BST & Co. has seen major growth in its 100% virtual accounting division in the last two years, building on a trend of small businesses outsourcing some or most of their accounting services.
Kristen D. Berdar, a partner with BST, started the Virtual Accounting Solutions division five years ago.
"I started looking at all of our tax clients and I said to Ron [Guzior] in the partner group, we bill clients tons of money to fix things," Berdar said. "It's really not a good use of their money. I want it to come in and have the client spend money to get relevant information that was pertinent to them running their business. And that actually had value to them."
The Virtual Accounting Solutions division has grown to 10 employees, 20 clients and is expecting over $1 million in revenues this year. A big chunk of the growth was this year, with revenues up 60%.
Her first client for the new division was Colorize, the Benjamin Moore paint store owned by Mike Coffey.
"They were our test guinea pig with the processes. I took my time. I evaluated technology. When I started, CFO for Hire wasn't under our roof yet. We brought that in to complement this, but I wanted this to be 100% cloud-based," Berdar said. "I wanted to be able to be anywhere to service our clients. I personally wanted the flexibility, but also for the clients. I didn't want to limit myself geographically by having to be at a client on Monday or at different clients on Tuesday."
Coffey was able to connect Berdar with the Benjamin Moore home office, and now Benjamin Moore stores in several states use the service.
Her current client list includes a range of major brands and companies throughout New York state, as well as nonprofits, museums, local municipalities, and professional service firms in six states.
Berdar said recent staffing shortages have propelled some of the growth, but much of it was happening before the Covid pandemic too — acceptance into accounting programs at colleges is down 40%, posing a long-term problem for the industry and for small businesses.
"I didn't want to trade my 400 tax clients for 400 outsourcing clients. I want the growth to be very managed," Berdar said. "We're really replacing bookkeepers, accountants, CFOs and we can scale from being just the controller level or the CFO level to being an entire back-office accounting department, depending on the size of the business. We have clients that pay us $1,000 a month. We have clients that pay us $12,000 a month."