Holly Devito: CEO, Sum of All Numbers

We asked Holly DeVito, Owner of Sum of All Numbers to share with us her life story including people and experiences that have influenced her personal and business philosophies. We also asked her to answer some fun questions. Following are excerpts from that interview.

Business Owner Name: Holly DeVito

Business Name:Sum of All Numbers

Business Location:  Fremont, CA - Serving the greater Bay Area and Sacramento

 

What was your childhood like?

 I grew up on a 600 acre dairy farm in Northern Utah. It was just how you picture farm life. Lots of work, playing outdoors, no TV, rescuing abandoned kittens.

What are some significant events or experiences in your life, and explain what effects they have had on you.

My father died when I was 9 so I was raised by a single mom through my teen years – she taught us to always be self-sufficient and have a plan for being able to take care of yourself. I started baby-sitting and doing yard work for neighbors for money when I was 9 or 10. When I was 12 my best friend and I started a neighborhood newsletter that we sold for $0.25 an edition – it came out weekly – we made a lot of money for a 12 year old!  I’ve always been an entrepreneur!

Who or what influenced the direction of your life, and when? What did they do that had such an influence on you?

My mom probably had the most influence on my life.  She taught me to get an education and provide for myself. We can’t depend on other people to take care of us. We are in charge of our own destiny.

What are a few things about yourself that make you uniquely you.

I’m extremely driven and have an “I’ll show you” attitude. I love a challenge.  I love people and I love serving others.

Did you ever aspire to do anything else with your professional career than to run a business?

I always knew I’d own my own business – I just didn’t know what. I went to school for business and finance and this kind of fell in my lap at 24. I was a flight attendant for a short while – I thought I’d do that long term. I loved the travel part but the waiting on people in a steel can for 12 hours at a time got old quick!

Tell me about your business: age of company, products/services, geography and types of customers served, etc.,

I started the company in 2006. We offer bookkeeping and payroll services to small businesses under $5 million in revenue. We work with clients around the world. We work completely virtual – I have 20 employees and we all work out of our own homes.  I’m able to hire people in different locations so we have a great coverage of the Bay Area and Sacramento if we ever need to get to a client’s office. We currently serve about 400 clients in all different types of business, wholesale, retail, manufacturing, restaurants, service professionals, you name it, we’ve probably done the books for that type of business.

How did you get started in this business?

I was doing mortgages at the time and someone asked me to help him with his books – he knew I’d done bookkeeping in the past. I started helping him and soon he had referred me to about 10 clients and I had a little business.

What do you find interesting about your business?

I love being able to see all the different ways people find to make money. I get an insight into what it’s like to run all different types of businesses without having to run them all!

How did you get the background and skills necessary to run this type of business?

Started my first job out of high school as an accounting clerk for a clothing designer. While I went to school I worked every accounting job there was.  When I was done with school I got a job as the CFO for a chapter of the Red Cross in Washington State. 

Do you have a business partner? If yes, who?

My husband has recently joined me to help me run the business. He’s been my biggest supporter and partner. I made it happen, but he’s made it possible.

How did the economic, environmental, and technological environments impact you in becoming a business owner?

We were a virtual business working in the “cloud” when nobody had ever heard that term before. When the economy crashed it actually boosted our business because business owners started to really watch what was going on with the financials of their businesses.

Outside of your trade association, whom do you seek unbiased advice from for your business?

Obviously from my board with TAB. I always believe you should have a mentor or someone that can tell you “your baby’s ugly”

As a business owner, the buck stops with you. You are accountable to no one else but yourself. How do you bring accountability to yourself and your business?

Through TAB. I also feel like I’m accountable to my employees. Their livelihood is on the line if I don’t do my job. I also have a management team that holds me accountable.

What is the single most critical talent you possess in your role as a business owner?

Resiliency.  After something bad happens or I make a mistake I get back up and try it again.

What gives you the most satisfaction in running your own business?

Helping others and supporting my employees. I love the team I’ve created and am happy I can help them live the life they want to live.

How do you define success as a business owner?

Personal happiness. Success isn’t measured monetarily but by what we feel inside. If I’m happy with what I’m doing and how the business is going then I feel successful.

What would you recommend to a small/medium business owner to help enhance the valuation of their business?

