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Episode 101: Cobbler Nights & Continuity Plans 

Join us and guest Robin Hall* President of VARC Solutions as we discussed the challenges and benefits of involving family members in the business, the importance of setting boundaries, and the process of growing the company and hiring employees. Robin also shares her insights on creating a business continuity plan, implementing dashboards and metrics, and the value of participating in business organizations like Vistage.  

Episode #101 Transcript

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Michael Palumbos:
Well, welcome everybody to the Family Biz Show. I'm your host, Michael Palumbas with Family Wealth and Legacy in Rochester, New York. And we have a really interesting show for you today. We're here with Robin Hall from Barkender Solutions. Welcome, Robin. Thank you.

Robin Hall:

Thank you. Glad to be here today.

Michael Palumbos:

I am very excited to talk about this because I believe that your situation and the story that we're gonna share today is a familiar one for a lot of people as they're starting out building their business. Talk to us first, let's do the history of VARC solutions. You call it VARC, it's not at VARC, right? Sorry.

Robin Hall:

No, no, it's totally fine. So that's been the age old question for the last 24 years. So technically it's VARC solutions and...about 10 years in and 10 years of people calling it VARC, I kind of went, you know what, it just doesn't matter that checks cash the same. And we have some internal systems that we do that we've named with, it's called VARC Base. So if I internally call it VARC, then I can't get mad at anybody else for calling it VARC. So either one works. Perfect, you got it. So tell us about the history of starting the company.

Michael Palumbos:

I definitely think everybody would like to hear about how you started, how you came up with the name. Sure. Yeah, and then tell us what you do. Sure, so the company name is VARC Solutions. And so it stands for Victoria, Alexandra, Robin and Craig, which are my kids, myself and my husband. Obviously the kids come first as they do with everything. But when I started the business,

toyed around with different names and stuff. And that one, when we kind of hit that and put our initials together, it just kind of stuck and felt right. But, you know, we've been in business for, we're going on our 25th year. And so it started out with just me. We're up to about 20 employees and it has grown from needs with my clients. So we do bookkeeping and accounting and database development.

Michael Palumbos (02:25.966)
And every aspect that we've added, we've added because there was a, we saw a need out with our clients or clients said, hey, can you do this? And it fit with what we were doing. So we added services and grew the company as the needs arose. Okay, very cool. Let's see, quick, so you do the bookkeeping, I'm just trying to the accounting.

Let's hit this for a second. You started off as a solopreneur. Yes. How did you grow into 20 people? Yes. Let me give you a little bit of the story there. After I had my second child, the A in VARC, I had a friend that had started a business and he knew how to fix tools. That was his passion and that's what he knew how to do. He didn't know how to do anything else.

He couldn't turn on a computer. He didn't know how to set up a filing system. He didn't know anything. Even though his wife was a CPA in accounting, she had a 40, 50, 60 hour week job. And the last thing that she wanted to do was come home and do his book. So I went to his office and helped him set up a filing system, helped him set up so he could invoice people and collect money and just every little aspect. And so...

He was like, you know what, there's probably a whole lot of people that need this. And so I kind of looked into it and little by little, just from word of mouth, I would talk to people and, hey, yeah, I can help with that. Oh, you hired your first employee, I can help with payroll. I can help with those things. And so for 10 years, it was just me. And I quickly learned if I... Well, I started out doing bookkeeping.

And then, you know, I learned that if you have a Monday client and a Tuesday client and a Wednesday client and a Thursday client and a Friday client, you don't get a day off. So I tried to start doing training and I was really good. So I was training on the software. And so those are shorter gigs and you know, they're scheduled out. So I don't have to be tied down on each day of the week. So started doing that. And then I kind of realized that.

Michael Palumbos (04:51.126)
If I'm not in the office, when somebody calls for that kind of help, now my office was, you know, the bedroom upstairs at this point, but if I'm not there to answer that call, then they're gonna go on to the next person. So kind of full circle, my first part-time employee was my first client, because remember they were a friend, their daughter. Okay. Yeah, so their daughter was my first part-time employee, so she had just graduated high school.

