Steven Bristol’s programming adventure started as a 9 year old writing BASIC. In the past 28 years he’s written many languages, become a Ruby on Rails core contributor, 2007 Google Summer of Code Mentor and has never ever written a bug.
Less Everything, Inc. is based out of Jacksonville, Florida. The company has been a successful web firm for several years and began pursuing Ruby on Rails product development in 2007. In the beginning, they struggled with accounting, because accounting is scary, accounting is boring and quite simply, no one likes accounting.
So, they created LessAccounting to help. Over time they expanded the app to include online invoicing, client proposals, mileage tracking, bank integration, payables and more. They hope it brings clarity to your small business accounting needs.
MO: Can you talk a about the creative process behind building a bookkeeping system for entrepreneurs? What kind of challenges did you face in the early stages and how did overcome them?
Steven: The hardest part of writing accounting software is deciding what to leave out. Accounting software is hard for small business owners because most small business owners don’t have an accounting background and most accounting software doesn’t take that into consideration. It’s like having never played a video game before and starting on the hardest level, it doesn’t make any sense.
MO: Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?
Steven: My family escaped the Iron Curtain when I was a baby. Within a few years of arriving here in the States my father started his own engineering business. A few years later my mother started her own bookkeeping business. Both instilled in me the entrepreneurial spirit from a young age, and the confidence that I could do anything I wanted to do. My business partner, Allan Branch, comes from an entrepreneurial family that’s been in business for generations. I think that’s another thing that make LessAccounting different, it’s built by small business people, not by people that have only run large businesses.
MO: Can you expand on how LessConf was an experiment that blossomed into something more?
Steven: The idea was to make a conference where there was more of the best parts of a conference. The social aspects and more time with the speakers. If we take for granted that the talks are great (which isn’t always the case at conferences) then how could we improve the areas where people feel that they wish there was more? Now when someone comes to LessConf they don’t know who the speakers are until they take the stage, the speakers are just other attendees who happen to also give an inspirational talk. Sometimes the speakers don’t even know they’re speaking until a few minutes before. Also, there isn’t a lot of “networking” at LessConf, people walk away having made genuine friendships instead of just a stack of business cards.
MO: What are some tips for web shops that are looking to reduce stress and raise profit margin?
Steven: Saying no to work is hard, but generally very rewarding. If you’re struggling to make payroll you can’t say no, but once you get to the next level (generally increasing your rates will get you there) you can work with the clients or projects that you enjoy, who pay on time and respect you. It’s not easy to raise your rates, but you can adjust them depending on how much work you have and how many leads you’re getting in. It’s also easier to charge more if you are one of the best at what you do; charge enough so you can produce excellence and you will get a reputation for that. That’s something most people are willing to pay for, and let’s face it: you really don’t want to work with people that aren’t willing to pay for it.
MO: Why is it important to be able to spot a bad client? Can you provide any guidelines in identifying them before it’s too late?
Steven: Sometimes you can spot a bad client in the first few phone calls. Often these aren’t bad people, the two of you may simply have a bad personality fit. Sometimes a bad client isn’t interested in your opinions and just wants you to build whatever they say. Rarely, but it does happen, that these types of clients have a great vision and they turn out to be great clients, more often it’s someone that will want you to add feature after feature that doesn’t make sense and doesn’t help their business. You should always get paid in advance, before any work begins you should have a check for the first two weeks worth of work and continue to collect checks before then next two weeks work. If they’re not willing to do this they’re probably going to be a bad client. All that being said, I don’t think it’s ever too late, once you figure out they’re a bad client and you’ve exhausted every avenue to improve communications/payments/direction you can always fire them. It’s always OK to say “I think this project isn’t working out for us, I’d like to help you find someone who’s a better fit.”
MO: If I could grant you one business related wish right now, what would you ask for?
Steven: Reaching people and spreading the word about LessAccounting is an ongoing challenge. I wish you could wave your magic wand and show everyone how easy and painless accounting could be. Our goal has always been to make bookkeeping joyful.
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