Mastering the Home-Office Balancing Act

Complete Business Solutions was featured in an article found at American Express: Mastering The Home-Office Balancing Act


From CPA to small-business owner, Complete Business Solutions founder Carrie Kahn has grown her company to $500,000 in revenue by learning how to work — successfully — from home.
MAY 27, 2015When Carrie Kahn started Complete Business Solutions in 2010, she found that the actual running of the business wasn’t difficult. As an authorized premier Intuit Reseller and a certified QuickBooks expert (known as an advanced Certified ProAdvisor), her company helps small-business owners and their staffs purchase and learn to use QuickBooks accounting solutions. And she’d formerly been a CPA who worked with QuickBooks for more than 15 years, so the day-to-day operation came naturally.It was working from her home, in Florence, South Carolina, that proved most challenging.


“I’d come down in my PJs,” Kahn says. “I’d start later than I needed to. I would roll until probably midnight.” Schedule aside, she was distracted by laundry, dishes, TV. Her four kids, who ranged from 10 to 19 at the time, would come home from school excited to talk to their mom, and it would interrupt her flow. And when it came to her clients, the phone never stopped ringing, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


Today, five years later, she’s made a lot of changes. She hired a full-time employee, Paula Wattles (a former colleague who was the office manager at a drywall company where Kahn worked setting up QuickBooks), to help her answer the phone and provide support to customers. Because Wattles comes to her house every day, Kahn says it has forced her to keep a regular schedule—and to get dressed.


I used to try to juggle it all, and I realized I have to hire people to fill in the blanks.


Complete Business Solutions founder Carrie Kahn (right) and employee Paula Wattles


Kahn has also learned to block out all distractions. “I don’t turn the TV on,” she says. “I don’t even play music because it’s too distracting. I absolutely walk past the stack of dishes because I can’t do it—I just refuse. The laundry, all that stuff, has to wait.” She says she’s trained her two teens who are still living at home to wait until she’s done working to talk, and she’s hired a gardener, a housekeeper, a tutor and a person to drive her youngest daughter where she needs to go after school. “I used to try to juggle it all, and I realized I have to hire people to fill in the blanks,” Kahn says.


Now that she’s found more balance, she can focus on growing her business, which revolves around helping customers find the right QuickBooks solution, selling them the software and teaching them how to use it—and then making herself available for support, if any questions arise. She also has a network of associates that she’ll refer customers to for support.


Frequently seen wearing her “I Love QB” T-shirt, Kahn is a sort-of QuickBooks prophet, who gets downright giddy talking about the software. She fell in love with QuickBooks when it first came out nearly two decades ago. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is the coolest thing ever,'” she recalls. Back then, she was working at a CPA firm and, when tax season came, she was the one who would put clients’ books in order to prepare them for the accountants. QuickBooks was perfect for the task, and she quickly became the expert at the firm, teaching others how to use the software.


She put her skills to the true test when family members opened businesses and needed her help. First, her husband at the time (they’ve since divorced and she’s remarried) opened a business that sold construction materials, and she set up QuickBooks for him, learning to use the inventory and payroll functions, and tracking profit margins.


Then, she took a position handling inventory duties for her parents, who owned a computer store. At the same time, she became an authorized reseller and a certified ProAdvisor with QuickBooks, offering her services to customers of the computer store and growing a list of clients. Eight years after she began working there, her parents retired and a new owner took over. That gave her the push she needed to take the next step: Starting her own QuickBooks-centered business. “It was scary, but I said, ‘I can do this myself.'”




She turned a room in her home into her office and, starting with her clients from the computer store, she opened Complete Business Solutions in 2010—and has steadily grown it since, from about $100,000 in revenue her first year to $500,000 today. A lot of her work comes from colleagues whom she meets at conferences and refer work her way, and vice versa. In fact, she says she’s not interested in expanding her office beyond the house, so her business growth depends on gathering more affiliates—in the form of subcontractors and referrals—so she can continue selling software and training new customers herself, and then calling on her affiliates to provide ongoing support as needed.


Kahn says that despite the challenges of working from home, she wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s learned to tune out distractions, and, besides, she doesn’t want to take on the expense of renting an office. Most importantly, she loves the freedom of being the boss, on her own turf: If her kids have an emergency—like the broken toe her daughter recently experienced—she can be there for them easily. “Life happens,” she says. “It’s easier to deal with when you’re working for yourself.”