JACKSON — On April 8, 1999, one week before the most important day of the year for a CPA, a harried Tony Huffman got a call from his friend Ed Welsh about a business deal.
Huffman listened briefly and hung up, but he didn’t forget Welsh’s call. “It’s not very often that something exciting comes along in the accounting business,” laughs Huffman, who just a few months later joined Welsh to form Huffman & Welsh Business Solutions Inc.
The company is an accounting data center that handles all aspects of clients’ daily bookkeeping duties remotely. Huffman & Welsh provides a computer, laser printer and scanner to link with the company; the client uses the equipment to scan checks and other documents and check daily balances and other figures. Scanned material, which can be anything from an invoice to a scrap of paper with a handwritten note about a deposit, is received by Huffman & Welsh and processed within 24 hours. All information is reviewed by a CPA.
Huffman & Welsh is not designed to take tax work away from CPAs, explains Welsh, but rather to free a company from the daily grind of invoices, payroll, bill paying and other necessary tasks to keep a business running.
“We’re no different than having an accounting department in your office,” said Welsh. “The difference is we’re a whole lot cheaper.”
According to Huffman and Welsh, their business does everything a bookkeeper does, but usually for one-third of what it costs to pay a bookkeeper’s salary, benefits, payroll tax, etc. Their niche is companies which already have inhouse accounting departments but are experiencing turnover, and small companies that become busy enough to need an bookkeeper inhouse but are weighing the cost of hiring one. The service can also benefit an inhouse CPA by freeing up his or her time.
“This service has set me free from having to be in the office,” said Ken Simmons, president of Kenneth L. Simmons & Associates and HomeWorks in Jackson. “I’m a general contractor and I need to be where customers can see me.”
Huffman and Welsh use a software called The Acculink System, which they now own. The two business partners started out leasing Acculink with several other companies, but later offered to buy it when they saw the potential. As proprietary owners, they can make changes to the software and take the business a step further by putting their service on the Internet. That could introduce the business to a nationwide market — a feasible idea since all work is done remotely. They hope to have the Internet service up and running within a year.
Locally, Huffman & Welsh recently closed a major deal with AmFed Companies, LLC in Ridgeland. A fellow outsourcer, AmFed became a strategic partner with Huffman & Welsh as the exclusive Professional Employer Organization (PEO) provider of Acculink. AmFed offers a health plan, cafeteria plan, retirement plan, and workers’ compensation and liability coverage, but no accounting services. Huffman & Welsh will provide that missing link, said Welsh.
AmFed executive vice president Brenda Thorton said the partnership gives AmFed clients an even bigger competitive advantage. “This exclusive arrangement will allow us to offer a complete outsourcing solution,” she said. “By outsourcing their non-revenue producing tasks, companies can focus on increasing their revenues instead of administrative headaches.”
Acculink handles accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll and financials such as income statements and daily activity reports. Using Acculink, the Huffman & Welsh server dials into customers’ computers each night and downloads all of the images that were scanned by customers that day. After the information is downloaded, it is actually processed using Solomon, an intricate and expensive accounting software that many companies would not ordinarily have the opportunity to use. “Acculink is the bridge between our clients and Solomon,” said Welsh. “Most companies would not be able to run Solomon software or you’d have to hire a $60,000-a-year employee to do it.”
After CPAs process the information, the updated records are sent back to the client who can then check the daily balance, see who is awaiting payment and who owes them money. Besides daily updates, the software is a virtual filing cabinet of past transactions and client addresses and phone numbers. For safekeeping, customers receive a CD/ROM of their entire year’s transactions.
Clients of Huffman & Welsh have as much or as little control over their books as they choose. For example, they can reconcile their own bank statements or let Huffman & Welsh take care of it. No matter how they decide to handle the service, clients are saving time and staying ahead of the game, said Welsh.
“There are so many business owners out there who have no idea where they stand financially, how much money they have in their account or what they owe. They’re getting that information 30 and 40 days later than they should but they’re making business decisions today,” said Welsh.
Contact MBJ staff writer Kelly Russell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1027.