Getting the Business Balance Right with Heather Zeitzwolfe, CPA
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Heather Zeitzwolfe is not your Dad’s accountant (unless your Dad’s accountant has funky-colored hair, transforms tofu into delicious desserts, and geeks out on writing sketch comedy)! In this fun and informational episode, Caterina welcomes Heather, the vegan CPA. The two discuss Heather’s entrepreneurial journey and how she came to embrace her authentic self as a new business owner in her fifties. Oh – and they share some great super tips for managing your business finances, too! Listen, learn, and get inspired.
I’m a creative, empathic nerd who enjoys numbers. I help my clients understand their finances so that they can make empowered decisions in their business. My approach is non-judgemental and shame-free approach. Through my coaching I offer my clients accountability, support and honest feedback.
I’m not your Dad’s accountant (Unless your dad’s accountant has funky colored hair, transforms tofu into delicious desserts and geeks out on writing sketch comedy)! I’m here to get down and dirty in your numbers. I want you to understand your financials so that you can take your business to the next level. I work with creative small business owners helping them get a handle on their cash flow, increase their profitability, and forecast the future. But it’s not all about profit, I help clients with a holistic approach to business that focuses on people, planet and purpose. I believe as business owners it is our duty to make choices on how it will impact our planet and society. Want to join me in this (peaceful) revolution?
I’m a total geek who loves creating spreadsheets, watching cult movies, and in my past life I must have been a drag queen. l am passionate about learning, growing and challenging myself and helping my clients do the same. I get really excited about data, organizing processes and exploring new technology. But…I also like to get super crazy on the dance floor and bust a move. My passions include, cooking amazing plant-based foods, standing up for animal rights (this includes humans), and hosting my podcast.
– Heather Zeitzwolfe
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Expand Your Fempire Podcast #64 Transcript
Getting the Business Balance Right with Heather Zeitzwolfe, CPA
Welcome to Expand your Fempire with Caterina Rando, the podcast for women in business on a mission. Sharing ideas to support you to grow and thrive. Now here’s your host, Caterina Rando.
[00:00:25] Caterina Rando: Welcome to another episode of the Expand Your Fempire podcast. I am your host Caterina Rando, and I am blissing to be with you today because we have the most dynamic, uplifting, super-smart guest, Heather Zeitzwolfe.
[00:00:47] And today she and I are going to talk about her entrepreneurial journey. We’re going to give you some super tips for managing the finances of your business and let’s see what else we explore.
[00:01:01] Hi Heather. So happy to be with you.
[00:01:03] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Caterina, I am so excited to be with you and you have put “Bing, Bing, Bing” into my vocabulary.
[00:01:10] Caterina Rando: I love it. Now, my friend, you are a CPA. You are a podcaster. You are running groups for women, all kinds of things. I know you’ve done some other amazing things.
[00:01:22] I want to hear a little bit about how you got from fabulous gal to fabulous entrepreneur. Tell me a little bit about your journey.
[00:01:32] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Sure. Thank you for asking. So Caterina, I am in my fifties and I started my entrepreneurial journey in my fifties. So I’m kind of new to entrepreneurship. It’s one of those things that I always wanted to have my own business, but I was kind of afraid to do it because it can be kind of risky.
[00:01:49] I’m an accountant, I’m not a risk-taker, right? But I haven’t always been an accountant. I’ll back up and just say that my entrepreneurial journey probably started when I was a child, because I used to put on puppet shows and sell season tickets to my parents. They were my repeat customers. And I would also decorate soap and dip it into wax and put little decorations on them and go around my neighborhood and sell the soap so I could buy Smurf dolls.
[00:02:18] So I did start my entrepreneurial journey early, but then put it on hold for a lot of years. So I went to design school. I studied fashion design and worked in that in New York.
[00:02:30] And then I worked in theater and then I was like, I’m going to study business. So I went back to school and I got a degree in business in the area of marketing and advertising. Worked in market research for years as a project manager.
