Elite Cleaning puts financial house in order and cleans up

Scottiejo McNulty, owner of Elite Cleaning of Washington

Scottiejo McNulty, owner of Elite Cleaning of Washington

Written by Hope Tinney

OLYMPIA, Wash.—At the beginning of 2013 Scottiejo McNulty was running her company, Elite Cleaning of Washington, like most people run their household: money came in, bills got paid, and she didn’t worry about the details.

Her business was successful—and growing—despite the fact that her financial records were both inaccurate and incomplete.

Closing in on the end of 2013, not only does McNulty have her financial house in order, but she’s considering franchising her business.

Not bad considering McNulty has only owned the business since June 2011 and when she took over she was the only full-time employee.

As McNulty says, “I’m not a sit-around kind of person.”

Within 18 months of buying the business she had five employees and was on pace to bring in more than $100,000 in annual revenues as she stretched her service area from Thurston County to include to Mason and Lewis counties as well.

Her cleaners are fast, efficient and thorough she said. “We don’t leave until it’s done and we come back if it’s not right.”

McNulty was building her business with the same level of intensity that she attacked cleaning projects, but there was one area she avoided as much as a truck stop bathroom—financial records and bookkeeping.

And, she wasn’t sure how much they mattered, anyway. Business was going well; her client list was growing; employees were happy; bills were getting paid.

But, there were a few bumps along the way and then in January of this year her bookkeeper sprung a $9,500 tax bill on her.

That’s when McNulty started meeting with Ron Nielsen, a certified business advisor with the Washington Small Business Development Center (SBDC).

“I was like a deer in the headlights,” she said. Often, you don’t know what you don’t know, and McNulty is amazed, in hindsight, by what she didn’t know.

“I had no clue how to read a financial statement,” she said. “I couldn’t tell you how much my supplies cost.”

The first order of business was figuring out exactly what was coming into the business and where it was going, down to the penny. Nielsen and McNulty spent hours going over spreadsheets and financial statements together, and then she would leave their meetings with a “to do” list of additional information to track down.

“Ron is wonderful,” she said. “When I’m looking at numbers and my heart is pounding because I don’t understand it, his gentle nature is just very reassuring.”

Nielsen also recommended she attend a Profit Mastery class through the SBDC, which she did. Slowly, she said, things began to click.

Over the past year she has built a vocabulary and knowledge base that gives her a much better understanding of her company’s financial health. “Numbers and I are not friends,” she said, “but thanks to Ron we are friendlier.”

McNulty now has an accountant, instead of a bookkeeper, but her crash course on financial records and bookkeeping has made a huge difference in her business and her life.

In October McNulty’s mother suffered a major health crisis while on vacation in the Midwest and within a day and a half McNulty was on her way to Iowa, where she stayed for nearly six weeks as her mother’s health gradually improved.

As it is, even with that six-week disruption, McNulty’s business is on track to bring in nearly $200,000 in revenues this year, nearly double what the business made last year. She has hired three additional employees in 2013, and her client list grew by nearly 300 percent.

“Ron is my mentor and my advocate,” McNulty said. “With Ron by your side you can do anything, but you have to do your homework. He doesn’t do it for you.”