A Real and Raw Interview with Juliana and Natalia Ramirez
April 1st, 2022 marks 10 years of serving our local community by providing support for our clients in their finances and their business operations.
We asked the Ramirez sisters Juliana (President & CEO) and Natalia (COO) what they have learned from 10 years in business, and their responses were so real, transparent, and insightful. They talked about everything from personal lessons to managing a team, and they even touched on what it’s like running a business with your own sister.
Here’s what they had to say were the most significant lessons they have learned through the years at JR Bookkeeping:
1. You Need a Solid Support System
Juliana: You need people that you know you can always rely on. You need people who will dream with you, work with you, be challenged with you, be there for you. I of course have Natalia by my side in the business. I have my husband, and I always say if it wasn’t for him taking care of our home and the kids, I would not be able to shine the way I do. My parents and family remind us of our roots and of our faith and the principles they’ve given us. They will always be there to support us no matter what. And for me, my Creator. I know that He’s given me a purpose and a talent. I know I’m not alone because I have this amazing support system behind me.
Natalia: I second that, my husband and my family have been my support system as well, and I’ve learned to remember where I come from and to hold true to my roots and my values.
2. Never Stop Learning
Juliana: It’s important that you invest in yourself and your own personal growth. In our case, we’ve had a personal coach who has helped us with those growing pains as individuals. Know that it is okay to reach out for help. I can truly say that I’m happy with who I have become as a person.
Natalia: I’ve grown in so many aspects personally and professionally through my time at JRB. I know that I have a purpose here on earth and that I’m fulfilling that purpose through my everyday actions. Whether I’m scanning receipts or entering data, I know that I’m contributing to a bigger purpose. With every day, I’m fulfilling my purpose in life.
3. Lean into your Community
Juliana: A major key to our success in the last 10 years has been the local organizations that assist small businesses in our community. The mentors and advisors at these organizations have been there for us and supported us and now we have the opportunity to give back to other small businesses in our community through these organizations as well.
Women’s Economic Ventures
The Self-Employment Training Program through Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV) really set the foundation for my business. It taught me how to create my business plan and gave me tools that helped me build and grow my business in the early years.
When I first started my business, I needed help with marketing and I didn’t know where to start. That’s when I got connected with SCORE. They helped me set up my first website and they taught me what I needed to have an online presence. That was really the starting point in my business’s marketing and growth. And now I have the opportunity to teach other small business owners through SCORE’s monthly webinars.
Economic Development Collaborative
My financial advisor and mentor through Economic Development Collaborative (EDC) has helped me understand what decisions I needed to make in my business, and he’s also helped me apply for and receive a loan through EDC.
Several years ago, he challenged me to increase my pricing significantly. I was hesitant and scared to make such a dramatic change, but he told me I had to do it.
He told me, “I bet you this dollar that you will not lose more than 20% of your clients.”
I won, but just barely, but I still keep that dollar framed on my wall because it reminds me that my service has value and that I shouldn’t be afraid to make tough decisions in my business.
Workforce Development Board of Ventura County
We have also been able to utilize the services of the Workforce Development Board of Ventura County. Through their on-the-job training subsidies, we were able to create employment opportunities while increasing our capacity to service clients. In 2017, we were honored with the WDB Champion for Prosperity Award – for supporting workforce development in Ventura County through job creation, job retention, and business expansion.
So my encouragement to other business owners in this regard is to reach out for help in your own communities. There are organizations out there that are dedicated to helping small businesses like yours, and you can build lasting relationships and partnerships when you reach out to your community as we have.
4. Invest in Systems and Processes
Juliana: If there’s one thing I could share for success in your business, it’s to invest in working systems and processes. It’s one thing to know that systems are important, but it’s another thing to actually implement them in your business.
Here at JRB, we have a certain way that we do things. An example of this is our 13-step bookkeeping process. Even though we’ve had to tweak it over the years (we’re actually on probably our 4th version of it), we have a process in place and everyone on our team knows how to follow that process so that if anything happens to either Natalia or me, the business will keep going.
Honestly, investing in developing these systems has been challenging and has taken a lot of dedication. Sometimes we would stay up until midnight sorting through and ironing out these processes. Because I don’t have a degree in business, I’ve had to figure these things out for myself, what works and what doesn’t. And even though Natalia does have a business degree, she will often say that it’s different in the real world and they don’t teach you everything in school.
But it is well worth the time and effort. Having these systems in place has saved us hours upon hours of time and has helped our whole team be on the same page.
Natalia: You have to actually believe that systems are needed and take action to implement them. Before we had systems in place we didn’t have consistency when we hired new employees, because they would just do things the way that whoever trained them would do it. Once Juliana and I got on the same page and came to an agreement about what was the best way to do things, we started saving so much time in the day-to-day operations.
Early on, we made the mistake of thinking that we could wait until we were “more established” to implement these processes, but in reality, you need a system that will work with either two people or ten. Our vision is to continue to expand, so we have to keep the end goal in mind as we develop our systems.
Do you want a job or do you want a business?
A job is where you are the one doing it to make money. That’s why it’s called self-employed. If I work I make money, if I don’t work, I don’t make money.
But a business is that that will work for you even if you’re not there. The way you have a business that will work for you is by implementing processes that can be carried out when you’re not there.
