Small business success stories | Paula O’ Sullivan: how hiring a bookkeeper gave me the gift of time

March 13, 2018

In 2012, Paula O’Sullivan wanted to swap her high-stress job for a career with reasonable working hours and more family-friendly policies. So, she started her own digital marketing consultancy. Like many business owners, Paula thought she’d be able to manage the books so enrolled on an MYOB course to learn how. Afterwards, she decided to hire a bookkeeper straight away rather than waste time doing something she didn’t enjoy. And she’s never looked back since. Here, we find out why.

Before we get down to business, could you tell us a bit about your business?

I’m the founder and director of Possum Digital. We work with small to medium-sized businesses to help them develop and implement effective digital marketing and social media strategies. We work with clients from many sectors including financial services, retail, and eCommerce. However, my real passion is the not-for-profit sector and helping those clients on tight budgets do great work and remain sustainable.

The business name is pretty cute — how did you choose it?

I’d like to say the possum’s nimble and adaptable nature inspired the name, but it’s actually based on my childhood nickname. When I was little people added a few extra letters to P.O.S. (my initials) and decided to call me ‘possum’! When I was thinking of a business name, this one kept coming up so I decided to embrace it and the spirit of my namesake.

What were the early days of business like?

To be honest, they were really tough. I felt a bit daunted because no one in my family had ever run a business so I couldn’t lean on them for advice. So, at the start, I felt like I was stumbling around and working hard to learn everything from scratch. However, things changed when I started going to a networking group and met two time First Class Accounts Franchisee of Year, Don Doolan.

Tell us about that?

A client at the time suggested I start networking so I could connect with other business owners and learn from their experiences. So, I went along to well-respected networking group and Don happened to be there. We started talking and got on like a house on fire, and I soon realised Don was super smart, business savvy, and a good person to have involved in my business. It wasn’t long after our initial meeting that we caught up again and I employed Don to look after my books and business administration.

A lot of business owners manage their own books to save money. Why didn’t you?

I was tempted to. I did an MYOB course, but by the end of it, I wanted to stick pins in my eyes! The fact is, I have no interest in bookkeeping and don’t want to waste my time trying to learn when I could be focusing more energy on areas of the business I do love. Also, hiring a bookkeeper actually saves me money because complex tasks that would take me six hours to do take Don one hour. So, for me, it was a no-brainer to hire him. I’m a really big believer in finding good people who are experts at what they do so that I’m freed up to work on things I’m good at — like getting more clients on board and growing my business.

What impact has hiring Don had on your business?

I reckon I’ve hit the jackpot with Don. Not only does he do my books, payroll, and super, he has exceptional business knowledge. Don has owned winning businesses himself so he can offer brilliant advice I know I can really trust. I haven’t just hired a bookkeeper, I’ve hired a confidante and first-class business advisor — and for me that is invaluable.

Why is he great?

I like him because his approach to business is very practical and honest. If you ask him a question, he’ll give you a straight answer rather than confusing you with jargon. I can ask him all sorts of curly questions and if he doesn’t know the answer he’ll go away, find out, and get back to me with sound advice. He has a genuine passion for helping me to be successful and is always there at the end of the phone — which is great because being your own boss can be lonely sometimes.

How is business these days and do you have any exciting plans for the future?

Things are going well. Thanks to Don, the business is growing year-on-year and it’s meant that I’m able to take a month’s holiday in America. I’m looping in a global social media marketing conference when I’m there which is going to be super inspiring. When I’m back, I’m going to focus on really building up the mentoring and coaching side of the business and how I can scale it to be able to help even more clients. It’s exciting, and with Don by my side, I’m looking forward to the challenge!

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