Team: you need people, lawyer, accountant, mentors etc. They will help you fill in the gaps you do not know. It is worth the money to pay upfront instead of when you are in trouble. When I started my business, I did not know another entrepreneur. Once I made up my mind, I wanted to start a business, I started meeting people. Individuals started introducing me to one person then that person would introduce me to another. You have to put yourself out there.
As part of my series about the leadership lessons of accomplished business leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Linda Diakite Karressy.
Linda is an Accounting Coach and Outsource CFO. Linda is founder of Insight Academy, an online business school teaching all things accounting. Linda’s motto is keeping accounting simple!
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I took my first accounting course in high school. I cannot remember why I chose to take the course. I never heard of accounting before high school. It was the first course I found super easy. I like the process of completing steps to create something. I like the feeling knowing everything equals. Also, several high school teachers such as Mr. Neal, Mrs. White, Mrs. South, and Ms. Ashley encouraged me to pursue accounting.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey?
I struggled with wanting to service everyone. I knew all small businesses and nonprofits need accounting services. However not everyone was a fit. With trying to service everyone I was losing money. I learned you can have clients who can actually prevent you from growing your revenue. I had to invest in marketing and sales courses to identify and attract my target audience.
Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
My drive came from not wanting to go back to a full-time job. I worked for an organization that promoted five people who either started after me or I trained to do their job. Another organization would not invest in training or hiring competent individuals. I was tired of caring the weight of the team. I kept pursuing different avenues to get my business off the ground. I attended as many free events and workshops as possible. I had to keep trying different things.
So, how are things going today? How did grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
Things are much better. Instead of having multiple contracts I pursued one large contract. This has worked out because it allowed me to help our kids with virtual school. Also, I am able to put systems in place to offer additional services. I recently partnered with a CPA who will perform taxes and tax planning. Having a mindset that I can be more and have more has gotten me this far. Some days I am so tired but I ask myself what I want out of life. I watch motivational videos on grit and resilience daily. This habit helps my mind be focus on the end goal.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I hired a social media consultant. At the time I did not even know what social media was. Things were not working out. The job was very sloppy, so I let them go. I started to look at my Twitter feed. The consultant had me following celebrities such as Hulk Hogan. I find this funny because he was my favorite wrestler growing up. Still to this day I am not sure why an accounting firm would follow him. My biggest lesson is when you outsource a service, check on the work performed. Do not assume things are getting done.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Our jam is we teach! At Insight Financial Group we do not put together the financials to send off by email. We want the client to understand how the business is doing so they can articulate to their staff, investors, and other stakeholders. Accounting tells you how you are using your resources. If you are using them well, you have a net profit and cash in the bank. I am currently working with a client who provides meal prep. They have been in business about two years. We spent just one hour reviewing our data. She did not realize how much she had made in revenue. I showed her a two-year comparison. She now wishes she met me when she first started. Now she can make better businesses decisions because she knows where the business stands. Most importantly she understands what the financials are telling her!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
- Take a day off. This year I have decided not to work on Sundays. No exception. Our brain needs a rest.
- Know when to shut down. As accountants we wake early and stay up late. As I am getting older, I cannot stay up with the Late-Night Show crew anymore. Learn what works for you.
- Learn to say no. As I stated earlier, not every prospect is a fit for you. If you are going to have to spend additional money and time, rethink the offer.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I have to say two people, my mother and husband. When I started my business, I was working full-time. Both of them step in with the kids. They are both my ambassadors. They let everyone know about my services. During a really bad day at my full-time job, my mother called out the blue. She stated she was reading a Bible scripture. The holy spirit told her to tell me to keep going. Having individuals who want you to succeed pushes you through the hard days.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I believe we are all here to serve. A friend and I created Sister’s Alliance. It is a support group for Black women entrepreneurs in Indiana. We are announcing our first business grant winners March 16th. Black women are the fastest group starting small businesses. We lack financial backing, but the emotional support is needed. Many of us do not have the relationships or information needed to grow our business. Sister’s Alliance wants to create a space where Black women will be supported emotionally.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started leading my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
- Train: Develop and invest in your professional and soft skills. I love free webinars and events. However, I realize in order to propel my business I need to invest dollars into courses and workshops with leading experts.
- Study your competitors: So, you can do it better and not reinvent the wheel. I follow other accounting firms on social media. I read their newsletters. This allows me to study what they are offering and who they are targeting.
- Replenish: Always revisit why you started; it will keep you motivated. I learn from Les Brown the motivational speaker, to write and read your goals daily. Reading my goals sets my day up for success. My tasks have to align with my goals.
- Mental Fitness: Control your thoughts by who you surround yourself with and what you listen to. I will be honest when I first started my business, I thought this was crazy. I listened to Les Brown everyday for about two months straight. I had a new outlook on life.
- Team: you need people, lawyer, accountant, mentors etc. They will help you fill in the gaps you do not know. It is worth the money to pay upfront instead of when you are in trouble. When I started my business, I did not know another entrepreneur. Once I made up my mind, I wanted to start a business, I started meeting people. Individuals started introducing me to one person then that person would introduce me to another. You have to put yourself out there.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I want every high school to teach financial literacy. We all need and use money. However, it’s the one concept not taught in schools. Teaching financial literacy would be a game changer for so many students. Why is college debt so high? We have 17- or 18-years old signing documents they do not understand the financial consequences. We could use the Girl Scouts motto to teach how to earn, save, invest, and donate.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!