Accountant & Bookkeeper Stories

Paperless bookkeeping for small businesses

7 min read

Born and bred entrepreneur Glennis Stuckey grew up around small business. Read how she became her own boss by starting a 100% paperless bookkeeping firm.

Glennis Stuckey is a born and bred entrepreneur. When she was young, her parents ran a number of small businesses – including a sewing shop, a fast food outlet, and a petrol station – and Glennis loved getting involved in them. Seeing the freedom her parents enjoyed, she wanted to be her own boss from a young age.  

After a decade of employed work, Glennis decided to chase this dream by starting a paperless bookkeeping business. She’s now the founder and director of Katalyst Office Management, a 100% paperless firm that strives to be at the forefront of technology and sustainability.

Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs

Glennis grew up in Tuakau, a small town of 4,000 people in the north of New Zealand. Her parents owned a number of small businesses there, and ever since she was a little girl Glennis liked to take part in them. She started working in a corner store when she was 13, and later helped out on her family’s milk delivery truck. She soon gave up after falling off the truck too many times, however.

Her mother also owned a small clothing store called Cactus Clothing. Glennis had a skateboarder friend who did screen printing, and he helped them put together a makeshift logo for the shop. “I couldn’t help out much with the store because I was at school, but I would often spend weekends there,” Glennis remembers. The store eventually shut down because they couldn’t source and stock clothes fast enough. It was also difficult operating in a town with such a limited customer base.

Learning the basics of bookkeeping at a petrol station

When Glennis was a teenager her parents started running a petrol station in Tuakau. Her mother did the books and her father mainly managed the forecourt and the customers. When Glennis was 21 her parents got divorced. She took over the bookkeeping duties for her mom to help keep the station running.  

She did all the books manually in an old double-sided ledger book – in those days it was far from paperless bookkeeping. “I’d sit there with a pencil and eraser doing the books by hand. Every now and then I’d lose track of 10 cents, and I’d have to recalculate everything from scratch. I think if my computer ever died now I’d still be able to operate,” she laughs.

Glennis Stuckey
Director of Katalyst Office Management

Lives in
Auckland, New Zealand

Specializes in
Paperless bookkeeping for small businesses

Before Katalyst
Various roles in the automotive field

Hobbies
Cars, boating with her family

 

A decade working in the automotive field

Glennis learned bookkeeping skills from her mother to help run the petrol station, but bookkeeping for small businesses wasn’t but her real interest – cars were. Working at the petrol station gave her a glimpse into the automotive world, and she wanted to work with cars more directly.

Glennis left the petrol station to pursue her dream job as a stock controller at Repco, a nation-wide car parts supplier. She excelled in the job and moved through various roles. During her three years with Repco she also helped oversee the opening of a new branch.

Wanting to further her career in the automotive field, Glennis left Repco to work at a Holden dealership. She remained there for six years before taking time off for maternity leave. But when she returned to the Holden dealership something was different – she missed the flexibility and freedom of working for herself. After over a decade of employed work, Glennis decided it was time to be her own boss.

Building networks and starting a paperless bookkeeping business

Glennis started doing bookkeeping work for her brother while she was at home looking after her daughter. With her brother Steven’s help, she started building a long term plan to create a 100% paperless bookkeeping business. “I always believe you should start with the end in mind. I had no intention of working from the kitchen table forever,” she says. “The plan was to start a business, and ultimately not have to go to work.”

Steven dragged Glennis along to a Business Networking International (BNI) meeting. BNI networking events allow people to connect with professionals from a variety of industries. Each week a member from a different profession gives a 60-second elevator pitch to market their business. For Glennis, this proved an interesting challenge.

“As a kid, I was pretty good at public speaking,” she says. “But as soon as I got to high school, I just lost it. I’d get up to do a speech and just turn red and start giggling. I’d often get kicked out of class because I was laughing too much,” she recalls. “Steven knew this, and the first time I gave a speech at BNI, he swapped my script – it just said how great Steven was.”

Before long Glennis formed a solid network of contacts. “As a bookkeeper, having access to a different type of profession every week was invaluable,” she says.  “It helped me understand a lot of the issues small business owners face. I saw what they needed and what they were going through in different industries.”

“As a bookkeeper, you’re not an employee – you’re a partner. If you see something wrong, you need to have the guts to say so.”

Hesitant beginnings and the pressure of business on relationships

When Glennis started her business she was reluctant to grow the practice. “I was too scared to hire staff at the time. I didn't know enough about payroll, even though I did payroll at the petrol station. It really held me back.”

She was also careful not to let the business impact her marriage. “After seeing my mom and dad break up, I’m pretty sensitive to how business can affect relationships,” she says. But this initial concern taught Glennis about the struggles of trying to grow a business. “I recognize the fears that small business owners face when trying to expand – and the pressure it can put on relationships.”

The close relationship between bookkeepers and clients

Bookkeepers are one of the few people closely involved with a business owner’s money, so it can be a very personal profession. “Money is a pretty private thing for most people. I’ve sometimes had to pat down clients to find their wallet to get hold of receipts,” Glennis laughs.

“Who were you with? What were you doing? Was it a client? Sometimes you feel like you’re sticking your nose in,” she says. “But that’s part of the job – you need that information. Your clients have given you permission to do that, and they know you’re doing it from a good place.”

Glennis also advises caution with clients that have let their finances fall apart. “It can be a serious issue dealing with the clean up if a business owner can’t afford to pay you. If you’ve already paid your own staff and taken care of your expenses, you can jeopardise your own business.”

“As a bookkeeper, you’re not an employee – you’re a partner. If you see something wrong, you need to have the guts to say so.”

Looking towards the future: the benefits of being your own boss

Being your own boss has its benefits, like controlling your schedule and defining your own goals. But Glennis admits she would like her business to one day run without her there. “If you have enough staff, you shouldn't have to be at work every day. But I believe you've got to have a leader in business – I don't think there’ll come a day when I’m not involved with my firm,” she says. “I would get bored if I stopped working entirely.”

Starting a business has had it’s share of challenges, Glennis says. But she’s happy knowing she’s on track to achieving her goals. “Business can be unforgiving sometimes. But you’ve got to remember the benefits of being your own boss. I just want to spend more time with my family. So the number one thing for me is more holidays!”