I really just needed her to be there to answer the phone. And I gave her some data entry and some small things so that she would end up paying for herself. And one of the scariest things that I had was she goes, okay, I'm moving out. She was moving out of her parents' house and I'm like, oh, I now have the responsibility of somebody on my back.

So it wasn't just me that I was spending for, but now I had to make sure that we grew enough. And so that's kind of the moment I felt like I became a real company, is when I was responsible for somebody else. So as we went through and I did bookkeeping and then I did training, and then as I went to conferences, then they had me train at some of those conferences. So I started becoming known in that industry.

and being a nationally recognized trainer. And so that opened up more opportunities. And I think I was very good at noticing opportunities and jumping on those. So, like I said, we do training and we do bookkeeping and we also do database development, which are two things that generally don't go together. But I was at one of the conferences and the major vendor at that conference said,

hey, you can have an hour with one of our engineers to learn this other software. And I was like, oh, I'm intrigued. And they were like, okay, what do you wanna know? And I'm like, I don't know anything, just teach me. And so that night, instead of going to the bars and networking, I went up to my hotel room and I just tinkered with that software and I fell in love. And it was in a very addictive software and we used it internally and I built my own internal systems, my CRM,

Michael Palumbos (07:14.73)
our tracking, everything that we do. And we still use that today. We adapt and adjust it as we go, but that's how we got into the development. And so obviously I can't do all of those things. So that's when we started to hire. So I got more bookkeeping, so I got more bookkeepers. Then we did more development and I still had the vision and would speak to the clients on that, but I have developers that are doing some of that development work. So-

Like I said, as I saw opportunities, then I was able to recognize those and jump on those and have the company grow based upon that. Very cool. So VARC Solutions, I gotta get it. It's easier to say VARC, so you can say VARC if you need to. So when you started it, you put the whole family in there. I did. What were you thinking?

I mean, besides, you know, obviously you love your family and I get that you're not alone. Just so you know, there's some, there's a very large business that used to be in the Rochester area that I think got absorbed, a phone company and he had all the names of the kids and his wife, you know, that's how they came up with it. And there was even a soccer stadium named after, you know, that company or, you know, they had naming rights for a while. So it's a very, you know,

It's a really cool way to make the business feel like family right from day one. So, yeah, so there's a, there's a couple of things floating around and I don't know that I thought of them initially, but they they've been part of the culture. So one VARC, it is my family's initials. I know why I'm working every day. That, that is why I'm working every day. Um, did I want my kids? Cause at this point they were a newborn.

Or did I want them to come into the business? It was always a hope, but obviously as a good parent, I want them to do what their passion is. But so my mom did accounting and I did account, that's kind of how I got into it. When she would have to go to work on the weekends, I'm there and going, what are you doing? What are you doing? Can I help? So I learned a lot just by watching and doing and helping out.

Michael Palumbos (09:42.586)
And I think that's where my passion came from. So did I want my kids to pass it along? Absolutely. But also, we build relationships with our clients. And so once they learn the story that that's where the name comes from, they know that they're part of that bigger family. And so, and we try and bend over backwards for our clients, and they know that they're part of the family.

And so they know that that's that culture, that environment. And I've also tried to bring that family environment with my staff as well. So one of the things that I've done is I had some crazy bosses before I started the business. And some of them had rules for the sake of having rules. And so one of the things that I decided when I had employees was we're going to go with a little bit of logic. I know that's crazy and unheard of.

But we're gonna go with logic and we're gonna we're gonna help the person instead of just saying oh you have to be on time Every day. Okay. Sometimes people aren't warning people and they but you know I have one employee that if she had to be here every day on time it would kill her She's not chronically like 10 o'clock, but she is probably one of my hardest workers And if I need her to stay till midnight, she'll stay till midnight but you know and so it's I had a

company I worked for that was like, if you're late 12 times in a year, you're gone, regardless of the work or regardless of your value. So it's things like that, that we try and have a culture of family. So not just my biological family or my you know, married to, but I want everybody here to be considered part of this family. And that does help to set up a culture that tracks people.

