With easy invoicing in FreshBooks and bookkeeping services with Bench, Lisa feels in control of her finances more than ever before.
As a full-service business event manager and founder of Meller Performance Events Group Lisa Meller is in charge of making magical moments happen for the employees of growing organizations across the globe!
As a personal extension of her customers’ events team, her business plans, organizes, and manages experiential meetings, large-scale conferences, group incentive travel programs, and wellness retreats.
This isn’t Lisa’s first time running her own show. She started a similar business over a decade ago. Although she decided to close up shop after being recruited by a leading travel agency’s Meetings & Incentives department, it wasn’t long before she dove back into the entrepreneurial world.
I had the chance to sit down with Lisa and chat about her leap back into entrepreneurship, how FreshBooks and Bench have supported her on that journey, and just how competitive the swimming pool industry is (who knew?)
What made you jump back into business ownership in 2017?
Lisa: I used to own another company called Meeting Perspectives for 8 years. It was very similar to what I do now. In 2013, I was approached by an old boss who asked if I could open a Meetings & Incentives department for their travel agency. They really wanted someone in-house. I told them I would if I had my own team and could do it my way. But, when leadership and direction changed at the agency, I knew it was time to move on.
By going out on my own again, I have even more flexibility and autonomy to make updates as I see fit. I can be nimble enough to make changes to the way that we operate so that we can customize the solutions we offer our customers. I did not want to be pigeon-holed again into cookie-cutter modes of operations and layers and layers of approval.
What was your biggest learning from running your previous events business?
Lisa: When I ran my last business, my husband did a lot of the year-end tax preparation and back-office admin so that I could focus on my clients. The problem with this was that I didn’t have much visibility into how my business was doing financially. I kind of just prayed a lot and hoped it would all work out.
This time around, I needed a system that was going to be clean and simple for me to use and provide me with some sort of visibility into my business. Thankfully, going through this with my last business, I knew what to look for. I wanted to have an easy system in place so that I could figure out how to invoice, what to invoice, and when to invoice.
When I was working at the travel agency, we used Quickbooks. It was painful. Luckily, a friend of mine recommended FreshBooks when I started Meller Performance Events Group, and I knew immediately that it would be an affordable, high-value solution.
What FreshBooks features have been most helpful in keeping your business organized day-to-day?
Lisa: FreshBooks reduces the amount of time it takes me to do the painful parts of running a business. Invoicing and client management have been most positively impacted.
When I am working with a particular client, project, or budget, I love that I can start an invoice as a draft and customize any charge at any time. Each line item can be unique.
FreshBooks also helps me stay on top of outstanding invoices. For example, I can see when an invoice is pending, past due, or hasn’t been paid. I like that I can send a reminder in advance of a due date. I think of it as a courtesy. Of course, it helps me get paid, but I think my clients appreciate it as well. It’s much easier to say ‘Heads up, this invoice will be due soon’ versus ‘What happened? You didn’t pay?’
I do believe it’s also easy for my customers to view and pay their invoices. I have flexibility with all the integrated payments available so that they can pay in ACH and any kind of direct deposit. And I have the ability to turn credit card payments on and off.
Invoicing is not a pain anymore. I actually look forward to it because it’s money in the door.
When did you realize you need dedicated bookkeeping support and how did Bench get on your radar?
Lisa: My team is ultimately responsible for the client’s budget, from beginning to end. I need to have accurate accounting on a chart of accounts as a basis for each of the various aspects of the budget. I have to be able to manage how profitable we are on each individual program and eves how profitable our clients are. They have their own sponsors and exhibitors after all, plus expenses. Therefore, our bookkeeping needs to be very detailed.
I wasn’t interested in getting lost in the muck and mire of it all, so I was excited to learn about Bench, a new bookkeeping service available to FreshBooks customers. I loved that Bench could integrate with what I was already doing in FreshBooks for what I felt was a really responsible cost. If I looked at my hourly rate for what it would cost me to have that accounting support, I thought it was well worth it and justified to be able to have this extra layer onboard.
I still need to improve tracking processes on my end by client and by project, as I’m not perfect at it. This insight provides me with a snapshot of profitability by project so that I can make pricing adjustments and more accurate predictions in the future. I love that the Bench team bugs me about it.
How has Bench helped you prepare for tax time?
Lisa: I knew Bench’s support would help me get a handle on my taxes. When I first brought them on in Q1 of 2019, they were able to do a month-by-month backtrack, to help me get an accurate snapshot of my business.
Their support in tracking all costs and income and then allocating them to the correct categories for my taxes is most helpful. It’s wonderful to know that everything will end up in the right place and I won’t have to question where it is, why is it there, and if it’s tax deductible.
With the Bench team on my side, I have an extra set of eyeballs that knows what’s going on and that will reconcile all the things I hate doing. It makes my life so much easier knowing that my tax reports and statements are done correctly and that it’s not going to be a 40-hour job to do my own taxes at year-end! I have the resources I need to file with confidence at tax time.
What advice would you give fellow business owners looking to get a better handle on their finances?
Lisa: The simplicity and ease of FreshBooks and Bench make managing finances a smaller headache. And they help you make better educated and more informed decisions about how you manage your business.
This is especially important when business owners are busy doing the service end of their business. We have enough to think about as small business entrepreneurs—marketing, positioning, contracting, servicing, personnel, and, of course, finances!
What’s one of the most interesting industries you’ve ever planned an event for?
Lisa: There are so many different walks of life and every business is unique in the way that they approach things. That’s something that I like about doing third-party work like this because I get to see so many different facets of how business gets done.
For example, the swimming pool industry is very competitive. I’ve managed a swimming pool corporate group’s national conference, as well as the super trip they coordinate for their top leaders and top buyers. Their last trip was to Slovenia, Croatia, and Athens, Greece.
The best part? They don’t have a single meeting component on these trips. There’s no business other than the business of having a great time!
about the author
Lisa is passionate about small business success, having managed funding programs for hundreds of Canadian start-ups and entrepreneurs. She is presently Senior Content Marketing Manager at FreshBooks.