BookKeeping Express, the first U.S. franchise focused solely on bookkeeping services, recently announced the opening of its first office in Riverview, Fla. serving businesses throughout East Tampa Bay.
Dom Cirello, the franchise owner of the Riverview office, served in the United States Air Force from August 1985 to February 1998, attaining the rank of Captain. Thereafter, Dom spent the following years up until April of 2012 working as an IT project manager and business analyst for two telecommunications and software companies.
As part of the BookKeeping Express franchise model, Dom has the support of the BookKeeping Express Team Center to take care of any outsourced bookkeeping needs so he can focus his attention on his business and client consultation. This gives him the ability to grow his business without hiring additional employees.
Franchise Chatter (FC): What attracted you to the BookKeeping Express franchise opportunity?
Dom Cirello (DC): I had looked at several different franchise opportunities over the period of a year. I looked on my own and with the help of a coach. I obviously wanted something that would match my skills and abilities. I’m very analytical, and I’ve always been a problem-solver. BookKeeping Express was an opportunity that I didn’t expect to be such a good fit, but the more I found out about it, the more convinced I was that this was my future. In terms of initial investment, it was far more competitive than the other opportunities I looked at. This is a way for me to build the future I want with the tools that I have.
FC: Can you tell us about the different services that your BookKeeping Express franchise offers?
DC: We offer bookkeeping, accounting, and business analysis services that are tailored to our customers’ needs. We help our customers clean up their bookkeeping and get on a sound footing. We offer tailored reports and timely analysis so the business owner has accurate information to make sound business decisions. We also offer bookkeeping services to existing CPA firms as a supplier, and tailored services to franchisors so their financial reports from their franchisees are timely, accurate, and consistent. Through our affiliates, we can also offer payroll, merchant services, and expense analysis and reduction, so we really are a full-service partner for our customers.
FC: What are your day-to-day responsibilities as a new franchise owner of BookKeeping Express? How many employees do you have currently, and what do they do?
DC: Right now, I’m done with what I’d call the “set-up phase.” My job is now to build my business by executing my marketing and sales plan. I’m getting myself known, and getting the word out that I’m in the community and ready to work with business owners. It’s a full-time effort.
I have one employee right now, working part-time. He’s managing the day-to-day administration of the business and helping with the marketing efforts. I have plans to hire more as the company grows.
FC: What is your company’s competitive advantage over other bookkeeping service providers in your community?
DC: We’re a local company that leverages a Team Center that’s always there. Our Team Center has US-based bookkeepers and CPAs that are always focused on our customers’ needs. We don’t worry about dishonesty, sickness, vacations, or equipment failures. Our Team Center has procedural and technical checks and balances and state-of-the-art security to make sure our customers’ most precious information is handled with the care it deserves. We work with our customers to make sure their needs are met consistently. Other bookkeeping providers just can’t match the reliability and accountability we provide, while offering that same in-person commitment to a business owner.
FC: How do you plan to market your services to small business owners in the East Tampa Bay region?
DC: My strategy has several measurable courses of action. First is to get the name known. I want people to say, “BookKeeping Express? I’ve heard of them!” It involves advertising at the community level — newspapers, community circulars, and even sponsorships when appropriate. Second is to make business owners aware of what we can do for them through networking opportunities, social media, chambers of commerce, and avenues such as that. Finally, there are direct visits and sales calls to businesses in the area. I’m allocating time and resources to each course of action and I’m setting aside time to regularly assess and adjust the plan for success.
FC: How would you rate the training and support you received from head office during the pre-opening phase of your business?
DC: Excellent. They had training and familiarization in the corporate office, where they went through a number of scenarios and lessons learned, and allowed us to raise questions and issues particular to our individual franchises. They have a very good training plan, and a training provider that’s responsive and thorough.
FC: What was the most challenging part of the entire pre-opening process?
DC: Beyond a doubt, picking through all the available business insurance options was the most daunting task I had — it surprised me. There are more options out there than I was aware of, and you have to really read what you’re being given to know if the insurance actually meets your needs and the franchisor’s requirements.
You really have to be prepared, especially if you’re a startup like I am. You need to know the composition of your territory, and have some empirical data from other franchisees to project your sales in terms of dollars and capture rate. That’s if you want the right insurance.
Luckily, I got a good recommendation from a close friend who’s been through this and I’m happy with the policy my broker chose for me.
FC: What are your growth and performance targets for your BookKeeping Express franchise in 2012? What are your long-term goals for the business?
DC: I’ve established business capture and retention goals as a percentage of the total businesses in my current area. I’ve set sales goals based on some best-case/worst-case scenarios, which are some things I can check myself against. I should be at the point that I’m looking to hire additional help by the end of the year.
Long-term, I want to expand my business to the surrounding areas. I’ve got to meet my current short-term targets obviously, but I’ve always said, “you only hit as high as you aim,” and I want to be successful in this area of the state.
FC: What advice can you offer other military veterans who are looking into the BookKeeping Express franchise opportunity?
DC: Don’t let anyone convince you that your experience and skills don’t count. Nobody in the BookKeeping Express franchisor office will tell you that, I can promise you. One of the biggest buildings on a military base is usually Accounting and Finance, so surely there are plenty of veterans who have direct experience in managing finances. Many veterans have direct experience managing contracts, projects, research efforts, and all those jobs require managing finances and error-free record-keeping.
Just as important, though, is the need to gain and keep your customers’ trust and to be thought of as a trusted team member. After all, you are taking responsibility for one of the most important parts of that customer’s life. I can’t think of anyone who values “trust” and “team” more than someone who’s been in the military. This is an excellent opportunity for any veteran with the drive and desire to become a business owner.
FC: Is there anything else you wish to share about your BookKeeping Express franchise?
DC: I’m here and ready to help the businesses in the East Tampa Bay area succeed like they never have before. You can contact me at 877 22 23 BKE (877-222-3253) or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit http://easttampa.bookkeepingexpress.com/.