start from somewhere. And I compare it to, you know, what you've learned in your business and what you bring to your clients you didn't know when you started out, right? So it's something that you cultivated over time. And it's the same with getting comfortable with your finances. You have to start with something little. Just look at your bank statement every month and take a look at what's going on in there and then move on to the next thing. It doesn't have to be all or nothing. And you don't have to. And in fact, you can't be an expert overnight, right? It's impossible.
So I try to create a safe space where, they can ask any questions they have, you know. And I have built into my programs... support. You know, we have a Facebook group. They can email me. One thing we also do, is we do monthly money dates. So basically I have a dedicated time each month where we meet on zoom and it's like a study hall just to give the participants time to, you know, look at their numbers.
And so that's to create the container so that they actually have a time dedicated to do it. So, yeah, so it's a blend of, kind of, using the coaching skills and then using also my accounting skills to empower them with the knowledge to make decisions about deductions and you know, how do I classify this revenue? How do I classify this expense? The basics of that as well.
Passionistas: What do you find is the biggest financial mistake that most small business owners make?
Sara: I think the biggest mistake is that they don't become familiar with their numbers. So either they outsource it to a friend, or a partner, a spouse, or, you know, a bookkeeper, which absolutely has its place in certain businesses, I think. But it's really important that, you know, what's going on there yourself. And so technical mistakes can always be corrected, right? Like I was just talking yesterday on one of my classes that if you're categorizing your deductions and you accidentally put it in the wrong category, it's not the end of the world. Like it can always be fixed.
But if you don't know what's going on with your business financially, three years down the line, you can wind up not being able to even keep the doors open because you haven't paid attention to what is going on there. And so if you do nothing else, I think it's really important to know what's going on there. And that's the biggest mistake I make is people just kind of turning a blind eye or thinking, oh, I'll deal with it later. Or that it's not as important as it really is.
Passionistas: As a female entrepreneur yourself, is there something that you wish you knew when you started your business that you've learned along the way?
Sara: Oh, so many things I learned along the way. I mean, again, as it relates to finances, another thing that I see quite often from the women business owners I work with-- and most of the people that I do work with are female business owners-- is that they lack the confidence around numbers. So for whatever reason, whether it was their parents or whether they grew up just... you know, in our society, we're told like math is for boys, numbers are for boys. And that translates into, at least what I see, a lack of confidence around managing that side of their businesses.
I hear a lot of times, like, I just want to work with the clients. I just want someone else to do all that stuff for me. You know, it's great to outsource all for that, once you're at a space where you can do that. But it's important to have the confidence yourself around knowing that part of your business.
And then also charging what you're worth, because that's another aspect of it. If you don't know that you're not making enough money from this course, and you don't feel like you have the right to kind of ask for that money, you're not going to charge appropriately. So on kind of the same bucket, right? And then you're not going to be able to keep your business sustainable for long enough to keep it, to keep it going.
So, yeah, the confidence, I think. And I discovered that, you know, all through my business, that even I had to work on that in some respects. Like when I was making a proposal for, you know, to do a talk or something like that. And it's always kind of like, "oh, well, what's your budget?" You know, something like that, it's hard to sometimes speak up and say, "this is what I charged for X, and this is what I charged for this." and so I think we need to, or at least the clients I see and myself, practice that muscle of kind of standing in the power of saying, "this is what I'm charging and this is why." And it's okay.
Passionistas: We're Amy and Nancy Harrington, and you're listening to The Passionistas Project Podcast and our interview with Sara Fins.
To discover how simple it can be to take control of your business finances, visit sarafins.com. You can hang out with Sara in her free Facebook group, the Easy Business Bookkeeping Community, or on Instagram and Facebook at Easy Business Bookkeeping.
If you're enjoying this interview and would like to help us continue creating inspiring content, please consider becoming a patron by visiting thepassionistasproject.com/podcast and clicking on the patron button. Even $5 a month can help us continue our mission of inspiring women to follow their passions.
Now here's more interview with Sara Fins.
Is there an example of a success story that you've worked with someone who's come to you that was a complete mess and figured it out and flourished?
Sara: Yeah, there are a lot of them, which, you know, makes me really happy. I did this business pivot just before COVID and then I kind of took a step back because it wasn't the right time. And I jumped back into it maybe a year-ish should go. And just in that short amount of time, I've seen a lot of transformation. So this has been the first, kind of, full year that many of my clients have been using the system. And so they're coming back to me and letting me know that they're already ready for taxes. So, you know, it's February and they've already got their numbers. Whereas in the past they would spend an entire day with their receipts and trying to, you know, get it all ready in time. And so I've heard a few stories lately about that. How everybody's feeling prepared, and their tax accountants are so happy that they have this, you know, buttoned up thing to show them.
I have another client of mine, Lisa, who was using QuickBooks. For those of you who don't know, it's an accounting system that... really it's geared towards accountants, but they also market it towards late people. So a lot of people think, "oh, I have to get this for my business." And then they pay a lot of money to have somebody set it up for them properly, which, you have to have help with that because it's complicated to do it yourself, unless you're an accountant. And then oftentimes it's too much. And so they never do it because every time they think about going into the program and using it, it's very overwhelming.
