October is Financial Planning month. What better way to celebrate all things finances than to highlight some amazing people we have worked with over the years at New School of Finance? This October we will be shining our spotlight on some fab folks who have graciously answered questions about personal finance, business finance, and entrepreneurship.
First up, the amazing Avery Swartz. Avery is the Founder and CEO of Camp Tech.
New School of Finance (NS): Avery, thank you so much for answering some questions for us! First of all can you tell us about your company, Camp Tech?
Avery Swartz (AS): Camp Tech offers half- and full-day in-person workshops for adults who want to learn web and digital skills. We create a welcoming environment for those who are hesitant around technology and we emphasize skills that can be put into practice right away. At Camp Tech, we have a good time at our workshops.
Camp Tech was founded in August 2012. We facilitate approximately 250+ public workshops a year, and have provided on-site private training for organizations including CPA Chartered Professional Accountants Canada, Kobo, Canadian Living Magazine, Simon Fraser University, YMCA Canada, the City of Toronto, and the Library of Parliament.
Camp Tech is an incorporated business.
NS: What has been the most challenging part of owning your own business (financial or otherwise)?
AS: The most challenging (and most rewarding) part of owning my business is that there are no rules. I can learn from what other businesses have done in the past, and get advice from other business owners, but ultimately there is no playbook to follow. I am setting my own course. It’s terrifying and thrilling.
NS: What did you wish you knew about being a business owner before taking the plunge?
AS: I wish I had a solid understanding of business essentials, such as finance and legal. I didn’t take any business classes in school (I studied fine arts) so when I started I didn’t know the legal difference between a sole proprietorship or corporation. I also didn’t know how to generate a balance sheet, profit and loss statement, or a cash flow projection. I had to learn all that stuff on the fly.
NS: What has been the hardest financial lesson you’ve learned as a business owner?
AS: When you’re looking at your company’s financials, you have to go back and forth between looking at the small numbers (the day-to-day money that’s going in and out) and the big numbers (the month-over-month or quarter-over-quarter trends). About a year ago, I was too fixated on the small numbers and wasn’t watching the trend for a particular vertical. By the time I noticed, we were already a few months into a downward slope. I made a major organizational shift to change where we were headed, but I lost a couple months that could have been saved if I had made that change earlier.
NS: What has been the best financial decision you’ve made as a business owner?
AS: Honestly? Switching accountants. I had an accountant that I HATED working with, and for some reason thought I had to stay with because he handled my family accounting as well as my business accounting (I’m a Canadian / American dual citizen, so tax time can be complicated). One year I reached a breaking point and fired him outright. I thought, I’d rather work with anyone other than this guy. I asked for referrals and took the time to interview a few different people. I eventually found a fantastic accounting firm that could handle my company’s books as well as my personal cross-border tax filings, and didn’t make me feel miserable in the process. Now tax time is so much less of a hassle – I wish I had made the switch years earlier.
NS: Do you have any favourite money management tools?
AS: I like to keep things pretty simple. I use FreshBooks for bookkeeping and invoicing. Camp Tech staff have company credit cards, which makes reconciliation pretty straightforward. We also collect air points on our credit cards, and since we travel so much for our work, it helps to score free flights.
NS: What money management tips would you give to other entrepreneurs?
AS: Don’t outsource anything you don’t understand yourself. It’s fine to have a bookkeeper to help you stay on track of paperwork, but only if you’re managing them and frequently reviewing reports. I know too many entrepreneurs that have no idea how much money is going in or out of their business at any given time.
Even though it’s a massive time suck, I still do all of Camp Tech’s bookkeeping myself, so I can see exactly where the money is going. No money goes out of the company without me knowing about it.
NS: Thank you so much for your insights, Avery! To our amazing readers, make sure you check out Camp Tech by clicking on this link. If you’re on Twitter you can follow Avery and Camp Tech, like Camp Tech on Facebook, and follow Camp Tech on Instagram.
Are you a Canadian sole-proprietor? Check out our Sole Prop School. Run your business like a BOSS and make sure you’re up to snuff on all the important biz shiz. Click here to see the full course description.