Michelle Vilms took her first consulting client in 2008. That’s when Vilms Consulting LLC took off. For more than 20 years, Michelle has worked in the financial management space in both the corporate and entrepreneurial settings, including board experience with non-profit civic organizations.

In the 1990s, she was part of the team that helped grow office supplies giant Staples from a chain of more than 100 stores to a $15 billion company as director of marketing and finance.

But after 11 years at Staples, she wanted something different. The QuickBooks Advanced Certified ProAdvisor knew there was more out there. Today, as the founder of Vilms Consulting, Michelle serves clients with earnings in the $500,000 to $6 million range.

A big believer in the power of data, she gets to marry the newest technologies with a tried-and-true human approach to accounting, helping businesses and nonprofits not only get their finances in order, but also truly understand them.

Sporting a BS in Accountancy from Long Island University and MBA from Babson College, Michelle supports many nonprofits in the Boston area, serving as an Artemis Circle Committee Member for the Boys & Girls Club of Boston and an overseer for the New England Aquarium.

We sat down with Michelle to get her thoughts on her continual road to being a ProAdvisor of the Year.

Give us a snapshot of your business, including how long you have been in business, etc.

Vilms Consulting wasn’t born from a desire to build a virtual firm that today provides accounting, advisory, and education to small- and medium-size businesses that operate using QuickBooks centric cloud-based accounting systems. Looking back, it seems like it was always the plan. It wasn’t.

Today, I can say the evolution was a result of strategic decisions, entrepreneurial interest and a genuine curiosity about the technologies that were (and still are) revolutionizing the accounting industry.

It wasn’t always pretty, with many late nights, mistakes, doubts, and the everyday ups and downs—typical stuff for anyone starting and growing a business. 

How does the award fit into your overall business mission statement?

In 2008, I stepped away from my corporate position as director of marketing and finance at office supplies store Staples. After helping the chain expand and grow to 100 stores. Staples has more than 1,000 retail locations today.

I was excited by the idea of scaling down big business accounting and bookkeeping processes to help smaller companies and organizations use them to gain a deeper understanding of their financials which would help them become more successful.

Through that work, I quickly identified needs and opportunities that put me on the path to grow into Vilms Consulting, although if you had asked me in the early days, it was most likely still just a nugget of an idea.

Today, my Boston-based virtual firm has nine employees and a roster of clients representing a variety of industries, including marketing services, professional service firms and consultants. We specialize in cloud-based accounting and best practices to support a company’s growth and scalability goals.

What are some of your strategies/initiatives for 2022? Business? Personal?

Our focus and culture at Vilms Consulting is people and technology. Internally, our team is committed to continuing to improve their knowledge in QuickBooks Online and related ecosystems of technology that can be integrated with it.

Certifications and continued training are built into our budget and schedule. It positions us to bring the best and latest technology solutions to our clients to give them the best support possible.

Our other key focus is people. Our team is either supporting a CEO and their internal accounting team with accounting, bookkeeping or CFO services or functioning as the department. We don’t just take care of the functions, we build relationships and coach, mentor, educate and advise the people in the business.

How will you leverage the honor in your continued success?

Recognition as a four-time Top 100 QuickBooks ProAdvisor and 2022 QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor of the Year is an amazing and much-appreciated acknowledgment of our commitment to technology and the ongoing work we do to be at our best for our clients.

One of the best parts of receiving this recognition was bringing it back to my team because it validates our work to continually improve systems and processes in the company. My team sees the recognition that I receive from the industry for the company I built and it is evidence that training and skill-building is valued and rewarded. It motivates them and they appreciate having space to learn and grow at Vilms Consulting.

Is there a story you can share that really sums up the work you do for your clients?

Recently, we worked with a client that couldn’t get their invoices out in a timely manner, which lengthened time to receive payments from customers.

Cash inflow was less predictable. We improved cash flow by shortening the time to execute invoices to clients and introduced merchant services for ACH and credit card payments. These changes allowed them to get paid faster. Having a consistent process improves predictability, which is good for business and good for easing the owners’ mind.

What’s the biggest item on your to-do list right now?

We are focused on scheduling clients for clean-up projects to be ready for their CPA at the end of the year. We have created wonderful resources that make the process easier which clients are loving, and CPAs appreciate when they get files that are more complete.

It has been our experience when delivering results that we spend time explaining the information to the business owner and how consistent monthly bookkeeping would be informative all year long. We offer training and guidance to prepare them to manage this on their own.

We love accounting, and while we understand that not everybody does, it is such a feel-good experience for us when we can show business owners the value of understanding their numbers. Once they realize it can be powerful to know your numbers in real time to run their business they prioritize monthly bookkeeping. 

What’s the best piece of advice you can offer your clients today?

Clients tell me that one of the most valuable pieces of advice I have given them is to be curious and ask questions about your financial reports. Financial information can be paralyzing when you think you cannot understand it. You know more than you think.

Business owners understand how they make money and spend money, they just need accountants to explain the balance sheet to them. Business owners know their business, but they need to understand their numbers.

What was the best advice you ever received?

Don’t stop learning.

What trends do you see out there?

One trend of the past couple years that, in my opinion, is significant is the forced disruption in the tech adoption curve. While early adopters continued to be like pioneers at the ready to adopt new tech, tech traditionalists continued to lag. People with a propensity to resist change, those who are typically fine with being late to the game, had to change sooner to be able to function.

Necessary changes to the way we work brought on by external forces in the last few years accelerated tech acceptance and adoption at a faster pace. Cloud-based systems and virtual work became the norm as demand grew to embrace technology and automate.

I predict we will continue to see disruptions to the tech adoption curve and we will trace it back to this unusual period in history. Don’t be a lagger.

What are your expectations for 2022 and beyond?

In 2022 and beyond, I am looking forward to becoming increasingly involved in the accounting industry and playing an active role in shaping its future. I will continue to present webinars and speak at industry and professional events.

As we continue to strengthen the culture of our firm, we are looking forward to developing and nurturing our team members who will become the next generation of leaders in the accounting industry. We will continue to embrace opportunities to support industry peers, colleagues and vendors. We have an amazing industry.

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Insightful Accountant