Michelle began her career working with youth. She became a social worker in ’99 in the field of Youth, Community Development, and Crisis after graduating from MacEwan University on the Dean’s list.
It wasn’t until 2001 that she realized she could fully realize her potential in the accounting field. However, her background in social work is a massive benefit that helps her work with her clients today, as finances and bookkeeping are deeply personal aspects that must be handled confidentially and professionally.
In addition to her schooling at NAIT and MacEwan University which is ongoing. She has a wealth of real-world experience through her work with Aurora Office and the mentorship of her mother.
Tim Melanson: Hello and welcome to today’s episode of the Work at Home Rockstar podcast.
Excited for today’s episode. I’ve actually done work with Michelle before, so very excited about that. But she’s the director owner operator of Aurora office in New Brunswick, and she, what she does is she makes sense of the numbers in people’s businesses and their personal life as well. So excited to be rocking out today with Michelle Carbo.
Hey, Michelle, you ready to rock?
Michelle Karbonik: I certainly am. Tim, let’s do. .
Tim Melanson: Perfect. So we always start off here on a good note. So tell me a story of success in your business that we can be inspired
Michelle Karbonik: by. A story of success in my business. Well, I’ve, I’ve liked to connect people with resources, so, um, sometimes I’m not the right fit for their business, so I work together with other businesses, mostly my mom’s business up in Dawson City, Yukon.
So I might not be the fit, but I’ll refer them to the fit that is for them, mostly to mom, but sometimes else.
Tim Melanson: Nice. Yeah. Uh, I think that’s a great idea. And I actually just joined myself. I just joined a, uh, business Networking International is what it’s called, but it’s a, it’s a networking group and it’s all based on that.
It’s all based on helping to actually promote the services of the people that are in your networking group. And absolutely, I find it really cool. Uh, like I was part of one in Ottawa before I moved to New Brunswick, and they’re really great. Uh, when you start to get known as like a resource that can just get things done and find people, then people come to you more often and you know, that just increases the number of people that are asking you for your services, right?
Michelle Karbonik: absolutely. I also find too, with doing that, they know that I’m not trying to rip them off in any way, shape, or form. I’m looking for their best.
Tim Melanson: Yeah, and I mean, nowadays there’s just so many people doing so many different things and it’s, you know, with the internet, that’s the thing. It, it has leveled the playing field, but also it has brought in a bunch of people that may not be, uh, looking up for their customer’s best interest.
Michelle Karbonik: Absolutely.
Tim Melanson: So now along with the Good note, there’s usually some bad notes, , that come along with it as well. And
Michelle Karbonik: you, Hey, business and
Tim Melanson: business, right. . Well, and that’s just it. I’m trying to normalize that and help people realize that we all, no matter how successful you are, you’ve gone through some, some pretty dark times in just about anybody’s business.
So I’m wondering, can you share with me some bad notes, some things that didn’t go as, as, uh, planned and you know, how maybe you got out of it.
Michelle Karbonik: I’ll jump right into Covid. Me and Covid aren’t good. . Um, being a home-based business during Covid, I had to sanitize my home daily to make sure that I was following with work safe and beef standards, all that kind of fun stuff, protecting my customers.
I wasn’t the happiest people cleaning my house, sanitizing my house daily, let me tell you, . But, um, we worked through it. We got through it, we did what we had to do. Um, that’s just one of the snapshots. So bringing it into your home, it, um, The outside world is in your home.
Tim Melanson: Yeah, I hired a cleaner recently and I’ve done that over the years as well.
Yeah. I mean, geez. It’s just, you know, sometimes it’s difficult to keep up on things, especially when you work from home and so, absolutely. You know, I, I, I thought that was, uh, one of my other guests on my podcast not long ago had that as an example of something that you can delegate cuz you don’t necessarily have to delegate something in your business.
You can delegate your personal tasks as well. Absolutely. Cooking and cleaning and daycare. Absolutely right. Those things. So now, um, let’s talk a little bit about the, the jam room, about the home office. So what is your, you know, idea of a successful home office?
