Serving Clients Through Hard Times: Good Cents Bookkeeping

Gusto Editors

Do you want to know how successful advisory firms build long-lasting prosperity? In the case of the bookkeeping professionals at Good Cents Management, they built solid, lucrative client relationships. The foundation of those connections was earned through skill-building and the ability to overcome extraordinary circumstances. 

At Gusto, we want to help you create positive, profitable relationships with your clients. That’s why we brought you our online show On the Margins: LIVE with hosts Caleb Newquist and Will Lopez. In this episode, we talk with Justine Lackey, founder and Chief Wealth Officer of Good Cents Management, about how to stay relevant, how technology is shaping the industry, and how she helped her clients through tough times in business.

Justine Lackey is a highly sought-after financial advisor with decades of accounting experience. Her boutique financial services firm caters to accomplished entrepreneurs, artists, and business owners who need help with bookkeeping, payroll, app deployment and integration, and HR assistance. Justine and her team were some of the first to become Gusto Certified People Advisors who use payroll services as inroads to delivering advisory in everything from HR support to benefits. They also hold the distinction of being QuickBooks Certified ProAdvisors

What is Good Cents Management, and why is it successful?

Justine describes her financial advisory firm as a full-service financial suite for extraordinary businesses. Good Cents Management is located in New York’s chic Hudson Valley — just outside of Manhattan. According to the Good Cents Management website, Justine crafts sophisticated accounting systems for her clients. Her clients include artists, art dealers, choreographers, fashion icons, midwives, nonprofits, and even hedge funds. Justine shared one of the secrets to her success:

“I’m a big believer in the niche market, so all we do is bookkeeping. We [also] only work in QuickBooks online, so we don’t dabble in all the other stuff. … Gusto is our preferred people platform. We consider ourselves Gusto experts.”

– Justine Lackey

Justine provides niche services and has industry technology knowledge, and she also focuses on a specific clientele. Having lived and worked in Manhattan early in her career, Justine built up clients in the fashion space relatively quickly. One of her clients, a famous fashion editor, referred her to her colleagues. 

“I became the darling of one of the famous fashion photo editors of the time who referred me to all the fashion people. … The next thing you know, I was the girl for fashion bookkeeping. That’s how it started, and 14 years ago, when I left the city and had children, I started a firm. Here we are 10 people later.”

– Justine Lackey

Justine capitalized on her client roster to create a brand centered on exclusivity, glamor, and artistry. She tailors everything around these themes. She works with people by invitation only, and she is hands-on with the majority of client work. Her team even fills out applications for her clients. She creates exceptional experiences for clients, which led her to serve new types of clients like hedge funds. 

“[I got into hedge funds through] a referral. … A lot of times, I’d come in at the beginning and set up the accounting infrastructure, the policies, [and the] standard operating procedures.”

Justine Lackey

Justine said she relies on referrals for the majority of her work. Never underestimate the power of client relationships.

How Good Cents Management helped clients survive hard times

Helping clients during good times is already challenging work, but surviving extraordinarily hard circumstances is a true measure of competency. The COVID-19 pandemic put every business through the wringer — especially during the initial lockdowns of 2020 — and accounting was no exception. Justine credits her ability to succeed at that time to her tech-savvy team.

Happy female bank employee uses a desktop computer while assisting a female customer with a new account.

“Those of us who were ready were able to respond quickly. It was extremely challenging, but we weren’t dealing with the [same] technological hurdles [that other firms faced]. … We’ve been virtual for many years.”

– Justine Lackey

Not only was her team fully ready to work from home, but they already had systems in place to collect, store, and access data safely. This made life for her team much easier. For example, Justine was helping many of her clients apply for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in 2020. These life-saving loans helped countless businesses stay afloat, avoid mass layoffs, and keep their staff on board. With so much on the line, it was critical to access records and fill out loan applications quickly and efficiently.

“We already had all the 2019 payroll records saved in the cloud, so when we had to go fill out those PPP forms, [the records were] there. We didn’t have to go rustling around. Of course, it was beautiful that I opened up the Gusto platform and clicked the button and the reports showed up, but had I not had that research, I also [would have] had backup digital files.”

– Justine Lackey

As the government wrote legislation to reflect constantly changing circumstances, staying on top of information was a massive feat. Small business owners, their CPAs, and their advisors struggled with an influx of information about who qualified for aid and how they could get it. Justine relied on Gusto to help break down the information into digestible pieces. 

