Fine Point Meet & Greet: Gail Pawlak

Meet the Fine Point Consulting staff and learn a little bit about what makes them tick. This week: Accounting Manager Gail Pawlak.

Tell us a little bit about when you started at Fine Point and what you do there.

Gail PawlakI was the first full-time employee hired at Fine Point, in 2011. Before this position, I was an accountant for a hotel management company.

I’m an Accounting Manager with Fine Point, which means I take care of the day-to-day operations with different clients. I also manage month-end reviews and reconciliation of accounts, and do payroll. For the companies I work with, I’m usually working with a team of 2-3 coworkers, typically a controller and a staff accountant.

What changes have you seen in the last six years at Fine Point?

The biggest one is that the business has grown from one to around fifteen employees. Things are always changing here in terms of finding newer, faster ways to do things more efficiently to help our clients. We’re constantly reviewing new software and apps. We work with many startups, but also some more established businesses as well. Some of the businesses we worked with in the past grew so large that they hired their own in-house accountants, which is [Fine Point Owner] Luella’s goal—to get these startups to grow to the point where they don’t need us anymore.

In recent years, we’ve also become a Results-Only Work Environment, which means we have the flexibility to work where and when we want, provided we’re meeting client needs. I usually work in the office, but it’s nice to have that flexibility option, especially when the weather is bad or when I have appointments that I need to work around.

What do you like best about working at Fine Point?

Luella is very easy to work with. (When I first started, she was very patient training me!) The culture here is great and fun. I really love all the people I work with.

What have you noticed about how business has changed in Madison in recent years?

Business—and the range of businesses—seems to have grown tremendously here. All the different startups we have in the Madison area are just amazing.

When you’re not working, you…
I spend time with my grandkids. I also enjoy antiquing and cooking.

 

Visit Fine Point Consulting to learn how our knowledgeable staff can help your business succeed.

Farm Work: The Adventures of FPC’s Bailey Green

Green Journey Farm

Green Journey Farm

If you read our previous Meet & Greet post about Fine Point Staff Accountant Bailey Green (of tiny house fame), you might not be surprised to learn that our resident adventurer has left for greener pastures (literally!). But don’t worry, she’s still working for Fine Point Consulting. Read all about it our Q&A with Bailey.

 

Tell us about where you’re living now and what made you decide to make the move?

Bailey and Grant

My husband and I moved with our tiny house and our dog to Curlew, Washington, in late July of this year. We started Green Journey Farm on 40 acres here with the goal of becoming a completely sustainable farm.

When I was in college, I took a summer course on environmental leadership and sustainability. I met some activists who were big names in the sustainability field—they were very knowledgeable and inspiring! It made a big impression on me, and that was the start of me realizing I wanted to take the next steps in the journey to sustainable living.

We settled on Curlew because it met everything on our list of criteria: It’s close to a national forest, close to a town of less than 10,000 residents, there’s acreage, and a nearby forest service. The town of Curlew is well under 10,000 residents, and we’re less than 20 miles away from the Canadian border.

 

 

What does it mean to be a sustainable farm, and how is it going so far?

Solar setup

Solar setup

Well, our goal is to be totally self-sufficient on our 40 acres so that we never need to go to the grocery store again. We want to be a zero-waste operation. There’s no one right way to live, but we also want to share, via our website and blog, what the sustainable farm possibility can look like, and provide tips and lessons from our experience to possibly inspire others.

Right now, our farm consists of our tiny house, an all-purpose shed, a sheep shed (made from rocks and fallen timbers), a chicken coop, and our solar-power set-up. There’s a large ravine with a creek that runs through the middle of our property, and we have many hiking trails and just a stunning view. In addition to our dog, we have cats, rabbits, chickens, and sheep, and we’re working on getting fish set up both indoors and out.

 

You’re still working full-time for Fine Point. What has that transition been like and do you use any special tools to make it work?

Tulip the Sheep

Tulip, the East Friesien dairy sheep (does not use Slack)

Yep, when I told Luella about my plan to move to this farm in Washington, I think she thought I was a little nuts, but she was also completely supportive. She has always encouraged her staff to follow their dreams. Likewise, the team at Fine Point was also supportive. My work with clients isn’t really that different. I was working mostly from home when I was in Madison, but would go into the office a couple days a week. I do think it was important that I worked in the office in Madison for a couple of years before we moved. That helped me really get in the groove of the culture and communication, and just the way we worked with clients.

