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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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