MadParkNews caught up with Mark Gilbert, a long-time entrepreneur who set up Mark’s Bookkeeping Service (19 West 21st Street between 5th and 6th Avenues), one of New York City’s oldest and largest private bookkeeping firms, in the Flatiron over a decade ago.
MPN: So when did you get started in bookkeeping and how has the growth trajectory gone?
Mark Gilbert: I have had a long career as an entrepreneur, starting as an optician on the west coast. When I came back to New York I would have had to re-license, so I looked for something new. I met someone in the 1970’s with a startup printing business, and ended up buying him out and running that printing business for 25 years. I even used one of the first bookkeeping software systems back in 1981 called DacEasy. I eventually sold the printing business and took some time off, with stops at Burning Man and a a cruise up the Nile. In 1999, I re-invented my career yet again this time as a bookkeeper. On my second day in business my banker called me and asked me to come in- he had a client to refer to me that needed 20 hours a week of bookkeeping. So I was in the black on day 2! Now we are up to 100 clients and a 17 person staff.
MPN: What is your typical client type?
Mark Gilbert: We have retail, jewelry shops, restaurants, lawyers, architects, not-for-profits, and of course internet startups.
MPN: What tips would you suggest to a startup that’s just getting going with regard to bookkeeping?
Mark Gilbert: Come to try a free consultation to make sure that what you are doing, or what you intend on doing, is correct. There is a lot we can help you with up front and it is much more costly to clean something up later than to get a little info at the beginning with regard to things like Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), understanding deductions, how to properly document restaurant or travel expenses, and a lot more.
MPN: Any particular software system that you would suggest a company use or start out with?
Mark Gilbert: We can work with any system, but typically we see QuickBooks. Even the Mac version of Quickbooks is almost as good as the Windows version these days. But we can handle anything – FreshBooks, Xero, any cloud system, shopping cart integrations, Quicken, Moneyworks, Sage, Sage 50, Xcart, Adobe Businesscatalyst, Dropbox, and Google Apps.
MPN: What’s a good indicator for when a company needs to hire help with their bookkeeping?
Mark Gilbert: When the principals are getting involved with it themselves. Or asking their spouse or friends. In these cases the owners need to ask themselves what their time is worth, and where that time would be best spent.
MPN: How does it typically work when a business hires your service? Is it hourly? Retainer? Does someone go to the company’s offices?
Mark Gilbert: First we sign an engagement agreement which details out the responsibilities. We then go through a new client checklist, look at prior tax returns if they exist, or the funding structure if it’s a new business. Each client gets assigned a bookkeeper, a supervisor for the account, and a backup bookkeeper who is familiar with the client’s books in case the assigned bookkeeper is not available for some reason, like they are on maternity leave. We have a sign on our wall that says “No surprises” to encourage communication, in both directions, between the bookkeeper and the client. The bookkeeper can go to the client’s office or can work from our office. As far as rates go, it’s best to come in for the free consultation so we can understand your business requirements.
MPN: What are the biggest pitfalls new or small businesses make regarding bookkeeping?
Mark Gilbert: Most often we see inconsistency in bookkeeping decision-making, lack of understanding of the accounting process and requirements, and fraud by the client’s prior in-house bookkeeper.
MPN: What was the biggest discovery that helped out the company that you found once taking over a company’s books?
Mark Gilbert: One jewelry shop was not reconciling their merchant account, which is where credit card payments go before hitting your business account. Money can take longer to come over from certain cards, but in this case a $25,000 charge never came over to their bank account, and we caught it when we did the reconciliation.
MPN: And finally, what are the favorite lunch spots in the neighborhood for you and your employees?
Mark Gilbert: Personally I love Eisenberg’s, but a lot of people here love that we have the Showbiz Cafe right here in the building.Q & A with Mark of Flatiron-based Mark’s Bookkeeping Service,