Fine Point uses several online tools to connect both internally and with clients, which is great as I obviously can’t just pop by a coworker’s desk or a client’s office. We use Slack internally and with some clients, Asana for project/task management, and Office 365 to create and share documents. And we use Skype for screen sharing and training.

 

Any surprises on the farm?

Temporary roommates

Temporary roommates

Well, I ordered day-old chicks to arrive soon after we arrived here. We didn’t have a coop or anything yet, so we warmed them with heat packs and kept them in our tiny house for awhile. I would hear them cheeping while I was on calls for work, which was pretty cute.

 

What do you love most about your new life? Is there anything you miss?

I love being able to look up when I’m in the middle of a difficult project and see the valley and realize how small we are. It helps put everything in perspective. And it’s so tranquil here. Things I miss? Seeing my coworkers in the office—[laughs] and going to Noodles & Company.

Fine Point Meet & Greet: Allie LaFleur

Meet the Fine Point Consulting staff and learn a little bit about what makes them tick. This week: Accounting Manager Allie LaFleur.

 

Talk a little bit about your background and what drew you to accounting.

Allie LaFleurI earned my Associate’s degree in Business Management from Madison Area Technical College, along with some certificates in Small Business Entrepreneurship and Human Resources Management. Business Management was a nice, broad degree that would allow me to do any number of things, and the certificates were just something I added on. It’s great to have a little background in something like Human Resource Management when you’re an accountant and doing things like processing payroll, so those certificates have been helpful.

A few years later, with [Fine Point Owner] Luella [Schmidt’s] encouragement, I decided to go back to school at night to earn my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. Getting my bachelors was something I had always wanted to do, but it helped to have my boss encouraging me and cheering me on from the sidelines!

During this time, my husband and I also purchased a small business. To help save money, I assumed the bookkeeper role. A friend of mine helped me set up payroll and I learned QuickBooks on my own. It was a great first-hand experience that forced me not only to put my accounting classes to work and learn on the job, but it also gave me the perspective of being a small business owner and what that means for Fine Point clients.

As far as accounting, I enjoy figuring out a reconciliation that’s been stumping me. Accounting is one of those fields that there’s practically always a “right” way of doing things. You want to make sure your balances tie, for example. It’s a repetitive job, but there’s enough new stuff that comes up from month to month that keep you on your toes.

What is your role at Fine Point, and what do you enjoy about working there?

I started at Fine Point in 2011 as a staff accountant, where I oversaw reviewing profit and loss statements. Now, as Accounting Manager, I oversee some of the other accountants and am responsible for things like reviewing balance sheets; specifically, assets and liabilities.

Working at Fine Point has given me a lot of great experience working in a variety of industries. For example, this morning I’m doing some work for a nonprofit client, but this afternoon I will be working with a small personal fitness business we work with. Every day is like this, and I enjoy the variety. The culture at Fine Point is great, too. The people I work with here feel more like friends than coworkers. And Luella is a fantastic teacher. She’s not only a great accountant, but I’ve learned a ton from her about prioritizing and organizing work. She’s a pleasure to work for.

What’s something others may be surprised to learn about you?

I lived in Holland as a young child. My mom got a job as a teacher on a military base there. I was too young to learn the language and my parents weren’t immersed in the language when we were there, but my sister, who is two years older than I am, picked up the language very quickly through school there. Even though she was also quite young, she quickly became our family translator.

When you’re not working, you…

My husband and I just bought our first house in April, and we’re working on a never-ending list of household projects. And my sister just had the first grandchild in our family, so between the projects and visiting the new baby, that’s pretty much all we have time for!

 

Visit Fine Point Consulting to learn how our knowledgeable staff can help your business succeed.

Fine Point Meet & Greet: Steph Breunig

Meet the newest Fine Point Consulting staff and learn a little bit about what makes them tick. This week: Firm Administrator Steph Breunig.

Tell us a little bit about your background and the work you do at Fine Point.

Steph BreunigMy background is actually in English and Education. I worked for a number of years as a Library Media Specialist in a couple of school districts. I’ve known Luella for years and have always joked with her that she should hire me to work for her, especially as teaching in this state has become more difficult in recent years. But Luella told me one day she wasn’t kidding anymore and she really did want to hire me, and it’s been a great experience.

I do a little bit of everything. My role here is part office manager, part bookkeeper, part technology manager, plus whatever else Luella asks me to do. I also coordinate HR and benefits. Luella has been really great at letting me tailor the job to my strengths; for example, I’m setting up “Lunch & Learns” a couple times a month through AstUtemy, so our staff can learn more about business and accounting. As a former teacher, I can’t help myself but to teach!