[00:02:44] Then I was laid off like a lot of people during that big recession. And I was at a crossroads and thought, do I want to go to law school? Eh, kind of expensive. So I went back to the school of business where I studied and I was like, “what can I study here?” I loved my accounting classes and they were like, “well, you could get a degree in accounting pretty quickly because you already have a degree in business.”
[00:03:06] So I just took the classes that I needed because I was like, this seems like the perfect fit for me because I love numbers. I’m a geek. I love spreadsheets. Like that stuff makes me excited. And my family was like, what the heck? You’re a creative person. What are you doing, doing this? But I think that’s one of the reasons why I love working with creatives in this field is because I have that creative side to me.
[00:03:30] So then in my fifties, I was like, “what am I going to do? I’m tired of working for the man.” And I decided I’m going to do it. I’m going to start my own business.
[00:03:40] Caterina Rando: Yay! Bing, bing, bing. Now, Heather, for those people that are listening, that they can’t see you. You have pink hair. You have a psychedelic background. I have seen you with green hair. I’ve seen you with orange hair. You are definitely not your average accountant.
[00:03:56] I want to talk with you a little bit because I feel this is very important for everybody. You have done a great job of being yourself in your business and particularly in an area that we would say most professional accounts are a little bit buttoned-up, right?
[00:04:17] I don’t mean, well, let’s see, what do I mean? I mean that they are more traditional in their dress. They’re more traditional in how they run their business. They’re more traditional in the communication of their business and you have gone completely opposite direction. You appear more like a happy punk rocker. I don’t know if that’s oxymoron, but I happy punk rocker than a accountant. And that’s great because that’s your authentic brand.
[00:04:49] Heather, was that a conscious decision? Say a little bit about your personal brand that You have so well curated.
[00:04:58] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Oh wow. So this was a journey. I started my business a couple of years ago and I started with no clients. So I was starting from scratch. So I was just kind of reaching out to my network and those were people that knew me. I’ve been in comedy so I’ve reached out to a lot of comedic people, improv people.
[00:05:15] And then I’m an activist. I’m a vegan activist so I reached out to my vegan committee. And I also do Toastmasters so I reached out to that community. And I love to network so I had a lot of people to outreach to, but not all of them needed my help, you know? So you can’t always just rely on the people that you know, to be your clients. You have to go beyond that.
[00:05:36] So I decided I’m going to be more conservative with how I appear, because I want people to know that I am a professional and you know, when you have pink hair, some people just don’t take you seriously. But I needed to get clients. So I made my website very clean and didn’t have really any pictures of myself.
[00:05:55] And when I did have a picture, it was more on the conservative side. And so I did all these things and then I rebranded again when I was going to go after creatives. And I had like a hiker on a mountain top, and all these things on my website that exemplified like crossing… it was all metaphors, right? It wasn’t me.
[00:06:13] And one of my clients, who’s a creative said, “Why don’t you have pictures of yourself on your website? Why don’t you feature the fact that you have colored hair and all these things?” Because she had been a client of mine, had no idea that I look like this until we did a Zoom call. Everything we did was via phone call or email. And when she saw me, she’s like, “you look completely different than I expected.” And it was a good thing.
[00:06:35] So because of what she said, I leaned into that more, and from there, that’s when my business actually took off more. Because people are like, “wow, you’re different from the regular accountant.”
[00:06:47] Accountants can have a stereotype of being boring, hard to understand, just kind of like makes you feel uncomfortable, all these different things that people think of when they think of accountant. And nothing bad against our industry, there’s a lot of really cool people that are accountants. It’s just that stereotype that’s out there.
[00:07:06] So once I leaned into it, I was like, “I’m leaning into it a hundred percent.” And that’s what I did.
[00:07:12] Caterina Rando: And how has that been for you? I know it’s been good for your business, but I’m wondering how it’s been for you to fully be yourself in your business?
[00:07:23] Heather Zeitzwolfe: It feels great because I’m one of those people that have always been different. I’ve always put myself out there. And to me, it makes me feel more at ease, more authentic with people. Like in the beginning I had a brick and mortar, and so I would put on my suit and meet people and, you know, look very professional.
