This post is part of our Behind the Books series where we introduce you to the incredibly talented and hardworking people that make up the Acuity team.
Today we’re introducing you to our longest-tenured employee, controller Sharon Pierce, who sat down with Matthew May to tell him about her accounting career and her time at Acuity.
Welcome, Sharon Pierce. Thank you for joining us. We’ve been interviewing some of our longest tenured people, and today we get to interview our longest tenured person. Your tenth anniversary was on June 1st?
That’s right. It’s exciting.
That’s kind of cool. Ten years. That’s a long time to do anything.
Right. I love working with Acuity. It just keeps getting better.
That’s fun. So let’s go way back. Where are you from?
I’m originally from Iowa, specifically Dubuque, Iowa, which is right where Wisconsin, Illinois, and Iowa meet on the Mississippi.
Wow, that’s like a hub of activity. Well, how’d you get into accounting and finance?
I guess I’m one of those lucky people that always knew what I wanted to do even in high school. And I just felt like accounting was a good fit for me and it always has been. My major out of high school was actually computer programming and accounting, and I’m definitely dating myself here, but that’s when you had punch cards on the computer programming piece. But it was a neat foundation to some other things that I did afterward. But I just always knew accounting was a great fit for me.
What was your first job out of college?
I worked at WHO broadcasting in Des Moines, Iowa, and I was the accounts payable clerk at that time, and it was great. I loved working at a TV station. You know, you’ve got so many different personalities, you’ve got art department, you’ve got the on-air personalities, you’ve got the smart people in accounting, right. And then you’ve got the sales folks. So it was just a neat environment to be in to be able to be exposed to different disciplines early on.
So I’m going to put you on the spot. Who’s your favorite client?
Oh Man. I am going to have to say at this time, The Ready is my favorite.
What makes The Ready cool?
It is because it is always challenging there. The Ready is made up of consultants, so they travel a lot. It’s a group of maybe 15 people, and they go into these big companies all over the world, and they help them redesign their organization. They help them transform their organizations, and the accounting piece of that, as I said, it’s always changing the way I interact with everybody always changes. They went into a self-managed model at the beginning of the year. So it’s sort of like I work with every individual as opposed to just the CEO. And it’s been fun to get to know people.
I bet. So what’s the favorite client of all time? It sounded like you had one.
Well, you know, PatientCo is always near and dear to my heart. I was with them for eight years, nine years, something like that. And I’ve seen them grow from about four people to about 80 people. And actually, I haven’t been there since late last year. I think they’re probably up towards 90 or so people by now. But it’s great. They’ve been wonderful to work with.
What does a normal day like for Sharon Pierce?
Well, I’m not sure there is one, but what I like to do when I first get online is I like to review emails. I’ve got some smaller clients too, so I like to go in and see what’s happening with them in their financial software. I take a snapshot of their cash flow. Of course, every company has its pain points in terms of cash, so that’s where I start. I sort of review everybody and then I compartmentalize into two to three or more hour blocks for things that need to be accomplished that day. Once I get through that, I block out everything for a period of time and work through things for the different clients that need more attention than just a quick review.
Can you describe somebody who needs controller services? I get that question all the time. What’s a controller, who needs controller services? What’s the best answer that you’ve been able to articulate to people about that?
Anybody that needs process improvement. There are a lot of these companies that we enter into, as you know, that don’t have any processes in place yet. So a lot of times the CEO, sometimes even the CFO, don’t really have what they need to manage their balance sheet for example. Or they don’t manage their financials in the best way possible. So I’d say controller services are even needed early on to get things set up properly, so you have the knowledge to grow and move forward and achieve your strategic plan.
Why do you think the way we do it at Acuity is best for that? What have you enjoyed or what has kept you here for ten years
I love that every day is different; every client is different. The needs associated with the client always varies. You have very hands-on CEOs, while others are very hands off. Some people respond to email, and some people don’t. What keeps me here is that it’s interesting all the time. Even some of the more mundane tasks are interesting because it’s different for everybody. Always challenging.
So what question didn’t I ask you that I should have asked you?
Well, one thing that may be more specific to me is going to a client versus managing a client’s needs through a computer-based solution is very different. I like both for different reasons. I enjoy going in to see clients, and I love interacting. I love trying to work out some of the needs that they have. But it’s very different when you are working with somebody, and it’s 100% online. Things like this, Zoom, is beneficial because you do get to see each other, but it’s still different. It’s not the same as being face to face, but I’m getting used to it. And I like it because there’s more flexibility to do things when they need to be done as opposed to when I happen to be into their office. And I will also say one thing that I’m trying to be more disciplined about is taking care of myself. Because when you work from home a lot in a way, I tend to get hyperfocus, and I don’t take care of myself as much. I’m trying to; after sitting for three hours, do something like, go for a walk around the block or do pushups. I’m just trying to take care of myself and making sure that I have some balance in all of that.
Well, that’s cool. What’s the biggest change that you’ve seen in the last ten years in accounting or Acuity?
The client’s needs haven’t really changed in my mind. Every client is different, but their demands have pretty much stayed the same. From a technology standpoint, there have been a lot of changes. When I first started ten years ago, you had QuickBooks: desktop and online. Xero wasn’t really popular, I’m not even sure when they were born, but I don’t remember seeing them come around until much later. There are also so many apps that can now connect to financial software. I think it’s been fantastic to see some of these come about, including a way to manage SaaSOptics comes to mind. I haven’t used it, but I’m curious to see how it works when I have a client that it applies to. But managing some of these very manual tasks in a system that will connect with your financial software, that’s been the most significant change so far. That’s cool.