What’s the transition been like going from a career in Education to working in Business—and what do you like most about working for Fine Point?

As I’ve been educating myself more about the business world through webinars and other resources, I’ve just started looking at things through a different lens. Business articles in the newspaper grab my attention now—and what I notice in the world around me is just different. Working with startups is exciting, and I really love that so many of these companies we work with are really making a difference in the world.

The people here at Fine Point are great and the environment here is very fun. The Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) that Fine Point employs was also a major draw for me as a working mom. I like being able to take time off when I need to for my family—and I like that not all of my days off are tied to the school schedule!

When you’re not working, you…

I have three children who are 10, 11, and 13. All three of them play lacrosse, so that eats up a lot of my time. I’m a huge sports fan, which doesn’t necessarily fit with my library persona! I’m one of those crazy parents who yells from the sidelines of my kids’ games—though I keep it positive. My son calls me the “Third Ref.”

 

Visit Fine Point Consulting to learn how our knowledgeable staff can help your business succeed.

Fine Point Meet & Greet: Matt Loewi

Meet the newest Fine Point Consulting staff and learn a little bit about what makes them tick.

Tell us a bit about your role at Fine Point and what you like best about working there.

Matt LoewiI started in January of 2016 as a staff accountant, so I work on accounts payable and receivable, reconciling statements, running payrolls, and that sort of thing. I’m actually working on completing my BS degree in Accounting at Edgewood College and finish up this Spring. I was looking for an internship-type position and a mutual connection who knew Luella told me about Fine Point. I really like the relaxed environment we have here and the ability to learn about a variety of companies that are in different stages of development. Plus the fact that we work largely with more casual start-ups means we have a casual atmosphere and dress code, too. (I have one co-worker who got teased by a client for wearing a suit!) Fine Point also has a really open environment for learning and sharing information.

(Fine Point Owner) Luella is a big reader. Any favorite books, blogs, or podcasts?

One podcast I’m enjoying at the moment is called Surprisingly Awesome. It’s two guys and one guy will come up with a topic that’s often considered boring (think adhesives, pigeons, broccoli), and over the course of an episode will try to convince the other guy that the topic is not boring by talking about the history and just random facts about the subject. I like random trivia, so I think it’s really interesting. The episode about concrete, for example, talked about the history of concrete and how it impacts our society, and how many fatalities from natural disasters are actually “concrete disasters” in that the cement or concrete used in construction is often not up to standards.

When you’re not working, you…

I do quite a bit of woodworking. My family has a Christmas tree farm, so I work on the farm and we mill all our own wood. I’ve made tables, cutting boards, and benches. I also like to garden, and I play a lot of sports, mostly pickup soccer and basketball games.

 

Visit Fine Point Consulting to learn how our knowledgeable staff can help your business succeed.

Fine Point Meet & Greet: Zach Miller

Meet the newest Fine Point Consulting staff and learn a little bit about what makes them tick.

Tell us a bit about your background and what drew you to accounting.

Zach MillerGrowing up, I always liked math, so accounting was a natural fit for me. I’d always thought I would own my own business someday, so accounting also made sense as a career path. I earned BS degrees from Edgewood College in both Accounting and Finance, and my first job out of college was as a Revenue Accountant in Chicago for Merge Healthcare, a health tech company. I wanted to get back to Madison, so I then took a job as a Field Examiner for First Business Capital, where I conducted reviews of existing and prospective clients. I’ve been at Fine Point Consulting as Assistant Controller since December 2015.

What do you enjoy most about working at Fine Point?

I like the fact that we work largely with newer startups and entrepreneurs. It gives me the opportunity to work with some of the brightest, most innovative people in Madison. And we work with our clients one-on-one: we’re not just crunching numbers for them in a back room—we’re collaborators. Also, the atmosphere at Fine Point is really great. We use the ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment) management strategy, which means we’re not required to come into the office to work. But the people here are so great, I find myself wanting to come in more often than not.

(Fine Point Owner) Luella is a big reader. Any favorite books?

I don’t do a ton of reading, but I do like Dan Brown’s books. They’re just fun and interesting—I’m not a treasure hunter or anything!

When you’re not working, you…

I played soccer for Edgewood College and I still play sometimes for a men’s indoor league—when my body allows it! I also bought my first house last May and it’s a fixer-upper, so I spend the majority of my non-work time fixing it up and taking on DIY projects.

 

Visit Fine Point Consulting to learn how our knowledgeable staff can help your business succeed.