Personal Brand Series: Zoe Whitman is the Millennial Bookkeeper

The growing tribe of  heart-centered entrepreneurs:  

guys, dust off your suits because there’s a new breed of businesswoman in town! They can be best described as heart-centered entrepreneurs and they care deeply about the impact they’re making on their clients' lives.

Today we get to meet an accountant who turns a page in her industry by making bookkeeping accessible and transparent to creative sorts who might otherwise run a mile if you mention any kind of numbers. 

Zoe can be best described as the Millennial Bookkeeper. Whilst she’s got the corporate background and runs highly methodical, organised and efficient business systems (she’s an accountant after all!) she’s not subscribed to hierarchies and empty formalities.

She serves the creative community of Bristol, the artists and makers ensuring they build their businesses onto solid foundations and clears up any confusion they might have along the way. Zoe’s personal brand is through and through contemporary and her business was created out of a wish to serve people. Like many other heart-centered entrepreneurs, there’s a real story behind her business:

“The single event which really gave me the push to start But the Books was a chance encounter with a barista-slash-wannabe-violin-teacher.

I'd been working as an accountant in large organisations for over 15 years and whenever friends and family asked me to do their tax returns I always declined. 

Until one day, when I got talking to a barista who told me he was afraid to start his own business because he didn't know anything about doing a tax return. I decided to start But the Books to offer bookkeeping services to business owners running startups and side projects as a way to remove some of the stress and mystery from the numbers side of business - and hoping that I can help someone like that barista get started.”

Read below what Zoe has to say about personal brand...

Zoe works with heart-centered entrepreneurs running startups and side-projects... who know how to do EVERYTHING for their businesses... BUT THE BOOKS, offering bookkeeping services which include recording monthly transactions, preparing tax returns and setting up accounting systems.

Question 1: What's the one thing that you excel at, that you do better than anyone else?

There's a huge creative industry here in Bristol, and many of my clients are designers and makers.

Often, my clients will be the first to admit that they don't have a head for figures or that they don't know where to start. I want to lift the weight of these feelings from my clients' shoulders, and to do so, it's so important that I explain things in a clear way.

I'm proud to say that the feedback I receive demonstrates that I excel at explaining finances in a way my clients understand and that I give them a great sense of relief in that respect. 

Question 2:List the three most important principles you live by

Stay organised

It's boring, and probably quite predictable for an accountant to say this, but to deal with the various deadlines of the tax year and of my clients, I need to be hugely organised at all times. I carry that through to my personal life where I have lists for everything! 

Be friendly

There's no point not being helpful and friendly. I always like to talk to my clients about how their businesses are going, and about the important things in their personal lives too. If you have a good relationship with somebody - whether they're your client, you're their client, or they're your boss or co-worker, it's so much easier to pick up the phone when you have a problem or question.

Always have cake at home

We have a never ending supply of Millionaire's Shortbread in our fridge. A cup of tea and a piece of cake can give you a lift after even the busiest day. 

Question 3:Do you keep hearing the same compliment? What is it?

Without question, the compliment I hear the most is that I've explained things in a simple way, helping my client make sense of something they previously had trouble understanding.

I think finance has a reputation for being difficult and inaccessible, making it daunting for so many people. The truth is, there aren't any big secrets. Sometimes things get technical, but business owners need to understand the numbers behind their businesses and it's so important to find a way to explain to them which makes sense. 

Question 4:Why do people seek you out?

There are two reasons people seek me out. As a small business owner myself, I absolutely understand the issues and pressures other entrepreneurs are facing, but I also have a lot of experience of working as an accountant in a diverse range of big businesses.

My corporate experience gives me the edge, I understand how big business works and I'm great at putting systems and processes in place which are efficient and which will see a business through way beyond being a spare-bedroom-startup.

Question 5:List three words that describe you, how do people introduce you?

When people introduce me as an accountant, they say I'm knowledgeable, methodical and prompt which are exactly the things you'd like to hear when you're introduced to an accountant.

When my profession isn't important, people are likely to say I'm friendly, creative, and a little bit quirky. 

Question 6: What's the secret sauce you add to your working life?

In all I do, I aim to build great relationships with my clients because it's absolutely essential to me that my clients see me as approachable. I want them to feel they can pick up the phone to me at any time.

I do hear of bookkeepers and accountants who only get in touch with their clients when it's tax return season, but I want to be part of my clients' journeys and I think it's so important for them to see me as being there for them and their businesses throughout the financial year. 

Question 7: What makes your heart beat faster? What gives you energy?

I absolutely love hearing about people's start up ideas - I even have several of my own. Before I started But the Books, I noticed that so many people I met had great business ideas but for one reason or another weren't confident to make them happen and that's why I decided to focus on working with startups when I started the business.

If my clients believe in their ideas, I do too and I want them to succeed as much as they do. If I've got any ideas or tips which I think will help, I'll always share them with my clients. One of my clients even told me I was more of a life coach than a bookkeeper, and it's because I believe she has a great business idea and model. I hate to think that somebody wouldn't follow their dream just because of fear of doing a tax return and helping my clients get their startup started or the side-project off the sidelines is just what I want to do. 



To find out more about Zoe, and see a refreshing financial services website go to ButTheBooks.co.uk if you want to find out if she's really one of the heart-centered entrepreneurs I said she is you can arrange an informal chat with her to see if she can help you.