A few years back, I hit a wall in my business. I was working excessive hours, I was frustrated with my ability to lead my team, and just wasn’t feeling “all in” to my business. I took some time to reflect on my values, what I wanted out of my business and reevaluated how much of ME I wanted to put into my business. If you asked me then I’d say my family, friends, traveling and balance were all things I valued – but you wouldn’t tell that from the time I spent working. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, my clients and my business, but we all know that work should not be the number one thing in our lives.
After some deep reflective work, I made an entire overhaul to my business, and I’m happy to now say I have truly found that balance I was yearning for, and I wouldn’t have gotten there and been able to maintain it without a brilliant team to support me and our clients.
We love getting to know our clients on a personal and professional level, so we thought it would be fun to give you a peek into the lives of the hardworking women behind Monarch CPA.
The newest member of our team, Amy works from her home in Greenville, South Carolina. She does accounting work for a couple of our clients, and she is the rare accountant who would rather pick up the phone than email back and forth! Amy has a BFA from Clemson University and an accounting degree from Furman University.
Amy got into accounting in 2003 when she started working for the VP of Finance at the Peace Center, a performing arts venue. She had worked in customer service and office management, but after she got her accounting degree for the position at the Peace Center, she hasn’t looked back! Amy has been working remotely for about two years to be more flexible for her two kids while still having a career. With less driving back and forth and the ability to pick up her laptop and work anywhere, she finds that she can get more done, with fewer interruptions.
“I think when I was commuting and going to work, I kind of felt like I was not fully present in either world at any time,” Amy said. “I constantly had one foot out because I had too many things in the air. And now I feel like my time is actually more focused.”
If you have ever talked with Amy, you may have noticed she is great at finding ways to make our clients’ financial processes more efficient and effective. She is a great relationship builder and cares about helping our clients reach their goals by making more time to do what they love. Her balance of right-brain and left-brain power is one of the things that makes her so great to work with!
Amy explains that though accounting is a very left-brain job, she does it partly to fund her creative hobbies. She has a potter’s wheel and a kiln in her garage, and loves all kinds of art, photography and baking. Her family just put a pool in their backyard, and they are finishing up some landscaping this summer, as well as growing their vegetable garden! Amy is growing squash, zucchini, two kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and more.
Amy plans to spend most of the summer outside with her kids, swimming and working on the yard. (But not mowing the lawn—they live on a golf course!) In the fall, she is looking forward to lots of tailgating with her “tailgate family.” She has had season tickets for Clemson football for 22 years!
Ella has been with Monarch the longest, for about 5 years. She found us during a gap year after high school when she set an intention to “find her calling.” She definitely did! Ella says, “I like to think it was like my path. Like I was meant to be here. I love working here. I love everyone that I work with. I love doing what I do and it’s bringing me so many opportunities.”
Ella started as a receptionist and quickly worked her way up to do accounts receivable and payable in addition to all kinds of admin work. She’s a fast learner, and she is happy to be in an environment that allows her to grow at the fast pace she is capable of. She has watched Katie completely rebuild the business over the years, from clients to policies and procedures, and she recalls that “I was so excited because I knew that this is going to open so many doors for us and it was going to be an environment that was even better than it was before.” However, her favorite thing about working with Monarch is her coworkers and clients, whom she regards as family and friends.
One thing Ella really likes about the accounting world is that it’s predictable enough that she can plan her life around it, and the client relationships are very rewarding. There’s a bit of a give and take for Ella when it comes to the stressful feelings around filing taxes; she loves to watch our clients’ anxiety melt away when they ask for help with something, gain a sense of relief and walk away feeling confident. But sometimes when she anticipates that stress and the clients are not as phased as she would expect, they end up reassuring her that everything is fine!
There are a few things you might be surprised to learn about Ella. “I think people don’t realize just how outspoken I am about what I believe in and the things that I’m passionate about,” she says. “I’m very shy, very reserved. But the moment that I don’t agree with someone or they’re speaking on something that I don’t believe in or are doing something that I don’t like really, like, I’m more than okay to speak out and just give them my opinion.”
Finally, Ella is the queen of crime documentaries and podcasts! She loves learning how people’s minds work and figuring out what happened. She lives right on the water and has a boat, so she loves taking her dog Flint out for swims and just hiking, reading and hanging out outside. To unwind at the end of a long week, Ella likes to pamper herself with some shopping, getting her nails done or taking a hot bath.
Jessica has been with Monarch since March of 2018, and she works from her home in a rural area of Illinois. She does payroll, bookkeeping, sales tax filings, property tax filings and more. She earned her bachelor’s in business administration while raising her kids, and worked a lot of different jobs (including stay-at-home mom for a while) before finding her professional home at Monarch. Most recently, she worked at Caterpillar, a hospital and an e-commerce service.
