ABF (Always Be Flexible): How One Entrepreneur Keeps Her Business Flexible with Bench and FreshBooks


Bryce Warnes


Reviewed by


September 24, 2019

This article is Tax Professional approved


Lisa Meller knows she needs to be flexible. As an experienced events manager, she’s dealt with clients throughout North America and vendors across the globe. Each one has different needs, different quirks.

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Creativity and adaptability—two key ingredients when it comes to crafting bang-on experiences for clients. But with so many invoices, expenses, and contractors to manage for each project, managing the financial back-end of Meller Performance Events Group is an almost superhuman task.

Here’s a candid look at how Lisa uses Bench and FreshBooks to keep her business running smoothly—and to keep creating unforgettable experiences for her clients.

Tell us a bit about why you started your business.

On September 1, 2017, I launched Meller Performance Events Group. It’s about flexibility, and the autonomy to make changes as I see fit. But mostly it’s about supporting our clients, taking on the kind of clients are a good fit for us. And being nimble enough to make changes to the way we operate, so that we can customize a solution for each of them.

I didn’t want to get pigeonholed into cookie cutter modes of operation, with layers and layers of approval. And I think that’s what business needs today. People are looking for quick changes and the ability to customize. And I offer that.

What sort of team do you work with?

Currently, I am the only employee of the business.

However, I collaborate with what I would call “perma-lancers.” These are freelancers that have decided they’d like to be a part of Meller Performance Events Group—however, they also have the ability to go and get their own independent business, to support themselves and manage their flexibility.

Can you tell us a bit about your clientele?

All of my customers are headquartered either in the US or Canada. However, we do events all over the world for them.

Say an organization has just one or two large annual meetings a year. That may not warrant keeping a full, in-house events team. However, the one person they have needs the service of a full team to manage the meetings. So, we become an extension of their internal team.

Our goal is always to be that continuous point of reference who understands them year over year, event over event, and who gets the job done.

How did you manage your finances before Bench and FreshBooks?

I had a bookkeeper, and I hired a CPA. And I pretty much just prayed a lot that it was all going to work out.

Being a Type A (re: somebody who needs to be in control and in the know), I needed something that was going to be way more simple.

To have the Bench team, that extra set of eyeballs that knows what’s going on, that will reconcile everything—that really makes it so much easier. I have so much more peace of mind knowing that I can get my tax reports and my statements, and that they’re done correctly—and that it’s not going to be a 40 hour job for me to do my taxes at the end of the year.

What made managing accounting and bookkeeping tasks a priority when you started your business?

We’re ultimately responsible for the budget of a program, beginning to end. (Not for everyone, but for many of our clients.) We need to have accurate accounting, on a chart of accounts basis, for each of the various items on the budget.

I’m responsible for deciding how the budget flows. And in some cases, there’s a cost to the client [to handle back office tasks]. Plus, bookkeeping is an expense for me—in labour and time.

So I have to be able to answer things like “how profitable are we on each individual program?” And sometimes, “how profitable are the clients?” What’s their own, independent profit and loss? Because they’ve got sponsors and exhibitors, plus other expenses.

I knew that, going into this, I needed to have finances that were clean, and simple enough to keep up with. Plus, an easy system in place so that I could figure out how to invoice, when to invoice, for what to invoice. And that all needed to be done right away.

How has tax time changed with Bench?

When I had a business in the past, my husband did a lot of the accounting at year end. He did back office stuff, so I could focus on the business at hand.

This time around, I didn’t have that help—he was too bogged down with work. In fact, that was his biggest concern about me starting a business again—that he would have to do the taxes.

So I said, “Well, what if you didn’t have to?”

That was something that was really helpful, that Bench was able to do catch-up, and go back month by month, and give me an accurate snapshot. Because I didn’t quite trust my own numbers before that. That’s where Bench really helped me—I could put a lot more faith into what was going on. I knew that they were looking at everything.

How did switching to FreshBooks change the way you invoice clients?

Now, when I’m working with a client’s program and their budget, and I need to generate an invoice for them, I can put that in as a draft and track it in FreshBooks. And it’s all there in a single dashboard. I can see if invoices are pending, if they’re past due, or if they’ve been paid.

And I truly believe that customers appreciate it. They get an email with a link to their invoice, they can view it, they can pass it on. They can enter payments—I have the flexibility, with integrated accounting, to accept payment by ACH. It’s right in there. Plus, I have the ability to turn on and off credit card payments.

So now, invoicing is no longer a pain. In fact, I look forward to invoicing—because it means money in the door.

Any exciting events in the near future?

I’m super excited about one that’s coming up. It’s a corporate group that’s made up of 240 member organizations, and they’re all in the swimming pool industry. That’s a very competitive industry. I’ve managed their national conference for them, as well as a trip that they coordinate for their top leaders.

So, in about three weeks I will be off to Slovenia, Croatia, and Athens, Greece with them. It’s super fun—there’s no actual meeting component. There’s no business but the business of having a great time.

I love sharing the world with people. I’ve had the opportunity to visit many countries and many destinations that would have personally been on my own bucket list, because I love to travel and I love to see the world. What better way to do that by working in an industry where we do that with and for people?

This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Bench assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.
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