And keeps people. So, and that in this world, right now when we're, you know, everybody's talking about, how do I attract and retain top employees? Those are- You gotta treat them right. Yeah.

Michael Palumbos (11:49.238)
people are all 100% different, right? And so, yeah, all right, this one doesn't come in on time every single day, but like you said, he or she works like there's no tomorrow. And that's- Yeah, I learned a long time ago, I'll diverge for just a second, but my oldest one is severely dyslexic. And so in dealing with that, there was a lot of reading, a lot of learning, a lot of, you know, a lot of a lot.

And so one of the things that I learned that stuck with me is the definition of fair is not giving to everybody equally. It's giving them to what they need. And so I try and attribute that to my staff as well and my team is, you know, not everybody needs everything. And so even the kudos that we give out, some people are money-based, some people are, you know, need to know that you appreciate them. Some people are,

So we do different things around here to kind of hit upon everybody, but I try and make sure that I'm hitting them where it's meaningful to them. That's interesting. My wife, I only heard that saying from my wife. Okay. And I've heard it other places, but I hear a lot from her, but she's a special ed teacher. Okay. And what she, you know, her version of that when talking with parents and with me,

raising kids is that exactly what you said, fair is not always equal, but if you took everybody up to the top of Lake Placid and gave them all the skis and the poles and the same equipment and said, okay, get yourself down that black diamond hill, some would make it and some wouldn't, and that's not fair. And so, you just do treating people the way they wanna be treated really makes a big difference. Yes. Let's talk about for,

You have had family in and out of the business. Let's talk about what was the first foray of having family in the business. So when I started to grow, there was so much that was in my head because I was the one doing it. So I didn't need to necessarily document that. And so after I had my first part-time employee and then I brought on a bookkeeper, I brought on a family member.

Michael Palumbos (14:17.442)
and it was somebody that I thought I could trust and I could take all that information out of my head and let's document that. Let's make sure that we have processes. Let's make sure things are done completely. And that worked for quite a while. And so until it didn't work. And so, you know, if you give someone too much power, especially if it is a family business, then sometimes they think that that's theirs.

And even though they are family, they are still an employee. And so where we want to treat them right, we also want them not to say, well, this is my business and I'm the one that built that up, especially out to the public. And so, and then just weird things like, hey, I'm gonna go visit mom this weekend and next week. And so that shouldn't count towards my vacation because I'm visiting your mom too. I'm like, ah.

really doesn't work for me. So it's, you know, it worked for, like I said, for quite a while. And a lot was built because we had synergies that we could work together and knew how, but as many synergies and you can work together, that person also knows what buttons to push, especially if it's a sibling. And so as well as it can work, sometimes it doesn't work. But

It also set me up to learn quite a few things. So, you know, I don't regret any of that time. It was good having a family member in, but you know, there's boundaries that need to be put in if they're not the one that you're going to, if they're not a ownership of it, or they're not the one that you're going to pass it to. And so there is some boundaries in there that need to be respected on both sides.

I think that that's a really healthy word that we take for granted sometimes, we don't use enough. Boundaries doesn't mean, what are we keeping out? It's also, what are we letting in? And so like you said, in the beginning of that relationship, the business portion of that relationship, having a family member in the business that was a close family member, it was nice to be able to, you know.

Michael Palumbos (16:42.686)
you knew each other well enough that there was probably some synergies from the, hey, you know, we know, I know how this works for her. I know how this works for the other person and everything's all hunky dory and good. The flip of that though is then sometimes it's harder to keep out the bad. And so what would you say, you know, how did you go through the unraveling? How did that...

work for you. So when did you get to the point where you're like, this isn't working for me anymore? How did you go about that process? So there was definitely some oversteps. There was the, hey, this doesn't count as vacation kind of thing. There was starting to hear from employees, well, this person told us we can't do that because you wouldn't like it. So the putting words in my mouth, and I'm like, that's never been discussed. We need to make sure. So.

there was definitely that person made themselves a gatekeeper where there didn't need to be one. And so even today with 20 employees, I have free form communication. So much so that like when we redid our offices, there's not a whole lot of doors because I want the open concept. And so we feed off of each other on how we talk to clients and how we do things. So having somebody

counteract that behind the scenes going, well, don't talk to her about this. Don't do this. Don't do that. So when that came to a head, it really had to be a clean break. And so it ended up being a clean break when it was, let me push the buttons. Let me push the buttons. And then it's like, okay, this is not working. And it was just a separation at that point. So, and that's hard to family wise, hard to recover from. And so you have to.