[00:07:40] I’ve got a closet full of suits I could be wearing, but right now I’m wearing a t-shirt of course I’m going through menopause. So it feels much better to be in a t-shirt than in a suit. But it just, I feel more at ease talking with people when I get to be myself. And then I was able to “great, I can dye my hair again. This is really great.”
[00:07:58] So in the past, when I’ve worked places, I’ve always had to be like the conservative Heather walking into the job. And then little by little, piece by piece, I get to bring up my authentic self with the colored hair and all my weird clothes and all that kind of stuff.
[00:08:12] So I’m used to having to prove myself first. And I kind of did that in my business, but it’s so much better being able to be myself.
[00:08:19] Caterina Rando: Heather do you think that if you had started your business in your twenties or thirties or forties, that you would have embraced your authenticity the same way you have in your fifties?
[00:08:32] Heather Zeitzwolfe: You know, I’m not sure about that. I think it would have been more difficult. I talked about this on my podcast. When I went to business school, I was a goth at the time and I got rid of a lot of my goth clothes because people kind of were looking down on me at school and stuff. So I got rid of all of that and then started buying clothes from the Gap and J crew.
[00:08:53] And that stuff never really felt right to me. It was just, that wasn’t authentic. And eventually, I kind of got out of that and went back to who I really was. It’s almost like putting on some kind of costume, like, it just didn’t feel right. And in fact, when I do put on my suits, I call it, I have to put on my costume.
[00:09:11] Caterina Rando: I love that, heather, I love that. My friend let’s talk a little bit. You mentioned that you’re a vegan activist. And I’m not a cento per cento vegan so I don’t think I meet the qualifications, but I’m mostly vegan. And I want to ask you, what does it mean to be a vegan activist? And what do you do and say a little bit about it.
[00:09:34] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Yeah. Thank you for asking. So a vegan activist, you can do things on all different levels. You can be out there doing direct action. You can be out on the streets. You could be handing out leaflets. I’ve done all of that kind of stuff. In fact, I used to be part of the radical cheerleaders for animal rights.
[00:09:51] And we would go to protests and we would do cheers. We had pom-poms and we dress in red and black. And we’d get out there and do cheers about very serious things about saving the animals. But because we look cute and we were cheering, we were entertaining, people would stop and listen to us. You know, oftentimes if you go to a protest, people are just screaming and yelling and people walking by are just like, “ah, let me get away from this.”
[00:10:17] But when we came out and did our cheers people would stop and listen. And so it’s a great way of getting your message across to do radical cheerleading. We didn’t invent it, it’s been around since the nineties, I think it started in the nineties. And I just love it because it’s a peaceful way to protest and you can get your message across without…You know, we never got pepper-sprayed or anything like that.
[00:10:38] And now I don’t do direct action like that, or radical cheerleading anymore. Although if there are people out there that are interested in that, please contact me I would love to help you out. But now most of my activism is either through like social media or what I love most is to cook for people.
[00:10:56] And that is how I convert people into vegans. I give them my delicious food.
[00:11:04] Caterina Rando: My friend, I did not know that. Okay. Well, I’m going to make a trip to Oregon and will you be so kind as to cook me a fabulous vegan meal?
[00:11:13] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Of course! Yes, of course!
[00:11:15] Caterina Rando: The truth is there is not too far place that I wouldn’t go for a good home-cooked meal made with love, and I’m sure that’s what I would get at your house, my friend. Bing bing. I’m going to put that on my list. How exciting!
[00:11:30] Okay, good. So Heather, I love what you’ve shared about yourself, your activism. I love the radical cheerleading. That is so great. I have a question.
[00:11:42] Let’s talk to our listeners about their numbers. You’ve been working with a lot of people, a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of creative types. They may not be as number centric as yourself.
[00:11:56] What are some challenges that you’ve seen that we want to support them with and give them some solutions?
[00:12:04] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Well Caterina, you often talk about following your passion. So a lot of these people that go into entrepreneurship, they’re following their passion. They’re doing something that they love. They may not love bookkeeping.
[00:12:16] So one of the things that I would say is hire a bookkeeper if you don’t like that kind of stuff. Like get that off your plate because you need to concentrate on your business.
