Where: McKinney, Texas
Just north of Dallas is the fastest-growing city in America, McKinney, Texas. McKinney is also home to a cutting-edge SMB consultancy, ZenKeep, started by brothers Jonathan and Dave Willson, and their father Donald. Jonathan and Dave are former bankers who left the rat race to start their own company that helps local McKinney businesses grow with a combination of accounting, operations, and technology know-how. We caught up with Dave to chat more about their business, and why they’re so in love with the cloud.
Can you tell us a little about ZenKeep?
We aren’t a typical bookkeeper – we’re more like technology consultants who happen to also do bookkeeping and accounting. We do the whole implementation piece for our clients. We are more like the consultants on the technology side rather than an accountant doing your journal entries and the like.
We look at a business not just from a process standpoint, but also from an endgame perspective. In 3-5 years, where do you want to be, and let me show you how to get there?
Personally, I don’t see how the bookkeeping and accounting field are going to survive without bringing technology expertise into their wheelhouse.
Since ZenKeep looks at everything from the technology, the operations, and of course the financials, we see the whole picture and we can provide the most reliable financial picture throughout the year, not just during tax season.
How did you guys get started?
My brother Jonathan and I were financial advisors at Morgan Stanley, and we saw potential beyond what we were doing at Morgan Stanley with a bookkeeping business our father was running.
We started out with 10 clients on Xero, testing out a strictly CPA business, but we didn’t like the model of simply doing tax returns as a CPA. We couldn’t get a complete picture of the finances of the business by only looking at the numbers the owner was providing. We had to get deeper than that.
For example, let’s say I sell $100 of goods today. I need to make sure that I can track my cost-of-goods-sold to find my margins on a month-by-month basis. Without a cloud-based POS like Vend, I cannot get that information easily. The software tells the business if we should make an investment in something a new line of inventory.
In a nutshell, you could say that ZenKeep puts the right technology together for a small business in order to keep the business healthy and growing.
Why does ZenKeep use Vend?
In terms of Vend vs anything else, when we decided on the Xero platform (ZenKeep are exclusively Xero accountants), we looked for partners who were integrating with Xero. We saw that Vend was focused on integrating with technology, rather than being on an island. Other companies build software islands, but we think that Vend by building with other integrations is keeping itself out of a bubble and will keep its software fresh.
The information that Vend shares with Xero is a key part of the operations and software that we set up with our clients. Since the pieces of software connect and share all that data, we always know what’s going on.
Vend is also aesthetically appealing, which makes it much easier for us to sell to a small business owner, and Vend Register is even better.
How is the business of ZenKeep doing?
Well, we started the business in early 2014 to test the waters. Now we have 25 clients and are growing and hiring. Both Jonathan and I were full-time on ZenKeep by June. We honestly haven’t had to do much marketing because word-of-mouth has been so strong in McKinney!
We want to focus on retailers who are open to new technology and are looking for an expert to guide them on how to use the technology, so we tend to work with new retailers rather than older shops who have existing technology that we’d need to rip out.
– Dave Willson, ZenKeep
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