Just like if you bring partners in, you have to set up, the best way one of my friends told me was, you have to set up the divorce clause before you enter in with partnership. And I think you need to do that with family members as well, is you need to set up that divorce clause so that you do know if there is an exit, how it's going to be done and how it's going to be handled. And I think when you're in growth mode and you've never dealt with that,

Michael Palumbos (19:06.102)
that's probably a hard thing. And I think there's a lot of fracturing sometimes in families when that happens. And so it's easy to talk about what if when everybody's happy together. Setting up expectations and understanding what people are accountable for is one of the most important things regardless of whether it's family or not family. Correct, correct. We call it, creating a scorecard.

And it's one thing to have your scorecard. We use scorecard instead of job description because the scorecard is more, we like it because it's more bulleted and focused on the really, you know, most important portions of the job. But then it's, you can have a scorecard, but if you never review it, then it doesn't do it. It's not good. Exactly. Yeah. Todd, how many years ago was that? That was probably,

eight or nine years ago that person exited. Okay. And if you had, you know, how was it, do you mind if I ask how the relationship is today? It is not. So, and it's, what's difficult is they've stayed in the space without the education. So they have the administrative part of the business and they overstepped in portraying their expertise.

in the same small community. And so, see the person all the time. But, and so, you know, with different last names, people are, there's a lot of people that do know that we are related and there's some that are like, oh my gosh, I had no idea. So it's, it is what it is. But again, you know, for me, overstepping and integrating me is a lot to me.

And the overstep was a lot. So, and it's my children kept a relationship with them for a very long time until that integrity bled over. So it's, for me, it was a separation, but it didn't mean it was a separation for my whole family. So, I wanted to make sure that part for me didn't bleed over into other things.

Michael Palumbos (21:26.518)
that everybody makes their own decisions. It's difficult. It's, you know, that's a really tough thing to recover from. I give you a lot of credit for being able to keep that boundary up there. And again, like I said, you know, if there was a change and a moment of, oh my goodness, I'm sorry, I missed these things. Right.

I'm a different person today. I can tell based on our conversation, you're the kind of person to be way open to that at the same time. Absolutely, absolutely. What else about family? So you've had children in the business. So through high school, my oldest one worked in the business because I wanted her to get a feeling of it. And she...

did different aspects of it and sat with different employees and learned different aspects. And then after she graduated college, she came back and was part of the business and she did a great job. Her degree was in business and we have, and it's gonna sound bad, but it's not. We have someone in the office that is a cat herder that basically keeps everybody where they need to be. There's a lot of move in parts.

And so she was filling that role and she was fabulous. The previous person was twice her age and not getting everything done. And she was getting everything done and had extra time. And so she didn't, I think because it was her first real job out of college, didn't realize that her organization skills and her methodology of getting things done and not procrastinating, she did a fabulous job. So.

about a year in she said, I don't think I'm using my degree, I wanna branch out. And so as a mom, as an employer, I was like, okay, I'm heartbroken because you're doing great. As a mom, I was like, I want you to fulfill what your passion is. So she went off, she's doing great. She works for the Department of Defense. They paid for her master's degree. And she's still at that job today.

Michael Palumbos (23:43.142)
And so, you know, she's doing great. My youngest one trying to coax her in, she never wanted to work here in high school, but wants to be a teacher. So I can't really fault her, you know, for, hey, that teachers are needed, you know, but so it is something that it was set up for them to be able to come in. But as a mom, I also have to be able to say, follow your passion as well.

