Calmwaters Cloud Accounting’s founder Kellie Parks began her foray into remote work in 2009 when she worked in marketing and communications. This inspired her to become an early adopter of cloud-based technology for accountants.
Knowing yourself is an essential part of building a fulfilling accounting career. For instance, Kellie knows that she thrives in the nitty-gritty of bookkeeping. So she’s selective with her clients and rehomes those who aren’t a good fit for her services.
Niching down isn’t just about finding your ideal industry. Kellie focuses less on the type of business and more on her clients' services and tech stacks. If a client is unwilling to adopt specific tech platforms, it’s a deal-breaker.
Kellie Parks is living, breathing proof of Newton’s First Law of Motion: An object in motion will stay in motion unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.
Even an ankle injury doesn’t stop Kellie from clocking her daily 10-kilometer route around the local frozen lake. She may be slower right now, swapping scenic walks for her usual run, but as an avid lover of the great outdoors, Kellie is committed to staying active. From water skiing to hitting the slopes, the sports-loving accounting leader is all about “going outside to play.”
Her lifestyle may make some envious, but it’s a reality Kellie carefully created by leveraging cloud technology to build a flexible remote business.
As an early adopter of cloud computing, Kellie’s led remote-based businesses since 2009 when she worked in marketing and communications. Today, she runs multiple remote businesses, including Calmwaters Cloud Accounting and the SaaSy Accounting Coach, a technology consulting and training service for accountants.
As a passionate advocate for all things in the cloud, Kellie joins Karbon CEO and host of the Accounting Leaders Podcast, Stuart McLeod, to discuss their shared love of sport and how tech enables accountants (and their clients) to live the life of their dreams.
As a longtime advocate for remote work, Kellie’s seen many examples of how her clients (and fellow accountants) can adapt their work lives to fit their personal aspirations.
She recalls one client who changed her mind after initially resisting the idea of moving her books to an online platform. “She used to say to me, ‘I don’t love the technology you bring to me, but I love what the technology has done for my business.’”
The client, who owned several restaurants and related businesses, needed to spend extended time elsewhere caring for her sick mother. The move was only possible because she could still oversee the financials of her businesses from a distance.
“She was super grateful that she could still run all the business aspects like payroll, time tracking, and paying bills. That’s the kind of thing that cloud technology can bring to our clients,” Kellie says on the podcast.
Kellie’s push for clients to adopt cloud-based accounting tools not only allows them to adjust their lifestyles without compromising their businesses but also enables Kellie to benefit from the flexibility of remote work. She and her husband spent a month in New Zealand last year and are planning a longer two-month stint in the near future.
And while Kellie has no interest in living out of a van (unlike her fellow Canadian accounting leader Chad Davis), she does embrace a nomadic approach to travel.
“You may need a hotel room that first night, but everything else is a crapshoot. We love to see where the wind blows. I know a lot of people like to have a full-blown plan, or they panic. But I panic immensely when there is a plan because what if I get somewhere and I really like it, and I want to stay, or what if I get somewhere and I don’t like it, and I want to go,” Kellie says.
Kellie’s self-awareness doesn’t stop at travel preferences. Over the course of her career, she has carefully identified the aspects of accounting that make her tick—including the ones that make her feel like she’s banging her head against the wall.
Her vertical? “Working with clients that I like because it isn’t all about Kellie, but it is about Kellie,” she laughs.
Kellie knows that she’s happiest when taking a deep dive into the nitty-gritty parts of a spreadsheet. The weeds are where Kellie thrives. Job costing, heavy payables, and class tracking are just a few examples of the detail-oriented tasks that she finds deeply satisfying.
Her niche—or as she calls it, her ‘five-star clients’—has more to do with services and tech stack than industry. If a client has really detailed books, she’s likely interested.
Knowing when to move on from a client is just as important as knowing where you fit in the market. So when Kellie feels she’s outgrown a client, she focuses on ‘rehoming’ them with the right accounting firm.
She’s much keener on the word choice than ‘firing’, a commonly used phrase when letting go of demanding or bad-fit clients. But after talking with Stuart, she’s entertaining adding ‘sacking’ to her lexicon.
“Sacking is a fun word for the ones that are on the fence of maybe not being a great client versus not a great fit. Because sometimes you have to get rid of clients that are awesome,” says Kellie. “They can be amazingly fantastic, but you’re not bringing them value.”
She believes that tactfully rehoming a client can even lead to long-term growth.
For example, Kellie recently reconnected with a former client. They parted ways in 2020 after agreeing that the services the client needed (audited financials) weren’t something Kellie should tackle. So she worked with the client to find a new partner, and they went their separate ways.
Since the split, the client has changed their business model and resumed accounting services with Kellie. “Now that they’re back, we’re having a love fest,” she tells Stuart.
“If you rehome a client, not just because they’re not a fit for you, but because you can’t bring them the best value, you’re doing everybody a world of favor. … Now that they’re back, and they’re a perfect fit, it’s awesome.”
Recommended reading: Five ways to transition bad clients
An obvious people person, Kellie misses the personal connections formed at in-person events for accounting professionals.
She believes that while the digital substitutions have been a valuable band-aid, a Zoom call just doesn’t cut it compared to face-to-face gatherings.
“I have yet to do a Zoom call or webinar, even the ones where everybody is allowed to unmute and ask questions and be engaged, where a random conversation goes way sideways.”
The sideways conversations, for Kellie, are often where the magic happens. “I miss those,” she says.
But both Stuart and Kellie are optimistic that the world has turned a corner and that the return of live events is on the horizon. In fact, Kellie’s slated to speak this May on a panel about building and branding modern accounting firms at the AccountingWEB Live Summit in San Diego.
As in-person events continue to ramp up, Kellie’s eager to get back out there and do what she does best: connecting, coaching, and consulting with her fellow cloud-loving accountants and clients.