[00:12:24] But before you even get to that part of it, you really need to treat your business like a business. It’s not a hobby, it’s a business.
[00:12:32] So make sure that you do all the things like follow the tax rules wherever you live. Don’t commingle your funds. This is one that drives me crazy. People start a business and they just put things on their own credit card. And then before they know it, they’re using their debit card and then it’s all just intermingled. And they’re like, “oh, I don’t… oh, maybe this was for business. I don’t even know.”
[00:12:54] So, start a business, go to the bank, get a bank account, and a credit card for your business. And just stick with that. Try not to commingle. This drives me nuts.
[00:13:05] Caterina Rando: My friend, I want to say one of the things I’m very big on, also I totally agree, is having a personal relationship with your banker. Because your banker is an important part of your success team. There are lots of community banks that are good places to go. Even credit unions are very good. They have a lot of services to support you.
[00:13:27] Because over the years, I have had a fabulous community bank that I bank at, Western Alliance bank. They have caught checks that were fraudulent for me, a big check, somebody washed one of my checks. It was like a $13,000 check. And fortunately my bank caught it. They asked me if I had made this check and they’ve done that a few times. Sometimes if I have an unexpected size check, they always call me to confirm.
[00:13:58] That’s what I love because they’re watching my financial fanny in business. And this is something I want to strongly encourage people to have their attention on. What are your thoughts?
[00:14:09] Heather Zeitzwolfe: I totally agree. And one of the things that came out during COVID was we had the Cares Act and there were loans that came out, that if you had a relationship with your banker, they actually reached out and said, “Hey, you might qualify for this.” Where other people, I would ask my other clients, I’d say, “Hey, did your bank reach out to you?” And they’re like, “no, really?”
[00:14:32] Caterina Rando: That’s a great example, Heather. So this is very, very important. And the other thing is that I want to encourage everyone to get a line of credit with your bank, because that’s another safety net for your business. What are your thoughts, Heather?
[00:14:47] Heather Zeitzwolfe: I think so too. I think getting a line of credit is pretty important, but I think also very important is to have an emergency fund. Because COVID showed us that you need to have money in the bank.
[00:14:59] Being an entrepreneur. It has a lot of flexibility. There’s a lot of great things about it, but it’s not a steady paycheck unless you have recurring income. But even that can go away during something like COVID. You just never know. So I advise people to have at least one year of expenses saved in the bank. That is a lot of money.
[00:15:18] So if you can’t do that… Caterina, you probably have a lot of expenses so that’s probably like “what in the world?” but start small.
[00:15:26] Caterina Rando: My friend. Yeah. I have surplus. I’m working on getting to three months and I’m not quite at three months. Once we get there, then we’re going to work on six months. You just did blow me away when you said a year.
[00:15:37] But the truth is that’s a good idea. Either between your emergency fund and your line of credit, maybe, to have a year and move towards a year of operating expenses. Okay. That’s a good goal. I’m going to work on that.
[00:15:52] Heather Zeitzwolfe: So when you want to put together an emergency fund and you’re thinking one year seems daunting, just start with one month. And then go to three months. And then go to six months. And then eventually a year, if you can do that.
[00:16:05] And it might mean that you have to cut down on some expenses, but that leads me to the other thing I wanted to talk about when following your passion is you have to make a profit. This is like an important thing that I think a lot of entrepreneurs forget about. Do you find this Caterina, that some people don’t pay themselves?
[00:16:23] Caterina Rando: Well, let me tell the truth. These days I pay myself. There have been periods in the past where I haven’t paid myself for there were some challenges. And my belief is that you always underpromise and over-deliver. Never would ever want to promise and not deliver what I promised.
[00:16:46] And yes, there were some lean times. And that’s because at the time, Heather, I liked to put more attention on sales than on the financial management. Because I’d say, “okay, we need more money, let’s go sell something” as opposed to really mastering my numbers and looking at them daily and looking at the profit and loss and meeting with my bookkeeper monthly.
[00:17:11] It’s very important that you have a bookkeeper that you can meet with on a regular basis. That is a good communicator, that is I’ll call her, like a partner in your business. These days I have a great bookkeeper. We meet every month. We go over everything. We make sure everything’s in the right place.