So it's interesting. I want to just talk about that for a second because one, as a mom, you're doing the right thing. That's one of those, you know, one of the rules, and everybody's different, but one of the rules that a lot of family businesses put into place is to say, before you can come and work with us, you've got to go out and spend three years or five years out in the world and

And that way, when you're coming to us, you are choosing us. It's not that we roped you into it and you never got away. Kind of a scenario. So this is one of those times where that might've made sense. At the same time, your daughter learned really quickly that she had some skills that she might not have tapped into if she went to work someplace else right out of the gate.

and didn't have to do those things. So there's pros and cons to every way you do anything. Yeah. And I do know because we had probably about 15 employees when she came, she did feel, because she was straight out of college, she did feel she only had the job because of her mom. And so, and as much as I was like, don't worry about it, I know it was probably taxing on her. And so, you know,

through backing up a little bit, like I said, she worked here through high school and just being, you know, and just kind of an admin and helping out with whatever needed. And so as she did that, friends of ours that had kids that were, you know, a year, two years, three years, four years behind, they were like, oh, can someone so come work up there their senior year? So that's another way, you know, our extended family, if you want to say, our family of friends.

Michael Palumbos (26:09.266)
that a lot of their kids came through here, like their senior year, to one, have a summer job, somewhere they knew that they would be taken care of, but also have somewhere where they knew that not every kid wants to go work in fast food or retail or any of that. And if they're gonna go into an office environment, going through and doing that. So we've opened that up. So even though my kids won't come and be part of the family, we've opened that up.

We've now, since my kids are kind of gone and they're trailing friends are gone. The schools have now contacted us because we do a lot in our community and we run interns through here, through the school program. So they need to have intern hours. And so we run them through with different things and we've done them for marketing and for sales and for accounting. And so we've had several different types of interns that we've run through here.

just to give people some exposure and to make sure, because again, I'm in a smaller town. We all kind of know each other. I have an intern here now that's working here that his mom and I are in Rotary together. So extending that for how you wanna say family is that extension of that. I love it, love it. Talk about your intern program for a little bit, because a lot of time, when I talk to,

other companies, there are two types of internship programs. There's the internship program where it's like, I need to get all this stuff done and nobody else wants to do it. So we bring interns in to do that. And then there's the internship program where it's like, no, we're trying to, you know, seed some data, some information and get them to learn about this position to see if it's something that they might actually wanna do. And it's our responsibility to

teach them and bring them up to another level more than just using them. It sounds like your program is a lot like that. Yeah. It's actually a little bit of a hybrid. We have had some like, hey, nobody wants this task, but we're renaming all of the file names on our server. Here's the format, go do that. We have had some of that. We also, and how we started doing it is,

Michael Palumbos (28:36.95)
Again, small town, I help out a lot in the community and our school did, they have an entrepreneur program. And so I'm like, that's cool. They would never would have had that when I was in high school. Sure. But part of that, those kids have to build a business and they have a shark tank type thing. So I've been a shark and like working with them on their business proposals and stuff like that. So one of the kids was,

our first intern and we had him, he wanted to do accounting, so we had him doing some data entry and it wasn't that somebody didn't wanna do it, it's like, here's some stuff that we can do and we've checked with this client and it's okay that this intern works on this stuff. So they've done some of that, I've had them sit with employees to kind of go through and like the marketing, the rationale, why we're doing what we're doing, how we're doing it.

So some of it is just being a sponge and absorbing that. Some of it is, hey, just kind of watch. There was a couple of days that here's a pile of shred that just has to happen because we deal with financials and that's part of the job. So we have a little bit of both. We have some mundane tasks. We have some, hey, you learn. And then we have some.

Let's absorb and let's open up your reach. You came in for accounting, but with accounting, there's the before and the after. So let's have you expand your knowledge and not just be pigeonholed. Because with a small company, you get to learn a lot. With larger companies, you have your set focus. And with smaller companies, you gotta know A to Z. That way, and if you didn't balance it, one, being a small company, you do have to have

some of that other, the task oriented, busy work we'll call it, that happens. And that benefits you because you can get that done at X amount of dollars per hour versus X plus times dollars per hour. But the flip of it is you're also, like you see, planting some seeds and giving them some knowledge and some experience.