Michelle Karbonik: Successful? A successful home office is one that is able through, through challenges and through successes to be able to set appropriate boundaries.
Um, boundaries can be timelines, boundaries can be, um, safety, boundaries, different things like that. , um, with also allow, allowing for the humanization of it. We are human beings. We’re in our homes, and we’re welcoming you into our homes sometimes. So those boundaries are important. .
Tim Melanson: Yeah. And, and your business is a little bit different than I think a lot of the other people that are on this podcast, whereas you actually have a home office that people come into.
You know, it’s sort of a bit rare. A lot of people who are working home businesses, they are just in their home office. And if they do meet with some clients, they might go to a coffee shop or something like that. But you actually do have people in your home office, right? So it’s a little different.
Michelle Karbonik: I have people in my home office, sometimes I go to their home.
Sometimes I go to their place, their storefront business. Sometimes we will meet for that cup of coffee. But yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a challenge when you bring it into your home, setting up those boundaries. Definitely. . So for
Tim Melanson: you, do you meet your clients in the same office that you work, get your work done in?
Or do you have like a different spot for them, or what do you
Michelle Karbonik: Well, it, it, it honestly depends. It honestly depends on the client, whether they’re a friend, whether they’re, most of my clients are friends. Let me just clarify that right from the beginning. Um, what, I usually sit down with them, it’s usually in my living room space where we can just sit down and have a casual conversation.
My, my brainstorm place. punching out numbers place, it’s not as comfortable for them to have a one-on-one human conversation.
Tim Melanson: Yeah. Which, which makes sense. Yeah. So you’ve got sort of like a, you know, more of a, a. A personable room, with probably some, some nice lighting and, you know, uh, absolutely. Whereas, you know, I imagine that you’re a room.
I, I mean, I could see there’s lots of things on the wall and all that stuff too. Uh, that’s where the magic gets done, right?
Michelle Karbonik: That’s where the brainstorming happens. That’s where the magic happens. You got it. .
Tim Melanson: Awesome. So now have you always worked out of your home or did you used to work into an office?
Michelle Karbonik: I did used to work into an office.
Um, when we opened up the business in 2009, I originally started from home. I started from home for health reasons. That’s one of the main reasons I worked from home is for self health reasons and, um, , I used to work in a location, um, as well as when I got here to New Brunswick. I worked for another organization while I was setting up the business here.
So I did do both, but it’s definitely more beneficial for me at home to do the number crunching, that kind of thing. Right on.
Tim Melanson: Good. So now let’s talk a little bit about the, the, the instruments, the tools to success . So I’m wondering like, what, what kinds of tools do you use to get success in your
Michelle Karbonik: business?
Well, I’m gonna stick with the, the musical part here first. Tim, you asked me about my instruments. We, we, at our office, when I say we, I’m talking family too. Um, we believe in rhythm. We, two of us in the family are drummers, so we follow that into those instruments, into our business. We have sticks in hand.
Well, when we do our. . Our sticks are a little bit different. Sometimes it’s a pen , sometimes it’s a pencil, but there’s still sticks in hands sometimes when we’re playing with the numbers and they don’t worry work too well and we gotta break that stress well. Then we pull up sticks in hand and we played a little drums on the whatever’s not working at that moment to bring it back to back to center.
Tim Melanson: Nice man. I wish I could do that. I, that would just annoying Nicole in the other room. ,
Michelle Karbonik: you know what? It, it, it’s all right. I can make as much noise as I want to in my office. So Tim, if you ever need to bang some drums, you come to my office. I have a spare couple spare ones. Okay. . Right
Tim Melanson: on. So, so now do you think that that’s like a stress relief type thing that you use it for or it
Michelle Karbonik: It is.
Um, it is definitely. Sometimes you just gotta get those frustrations out and sometimes beaten, beating something can get rid of that stress. Sometimes it’s a matter of just finding our own rhythm. Finding our rhythm again, so we can continue. It’s a little bit of both. .
