Caren Schwartz Joins the DM Disruption!

June 16, 2022
|

Episode Summary

This episode is sponsored by ADP. Learn more at www.adp.com/accountant

Caren Schwartz joins the DM Disruption! Listen now to learn how Caren started her own bookkeeping service, how she first gained her clients, and how she achieved the success her business has today!

Episode Notes

Caren’s beginnings

With Caren’s father being a CPA and an attorney, it was no surprise that Caren chose to follow in his footsteps and become a CPA herself. She says she has always had a love for working with numbers, and knew from a young age that this was the path for her.

Caren also talks about her time working at IBM, and while she liked what she did, she knew it was not what she wanted to do for the rest of her life. She started to think of things she liked, and knew that she was always very good with numbers. She then started a bookkeeping service to work with small businesses, and over time she evolved into doing more consulting work. Now, Caren works specifically with law firms, and says it’s probably because of her father’s work in the law field that encouraged her to do so.

Caren also talks about how she’s always enjoyed working with numbers. She recalls spending time working at her fathers accounting firm and assisting with the bookkeep, and even helping her friends balance their books while she was in college.

How Caren Grew Her Business

Caren talks about how she gained her first client by sending out letters to local accountants and even followed up with phone calls. She shares that she got one phone call back from someone who took a chance from her, and was able to gain more clients through word of mouth. Dawn also adds that it is very important to “shout from the rooftops” about any new business venture you are starting, because you will not gain any new clients if no one knows you are in business.

Caren also shares how important it is to give away information to your clients for free. She recalls that many people helped her for free when she was first starting out, and she wants to do the same. She also says that people are more likely to trust and want to work with you when they inevitably run into a complex problem, and you’ll be the first person they call to fix it.

Finding Work Life Balance

Caren works full time from home, and she talks about how COVID-19 has made it more difficult for her to achieve a healthy work life balance, and finds that she tends to gravitate towards work even when she’s supposed to be out of the office. Since partnering with 3535 Consulting, she has been able to take more time off for vacation, but would like to implement regular vacations moving forward.

Dawn also talks about how important a work life balance is and says that she intentionally schedules time during the week to do things she loves, even if that means she has to work for a few hours that evening.

 

Connect with Caren!

Visit her website: https://timeandcents.com/

 

Want to watch this episode? Click here!

Want to hear more episodes? Listen here!

 

Follow Dawn Brolin!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheDesignatedMotivator

Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheDesignatedM1

Dawn’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/dawnbrolin

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dawnbrolin/

Subscribe to Dawn on Youtube – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp1-…

Check our her Website – https://www.dawnbrolin.com/

 

Transcript:

Dawn Brolin
Hey everybody here I am Dawn Brolin, your designated motivator. And I’m here today to talk to you about the ADP referral program. I love it, work with ADP your way because no two accounting firms have the same, you can process your own payroll, get rewarded for referrals, handoff payroll entirely to ADP. ADP is so flexible, you want to increase profits, you want to have everything in one place for you, that referral program is the way to go. Go to adp.com/accountant, you won’t be disappointed.

Alright, everybody will welcome back to another episode of the DM Disruption. And I’m here with one of my very favorite people, one of my mentors. So Caren Schwartz is here with us today. Again, a really dear friend of mine, we’ve been on the trainer writer network for four or five years, and Caren just stepped down from that committee. And understandably, we’re gonna talk a little bit about, you know, what is Caren been up to? What is Caren want to see for her life in the future? What has she seen in the past? And we’re just gonna have a great conversation, because Caren’s good is definitely a favorite of mine.

Caren Schwartz
Thank you, John, I love talking with you, you’ve always got so much energy and you it’s just amazing the things you’ve done and are doing so well.

Dawn Brolin
I appreciate that. And really, at the end of the day, I like you, we all are trying to do things. And we’ve always been willing to help each other out when people with questions. You know, I’ve reached out to Caren, C aren has done a lot of work with attorneys, and accounting and those kinds of things. And I’m kind of want to start off talking to you about your parents to be honest. Because, you know, I see that maybe it was a little bit of motivation, or maybe not, which I think you’ll tell us about but your dad being a CPA and an attorney, which you could tell us about and then your mom and the bookkeeping field. So you kind of grew up around all this.

