Recap: #35 - Meryl Johnston / Outsourcing Bookkeeping
#35 - Meryl Johnston / Outsourcing Bookkeeping

Bean Ninjas provides fixed fee bookkeeping services specializing in Cloud Accounting software.

After years in corporate, Meryl decided that she had enough of long hours and decided to start her own accounting business.

Back in 2013 MC Trade consulting was born, with focus on a project to implementing accounting systems typically on large firms (100 plus employees). Yet scaling up a proper team towards such project proved to be a hardship as well as the cash flow revenue stream was unsteady.

Bean Ninjas was the initiative that allowed a regular monthly workstream which accounts for steady cash flow.

Having set proper processes in place towards a team of experts who provide such accounting services allowed Meryl to work from basically anywhere in the world and have some time to dedicate to one of her passions, surfing.

A Projects based initiative constitutes floating cash flow which is hard to deal with.

Meryl started Bean Ninjas as a joint venture with another expert accountant and only 18 months down the road she was able to buy his share and launch the company on her own.

Accounting and Bookkeeping

An accountants’ role typically pertains:

  • Filing taxes - either personal or corporate, while providing advice on how to better leverage business structures towards minimizing taxes.
  • Management accounting – perform analytics that helps businesses with their financial operations, like cashflow forecasting or budget definition and tracking & tracing allowing companies to assess their effective performance versus set expectations.
  • Virtual CFOs – perform the role of the CFO although under a services contract perspective

The role of a Bookkeeper is to ensure that all relevant data is accurately inputted into the accounting system/ tool.

This means that bookkeepers usually gain expertise in the software tools that allow financial management.

It is common for business owners to start by doing their own bookkeeping, nevertheless as a business grows time becomes of the essence and most business owners prefer to outsource bookkeeping instead of having someone from their team dealing with it since it pertains sensitive financial information.

A relevant point, besides time, is to assess if the business owner, while doing the bookkeeping himself/ herself is being able to extract proper data from the accounting system which allows the best outcome, namely best for profit margins or the status of overhead expenses and how to improve them.

The Accountant and the Bookkeeper should team up assuring a peaceful state of mind of the business owner so he/ she may focus on developing the business.


Having started the business in Australia, where Xero is a common tool, and having assessed best fit tools towards online SME (meaning companies that invoice between $100,000 and $2 million), Bean Ninjas started by using it as the work platform, dedicating time and training effort towards becoming dominant experts in it.

Attempting to tackle other software tools, that may prove to have very distinct work frame behind them, would constitute losing focus.

There are, nevertheless cases where clients have their IT landscapes formatted in a way that other tools like Quick Books (which is extensively used in the U.S.) may be the appropriate solution, as an example since it is integrated with Infusion Soft, and in those cases Meryl will refer the client to another bookkeeping agency.

Using a new tool implies defining new processes and training team members on those, which is only profitable if there are clients which represent a revenue share that compensates the investment.

Bean Ninjas was in fact just announced as the regional Bookkeeping partner for Xero towards Queensland (Australia).

The life of a Bookkeeper

Meryl starts by stating that all depends on the specific workload that derives from each client’s business needs; how often does the client require information, what type and with which degree of detail, does it need to be integrated or not and so on…

Typically dough, in average data is reconciled a couple times per week and reports are forwards to clients on a weekly basis, while smaller business usually gets the reports once a month.

It also comes down to type, volume and frequency need, a business that has many daily transactions may even require daily reports.

In most cases (small businesses) the data reconciliation is done once a month. As the business grows (e.g. reaching volumes of around $300,000), then it makes sense for the reconciliation to take place once a week and the communication channel should no longer be with the business owner but with a designated accountant, who can swiftly provide if needed (while not burdening the business owner agenda) copies of receipts or answers to relevant questions.

Target markets

Bean Ninjas currently has clients in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia and Hong Kong, having local bookkeepers onsite, due to local specific laws and regulations that must be observed plus a team in the Philippines.

The initial attempt was to create a base team in India, but not having established processes made the attempt unsuccessful, since most time had to spend going back and forward explaining how to and when to do things. The amount of time that such dedication to detail required proved to constitute a loss of profits.

Also communication wise, the message would require several interactions to make a trough.

The main step was to have strong processes in place and local on-site bookkeepers in each country and then, once the entire workflow became steady, to launch a support team from the Philippines; now some are fulltime resources while others are part-time freelancers.

People who are great at following and fulfilling processed based tasks do not necessarily have the capacity to define them.

Finding resources overseas

Although initially having started by posting ads on local media as also LinkedIn for the domestic (meaning Australia) resources, Meryl now undergoes local overseas talent hunting mainly through her networking.

Additionally some Facebook ads have been posted, yet with a very positive outcome, since instead of attracting new collaborators, they ended up enabling new clients to come on board.

The client profile

A the beginning Bean Ninjas addressed several types of clients but as time went by a fine-tuning process took place focusing in which clients would return the best profit and would gain the most out of the rendered services, so, as a remote business it was found that online businesses, mainly e-commerce and software development companies would provide the best mutual results.

What could have been done differently

Meryl believes that a partnership on an early stage is always profitable for it leverages momentum, nevertheless, roles need to be well established not to waste energy in overlapping initiatives.

It is common to make mistakes such as not hire capacity in a timely manner, which allows undergoing proper training, yet it is difficult to do it with required advance lead time.

Adding value to clients

Clients want peace of mind about their deadlines and legal obligations as also having to spend the least possible amount of time on these topics by having proactive partners assuring their bookkeeping and accounting requirements, plus getting tailor-made accurate assertive reports that allow them to make an enlightened decision.

Although Bean Ninjas typically does not perform the data analytical process it assures data input into financial management systems in a way that allows easy collection and correlation of relevant business information.

Despite having accountants and bookkeepers, every business owner needs to understand financial tools like cashflow forecasts, profit and loss statements, balance sheets and other...

I'm an Outsourcerer. I'm a DNN Geek. I help people with their sites @ DeskPal. I'm a #Pomodoro practitioner. I'm a husband and a father of 2 beautiful girls.

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Aderson Oliveira
Aderson Oliveira