So Lisa was using QuickBooks when she came to me. And she's like, "it's fine, but I never want to do it. I don't have everything up to date in there. It overwhelms me. I'm paying all this money. I don't even need to be paying this money." And so, she started using my program and she came back to me not too long ago about a recent launch that she had. And she said to me, 'I had my best year ever. And I truly believe that if I hadn't been on top of them by finances, looking at those numbers as my launches were happening, and as I was going through, I wouldn't have even had the motivation to push for those higher numbers of enrollments. And I wouldn't have known how well I was doing.' And so at the end of the year, she's like, 'I've made the most money in my business this year than all the other years past. And I think it's in part to my confidence around my finances.'
So that's my favorite client to talk about because she's really rocking it. And she got rid of QuickBooks because it wasn't meeting her needs. And so she stopped paying for it. So she saved money on that end too.
Passionistas: Financially or not financially, what do you think your best habit is?
Sara: I would say my best habit is time management, and that's something I've cultivated a lot over the years. I mean, I think, you know, you learn a little bit each time as you go along, but then as a business owner, you learn it for sure. And then as a parent, and a business owner, you learn it also. Because before I had kids, you know, you feel like you have all the time in the world. But then you have your children and you realize you don't because your schedule is not entirely yours.
And so it's gotten very, very good at managing my tasks and managing my time. And when I'm working, I'm working. And when I'm not working, you know, I'm trying not to work. That's, that's another story. But when I'm dedicated to those hours that I'm actually working, I'm really good about prioritizing what I need to do and turning off distractions so that I can just get it done. So that's been a, you know, that's been something I've been cultivating for a number of years.
Passionistas: What advice would you give to your younger self?
Sara: Don't be afraid to take risks and to be, you know, a little bit risk averse. And I think if I had taken more risks, maybe I would have, you know, gone into psychology, for example, even though it wasn't, in my mind, a safe career, you know. However reason I thought that in my twenties, I don't know. But, you know. So I think taking more risks in my career path and maybe in the jobs I was in and in the earlier stages of my business. I think that would be one thing that I would tell my younger self.
And then the other thing that I would tell my younger self is to get help. So when I started my business, I waited too long to reach out to people who could train me to do the things I didn't need to do... that I didn't know how to do. I remember floundering for the first like year in terms of marketing and really just like throwing spaghetti at the wall and trying to figure out what was happening and what I should be doing. And then once I invested in a program that taught me a marketing framework, it was a game changer. So, you know, don't wait so long to reach out for help in the areas that you need support in.
Passionistas: Have you ever suffered a professional setback that seemed devastating at the time, but actually ended up being a blessing?
Sara: The first company I worked for in my accounting days, went out of business. And at that time, my office wasn't involved in the scandal, a different state, but the whole company closed. And at that time it felt like, "what's going to happen now? Am I going to have a job?" I was in my twenties, you know, I was about to get married. I didn't know what was happening.
And then that opened a lot of doors because the next job I took introduced me to, you know, the person who would eventually hire me for the recruiting role. And then that helped me to move abroad. And it just was kind of a domino effect from there. And that enabled me to go back and follow my passion to have my own business.
So, yeah, but at the time it was like, "uh oh." Because when I was growing up and when I was in college, you know, your path was you get a job in corporate and you work in New York city and that's what you do for the rest of your life. And so if that hadn't happened, I'm not sure everything would have played out the way it did.
Passionistas: When you were a kid, what did your mother teach you about women's roles in society and what are you passing on to your children?
Sara: I come from a long line of very strong women. But my grandmother went to college and wasn't super common, you know, back then. And then she also had a job which also wasn't common. My mother always had a job and my parents divorced when I was young. So my mom was, you know, pretty much the one who was running everything and working to support my sister and I.
And it was never really taught that you can't do something. You know, my mother was a professional... is a professional. She's a nurse practitioner, you know, she always was all about school and just very supportive in the way that there's really nothing you can't do. And that was the impression I always felt for my sister and myself coming from both my mom and my grandmother, that there was never really a question.
Like if I wanted to go to college and become an accountant, then that's what I would do. You know? So I think that that was really helpful in my upbringing, to have such strong female role models. Because it was... from that perspective, it was never a question that I could do what I wanted to do in my professional life.
Passionistas: What's your dream for women?
Sara: Honestly, my dream for women is that they feel empowered to follow their own dreams. So that might be starting a business, that might not be starting a business. That might be staying home and raising a family. That might be, you know, remaining single, or not having a family. But I want every woman to feel empowered to follow the path that they feel in their heart is the right one for them, instead of feeling the pressures that we have from society to do X. To do Y. Because I think there's a lot of that.
And I think it can go both ways too, right? Like in a lot of ways, we're taught to be quiet and stay small and all of that. But then in my house, it was, you can do whatever you want to do, and then you feel the pressure to be a career woman and have, you know, that life. And for myself, I didn't truly resonate with that either because I wound up leaving corporate when my daughter was born. And I just knew that I didn't want to live that life and have kids at the same time.
And so, yeah, I think for me, it's for women to feel empowered to follow whatever path they want to follow and be supported by the people around them and then also society. Because as we know the structure of at least in the United States, it doesn't support women in the workforce. That we have those support systems in place to actually do what we want to do and reach our goals.
Passionistas: Thanks for listening to our interview with Sara Fins.
To discover how simple it can be to take control of your business finances, visit sarafins.com. You can hang out with Sara in her free Facebook group, The Easy Business Bookkeeping Community, or on Instagram and Facebook @easybusinessbookkeeping.
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