Caren Schwartz
Yeah. So I kind of joke when I look back at it that I guess it was in my genes, and I never stood a chance. But I worked for IBM for 14 years. And when I left IBM and IBM, you get really, really specialized. And that doesn’t necessarily translate well to the general world. Right. But I had two young children. I had a wonderful nanny who I was not prepared to give up. Right. And so I had to work. And I really couldn’t find anything that was a good fit. And so I started so I thought about what do I like to do? What do I know how to do. And I was always very good with numbers. It’s in the genes. And so I started a bookkeeping service for small businesses. And then over time, I evolved into doing more consulting work. And it turned out I was working with law firms, and I liked working with law firms, I guess, you know, I was used to dealing with my dad. And so I knew how to deal with lawyers. And so it was just comfortable for me. And so I really narrow down into working with that niche. Right. That’s it.

Dawn Brolin
And that’s interesting, because when, you know, we were kind of talking about your dad and the fact that he’s an attorney. And I know your specialty has always been in the law industry and you know, IOLTA accounts and nightmares like that, that, you know, attorneys don’t seem to want to pay attention to it’s kind of funny, but but that you gravitated to that area because maybe of your dad, which is cool. And so what about your mom, like your mom, you said your mom was in bookkeeping. What would you do?

Caren Schwartz
My mom was a bookkeeper. But she actually she was she stopped working. She always said she stopped working when my father started making more money than she did. Because they got married. She helped to put work while he was going through law school. But basically, she took care of all the books in the house. She did all the finances in the house. And I remember sitting with the big green ledger sheets and working through the numbers for the personal finances. But then also my father’s company had moved from New York City up to Rye, New York, about 20 minutes from where we lived. Back in the days before there was lots of traffic on the roads. And and shortly after they moved their bookkeeper, his mother took ill and she had to go back to Germany to take care of her mother. And they asked my mom to come in and fill in a little bit. And so for a year my mother was supposed to be a couple of months it ended up being about a year my mother really was working as the bookkeeper at the at my father’s office. And so you know, I had I knew about her doing that and her working in that area. And then I also just being the daughter a couple of summers I actually worked in the office helping out in the the general office, but doing a lot of it within the bookkeeping area, so, I had a lot of exposure to that kind of thing.

Dawn Brolin
And how old were you when you were doing that?

Caren Schwartz
Well, when I was like in high school or college, right, because that was a bit older. Yeah, yeah.

Dawn Brolin
Well, yeah. Make sense, you weren’t eight years old doing both.

Caren Schwartz
No, no!

Dawn Brolin
So that so that and that did that just like spur interest for you. So as you, you know, what, like, what just made it stuck for you.

Caren Schwartz
And so, I was just always very comfortable with numbers. And so, you know, I always balance my checkbook. I remember in college, I had a friend who was having trouble with her checkbook reconciliation. And so I just sat down and helped her with it. So it was something I was always good at. Right? It was an easy, it was an easy, comfortable place to fall back to, and it was something that I enjoyed, I like, it’s a little bit of a puzzle, you know, kind of finding and fixing those numbers. And I’m terrible at crossword puzzles.

Dawn Brolin
Same with me! Like, don’t bring me to a trivia night, right? I do go, I contribute nothing. Like, I just can’t contribute anything to those types of things. But you want me to, like you said, reconcile our checkbooks, all day long. We love it. And so then you like you said, you had the kids and you were like, you want to keep your nanny, which I can appreciate that. And so how did you get your first client?

Caren Schwartz
You know, I started looking at accountants in my area. And I sent out a lot of letters, and followed up with some phone calls. And I got one attorney in Westport, a woman named Sonia, who basically took a chance with me, and passed a couple of clients on to me, and I was able to, you know, work with her and help them. And that really evolved. And then she continued, you know, giving me some business and I was able to expand out from there and pick up new clients.