– Juliana Ramirez
5. Know your Strengths
Natalia: I think that not everyone is built to be an entrepreneur. I know that for myself, I cannot be at that level in certain things because of my personality type. I know that about myself and that’s why I have Juliana. She can do all the entrepreneurial things while I manage the behind-the-scenes, day-to-day operations of the business.
Juliana: It can’t be all up to one person. Even though I’m the visionary and the entrepreneurial spirit and the social butterfly, which are all the qualities needed in someone to go out and promote the business, the truth is that we have both come to learn from each other and understand that we need each other. For instance, I can come up with an idea and tell Natalia what needs to be done, but I’m not the best at implementing it. I leave that part up to her many times.
6. Invest in your People
Juliana: You can’t just hire people and then expect them to just do their jobs without investing the time, energy, and resources to help them grow. This is in every aspect, not just their professional lives. You also have to invest in their personal and spiritual well-being. You need to support them in every area of their lives.
Looking back, when we have failed to do this is when we’ve seen the highest turnover rate or have had great, qualified employees leave the company. We also have had to learn that not everyone is meant for this type of career, and we need to be okay with that.
The biggest aspect of this is dedicating time to training. We haven’t always done this well, but we can see that when we have dedicated the time to training, it’s a much better situation.
7. It’s Okay to Let Go
Juliana: Sometimes you may have done something the same way for a long time, but then come to realize that it is no longer serving you the way you’re currently doing it. When we let go of those things and give them up, it makes our lives so much easier.
An example that comes to mind is how we used to schedule clients. We didn’t like sending out calendar invites to clients because that would “mess up” our calendar. So we had two different methods for scheduling, one for our team and one for our clients. But now since we’ve been able to let go of doing things the way we had always done them, we have it all on one calendar and our lives are so much easier. This is just one simple example but I could name a hundred others like that.
The bottom line is to not let your fear of change stop you from making adjustments in your business that will help you move forward.
8. Try to Maintain a Separation in your Work and Personal Relationships
Juliana: Natalia and I are sisters. We’ve been able to learn how to separate personal from the business which has been key to our success. There have been times as sisters when we don’t want to talk to each other. I annoy her. I’m the big sister, so I always have something to say :)
But that doesn’t affect our work relationship. When it comes to work, we are professionals because that’s what our business demands. It has nothing to do with whether or not I like her at the moment.
9. Maintain an Open Heart and an Open Mind
Natalia: Sometimes, you can give someone everything on a silver platter, but that doesn’t mean that they’re going to take it. For some people, you can’t do enough. So still invest in people, but you have to know that how they respond is out of your control.
When you let something go and delegate it to someone else and it falls through the cracks, that doesn’t mean that the next person isn’t worthy of your trust. Every time you get a new person, you have to trust them. And you have to have thick skin. If you don’t you’ll continually get disappointed. You have to say, “Okay, this didn’t work out because of X, Y, and Z, but we’re going to move on, make any changes that are necessary, and give it another shot.”
Whoever is coming on board has nothing to do with your previous experience. You have to see it as a new opportunity and open up your heart.
Juliana: Business is about gaining trust through building relationships, so when the relationship doesn’t work out the way you expected or hoped (with your vendors, clients, and your team) it’s difficult. They’re still part of your community. Here in Ventura and Santa Barbara, we’re a small community, and that’s why community is so important to us. We have to still take care of those friendships even when a professional relationship doesn’t work out the way we had hoped it would.
10. Watch your Cash Flow
Juliana: When I started JR Bookkeeping, I was broke, so I would take any money that came into the business. I needed it at the time and it really was my only way of survival. Unfortunately, that caused the business to get into debt with the IRS. But this has given us a lesson to help our clients with:
A lot of people think of the IRS as something bad, like the monster that’s out to get them. But for us, the IRS was really our saving grace, because when you get so far behind in paying taxes, it gets to the point where the IRS will say, “Hey, what’s going on?”
When they asked us what was going on, it brought us to a point where we could admit that there was a problem and that we needed help, and they helped us move on and develop a plan to not get behind again.
So the lesson for us was, “It’s okay. There’s a reason why this happened. And even if you should have known better, what are you going to do about it?”
And now, having gone through that situation, we have a unique opportunity to help our clients who are going through the same types of situations (or the exact same situation). When our clients come to us with the stress of not having the discipline to take care of their finances, I can relate to them and show them how we’ve been able to work through it. I can tell them that if we could get out of that situation, they can too.
And not only that, but we can provide them with a process and a system to help them long-term. We help them take the emotion out of the relationship with money and just talk about the numbers.
Natalia: Because we want to be authentic to who we are, we use our own experiences as a tool to help others. We’ve learned from those lessons and we let other people know that they’re not alone.
(Bonus #11). Do Things With Purpose, not just for the Money
Juliana: We’ve seen how the financial industry has been misinterpreted and misused. We’ve had clients who were being charged an arm and a leg by accountants and CPAs but at the end of the day, they still didn’t understand their books. We’ve had clients tell us, “Why has no one explained things the way you have? This is the first time I actually understand my finances.”
We’re not here to just charge you your hard-earned money. We’re here to make sure that whatever we’re doing with your finances makes sense to you and makes a difference in your life. We’re here for you. You come to us for a solution, and we need to make sure we’re providing that solution for you.
We look forward to the next 10 years in business as we continue to learn from our mistakes and successes. We welcome the new challenges as opportunities for growth, and we look forward to continuing to serve our awesome community!
Cheers to 10 years!