Tim Melanson: Nice. Right on. Cool. Now what about, uh, what about, how do you do, do you approach the subject of learning?
Like, so do you like sort of hire coaches or do you have masterminds or like what, what is it that you do for, to keep up on the times? I guess ,
Michelle Karbonik: little bit of everything. A little bit of everything. Do I have a mentor? Absolutely, absolutely. Without a doubt. My mentor is my mom, Aurora office. Dawson City Yukon started 20 plus years.
Um, under my mom, she was one who helped me set up my business 2009 and has encouraged me today, want to today’s date on still creating and removing, moving to another location, that kind of thing. She is my mentor. Um, in terms of learning different things like that, I still do, do. Um, I’m constantly training.
I am constantly training on. , our software updates are, are continual. We do use QuickBooks here. And with QuickBooks, we are a pro-advisor, so being a pro-advisor, we’re expected to educate people on the software as well. So I better stay on top of it to make sure that we can educate people on the software as well.
Um, we all know that the government is constantly changing tax guidelines, tax, uh, credits, different things like that. We have to stay on top of that if we don’t stay on top of. ? Well, it’s our clients who lose. And in my mind, we’re not representing our clients, our friends, if we don’t stay up on that. So, um, and I also believe in learning as well.
It’s not only the numbers keep learning, it’s the creative mind learning as well. That’s what keeps the sanity going. It’s what keeps the release going. Different things like that. Lifelong learning has been an important part of my life, and sometimes that lifelong learning is learning how to do.
Sometimes that lifelong learning is taking mental health course. Sometimes that lifelong learning is picking up the phone and having a conversation with my mentor, the account. The other accountants in my field that I work with will we brainstorm back and forth. So constantly learning, and if I don’t, then what’s it all for?
Tim Melanson: Wow. Wow. That’s awesome. Well, and and that’s just it. I mean, you learning is sort of like a muscle, right? So it doesn’t matter what you’re learning, you are growing that muscle somehow, right? Absolutely, absolutely. Right on. So let’s talk a little bit about, um, you know, cuz you, you do bookkeeping, you do taxes, those kinds of things.
And I, I’m wondering like, uh, if you were to give some advice to a business person, to someone who’s just getting started and maybe, uh, Actually, let’s start here. I imagine that there’s a bit of a separation between the things that, uh, that you would do for them versus some things that they would need to do for themselves.
Uh, yeah. Right. I mean, I suppose you probably could be hired by a certain company to do all the bookkeeping, I’m sure. Um, yeah. But, but there’s probably a little bit of a hybrid version as well. And you know, you know, you mentioned tax guidelines and I mean, A regular business owner, w that we’re not gonna, we’re probably not gonna be keeping up on all the newest tax guidelines, but what would be the things that we would need to do, you know, if we, if we couldn’t h afford to hire anybody right now, what would be the number, you know, 1, 2, 3 things that we would need to do for our own book bookkeeping to make sure that we’re staying on top of things.
Michelle Karbonik: Okay. The main thing that you would need to do if you are starting out is de decide. , what kind of business you wanna run. Do you wanna run it completely under your personal individual name as this whole proprietor? Um, or do you wanna run it as a corporation? Different guidelines, different rules. And I think that that needs to be discussed right at the very beginning.
The pros, the cons of each, because there are pros and cons and it is a very, very, very personal decision. Some people like corporations for certain reasons. Some people. , and some people prefer sole proprietors, but there are risks involved, different things like that. So you gotta know, you gotta do your research.
And sometimes people come to me with just boxes and say, you do it all. And when I try and bring them into the conversation, I’m like, your name is attached to this without you as the individual. There is no business. It’s your ownership. Take pride. . So the pride comes into it, and then we decide how they wanna proceed.
Okay, what do you want to do? Is yours going to be doing what you do for your customers and handing over all the number stuff? Or are you gonna do some of the number stuff? Or do you have someone in your playing field whom I can work? As your partner so that you can continue to go out and do your thing that way.