Dawn Brolin
That’s so fun. It’s so so I think back we have such similar similar stories, certainly not the same. But I knew at 16 I want to be an accountant. But remembering that first client, like for me, like you said, Sonya took a chance on you. I have a guy who was building the in law apartment for my parents. And he was my work for my dad at Pratt Whitney when my dad worked there. And he was like, Hey, you have an accounting degree, you want to do my books. And I was like, Sure, I could probably figure it out, I think right. And it was just he took kind of took that chance on me too. And immediately fell in love with it. And he had those the one right system. So he wrote the checks out. And you know how the round one rate sheets is what he had the brown ones, but anyway, but it’s just so funny how you like just, I think that marketing still works, like you said, you send out letters and stuff to local accountants. And I try to tell people, they’re like, how do you market yourself? And I’m like, Well, you know, like you said, I reach out to tax attorneys, you know, I reach out to those kinds of people and say, Hey, listen, if there’s a gap, you can’t fill, or you’re looking for somebody to help out with, you know, filling out the 433, or gathering the documents or whatever, I’m your girl. And that’s how I kind of was able to start getting clients and I tell people listen, shout through the rooftops of what you’re best at. I think what sometimes, though, that I find in our industry is that people still struggle within, I want to say a niche, but even just a focus of what they love and what they’re good at. And so I think that wouldn’t like for you, you identified the law industry as something you were passionate about something you really enjoyed. And so you went after that we know, if you ask anybody who’s the you know, who’s the one who really loves the books with attorneys, and I’m like, Caren Schwartz all day like you, you just know that. And I think for those that are listening, if you haven’t shouted from the rooftops, the thing that you’re passionate about, or that you love, or that you’re really good at that may be holding you back, I think what do you think about that?

Caren Schwartz
I agree totally. And one of the ways you do that is also by giving, because I part, you know, there’s lots of things posts get put in lots of different areas, the products I support, there’s, you know, users that will like, you know, one of the products I worked with this TimeSlips. And they’re a sage city, which people put questions in, and I go in, and I answered those questions. And a lot of times I’m giving away my advice for free. But if it’s something fairly simple I do if it’s something complex, I’ll say, Look, this is way too complex. Reach out to me, and we can talk about how I can help you. But even if I’m giving it advice away, people appreciate it. And they come to realize, when they have a situation that is too complex, oh, you’re somebody I can call on. And even with other consultants, giving them advice and guidance, it comes back whether directly or indirectly, and so I’ve always been willing to give give advice because other people have also given to me.

Dawn Brolin
And that’s what I think is unique about our industry. I don’t know how many other industries do that. Like, don’t just say like, share secrets about things. It’s not they’re not like their secrets is just stuff that we figured out over time. Right? So, you know, I find that so, so now shifting a little bit. So one of the things that we are that I had kind of, you know, I researched Caren of course, all the time, but we talked about is that work life balance and where you’re at in your practice, right? So like you like me, we’re, we’re fairly similar in that we’re not, you know, we’re not on the upward slope, necessarily, I’m ready to go down the hill, kind of in a little way. I’m, I’m happy to go on my boat once or twice a week and not be in my office. So tell me about where you’re at with that right now.

Caren Schwartz
So that’s something I have a really hard time for my office is in the basement of my house, which is beautiful. It’s a walkout basement, with windows and doors, and you know, it’s a really nice area, I have a hard time stopping myself from working sometimes if I have, if I don’t have anything going on, on the weekend, I may come and sit down at my computer and start doing some work, or I’ll answer client emails and stuff like that, which I really should not do, because it gives them the wrong message that I’m always going to be there. And I you know, so you know, but, and I, I’m better now about sometimes taking time off. Although with COVID, it’s, you know, not been too exciting to go traveling as much. But being a part of for many years, I was kind of a solo. So taking a long vacation was really hard. Because you’re worried about what’s going to happen with your clients and stuff. And I’ve had some people work for me on and off for years, but I decided I was better off. Without employees, I didn’t want that work. But since I’ve been a part of 3545 Consulting, I have the backup and stuff. And so a few years ago, we actually did a 10 day trip to Israel, and all my clients survived. So I realize I can do this. And so now I do once we can do more regular traveling, do plan to you know, kind of take regular vacations, but getting myself to stop. And that’s the other thing with COVID, you know, when we didn’t have COVID was much more out in the evenings and during the weekends. And so I’d have a lot more going on. And so it was easier to not work. Now that I don’t have as much of that going on. It’s much harder for me to kind of tear myself away and say, Okay, I’m going to go do read a book, I’m going to work on a jigsaw puzzle, I’m going to do something and I do do that. But I have a little bit of a tendency to stay too long at the computer.

