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This article by Kathleen McGinn Spring was prepared for the March 5, 2003 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
From the Trenches: Online CPA
The next financial outsourcing opportunity, predicts
Ric Ballezzi, is online web accounting. "It’s the next step
after outsourcing payroll," says the owner of Ballezzi & Associates,
an accounting and financial planning firm 2223 Brunswick Pike, Lawrenceville
(609-392-1900; fax, 609-392-1974, www.ballezzi.com).
Pursuing this opportunity, he plans to grow from one office to 10
offices and be a "nice sized regional firm" within 10 years.
Ballezzi recently acquired the first of his future branches, at 70
South Main Street in Cranbury, when Neill P. Flate retired.
Ballezzi believes an online outsourced accounting setup is particularly
good for technology start-ups where the owner is always traveling,
doesn’t have much financing, and is trying to be frugal. "Instead
of the owner hiring and training and supervising an accounting department,
we take over the entire department. The owner can access the accounts
from the web. We’re one of the few firms involved with this —
we can be the accounting department for a small business anywhere
in the world," he says.
"We get involved in financial planning top to bottom — asset
allocations, retirement needs, and risk profiles," he says. He
is able to set up many smaller clients, businesses with from 10 to
30 employees, with web-based 401k plans at rates of $1,000 for the
initial set up and $1,000 per year.
Ballezzi grew up in Philadelphia, the son of a tailor, and as the
first one in the family to go to college, he chose an accounting major
because it was practical. "But I’ve always been involved with
technology. We bought the first Tandy Radio Shack computer — I’m
an engineer in an accountant’s body."
His experience with dotcoms has fortified his belief in the value
of measured growth. "I have crossed paths with tons of small technology
companies who don’t understand slow growth. A few went under."
One of his big success stories was Bluestone Software, Mel Baida’s
Mt. Laurel-based company that was successfully sold. He was also involved
in the early rounds of financing for ExpertPlan, the Web-based retirement
planning service at Windsor Corporate Park.
Ballezzi’s advice to companies struggling in this economy: "The
best thing is cut the burn rate down to a minimum. Now is the time
to really get into the details of the business plan. Do the planning
because you don’t have the cash to execute. The funds will open up
soon. But don’t bang your head against the wall for nothing."
For his own part, he anticipated the recession by telling his staff
to stick to the basics with their clients. "I didn’t want to eat
into their cash flow. I would rather preserve their cash and do the
work later when the client can more easily afford it."
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