Yeah. Yeah. Hi, my name is, I’m from Mastering Ascension and I’ve been working with Tim Lanson and the Creative Crew Agency for a number of years now. Tim is my go-to guy for all things technology, and his team have helped me to really. Create the platform that I need that represents my brand, my message, and connects me directly to my ideal clients.
What I particularly love about Tim is before he starts to dive into the technology, he always makes sure that he understands what your global view is, what your ultimate goals are, so then that way you’re not wasting a lot of time back and forth. Switching around technology or platforms, he creates something from the GetGo that is scalable, which is highly, highly, um, beneficial for any business.
What I’ve experienced from Tim and his team is they’re highly responsive. They are a wealth of information, and they’re gonna offer you the tools that you need to really make the mark that you wanna make in the world. That’s my recommendation for Tim. He’s awesome. You’re gonna love every minute. You won’t regret it.
Tim Melanson: Well, and so I’m, I, I’m sole proprietor and I’ve been for 15 years now, or more. Uh, and, and yeah, I mean there’s, there’s some things though that, uh, that I’ve learned over the years though, of things that we need to be keeping track of on our own, you know, to make the life of the accountant Yes. Or the bookkeeper a little bit easier.
And so that they’re not, because I, I know my first time going to my accountant, I had a. You know, a a, a shoebox of , random
Michelle Karbonik: shoebox stuff. Shoebox. It’s not a normal at all.
Tim Melanson: Oh. And of course, he gave me a bit of a hard time . Yeah. Told me to go back home and sort it, unless he wanted me to pay him to sort it all.
But what, like, what, what would, what does that mean? Like what, what do you, what would you suggest? How would we sort things Like what, what makes your life.
Michelle Karbonik: Really honest to goodness. It depends on your numbers key. How I saw may be very different than a different numbers geek. Like this morning for instance, I was working on a brand new client and because I worked from my home well as client, their shoebox receipts were all over my floor until I made those piles.
Um, and some of my clients bring me, , because I don’t wanna be making their piles because I don’t even know what goes in their piles. Am I allowed this expense or not? So what I tell them to do at the beginning most times is Bring me everything. Bring me everything. And then I’m gonna come back to you after I sort them.
And I’m gonna tell you why I’m not including these. I’m not including these because if you were ever audited, they wouldn’t be allowed anyway. So then they. Some will do it themselves first, and they’ll try and put things in and then I’ll bring it back to ’em and say, I understand why you wanted to do this, however, let’s have a conversation about this, how we can do this differently.
Some of our clients hand over everything and say, I want nothing to do with the numbers. Some of our clients, we pay their bills, some of their clients, we collect their bills. It all depends on each individual.
Tim Melanson: Wow. Wow. Okay. So you do a lot of different things and, and so you do, you are okay with sort note shoe boxes full of stuff.
Totally. That’s awesome.
Michelle Karbonik: That’s, I do that with, with, um, some of my clients. They wanna learn the bookkeeping side of it, so that’s when I’ll sit down and our role will be very different. Okay. They’ll do things, they’ll provide me their bookkeeping stuff at their year end. I’ll go through it to make sure, I’ll ask the questions that need to be.
but some want to be involved. Some is just too much for them. They’re better at their thing. They can earn more money doing their thing than they can. I’m more cost effective to do the receipts than it would be for them. , depending on their business. Depending
Tim Melanson: on the business. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re right.
And uh, I mean, that’s the thing. So for me, I mean, I, I do track everything. Every single thing that I buy, I actually put it in a spreadsheet. I probably shouldn’t, and I probably should be using QuickBooks, but I’ve been using spreadsheets for so long now that it’s what I do and everything goes in there.
And, and I mean, I, I think that that’s probably something that. . Either you’ve gotta do it or somebody else has gotta do it. Cuz eventually at the end of the year, you know, you do have to have everything there. Whether it gets disqualified or not. I mean, you could be leaving money on the table if you’ve got, you know, if you’re not keeping your receipts
Michelle Karbonik: right.