“I coined a term for it: the ‘information tsunami.’ [There were] waves and waves of it, but we really could not have done the work that we did for our clients without Gusto’s presentations. [They broke] down the PPP process, the EDA loans, [and] the guidelines.”

– Justine Lackey

Gusto’s breakdown of PPP loans helped Justine secure one million dollars in funding resources for her clients who were located across the country.

Another important point Justine made was how quickly her clients turned to her for help. While she runs a bookkeeping firm — not a general accounting firm — her clients viewed her as a trusted advisor. In times of despair and trouble, they wanted her financial acumen and exceptional service.

“People are looking to us and asking us, ‘Okay, we have to be lean and mean right now. What are our options? Where can we trim?’”

– Justine Lackey

Accountants and financial advisors provide an essential service that helps people make wise financial choices. They also cultivate a sense of goodwill and community, which Good Cents Management clearly demonstrated during the COVID-19 pandemic. When lockdowns forced restaurants to close without any financial safety net, restaurant owners and their teams across the country were in dire straits. To help clients stay afloat, Good Cents Management went above and beyond for its most vulnerable clients.

“You have to be nimble in situations like … when a business loses half of its income [or] when restaurants can’t open. Your relationship with your clients is people-based. … [For] anybody who was in the hospitality industry, we completely waived their bookkeeping fees because … we had to support them. This was a way that we could give back to our community and give back to our clients.”

– Justine Lackey

The waived fees for restaurant owners, commitment to problem-solving, and assistance with PPP loans made a massive difference in her clients’ lives.

Why Good Cents Management is a great place to work

Coworkers laugh having fun at casual briefing.

One of the things that makes Justine so successful is that she invests in the growth of her team. Will brought up studies that indicate accountants feel insecure about whether their training prepared them for the realities of the job. Helping your firm and your team stay relevant through skill-building is a win-win for everyone.

“I really do believe in investing in the skill-building of the team because investing in them makes them feel good about themselves. It also makes us better prepared to serve our clients. Unlike [a] client who [spends] gazillions of dollars on recruiting fees, … we have a pretty strong [employee] retention rate. … I’m proud of that.”

– Justine Lackey

Justine’s first step in helping her firm and her team stay relevant was to look into People Advisory Certification. She was attracted to the user-friendly platform and its high standards of quality.

“When the People Certified platform was launched, that was really the impetus for me to get certified. … Staying relevant in your career is really important … [wherever] you are in the professional spectrum. … [It’s] particularly important in accounting because it’s changing so fast, and finding real skill-building opportunities is hard, and quality control is sketchy.”

– Justine Lackey

Not only did Justine choose to do the training herself, but she also had her entire team become People Advisor Certified. Now, Good Cents Management provides boutique consultation services to help creatives and fashion icons manage their money, create great places to work, and ensure long-term prosperity. 

“I think the truth of the matter is we live in a virtual world now. … Content and the delivery of that content is key, and I think [that’s] one of the reasons why I fell in love with Gusto. … The Gusto platform is so user-friendly, and I love that. When you’re going through a training, it has to be user-friendly, [and] it has to be beautiful. It’s short [and has] videos, cheat sheets, [and] other complimenting materials.”

– Justine Lackey

By leveraging technology that’s accurate, fast, and easy to use, Justine was able to launch personalized services tailored to the people she knew best. As a result, she’s thriving. 

Learn more about Good Cents Management

Relationships are at the core of how Justine created a thriving boutique financial services and advisory firm that caters to creatives. Focusing on her clients as humans before looking at them as customers pushed Good Cents Management to the forefront of custom-made financial services. Justine states that her firm successfully builds relationships through the highly specialized services, the clients she serves, and the technology she uses.

Justine is a Certified People Advisor along with her entire team. They demonstrated their people advisory skills and their commitment to clients by helping them with complicated loan forms during the COVID-19 pandemic. She credits Gusto’s user-friendly platform for helping her navigate those challenges.

Becoming a Gusto Partner can make your life easier. Get payroll and HR support for your team and our new advisory revenue stream for your practice through our people advisory platform. As a Gusto partner, you’ll also get tools to help you expand your accounting practice and offer your clients new insights, plus a free payroll subscription for your own accounting firm. Sign up today!

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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