Dawn Brolin
Yes. And I can appreciate that for sure. I have definitely found actually myself since since COVID has happened. You know, I was working. But I was it was kind of weird, because in with taxes, it’s maybe a little bit different. But I felt like I didn’t have people in my office all the time. I could focus a lot better because I was just pumping out tax returns. I mean, I was just like, Okay, let’s just keep going, let’s go. But I didn’t ever work that 50 6080 hour work week that I historically had. And I feel like my time was managed better. And I learned a little bit more about that. So that this past tax season was a little bit better. But so so let me ask you this question then Caren, what is if you were to say these are three, let’s let’s exclude travel for a hot second, let’s exclude going to Israel, which must have been an amazing trip and being able to do more of the traveling part. But let’s cut the travel out and let’s say Caren’s at home, and then there’s this passion you’ve had for the firm your whole life maybe like for me, it’s sports. Like I want to watch sports, I want to go to sports, whatever, that’s kind of my thing. What about you? What else was there? Is there anything else in there Karen that you would do?

Caren Schwartz
Yeah. So I say I play at golf. Because I’m not as good as I would like to be so I’d probably like to spend more time playing golf sure that I could get better

Dawn Brolin
So when you golf let’s let’s stick on golf for a second and I do want to hear about the other stuff. So for golf. Do you just go like once in a while like a friend will invite you or you’re just like what what’s that look like?

Caren Schwartz
So there is in Fairfield where I live there is a par three golf course and there is a woman’s league that plays at the par three golf course on Monday mornings. I go out during the season, which is not long enough in Connecticut. I go out on Monday mornings and I go early and I play so I’m usually back at my desk by nine or 10 but I play nine holes on a par three course.

Dawn Brolin
Okay, that’s fine. See, that’s good. Right and I want I’m glad to hear that you’re doing I was gonna say to you or you join a league of some kind so that’s awesome.

Caren Schwartz
Yes, that’s the league is what got me out playing regularly because I didn’t know enough people that played to go out and play.

Dawn Brolin
You just be like, Oh, hey, want to go golfing? Right? Yeah. So it’s more like you needed something to like, kind of fill that gap of who else plays? Right? Right. Right. What else is Caren shorts passionate about?

Caren Schwartz
Um, I love mahjong. And now right now I play in the a couple of evenings, one or two evenings a week, depending. But I have friends that play and we’re like, if you if you were available during the day, we want you in the game. But I don’t want to take the time during the day.

Dawn Brolin
Sure. So is it just the drive the you’re, you’re a hard worker, you’re somebody you know, you probably like like myself, I watched my dad, my dad was a hard worker. So I have a work ethic like my father, and it’s like, you know, get things done, get things done. Is that what’s keeping you at that computer? Is it a mental, like, what is that? Because I feel like, are we gonna smack that out of you.