And that’s, that’s why I tell. And you’re not alone with what spreadsheets, Tim, don’t you worry about that? I’m still new Archic age myself. It’s okay. I’m okay with it. I’m accepting my age. But that being said, Some of my clients use Excel and there’s nothing wrong with that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
Excel is a fantastic program because I’m a QuickBook QuickBooks ProAdvisor. I’m not there to sell you the product. I’m there for your numbers only. That’s, and I have some clients where I do work in only Excel with them. Um, that being said, Back to the original question. What was it again, Tim? I’m sorry. My mind’s good.
It’s just a little bit short. .
Tim Melanson: Well, I think it was just mainly about, uh, whether they need to be keeping everything or not. And I
Michelle Karbonik: recommend it. I recommend it because there’s a lot of times there are some things that they’ll forget and I’ll come back to them and I’ll ask ’em for ’em, and they’re like, why are you even asking that?
That’s really personal. But then when I sit down and I show them in black and white, the difference with. and without it. Oh, you’re not just being nosy. Yeah. No, I’m not. I’m here to help you and that’s why I’m asking.
Tim Melanson: Well, and I think that that’s the difference between one of the very first things you said about whether they, uh, decide to have a corporation or, uh, or self-employed because Yeah, I mean, that is a, a little bit weird because as a self-employed person, uh, a solopreneur, I guess whatever you wanna call, , all my personal stuff is mixed in with all my business stuff.
And, and that happens. That’s normal. I mean, cuz you know, parts of your home office, parts of your uh, absolutely. You know, that gets, that gets written off. So, so yeah. I mean if you do like that separation between business and and personal, well then maybe you might wanna like lean towards trying to create an actual business entity.
Michelle Karbonik: How I look at it. , it is a personal invitation into your not only financial life, into your personal life, like you said, and your spreadsheet is everything. I know a lot about people based on their numbers, not because I wanna go and share it with everyone, not because I’m noisy and I go gossip.
That’s, that’s your personal life. And to me that’s, that’s an honor to be invited.
Tim Melanson: Totally. Yeah, exactly. So now it is time for your guest solo. So tell me what’s exciting in your business right now?
Michelle Karbonik: What’s exciting in my business? Well, Tim, you know what’s exciting in my business. You’ve helped me out. New website,
I do have a brand, brand new website. Um, something I would never have thought possible. We are getting to those times where advertising is a little bit different. So took the plunge. Showed my, our digital face a little bit. And it was scary. It was exciting. It was scary. Um, but it was done. Um, I have recently jumped ship, jump ship to the point where I’m completely self-employed.
I no longer have that backup part-time job. Wow. So scary, exciting, going forward that way. Um, we’re, we’re working on. Set hours, that kind of thing. But some of my clients, my friends, they like that they can just re reach out sometimes. Knowing that I’m not a brain surgeon, I’m probably not gonna answer them right away at two o’clock in the morning.
But if , but we like the relationship that once I am able to answer, I will. They, they knew at the beginning I was starting out. The relationships that have been built so far have been fantastic. . That’s awesome. So now, and it’s also been a learning opportunity being in the province of New Brunswick. Tax rules are very different in different provinces.
You know, we live in a country 13 provinces and territories. We are very different. We are at each very individual, different provinces and territories. Mm-hmm. .
Tim Melanson: So that, that’s the next question I was gonna ask you. So now, um, are, where are you able to take on clients? Is it just in New Brunswick or do you have different locations where you can take on clients?
Michelle Karbonik: I have clients in New Brunswick, in Yukon territory. My mom and I have worked together on clients before. All of our clients know that, um, I’ve helped her with income tax seasons. Um, that’s where I’ve learned from the best is I’ve went up and physically worked. We’ve shared clients before, but some of the clients, um, different needs, different resources, different fits.
So I do have clients up in Yukon territory. I have had some clients in Alberta. Some have come with me across Canada. Some of my clients in Alberta. Will I refer to mom? So am I able to work different places? Absolutely. We, we work within, some of our clients communicate with us in very different ways. Some will send parcels with all of their papers, some will.