Michael Palumbos (30:56.834)
that they can see in the real world. And what's nice about it is if it wasn't working, if you didn't do a good job with the balance, nobody would wanna come back to do internships. And you have a steady stream and a school that you work with, that's awesome. I love that. Talk about, if you will, for a second. So now you're a Vistage member, right? One of my team members is the one that goes, yes. What's that? One of my team, yes.

Talk about how that works and why you chose to do that. So I told you the experience with the family member and there was all kinds of stuff in my head and we needed to get it out. So one of the things that probably five, six years ago I brought a key member onto the team and it was really to do that again, because that need was still there. And so I kind of stumbled on this person.

is somebody I've known for 25 years. He worked in the same industry. We had been colleagues and then I unplug on the weekends, but I happened to hear my phone ding on the weekend and I saw this person had posted a LinkedIn post. I'm like, oh, I know him. What's he doing now? Oh, he's on his own. So I'm like, hey, what are you doing? We should meet up. And I just kind of told him what...

I was at, and he's like, I could help with some of that stuff. So that kind of what I needed to do came back around. And that was the first thing. And one of the things was, Hey, when we do that, that's also, we need to set this up so that the ARC is a standalone business and not a VARC or not a Robin based business. And so we need to set it up so that it could be down the road sold someday. If I don't have family to take it on.

And so Brad is my employee that I brought on, brought him on as the chief operating officer. And so he helps with all the operations so that I can do the things that I do best and he can help do things for the operations and expand relationships and help build the legacy of it so that it can continue on after Robin doesn't continue on. And so part of that is

Michael Palumbos (33:21.674)
He wanted very strongly, wanted to be part of VISTA and keep his feelers out into other businesses so that we aren't being pigeonholed and only deal with businesses that are our clients. We need to make sure that we're expanding our resources and in our base and who we talk to and get ideas from and swap business knowledge from. And that's where VISTA comes into play. Great. Which leads right into, you know, that's the...

You took the words out of my mouth already. I didn't realize that was gonna lead to that. But as you say, you don't have family in the business. Do you have a business continuity plan in place today? So that is what Brian and I have been building. And so it is, and I will tell you that a little success story. So he's been here about five years. We've been building this. And so I had the opportunity to

go on a vacation with, a European vacation with about total of six couples. And then with that, we were gonna end up doing a transatlantic cruise back. So that was three weeks out of the office. And so we've been for the last, you know, basically all of 2023 really ramping up and what does have to be on Robin's plate? What doesn't, what can we transfer? What are you holding onto that you shouldn't hold onto?

And so, you know, we said this vacation is going to be that true test. You know, you talk about things in theory and you always hold on to something. And so, um, just came back from that. And so I was actually gone a month because we had the three weeks of vacation. And then I ended, um, where the cruise ended, we had a conference. And so I'm like, well, I'm already there. So I was out of the office for a month.

Wow, and so it was amazing and my staff and my team were amazing and they handled everything. I logged in for about an hour just to kind of check in and we built all kinds of dashboards and things to measure and look at so that I'm not having to have a bunch of meetings and in-depth things and it really helped.

Michael Palumbos (35:45.522)
shape the business and so that it can be without Robin. Yeah, so there's a lot to unravel in that conversation. This is perfect. So one, you did the true test, you have built the systems and processes and put them in place so that Robin is replaceable. That means your business now is worth way more than it was.

when you had everything on your back, and had to be in charge of everything, because nobody wants to buy a job. Correct. They wanna buy a business. And so you need to find out and say, is this something that somebody else would invest in? And if it means that I'm working 40, 60, 70 hours a week to make it all work, the answer is probably no. So good on you for doing that. You talked about building a dashboard.