Caren Schwartz
Part of it is knowing that there’s things that need to be done and just saying, and well, you know, maybe I should just do it now. And part of it is that there’s nothing else pressing pulling me out, like in the evening. So during the day, it would be easier for me to do other things. But during the day is when the clients want to do things. So if it’s stuff that involves clients, I had to have to be available during the day,

Dawn Brolin
Which makes sense, which makes sense. So I’m just listening to me care. And I’m a problem solver just like you were both. That’s why we’re in this industry. But just trying to think of Okay, listen, what if you want to start you said, You know what, I’m going to go play mahjong with these people. You know, one day a week, and this day is a day I never scheduled client stuff. And that’s that’s just how the rules go. Not that you’re not working all day, but that you’re saying, you know what, at 11 o’clock, I’m out of here for three hours. I’m gonna play my module, because then what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna work at night because like you said, there’s not as much dragging us out at night these days. Right? Right. Except for the Red Sox tonight. course very important. So, but you know, so I’m just

Caren Schwartz
So rry, I’m a Mets fan.

Dawn Brolin
That’s–I’m sorry you’re a Mets fan. I’m just kidding. I’m totally just getting yeah, we’re just I don’t know what’s happening with the Red Sox these days. But I love it. So. But yeah, so so I’m just trying to think so what other things so you’d like mahjong? You love golf? You love those two? Are you like those two things? You love what you love? Mahjong? I’m just thinking of it. And I’m sure you’ve seen Heather Satterlee who’s now out but not only she riding horses now she bought?

Caren Schwartz
If my daughter heard about that, she’d be so jealous. My daughter wants a horse. It’s so bad.

Dawn Brolin
Like, oh my god. Well, look how long it took it took Heather to get to that point. But yeah. So I just like and I know, for myself, you know, I did the softball thing. I went out and coach softball during tax season, which everyone said I was a lunatic. And I am and I’m totally willing to admit that, but I just got to a point where I was like, I’m not gonna wait until I retired to do things I love. You know, I’ll work on a Saturday if I have to, in the offseason, you know, when it’s when it’s not tax season. I don’t typically work on the weekends ever. I did this Saturday, because we have obviously extensions this week. But you know, just trying to find that passion that you want to do something and then you know what, nobody’s telling nobody’s your boss. I mean, I understand that you’re doing some consulting. I get that. But you’re the boss. So you Karen, right. Right, and just set some guidelines and say, hey, you know what, I want to start doing this once a week. Because I can work at night. I’m not doing anything else guys will work. But you know, just enjoy those times that you can have for yourself during the week. Yeah, I dare you.

Caren Schwartz
Well, I will try to do some of that.

Dawn Brolin
Yeah. Because, you know, it’s one thing that, you know, obviously, we all have this. I think we’re all people pleasers in the accounting industry, really, we want to sell or serve the client, we want to get that stuff done. And we know we’re responsible for certain things, and we’ve got to get them done. But I just found that, you know, what I’m willing to do is go the extra mile. And another point, if I can do this thing that I really love, right?

Caren Schwartz
I think as I settle more into my will, this change that I’ve made in my relationship with 3545. And I see how I can balance some of that, I may be more, you know, going to say, okay, every Friday, I’m going to take off the afternoon or every you know, or whatever it is so that I can do something like that, or during golf season, I’m going to take off an extra day to you know, play golf, play more.

Dawn Brolin
Right. And I think that’s great. I think that’s what we you know, we do work hard. We do sacrifice and have for a long time here in Maine. We’ve been doing this for a while. And we have put those all day all nights in because maybe we’re trying to figure out a problem for a client. I remember the days I would come get a bed now my husband’s like, you know, I have my laptop with me and he’d be like, they stumped you again. And I’m like, yeah, they stumped me out of QuickBooks question that I need to figure out. This is, you know, these are the days before you could go to the Intuit community. You know, this was like, right way long time ago. When it was, we just had to figure stuff out on our own. There weren’t all these big certifications and things like that we just learned, we learned how to do stuff on our own. Which I think makes us awesome, by the way.

Caren Schwartz
Yep. The products that I work with, I remember way, way back. We used to have, oh, god chats. What was it can’t no not can’t be served. One of those really early instant messages, instant messaging, and we’d get on and we’d be, you know, with a really slow connection, but we’d have chats where we would talk amongst each other, and past idea. So I get that embedded in me very early in my career. I think it was also easier for me to balance a little bit more when I had kids at home. But now that’s just my husband and I and he’s doing stuff and it’s a lot easier to just kind of keep going. It’s tough, because you don’t have the interruptions as much.

