His fully remote and virtual agency relies on FreshBooks to serve his craft brewery and digital agency clients.
Since the days of his first childhood lemonade stands, Joshua Lance has had the itch for entrepreneurship. With his unique ability to anticipate both the needs of people and future business trends, while in college he started a ridesharing service for students—well before Uber ever hit the market.
So, when he had the opportunity to launch his own accounting firm in 2015, he knew exactly how he wanted to set it apart from the competition. First, he would offer his services as a fully remote and virtual accountant at a time when few other firms were doing so. Second, he would specialize in supporting Chicago’s emerging craft brewery scene, which now has more craft breweries than any other metro area in the country.
His vision paid off and within just 9 months, his business was viable. Today his firm, Lance CPA Group, employs 18 staff.
We spoke with Joshua to learn more about how he supports the unique needs of craft brewers and digital agencies, and how FreshBooks helps him do so.
Why did you decide to establish a fully virtual remote practice?
Joshua: It gives us a lot of flexibility in how we work with our clients. We’re not forcing clients to come into an office and we’re not having clients try to meet on our schedules. We meet our clients when they need us most and where they need us most.
We know that using cloud-based solutions makes it easy because it’s not a hassle to move information back and forth with our clients. They don’t want to work with the traditional old-school family accountant. That’s not their style. They’re working on a lot of different things, working virtually, and want a firm that understands that.
My clients see it as a small business solution for them to run their business. I don’t think they even realize they’re doing accounting—they’re just doing all the things needed to run their business in FreshBooks.
What prompted you to focus on offering your services to craft breweries and digital agencies?
Joshua: I was a home brewer and a home winemaker, and I was familiar with the industry. There were also a lot of craft breweries starting up in the Chicagoland area, so it was good timing from that aspect. Then, about 3 years in or so, we rebranded our firm and spruced up our online image. We started attracting digital agencies shortly thereafter. They saw that we got what they did and that we cared about it.
Being niched has allowed us to become experts in those industries. We can help small businesses. We know your pain points. If you come to us, and we’ve never met before, we have a good sense of what’s going on and can provide a lot of advice and really guide our clients.
For example, craft breweries are a highly regulated industry, so there’s extra tax reporting that has to be done as a result. They have a lot of complexities because they’re manufacturing products. So, you have to be really organized as far as your inventory accounting goes. They have particular needs, and we’ve been able to provide that tax help.
Why do you recommend FreshBooks to your clients?
Joshua: FreshBooks was actually what we were using when we first started to invoice our clients. As we started getting into the digital agency space, we started having more clients come to us on FreshBooks.
Now, we have maybe 12 clients using it. They’re all in the digital agency space. We’ll either get direct access or they’ll provide us with their financials through FreshBooks.
I think a lot of digital agencies, especially creatives, like not having to figure out a bunch of different solutions. Most of them picked up FreshBooks because it was easy for them. It was intuitive for them to use, based on how they were trying to structure and run their businesses. It’s really an all-in-one business solution. They can do their invoices and manage their expenses, and make sure they’re getting paid for the work that they’re doing.
When do you recommend FreshBooks to your clients?
Joshua: When they can’t afford us for bookkeeping and they’re small and getting started, we’ll recommend FreshBooks. They can go in and start invoicing their clients, connect their bank account, and start categorizing expenses. It’s easy for them to do that, so it doesn’t then feel like accounting. It makes them want to use the product.
You know, when we talk to digital agencies and creatives, sometimes they just want to avoid accounting software completely—but they don’t see FreshBooks as accounting software. They see it as a small business solution for them to run their business. I don’t think they even realize they’re doing accounting. They’re just doing all the things needed to run their business in FreshBooks. And it gives us what we need so we can do the work for them.
What FreshBooks features do your clients like best?
Joshua: What’s helpful, especially for those clients that are doing their own bookkeeping, is that standardized chart of accounts, where it’s already organized for them and they’re not having to think through where things go. They just have to decide what’s the best categorization for it. And in doing so they’re put in the right spot in the books and we’re not having to go through and clean things up or change a lot of things. Everyone’s doing the same thing, which makes it easy for us to pick up and know what’s going on.
Why did you decide to join the FreshBooks Accounting Partner Program?
Joshua: We want to get closer to the software companies that we work with because you can get the help you need to learn more about how to use the software effectively with your clients. We joined FreshBooks’ Accounting Partner Program because we use the product; we like the product.
How does being part of the Accounting Partner Program help support your business?
Joshua: As soon as things change, we’re aware of it. As we have ideas on feature requests, we work together with FreshBooks to make a product that works even better with our clients in the future. They take the feedback we’ve given to heart. We say, “It’d be great if the software did this” and then a year later, it’s doing it. That’s refreshing to see.
I just had a talk with someone at FreshBooks today. They know my business, what we’re trying to do and they’re trying to figure out the best way to support us. With other cloud-based accounting providers, they have no clue. They don’t care about us, and we don’t feel supported. And if I don’t feel supported and the company doesn’t care, it’s like, why would I want to work with them?
Even though we’re not a large firm or one of the big four, FreshBooks treats us like we’re a large firm. We’re treated like they actually care about us, which is great. The people at FreshBooks are super helpful and super thoughtful and it’s been a really good working relationship.
about the author
Jessica Wynne Lockhart is an award-winning journalist and fact-checker, who splits her time between Canada and Australia. She has bylines in the Toronto Star, Chatelaine, and The New Zealand Herald. She writes about e-commerce, personal finance, health, and travel. Learn more about her work at jesslockhart.com.