Michael Palumbos (36:43.646)
What does that mean to you? What are some of the things, what are some of the KPIs? What are some of the things that you track for your business? And I know it'll be different for every business, but what do you track and why is it important to you to see those things? And what was it like while you're on vacation? Did you look at that dashboard to be able to see where things were at? All right, talk about that for a little bit. Yeah, so we've got three different areas of the...

of the business, so either areas or divisions. So I've got my bookkeepers, I've got my developers, and then I've got my sales staff. Okay. And actually there's a fourth one because we have other people that sell underneath us. And so we call that our VIPP. So we have four different aspects. So, you know, on my development, we've always put in activities that the development team is working on, but the next appointment, the next update to them. And so what's really important to me was

the clients are getting updated. Because I've told my development staff for a long time, you can do all the work you want, but if you don't tell the client it's done, it's not done. And so communication and over communication is the key on there. And so literally like three days before I left, we finished that one. Like we'd always had the activity so they knew what they were working on and what was next. But that top piece of the KPI of

you know, the visibility. And so we got that in place and that's, you know, and I've told all of them, all those different sections, we have to work the dashboards because they're gonna have to be tweaked and like this didn't work or we do this. And then we have the bookkeepers. And again, we have people that we do monthly bookkeeping for. And so we always reconcile these accounts and we do this payroll and we do this. And we do, you know, these 15 activities. So we have each of those. So you can say, oh, the October,

financials are done except for this one activity. So they're 90% done. So we can truly not just pull a percentage out of the thin air. So we know which ones. And so I can look and it's like, hey, why isn't October done on these three clients? I can very easily say it's because I'm waiting on answers from these clients. So it's not the bookkeepers, it's the clients that we're waiting on. Then we move to the sales stock and we put in into the same system.

Michael Palumbos (39:06.814)
opportunities, so what they're working on, what they're trying to sell. And so we have formulas that come up automatically. Hey, if we put in a follow-up date, then if we haven't followed up, then it shows up on the dashboard. Or maybe we don't have a particular follow-up date because they said, no, not really. They're not really 100% on board. We still want at least a 30-day touch. So whether they put a follow-up date in or not, if they're gonna follow up every 30 days.

and that shows up so I can see how many activities that they still need to work on today or campaigns that they're working on. So all of those different aspects and then the partners, we can also see their opportunities and what they're working on. And we have touch points with them because they're their own business, but there are many little sales staff as well. And so we have to have touch points and reach out. So we have numbers. So

I have dashboards for each one of these sections and I have numbers and it's kind of funny because a lot of them it's like we have to get to zero because that way all of the tasks are done. And so every aspect, so it's actually kind of cool. And I want to say this, one of the things that we instituted a couple of years ago is we have something called Cobbler Night. So let me.

Okay, I'm in cobbler night. So let me explain that. So have you heard the saying cobblers kids have no shoes? Yes Okay, of course Okay, so we're gonna have cobbler night because what happens is You're always taking care of other people and you forget to take care of yourself. You forget internal so one night a month It is the first Thursday of every month. We stay late everybody so

We stop working on whatever we're working on at five. I bring dinner in, we eat, we talk about what needs to happen. Sometimes we do internal trainings. Sometimes we work on those dashboards. Sometimes we talk through processes, whatever it is. And then throughout the month, we have just an activity list and somebody goes, oh, can we talk about this? I said, yep, put it on the cobbler list. So we have a list that we go through. And so we stay till about eight o'clock, but it's...

Michael Palumbos (41:26.294)
dedicated time that the whole team is working on that. And so we cross over the bookkeepers will work with the developers for what they need. The sales staff will work with. So it's, people are coming out of their little silos and they're working across the company, but they're also working for the benefit of the company, which I think has also made VARC a sellable asset and make it worthwhile as well.

down the road. In that way, everybody is vested in what the outcome is. And it's not just, well, it's Robin's way. This is what works best for the whole company. Good for you. We instituted that a whole bunch of years ago. And then we do annual planning. So we call it, we call it work on the business day. Once a month, we carve out the whole day. We don't take appointments and

we work on the business. It was really neat last year when we did it, everybody had to write down. And so here's a lot, some people are more quiet. And if I give out my opinion, then a lot, oh, yep, I agree with you. So I've learned that when we're asking questions, rather than asking people to volunteer, we ask everybody to write it down. And then-

Yeah, so then share it so that you get everybody's voice and everybody inputting and no writing on somebody else's coattails. I want everybody thinking as they're doing it. When we did it last January, everybody said the number one priority for the year, 2023, was exactly the same. And so that's when you start to know that those work-out-of-business days, the cobbler days are really working