Jessica was introduced to us by her neighbor, who also worked with Monarch at the time. She was leery of working from home and wasn’t sure if it would be a great fit for her—working from home was not as common just a few years ago, and after years of working in traditional environments, it was a big adjustment. But here’s the kicker: Jessica won $250,000 from a $5 scratch-off lottery ticket right around the time she was interviewing with Katie, so she figured she could afford to take the leap!
For a while, Jessica felt like she had to hide the fact that she wasn’t working in an office. But now she says she couldn’t imagine going back to a traditional workplace, which is ironic because she used to really enjoy the opportunity to get out of the house. Now she is happy to work at home all day with her cats and the dog and be there to run errands, watch kids and take care of her community.
Like many of our staff, Jessica has a garden—but she also has her own potato field! It comes in handy since the closest store is 16 miles away. Other things you might not know about Jessica are that she loves to doodle while she’s on the phone and has beautiful handwriting. Her most-used emojis are the smiley face and the whale.
Shannon came to us last fall with a bachelor’s and master’s in Accounting from the University of Alabama. She earned the Elijah Watt Sells Award for scoring 95.5 or higher across all four CPA exams on the first try! We are proud to be Shannon’s first accounting job; she does day-to-day accounting and bookkeeping work for one of our larger clients and some tax work. She’s excited to branch out and learn more after she comes back from maternity leave!
But Shannon also has an interesting story about how she found Monarch: she and her husband have had to move four times in the last couple of years for his NFL career, which made it hard for her to get the experience hours she needed to complete her CPA. After living in Virginia for almost a year, she did a Google search for CPAs in her area and Monarch was one of the first ones to come up. She sent a very nice email with her resume attached and found out the next day that she would have to relocate again to Indiana. What she didn’t know was that Monarch had gone fully remote anyway, so she could work from anywhere!
Shannon and her husband are now living in Texas near lots of family and loving their first baby Ezra, who arrived on July 14 and is super adorable! He is also working from home, a bit less demanding than the NFL. They are excited to finally feel part of a community and get more involved with their church.
Shannon’s mother has also been a CPA for 30 years, working independently from home. Until Shannon was about 16 or 17, she thought accounting was boring—but it started to dawn on her how many opportunities an accounting background could open up in the business world. She declared major right away at Alabama and hasn’t looked back. Now her favorite part of the job is working closely with our clients and building relationships with them. She loves seeing the “light bulb” go off when they understand something new about their finances, and it’s rewarding to make a positive impact on their lives.
Her first challenge out of the box when she started with Monarch was a brand-new client, a multi-million dollar company that didn’t have efficient or streamlined processes in place. Shannon had to basically rebuild their accounting department, and now she is training another team member. It wasn’t the easiest first job to step into, but it gave her an irreplaceable experience that she never would have had with a big accounting firm!
Katie started Monarch CPA close to 16 years ago, and we are still going strong! She began her accounting career at KPMG, one of the big 4 accounting firms in the US, which was her favorite job other than owning her own firm. Katie recalls working with a close-knit team and working on interesting projects with great clients: “You were constantly stretching your brain and having to learn more and more. Every time you finished a project, the next one would be increasingly difficult.” Katie won several annual awards for working the most billable hours out of everyone in the tax department.
After KPMG, Katie worked at a couple of smaller firms before deciding to start her own business. The idea emerged when she was ready to become a mom. Though many firms claim to be family-friendly employers, she explains, “their idea of family-friendly and my idea of family-friendly are two vastly different concepts.” Katie wanted to be fully present for her daughter while remaining professionally engaged, so she envisioned a firm that checked all the boxes for her and her employees: she asked herself, “How can we cultivate fully living our lives while having a professional career and being paid and creating an environment that is collaborative and private?” At Monarch, we are still constantly revisiting those goals to stay on track.
One of the most rewarding experiences as a business owner has been interviewing clients as part of a rebranding initiative to see what they really thought. Katie received a lot of constructive feedback that really resonated, but was also very grateful to find out that “the things that people liked were the things I wanted them to experience.” Conducting the staff interviews for this post was similarly rewarding! Both experiences proved to Katie that her business is beyond surviving; the vision she started with is alive and thriving.
When she’s not working, Katie loves baking and spending time near water. However, since she recently moved to Utah, she has been missing it very much! She is a morning person and loves living on mountain time and working on Eastern time. She starts the day early, rolls out of bed and gets to work, and then has plenty of time in the afternoon to get stuff done or do what she wants with her day.
Thanks for taking the time to get to know us!