We had the good fortune of connecting with Ruth Urban and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Ruth Urban is president and CEO of On the Money, an accounting and bookkeeping firm in Phoenix. The company’s mission is to help businesses take control of finances. She serves as a trusted advisor to clients, helping them build highly profitable businesses. The Phoenix Business Journal ranked On the Money as one of the largest Phoenix-area women-owned businesses in 2019 and 2020.
Hi Ruth, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
It was January 2004, I found myself facing a failed business and two teenagers to raise as a single mom. I needed income, and fast. Not only was I low on money, but low in confidence as well. I thought hard about what I had done well in the prior few years and realized that I had been a pretty darn good networker. I created a flyer in Word that listed a variety of business and personal services that I could offer to clients, based on the skills I had developed over the years. Then I mailed (USPS – it was 2004) the flyers to 50 of my best contacts that had been developed through that networking. At the time I mailed the flyers, I had no intention of creating a business. My vision was that I could find a client who would be bowled over with my abilities and want to hire me for full-time work. Until that happened, I would at least be bringing in some money to pay my bills. On that flyer, I listed 19 services – and got calls on the one line that read: Bookkeeping (QuickBooks & Quicken). I should not have been surprised. I had held a variety of part-time jobs with small business owners when my children were small. My entrée to those jobs was often as a bookkeeper – experience that led to an understanding of how desperately owners needed someone they could trust to manage their money. Once I got in the door, there were always opportunities to wear lots of hats and that appealed to me as a woman who easily got bored. And so, the bookkeeping began, but not the part of getting hired for full-time work. The companies who hired me were very small, and there was no full-time work available at any of them. I applied for a variety of positions without any job offers. I suspect by that time it was obvious that I was an entrepreneur at heart and probably would not make a good employee. Without employment options, I continued to take on bookkeeping clients until I had no more capacity to do so. However, I had no idea how (or the inclination) to turn down business so I found additional accountants who could do the work under the On the Money umbrella. I managed the sales, paid for overhead like insurance and marketing costs – all they had to do was the part they loved – the ongoing accounting work. Fast forward to 2009. The economy had stalled and the work wasn’t coming in as quickly. Many times in my life have proved to me that most things happen as they should. My parents faced numerous medical problems and needed help. My caregiving journey lasted five years, during which time I found myself devoting an average of 20 hours a week to it. I was grateful to be self-employed, to have the option of cutting back on my work while still having income. This all leads back to the question at hand: What was my thought process in creating my own business? To be honest, those thoughts didn’t come to me until 2015. Caregiving duties were over. It became clear to me that I was meant to own this business and that it was past time that I develop it into a thriving enterprise, and one that I liked. I reached out through a networking group for coaching referrals and was introduced to an amazing mentor who worked with me gratis for several years. He was amazing at bolstering my confidence and assuring me that there was much demand for our services. I’ve had a variety of coaches since then, some paid, some not. I regularly advise business owners not to go it alone – there are plenty of experts to guide the way. What I am proud of creating these last few years is a business that I love and is profitable, in which I’m doing work that I’m good at and enjoy, and most of all we are helping small businesses thrive. I manage the business development – both clients and team. We have grown exponentially since I’ve put that thought into creating my business. (For the last three years, the Phoenix Business Journal ranked my company as one of the largest Phoenix-area women-owned businesses.) Better late than never!
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
My answer to the initial question regarding the thought process in creating my business answers how we go to where we are today. It certainly was not easy, although I do think it is rewarding and has been a lot of fun. We are different because we are passionate about entrepreneurs. We are there to help our clients (for profit and not for profit) by providing them with timely and accurate financial information. Most importantly, we want them to look at their financial reports and thoroughly understand them. We are teachers. We help our clients understand how to use their numbers to make good business decisions. We encourage them to focus on profit, not just revenue and to pay themselves first.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This answer is courtesy of a little magic; our opportunities to explore are not restricted due to the pandemic. I’ve got on my rose colored glasses today! My friend is best advised to visit sometime between mid-October and early May. We would spend most of our time outdoors, taking advantage of of the valley’s myriad of options to dine al-fresco, and enjoy breakfasts and happy hour on my patio. We’d probably visit the Desert Botanical Gardens and the Phoenix Zoo. We’d catch a Diamondbacks game if in the spring. We’d definitely visit the Carefree/Cave Creek area and check out the shops. Depending on time available and the weather, we’d head out of town. The obvious choices of Sedona and the Grand Canyon, of course. But we might go south to Aravaipa Canyon or to Bisbee.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many! Of course the mentors and coaches I’ve worked with the last 5 years. My husband, Ron, who has supported my journey. Loren Yaskin with The Flipside Communications who has brilliantly kept us in the public eye, making it known to the business community how passionate we are about helping them thrive. My team of bookkeepers and accountants that do an amazing job for our clients and mentor them to success though understanding their numbers.