They know where we need to go. And they know if it's development needs, some extra resources. I think that's phenomenal. Good on you for doing that. Yeah, thank you. We do, Brad and I do, it's W-O-B. So it's work on the business. And so we go offsite because if we stay in the conference room, then- You dragged in. Every five, yeah, every five minutes. Can I just ask a quick question? Which is fine, we want to be accessible, but we-

Michael Palumbos (43:48.886)
generally go off site and we have a restaurant that we go to and we just sit and they're used to us being there and we do that once a month. And so what the basically Cobbler is that first Thursday, Wednesday night, Brad and I go out. And so from like four o'clock to eight o'clock, then we're doing the W.O.B. us once a month. Good for you. So. All right, so you are, you know,

a very non-traditional family business that's been on the show. And I love, you know, it was really interesting as we're talking about this, because there's lots of pieces that we learned from your experience. And I wanna just say thank you for all those things. Absolutely. Are you a reader? I am not a reader for fun. I am a business book reader, but, and so that is real. My husband loves to read.

And I'm like, no, can't do that. But I will pick up a business book and read that. So share with us your latest favorite. It doesn't have to be the one that you were working, just finished, but one that you loved. So, one of the things that I've learned from the business books is I don't follow any one person completely. I will take from little pieces. And so,

One of the things, one that stuck with me a long time, I read it a long time ago, was the E-Myth. And so you said it earlier, nobody wants to buy a job. And so if you were working this hard and this long for something that is not sellable, then you were a fool that just has a job. And so I know I didn't paraphrase that correctly. That's okay, that works.

But that's one of the things that stuck with me. And so that's one of the reasons why I know that we had to do the things that we did. And so doing it with family, okay, got a little bit, wasn't 100%, let's do it the right way. So hopefully I've learned from ways not to do things. And then I think there's some of my partners read like profit first.

Michael Palumbos (46:06.854)
And so where I agree with some of that, I don't agree with necessarily paying me first, but I agree with taking care of my staff first. So like during COVID, even though we were good, none of us knew what was going on. I said, my husband and I were not gonna take a salary to make sure that everybody is taken care of. And so it was more about peace of mind and making sure I'm taking care of them. And so there's...

back to the profit first, one of the things I have learned is from every one of my deposits of customer payments, I pull a little bit and I used to every deposit put a percentage in a savings account. And so that was kind of a forced savings. And now I just do it at the end of the month because there's enough cashflow to do that. But that's something that I've probably done for the last 20 years. And that's

helped me pull back. So even though income has grown, we've pulled that aside. And because of that, we've never had to get a loan for anything that we've ever done. So as we've grown, as we've had growth, as we bring on employees, sometimes it's money that is holding you back from bringing on that next employee, even though you have the work, you don't have the cashflow to front load the training. We've never had that issue because of some of that we've done. So...

you know, going back to the books is making sure Dave Ramsey is another one that again, I follow about 85%. Do you have company credit cards, but they're paid off every month. So it's, it's those kinds of things that it's basically a lot of philosophy that I've taken from books is do what's right, regardless of who's watching, do what's right. So

We try and do that philosophy around that. And make sure you're building yourself up so that I don't have a job that I'm working 80 hours a week. Congratulations. Hey, I wanna say thank you so much for sharing with everybody today. This has been a lot of fun talking with you. Awesome. Robin Hall, VARC Solutions, I got it right finally. A little pick up there. Thank you everybody for listening in today. My name is Michael Palumbas.

Michael Palumbos (48:26.858)
This is the Family Biz Show and I'm with Family Wealth and Legacy in Rochester, New York. We can't wait to have you listening on the next episode. Have a great day everybody. Bye bye.

 

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Michael Palumbos is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Securities and investment advisory services offered through Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (member SIPC) and registered investment advisor. Insurance offered through Lincoln affiliates and other fine companies. Family Wealth & Legacy, LLC is not an affiliate of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. and its representatives do not provide legal or tax advice. You may want to consult a legal or tax advisor regarding any legal or tax information as it relates to your personal circumstances.

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