Some will email. We each work very differently on terms of how we get different things. Some of our clients work out of those spreadsheets, Tim. They keep all of their documents and they only send me these spreadsheets. That’s the understanding we have at the beginning. Okay, awesome. When I was in Alberta, I even had a client in California.
Her business was in Alberta, but there was a dual residency there. We’re, we’re, we work with different, different locations, different
Tim Melanson: places. So it doesn’t have to be somebody local because they can send stuff into you, you know, through, uh, parcels or probably even online. Absolutely. Right. Absolutely. Good.
Right on. Uh, so now, uh, one more question. What would be like the ideal, uh, person that would get the most outta working with you?
Michelle Karbonik: One who wants to learn and grow and, um, one who. . Well, that’s a tough question, Tim. You’ve stumped me. You’ve Wow. Stumped me today. ,
Tim Melanson: I can, I can narrow it down a little more. Would they be sort of like in the beginning of their journey in their business or they’ve got like, how, what the size of their business, that kind of thing.
Michelle Karbonik: I normally, normally take a lot of clients at the beginning journey of their business. Yeah. Um, with corporations especially because when we, they all know this from the beginning. I, I work with them until a certain level when things get a little bit more advance. , I’ll work with another accountant with them.
We have that discussion right from the beginning so that we know I’ll get you to a certain level. If we decide at that certain level that we’re sticking status quo, well then we’ll do that. But we have those conversations throughout to maintain that their needs are being met, boundaries are still being respected.
Different things like. .
Tim Melanson: Love it. So you, so really the best client for you would be someone who well, probably doesn’t like numbers . There you go. And they need somebody who’s very comfortable with that stuff. Yeah. Um, and maybe someone who’s at the beginning part of their journey, uh, maybe they’re, you know, they, they’ve just got a small business and they wanna stay there.
But if they want to grow into something huge, well then you can take them on their first steps and then make sure that they’re taken care of. Absolutely. And
Michelle Karbonik: sometimes what they’ll do is they’ll get me to work with them. Still through their journey, when they do decide, I’m still growing, I’m still growing, I’m still growing.
Sometimes it’ll. to a point where I wanna refer, but they wanna keep me involved with that referral. And sometimes that’ll happen. Yeah.
Tim Melanson: And, and that makes sense, right? Because you’re sort of that proxy. Right. And, uh, yeah. I mean my business works that way sometimes as well, where I’ll be sort of a proxy in between a company that’s bigger than me, right.
and, uh, absolutely. They just want someone to speak the lang the, the lingo .
Michelle Karbonik: Right. That’s exactly it. What a lot of my clients’ friends have said to me is, I humanize the profession of numbers. . Um, I don’t over talk over, I don’t demean in any way, shape or form. I, I talk like a human being. Um, I have a one-on-one conversation, or if you want your other people there, I’ll have that conversation.
Me and a suit and tie, that’s not who I am. Um, I’ll show up some. Someone asked me once would I go out to meet a client. I’m I, I’m, I dress. to the nines. Am I wearing that suit and tie? No, I’m not because some of my clients also know that I also wear crisis in terms of social development, different things like that.
So they know sometimes I’m coming to meet them from my, that other role. So sometimes I am wearing those blue jeans or those steel toe boots or whatever it may be. I humanize it.
Tim Melanson: Awesome. Well, it’s been awesome to rock out with you today, Michelle. It’s been a lot of fun. .
Michelle Karbonik: It has been a lot of fun. Tim, thank you so much for the opportunity to chat, chat with you again, and I look forward to working with you on developments of my website.
Who knows, you never know where things go.
Tim Melanson: Right. You bet. Absolutely. Thank you so much. And to the listeners, make, make sure you subscribe right and comment, and we’ll see you next time on the Work at Home Rockstar podcast. Thanks
Michelle Karbonik: for listening. To learn how you can become a work at home rockstar or become a better one, head on over to workathomerockstar.com today.