Brad Ebenhoeh, cofounder of Charleston-based company Accountfully, is breaking down the perception that accountants are a stodgy suit-and-tie breed. Along with his wife, and fellow CPA Meredith, he has rebelled against the Fortune 500-environments in which they achieved their acumen. Through back porch brain storming sessions, the Ebenhoehs realized they were most passionate about helping the entrepreneurial community. Catering to creatives is how they developed their stylish, streamlined, and lifestyle-driven firm. Through traditional bookkeeping services and an advisory arm, Accountfully supports those in the throes of scaling their earnings. By forgoing formalities, and engaging with clients beyond email chains, Ebenhoeh has attached an unlikely adjective to his industry—fun!
What did the first conversation for Accountfully look like?
BE: My wife and I had just moved down to Charleston and realized one day that we were both looking to scratch our entrepreneurial itch. We mutually decided that it would be great to mix accounting, consulting, and financial advisory services. Once we had the confidence to move forward with our vision, we did.
What did you apply from your time in the corporate world to Accountfully?
BE: Multitasking was a huge skill that I picked up and allows me to work with 10 to 15 clients at one time, manage a team, and fluidly flip flop between different tasks. However, most importantly I learned that I didn’t want to work in a formal atmosphere where you felt as though you were just a cog in the wheel. The companies I worked for in my corporate career didn’t care about their team members and worked everyone to the bone. I wanted to be the opposite of that.
What was the steepest learning curve when it came to launching your own business?
BE: While I could do accounting in my sleep I didn’t know how to sell my services. What we finally realized after a few months of experimenting was that our bread and butter was bookkeeping because of its tangibility. Sometimes people have a hard time wrapping their head around consulting because it can feel very elusive.
Why did you choose Charleston as your launch market and how did the city support your vision?
BE: My wife and I met in Chicago where we had a blast for a few years. Next, we moved to Charlotte, which was a city we just did not vibe with, and eventually came down to Charleston, which was love at first sight. When we moved here, we knew no one. What we realized was that, in order to meet people, we would have to attend networking events. It’s really hard to make friends when you’re in your late twenties! That desire to get out and make friends forced us to grow our business. Fortunately, Charleston is small and welcoming. Everyone supports one another and is keen on sharing resources and information.
What’s the best compliment you’ve received in regards to Accountfully?
BE: Whenever we receive a phone call from a complete stranger saying, “So-and-so recommended your company,” I feel incredibly honored. That is the power of word of mouth. Since launching Accountfully, all we’ve done is go out, get a client, add value to their business, and wait until they tell someone else who eventually becomes our next client. Every single endorsement has helped us in one way or another.
What is one strategic way you differentiate yourself in the marketplace?
BE: We’ve put a lot of time and money into our branding, marketing, and social media resources. The point is for prospective and existing clients to see that they aren’t getting the traditional stuck-up accountant but rather someone who actually enjoys their job.
What do you bring to the marketplace that no one else does?
BE: We handle the day to day needs of a traditional bookkeeping firm while providing the advisory role of a CFO/comptroller. That is important because most small business owners can’t afford to hire one person to help with the strategic and tactical approaches to their business. By combining two roles into one we’ve helped our clients sell their products, enter new markets, and make sure that their employees get paid.
What advice would you give small business owners?
BE: Ask for help and realize that no one can run a business entirely on their own. Find those organizations who can guide you in terms of getting a tax ID or business license. The more you know up-front, the better long-term.
BE: Have confidence in yourself and charge what you’re worth. Don’t feel like you have to cheapen your skills in order to survive in the marketplace.
What do you love about what you do?
BE: The interaction on a day-to-day basis with my incredible team members and clients who live all over the world. Accountfully is my most amazing adventure to date.
Learn more about Accountfully here, which recently opened a satellite office in Nashville, Tennessee
Conversation by Lily Clayton Hansen
Portrait by Leslie McKellar