Dawn Brolin
Absolutely. Do you remember Caren? This is fun. Do you remember when into it when like you’d volunteer for the week to answer community questions? Did you do that?

Caren Schwartz
Oh, yeah. Yes.

Dawn Brolin
Yeah. Remember my whole goal? My whole thing was whenever they say, okay, for when it’s your week, or whatever. I was like, Who has the most responses? And I would want to beat that number. That was like my whole thing. It was like, I want to be number one for the number of responses. Hopefully, they were right. But it just wanted to be one of those responses. And I would skip over the really hard ones and go just go to the easy ones. Fire them out. Right. Those were fun days. Right. Right. Those were fun days.

Caren Schwartz
But that’s what makes thing about participating in like chat groups and stuff where you can respond. If there’s a question you don’t know the answer to you just skip it. And you know, you can reply and you look really smart.

Dawn Brolin
Yeah, absolutely. I’ve been in the face some of the Facebook groups and just in their jumping in some, you know, answers or ask him some questions that I asked, you know, whatever. And the resources now, or just unlike we ever had, you know, getting through this,…

Caren Schwartz
Google is wonderful. I search for things on Google all the time.

Dawn Brolin
And absolute…Tracy bought me a little sign for my desk says Idk. Google it like, I don’t know, Google it. Like, if I have to look it up. If I look it up on Google, somebody asked me a question. I’m like, You know what, I just want to be sure I’m answering this, right. And I Google it, and I find it I send them the link and hoping that they’ll be like, oh, all she did was Google it. Like, you couldn’t google it, man. Like, come on.

Caren Schwartz
Yeah. My daughter this morning. And it texted me and said, How do I do a print screen? Well, she has a Mac. I don’t have a Mac. I don’t know how to do it. Because I went into Google. I googled it. I texted her, I said, Here’s what Google says.

Dawn Brolin
Seriously, like, Come on, man. You guys got the most you’re that age group. You’ve got the most resources at your fingertips. And have we ever been? Right? I’m on Google at people. Yeah.

Caren Schwartz
So I think back on my mom with her spreadsheet, you know, with her paper spreadsheets and stuff. She would love things like Excel and Quicken it would have would have given her so much more free time because I remember sitting with the calculator, adding up the numbers. And you know, she always had the paper tape going because if the number didn’t bat numbers didn’t balance or why Where did I goof?

Dawn Brolin
Yeah, I still love doing that too. By the way, sometimes just you know, using that. I love that little calculator with a tape. It’s so fun. My daughter loves it, too. She’s like, Mom, do you have anything for me to add? Like now? I’m good. There it is. Oh, my goodness, I do love it. Well, listen, we try to keep these to about 20 minutes or so Karen, you’ve been amazing. You know, love, love to hear the stories about you didn’t know that about your parents. That’s kind of a cool little fun fact for me to get to know you a little bit better, as always, but I really appreciate you I know there’s a lot of people out there Karen as you have spoken at scaling, new heights and QB connect and the presentations that you do and the training that you do in the teaching. I know there’s people out there that you have positively affected their life. And that’s what you know, the the designated motivator, concept and characteristics are all about and you so you are definitely one of them. If you didn’t know that.

Caren Schwartz
Well I appreciate that, yeah, thank you so much for the opportunity to be on today but also for your friendship and all the things you do for the community as well. Because it’s it’s just so cool being part knowing you.

Dawn Brolin
Hey, same here, Karen, you’re a great friend and I do appreciate you so everybody, thank you so much for listening to this episode of the DM Disruption. One of my favorite people Karen Schwartz. Love her revolting Connecticut’s beautiful day today. You should be golfing today. Karen, you got this morning?

Caren Schwartz
No, I did not.

Dawn Brolin
Right. We need to pick another day this week. Get out there and golf because it’s gonna be a nice week. All right. Thanks again, Karen and everybody. We’ll talk to you next time on the designated motivator. DM disruption podcast. Thank you so much.

 

 

linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram