As you know, when I meet someone interesting, impressive, or who has information my readers need to know, I feature them in success stories. This month’s success stories feature shares Ted Dubasik’s story, a top San Francisco CPA with over 20 years of accounting experience and know-how.

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Read on to learn how he built his business and how you can build yours on a financially solid basis.

Here’s Ted Dubasik, sounding off on everything from dollars and sense to work life balance:

1. Tell me a bit about yourself and your background. How did you get involved with bookkeeping? What is the philosophy behind your business?

I started my practice because I was witnessing the phenomenon of globalization first-hand at my job. Technology truly does make the world a smaller place, and with more innovative solutions the company I worked for was able to send a lot of work overseas to save money. And I didn’t mind any of this except for the fact that while technology was making the world “smaller”, it was also making our interactions less personal. Everything was done through IM, email, web meetings, video calls at 6am with people half a world away. There was very little personal interaction, and I didn’t like that.

I graduated from the University of Arizona in 1996 with a degree in accounting. From there I went on to work for a public accounting firm doing financial statement audits and I did that for just over three years. Then I went to work in the Financial Planning and Analysis department of one of our largest clients. I was there for over 10 years in various roles in both the finance and information technology departments.

One of the key philosophies behind my business is to deliver outstanding customer service by, in part, remaining personally available to my clients. I live and work in San Francisco and like to serve clients in the local area who I can see face-to-face.

2. How would you describe your services and what clients can expect?

My bookkeeping services aren’t unique per se, but clients can expect two things from me — highly personalized level of service and as much automation as possible. I do very little manual, paper-based work. I take advantage of technology like Quickbooks Online, Intuit Payroll, Dropbox,, etc., to streamline both the monthly accounting process and how my clients consume their financial information.

3. What makes Ted Dubasik CPA unique?

Not very many bookkeeping practices are run by a CPA. When you’re working with a CPA you’re working with someone who should have the experience to understand your business and can do more than simple data entry. I charge a premium over non-CPA’s, but my clients have the right to expect a higher level of service. I review their financial statements and anticipate questions and explain what’s going on with their numbers. I can also work directly with their tax preparer at the end of the year to make the process of preparing their return as easy as possible. I generally do not prepare many returns, but I can certainly speak the tax preparer’s language and answer their questions, often without the client having to get involved.

4. Talk about how you like to interact with the community and your role in San Francisco business community.

Perhaps it’s my nature as an accountant, but I’m a very practical person. My favorite activity in the business community is being a member of a group called SF Moderates (formerly Plan C) that advocates for quality of life issues in San Francisco –- affordable housing, better schools with a reasonable student assignment system, better parks, better public transportation, etc. Through this group I’ve met many like-minded individuals from various professions.

5. What does the future look like for you and your business? Any ideas for new projects or different services you’d like to add on?

At the moment I’m focused on expanding my client base with my existing services –- bookkeeping, financial statement preparation, and payroll. By this time next year I’d like to have a staff of 2-3 people managing the day-to-day activities so I can focus on client acquisition and client relationships.

6. What do you love most about San Francisco? What do you love most about running a bookkeeping service?

I love that San Francisco really is a “small” big city. It’s dense enough that you can walk almost anywhere you want to go, and if you’re connected to your neighborhood, there’s a good chance you’ll run into someone you know. San Franciscans like to compare our city to New York or Chicago, but there’s really no comparison in terms of size. Those cities are ten times larger. It’s nice to be in a smaller big city where you have access to all the great things that make an international city great, but without losing connection to your neighborhood.

I love that I’m able to make a living working with people who are doing something similar to myself –- that is, building a skill set and going out on their own to sell their skills, for the most part, locally. None of my clients are too worried about what’s going on in emerging markets or even in the next state. They’re focused on providing excellent service to people in the Bay Area.

7. Many people spend their days at their desks, in front of computers. Any tips for keeping your body healthy and feeling good when you’re at a desk all day?

First off, a good ergonomic setup is essential. Anyone who works at a desk all day should get an assessment done. Also I never sit at my desk for more than 45-50 minutes at a time. I get up for 5-10 minutes every hour to stretch, clear my eyes, get some water, or step outside for fresh air. I also work out almost every day and I vary what I do from heavy cardio to yoga to strength training so that I don’t feel like a slug after having been glued to a chair for 8 hours.

8. Who else is in involved in your business? Who is your team and who do you rely on?

I use an offshore company for some basic data entry in Quickbooks. I scan pdf files of client statements with sensitive information redacted and they enter transactions for me. I actually rely pretty heavily on my wife as well. She’s an excellent marketing professional and really helped me improve my presence on the web (see below for more details).

9. Give us the inside scoop: What are your top financial tips for small businesses?

Doing the following things is really important for any small business owner:

  • Accounting is a discipline like anything else. The more frequently you do it and the more correctly you do it, the better the information you’re going to get out of it. Letting things slip for weeks and months at a time is a recipe for disaster because it’s always harder to catch up than to do it right continuously.
  • Consult a business attorney to determine how to best structure your business and how to draw from it (i.e., pay yourself). Too many people wing it in this regard and it can create both tax and liability issues down the road.
  • Don’t try to take on too much yourself. It’s fine when you start out to want to do everything from marketing to IT to accounting to product development to customer relationships. In fact it’s good to learn how these things work. If you’re having a decent level of success however, over time you need to hire other people to do the things that aren’t core to your business. Either by hiring an outside firm to manage your accounting or your network or whatever, or if you’re really growing, by hiring employees. People who start businesses tend to be their own biggest obstacle to growth because they can’t let go of doing everything.
  • The regulatory environment is extremely complex. Hire a CPA and/or business attorney to help you with sales/use/property taxes, hiring employees, state and local business licenses, corporate filings, etc. You can only operate under the radar for so long before one of these things will come up and bite you if you ignore it too long.

If you get the above right, you will have a good foundation for growth and a personal sense of well-being because you’ll know you’re well-organized and following business best practices.

10. How do you use social media and online marketing in your business?

I have a website, I use LinkedIn, etc., but that’s not really enough. My website has been thought through relative to keywords that people use when searching for my services so that I appear as early as possible in organic search results. I manage Google AdWords advertising campaigns. I also maintain a Google Business page because that really helps with organic search results. I solicit reviews whenever I can, both on Google and Yelp. I advertise with Yelp because, for better or worse, that’s a service that people really give a lot of credibility to when they’re searching for a local business. I’ve tried blogging, Twitter, and having a Facebook business page but I haven’t found them to be as valuable as the other channels for the kind of work that I do.

11. What’s your best advice for up and coming businesses?

I already touched on it but it’s worth repeating –- get out of your own way. Focus on what you do that makes your business unique and successful and let qualified professionals handle the rest. Yes, it will cost more money to hire someone to manage your network or keep your books. But in the end it’s an investment in your business –- you’re good at whatever it is that you do, so focus on that and your business will grow.

12. What do you think is most important in life —- and business?

I spend my time thinking about and acting on what I can do to make change, and if I can’t make a change then I don’t expend too much mental energy worrying.

An equally important thing is to take vacations. People from other parts of the world have figured this out and they’re so much happier and healthier for it. A long weekend or even a week simply isn’t enough to recharge. At the beginning of every year plan to go somewhere for at least two weeks and while you’re gone leave your work behind. Be present and focus on the new place you’re in and the people around you –- family, friends, whatever.

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