- Missy Frederick
- Staff Reporter - Washington Business Journal
For the Big Four accounting firms or other major financial services players, straightforward bookkeeping for small companies might not seem professionally rewarding or worth the trouble — and Greg Jones is perfectly fine with that. “The CPA community sees it as a lower type of service, not as skilled as other things,” says Jones, CEO of Vienna-basedBookKeeping Express . “They see it as a loss leader.”
Jones sees it as an open door to national prominence in the financial services industry.
He bought the then-23-year-old California company in 2007 with two other partners,Bob Stocker and Merritt Green, converted it into a franchise model in mid-2008 and has now transformed it into a million-dollar business with 36 franchisees.
Accounting is admittedly a bit of a leap for Jones, who got his start in the telecommunications industry and then moved into the entrepreneurial world, buying and selling companies.
He had focused on franchise sales at Alexandria’s Fransmart Franchise Development Co., which grooms restaurant brands such as Five Guys and Elevation Burger. Jones and his partners were looking for an investment opportunity when they stumbled on one of the local licensees of BookKeeping Express.
“What turned me on was the growth scenario for the business,” Jones says. “It’s such a disjointed industry with thousands of these solos and independents running around, some of whom are skilled and a lot whom are not as skilled. And it’s not a business that ebbs and flows with the economy — it doesn’t go away.”
It’s also a business that can draw clients from just about any industry in the country. Indeed, BookKeeping Express doesn’t focus on any particular segment of the economy, but tends to serve companies with $200,000 to $5 million in revenue, Jones said.
Besides leading BookKeeping Express, Jones owns multiple Florida-based locations of Five Guys and continues to open new sites in that area.
Financial services franchises have much lower startup costs than restaurants do, he says. A BookKeeping Express location costs anywhere from $45,000 to $75,000, while restaurant franchises average several hundred thousand dollars.
Even such a traditional task like bookkeeping has had to evolve and adapt with new technologies.
BookKeeping Express is making the bean counting process more efficient for its clients by encouraging them, for example, to institute online banking or use cloud computing to better organize their data.
In the past, most people who signed up for a BookKeeping Express franchise came with a CPA or chief financial officer background, but Jones says that is becoming less of a given as well.
“We’re starting to see more of a well-rounded candidate,” he says. “Someone who’s run a business, or hired and fired people, and knows how to put a business development structure together.”
Despite the fact that bookkeeping is hardly the flashiest of businesses, the effort to turn it into a franchise option is drawing attention from the national business community.
Entrepreneur magazine named BookKeeping Express one of the fastest-growing franchises in its 2012 Franchise 500 list.
And Jones hopes the company’s growth intensifies with new partnerships he has inked, including one he arranged with Universal Accounting Center, a Salt Lake City-based financial training company, to help bulk up a franchisee’s tax and accounting skills.
In the next 24 months, Jones plans to team up with a tax filing group to provide that service directly to clients. BookKeeping Express, which has operations in 24 states, also intends to expand to Canada starting this summer.