[00:17:30] And in the earlier years, I wasn’t doing that. I was just focusing on the sales and of course delivering. That’s not enough when you’re a CEO. You have to also master your numbers, know your numbers.
[00:17:45] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Yeah, a lot of people, what they’ll do is- they don’t really pay attention to what’s going on in the books. Maybe they don’t even have a bookkeeper to rely on. They’re just looking at their bank statements and they’ll go to an ATM and look at their bank balance. That’s not a good indicator of how much money that you have in your business, because that money could be gone in an instant if you have to run payroll, pay the rent or whatever. It could be in and out very quickly.
[00:18:08] So, having a bookkeeper is great because this person is sort of in the weeds in your business and can see all the things that are happening, the income coming in, all the different expenses, and they really have a handle on “oh, what is this recurring expense? It seems really high.” it makes them think like, “wait a minute, is this really needed? Or what is this? Wait, what was this other expense?”
[00:18:29] And you can find mistakes. I mean, that does happen too. You were talking about it with your bank. You can find mistakes that the bank makes as well.
[00:18:36] So you really want to be concentrated on that. Not only just for that kind of nuts and bolts thing, but also to be able to make real decisions in your business.
[00:18:44] Because, if you’re not looking at the numbers, the numbers tell a story. They don’t tell the entire story, but they do tell somewhat of a story that you can see. Like, okay, maybe your pricing is off, or maybe you need to go after more sales or maybe you have to cut down on expenses.
[00:19:00] There’s all kinds of things that you can look at, levers that you can pull in your business, just by looking at the numbers.
[00:19:07] Caterina Rando: And it’s important to do that on a consistent basis. Heather, I know that you are an accountant. Does your company also offer bookkeeping?
[00:19:16] Heather Zeitzwolfe: I do. Yeah. I offer quarterly and monthly bookkeeping services. And if people are interested in that, we’ll have links in the show notes and they can contact me about that.
[00:19:26] I like to work with my clients all year long. At first, when I first started the business, it was, you know, it was doing a lot of tax work and seeing people come to me for the first time and then they go away and, you know, you do their taxes.
[00:19:39] And then it’s like, “well, wait a minute. I could be doing so much more for these people.” And I really felt like I want to have more hands-on. So I do offer like ongoing services. I do profit advising, money coaching, and then bookkeeping as well. So things that can help people throughout the year, because if you’re just waiting until tax time to scramble everything together, that’s just too late.
[00:20:02] That’s after the fact you can’t make any good decisions after the fact, you know? So that’s why I like to be more hands-on with my clients.
[00:20:10] Caterina Rando: I love that Heather. You know, it is very important to have a good ongoing relationship with someone that is an expert around finances. I’m so happy that you’re offering that service for your clients.
[00:20:23] Because one of the things that I’ve seen during the pandemic is yes, I’m not spending as much money on gas and also I used to spend tons of money at Office Depot on printing for all of our events and workshops. Now those expenses have gone way down, but then my postage has skyrocketed and because we’ve had more success, I’ve spent more money on graphic design. That’s also gone way up. And also we’ve expanded our team.
[00:20:56] And it’s important to be having awareness for where are things going up? Where are they going down? What do I need to have more surplus? As you’re saying, I call it surplus. You call it the emergency fund to make sure you’re going to be okay. Because one of the things that I’ve seen these days, having more surplus is that I’m experiencing financial ease. And it is such a better place, Heather than some years where I was experiencing financial stress.
[00:21:28] Financial stress is not good for you or your business or your clients or your life. I want to remind everybody, we want our business to be our bliss, right? And this is part of what’s going to help us with that.
[00:21:42] Heather, let’s give a couple more super tips or insights or guiding principles you want everyone to be embracing around the numbers in their business.
[00:21:51] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Sure. Well, you just kind of hit on one, which would be to have as much recurring revenue as possible. So you can make it as predictable as possible. Because you know, with entrepreneurs, we may do freelance work. I mean, it runs the gamut of the type of work. But it could be dry times and then times where you’re really super busy. But if you can have things that are more dependable each month, I would advise on that.