Be aware and understand your financial reports.  If you don’t have an understanding of the financial health of your business, you can’t make informed decisions.

What has changed the most in the business environment since you started your business?

Everyone moving to the cloud.

If you had to do over again, what would you do?

Yes, I’d do it all over again. I love what I do.

How did you overcome the 2008 economic crisis?

Business boomed for us.

What do you find most challenging about running a business in 2015?

HR issues are always challenging – especially in California.  Especially in my business we have to be aware of all the tax law changes and there’s been some big ones in the last few years.

How do you expect the business environment to change over the coming years?

In the next 5-10 years I think all accounting for small business will be done virtually and in the cloud.  Software will no longer be sold as a onetime cost but as an ongoing subscription that’s all hosted in the cloud.

What would you like to tell people who want to start a business in your field?

Be prepared to work harder than you’ve ever worked in your life.  What is that saying? An entrepreneur is someone that will quit their 40 hours a week with a paycheck job to work 80 hours a week for no paycheck.

What advice would you give others based on the successes you’ve had or the mistakes you’ve made?

Be careful who you trust with the most integral parts of your business.

What are some of the personal values that are very important to you?

Integrity and caring for others

If someone gave you $100,000 and told you that you could NOT give it to any of your friends, family members or use it for yourself, what would you do with it?

Give it to an animal rescue organization and a women’s shelter

What are a few things that you are grateful for?

My husband, my God, my children, my health.

What are you most proud of?

That I’ve managed to build this business, mostly on my own, debt free, into something I never thought was possible. We were named by Intuit as one of the top 200 accounting firms in the country and we are ranked in the top 3% of women owned businesses.

How and what do you want to be remembered for?

I want to be remembered for someone that was caring, compassionate and put the needs of others before myself. I hope my children know that I did the best I could to teach them the things they need to know in life and I loved them with all my heart.

What are some of the things you enjoy doing in your leisure time?

I love to garden and have a little urban farm. I have 15 chickens and hope to be able to buy some adjoining acreage to build a little bit bigger not so urban farm.

I love to travel. Any chance I get I’m thinking and planning our next trip.

What are the items on your Bucket List?

African Safari, going to Italy to meet my husband’s family and see where his parents were from.

Owning my own little farm. You can take the girl out of the country . . . 

Let Peers Know You!

CONTACT US TO SHARE YOUR STORY     REFER A PEER

Ramon Canova

Marque Foods, Inc.

I initially joined TAB to learn how to better deal with ‘me.’ I perceived myself as a primary obstacle to growth. With TAB, I got plenty of ideas on how to view myself and the business differently and this has definitely improved my business. I learned that my business plan is a living document and track it periodically using the monthly progress report. In short, TAB has helped me design business processes that are more systematic, efficient and get results.

Carla Kell-Smith

C Kell-Smith & Associates

Being in business for the last 25 years and then joining my TAB board, I’ve seen such an improvement in my management style and effectiveness. TAB is a great resource for me, the information and the experience with small businesses as well as the insights shared.

Martin Simenc

Home Safety Services

For us, it’s all about generating clients. And how we’ve gone about generating those clients with the help of TAB has really been key to our ongoing success. I knew that I needed a sounding board, needed some outside expertise. And that’s exactly what TAB brings to the table. And it also holds my feet to the fire and keeps me accountable.Kalar is a patient and inquisitive listener who seeks a thorough understanding of the root origins and causes of issues before collaborating on potential solutions. He also helps me to consider "out of the box" type solutions and opportunities that invariably expand my thinking. With his help and guidance, we have resolved numerous tactical and strategic issues and positioned our company for significant growth.

Alex Vaysberg

All Industrial Supply, Inc.

TAB helps you recognize that pretty much everybody has the same type of issues with their business. It clears your head and it re-energizes you. When I leave a tab board meeting I’m re-energized to conquer not only that day, but the next year. TAB helps us focus on ourselves and the other TAB members…the answer is sometimes written on your forehead and you just need a mirror to be able to read that answer.

Adam Messner

Live Wire Supply

Being a CEO can be lonely at times. You’re looking for places to get ideas, other people to speak with to solve problems; this is the perfect place to do that...there is a good exchange of ideas and experience for growing your business and solving problems.