Business in Vancouver's "How I Did It" feature asks business leaders to explain in their own words how they achieved a business goal in the face of significant entrepreneurial challenges. In this week's issue, chartered accountant Wayne Zielke, founder and CEO of LedgersOnline Inc. and LedgerDocs, talks about how he built a web-hosted accounting service in 2003, long before "the cloud" became a buzzword, and how the problems bookkeepers and small businesses have keeping accurate, up-to-date receipts and records led to the creation of LedgerDocs.
"I'm a chartered accountant [CA]. I spent a lot of time in public practice. I was CFO of a publicly traded software company and a partner in a CA firm, Zielke Gray. LedgersOnline came out of a desire to try to do something a little different in accounting. All those years, we noticed people's bookkeeping was a mess.
"We were hosting [accounting] applications. It was mainly QuickBooks and Simply Accounting [now Sage 50] – small business applications – allowing people and the bookkeeper to access books remotely. We were early adopters, running desktop applications over the web. A lot of our sales calls were spent just trying to explain to people what we were doing. People just didn't get it. Our first clients were mainly technology firms.
"After doing that for a number of years, we came to realize the biggest problem in the bookkeeping industry is that bookkeepers struggle with getting information. It's one of the only professions that you need essentially 100% of the information to do the job. You can't have anything missing.
"Invariably, in small businesses, the owner is not at the location during the day or he's tied up in meetings, and so the bookkeeper works through a bunch of things and has questions at the end of the day. But the answers to those questions usually can't be resolved for a week or a month, so things are always in a state of being unfinished.
"So we came up with the idea of LedgerDocs: we've just got to make this easy for a small-business owner to get that information to us. This isn't really an accounting program; it's a document-storage, communication product.
"We're positioning LedgerDocs to sit between the client and the bookkeeper and the SaaS app [QuickBooks, for example]. To make it easier to get documents, we have a Dropbox integration that we just launched. The next integration will be online accounting SaaS apps like QuickBooks Online, Xero, Kashoo.
"Just about any device has a Dropbox app. A lot of small businesses will save important documents on Dropbox, but it's hard to collaborate. We wanted to plug into that and add the collaboration features that we've built into LedgerDocs.
"Think about a building contractor, and a cement truck shows up. They get the bill right at the job site. So he takes a picture of it with his iPhone and pushes it up [to LedgerDocs via Dropbox]. There's no phoning the client and asking, 'Did you send that stuff?'
"The bookkeeper can use LedgerDocs, go in, make notes on it right down to documents level. On the client side, the client gets notifications that documents have been moved or notes have been created on documents on a daily basis."