[00:22:14] The other is you have to pay taxes. The money that comes in is not all yours. So you’ve got to keep that in mind. And depending on where you live, you may have local tax, which people seem to forget there could be local tax. So there’s state, local, depending on the type of business you have, you might have to have sales tax.
[00:22:31] There might be other types of taxes. So just be aware of where your business is at, what type of taxes that you might have to pay. And if you have employees in another state, that could cause you to have what’s called nexus in that state, and then you may have to pay taxes in that state.
[00:22:49] So be aware of all the different taxes that you might get hit with and just be prepared for that and put money either aside for that or pay ahead or pay estimated taxes, do all those things.
[00:23:00] Caterina Rando: Heather, you have a lifetime supply of value to bring. You bring it with so much positivity and smarts.
[00:23:09] How can everyone get in touch with you? And also let’s tell them what’s next for you.
[00:23:15] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Great, thank you. Well, because my last name is Zeitwolfe and it’s difficult to spell. You can find me on LinkTree at Get the Balance Right. So that’s the name of my podcast, Get the Balance Right. And they’ll be links to my accounting business, which is called Zeitzwolfe Accounting. And then also my podcast Get the Balance Right.. And a bunch of workshops and things that I’ve got going on.
[00:23:40] I am starting this new thing for ladies. It’ll be on the fourth Monday of every month and it’s called the Money Mayhem Makeover.
[00:23:50] It’s going to be part networking and I know networking can be kind of uncomfortable for some ladies, so this’ll be no stress networking. We’ll also have a financial piece to it. So it’ll have some super tips. And there’ll be a little bit of masterminding. And because it’s a make-over, we’re going to have makeup tips as well.
[00:24:10] So the first one is going to be at the end of the month, and we’re going to have a person that is a professional in the makeup industry and she’s going to give you some super tips. So I’ve got that coming up…
[00:24:20] Caterina Rando: Count me in. Gotta get it on my calendar.
[00:24:23] Heather Zeitzwolfe: Okay, cool.
[00:24:23] Caterina Rando: Bing, bing, bing, wonderful. Heather, you have so much value. I am so blissing to have you here. By the way, Heather is coming with us on our Bliss Retreat coming up in January. If you’d like to meet her live and in person, we do have space for you.
[00:24:41] I met Heather when I was a guest on her podcast. She has a great podcast. Make sure that you listen to Get the Balance Right, her podcast, to learn more.
[00:24:54] Heather, any final thoughts for our listeners today?
[00:24:56] Yes! Follow Caterina’s advice and keep with your passion.
[00:25:01] When I was working in my business, there was aspects of it that I wasn’t really enjoying. And when I met Caterina, she kept saying, “follow your passion, find passion in your business.” And so I let go of some of the stuff I was doing because I just wasn’t finding any passion in it. So now I’m really following my passion. So that would be number one.
[00:25:20] Another thing is get on Clubhouse. This is a great way to connect with people. So if you’ve never been on Clubhouse before, try it out. Caterina has got a room and there’s other great places to meet up with other entrepreneurs on Clubhouse. So try it if you haven’t done that yet.
[00:25:37] Caterina Rando: Heather, great advice. I love hanging out with you on Clubhouse. My friends join us on Fridays at 5:00 PM pacific, 8:00 PM eastern for our weekly wrap-up. Heather is often there co-modding. Also, we have other rooms in our club.
[00:25:55] Listen to Heather’s podcast. By the way, there’s many more episodes of this podcast if you haven’t listened to it as well. Download our, Expand Your Fempire app as well. And very important, go to CaterinaRando.com/links. You will see a lot of free resources and of course our upcoming events that we would love to have you at.
[00:26:19] Remember you have massive value to bring. There is a lifetime supply of people to serve. Be yourself. Do your thing. Serve your people. Pay attention to your numbers because we want you to massively monetize your mastery and bliss in your business.
[00:26:40] Talk to you next time. Bing, bing, bing.
We hope you enjoyed this episode of Expand Your Fempire with Caterina Rando.