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Aug 27, 2018

Cheers To Business Podcast | Ep1 | Meet Karen Simmons and Cadie Gaut

Welcome the first Cheers To Business podcast! In this episode, you'll meet the show's hosts, Karen Simmons (Serial Entrepreneur, CPA, Big Thinker, and The Mom) and Cadie Gaut (Business Owner, Payroll Rock Star, wife and mom, and The Daughter). Karen and Cadie share their personal career and business journies, work & life balance experiences, their ups and downs of collaboration & butting heads, and insights on starting a business from scratch or growing the one you already have. So join them with your favorite glass of wine (unless your driving), or beverage of choice, and enjoy the show.

Learn more about Karen Simmons & Cadie Gaut


Karen C. Simmons, P.C.

Payroll Vault - Mobile & Baldwin Counties

About Cheers To Business

Cheers To Business is a seriously casual business and entrepreneur podcast that discusses starting, running, refining and growing your company, or excelling at your current job with two or your soon-to-be friends - over a glass of wine. Please subscribe, review and rate Cheers To Business on iTunes, SoundCloud & Overcast. You can contact and stay connected with us by LIKING our Cheers To Business Facebook page. Thanks for listening and as always, CHEERS to you!


Full Show Transcription:

Karen: Hey everybody, welcome to "Cheers to Business." I'm Karen Simmons and I'm a certified public accountant. I'm coming up on my 23rd tax season. My firm is KCS CPA group and I have a wonderful team of 13 people. I'm also involved in some other businesses. Cadie and I started Payroll Vault together, which now she owns. And then my brother and I have a manufacturing company, Marine Exhaust Systems of Alabama, and I'm having the best time of my 52 years right now.

Cadie: I'm Cadie. I'm the daughter of the duo. And like she said, I own Payroll Vault now and I have a team of five. And then I also have two children, 10 and almost 3, and a husband. And just balancing it all. Trying to.

Karen: We're here to talk to you about business, life, and having fun in the process. Cadie, tell a little bit about why we're here and what got us here.

Cadie: Well, this is our first episode, so we're really just trying to lay out how we got here, who we are. I'm the daughter.

Karen: I'm the mom.

Cadie: Karen's my mother, and while we're very successful together in business, I think our personal has kinda of struggled, but that's because of the balance that we give to each other. You know, Karen's kinda just go-getter, the dreamer, head in the clouds, taking action, whereas I'm the, "Okay, let's slow down. Think about this. What can go wrong? How can we get where we need to be?"

Karen: Yeah. I'm a very type A personality and if I see something, I go for it. Now, you know, Mama had me tested so you gotta have a little bit to you to be able to get going and I think Cadie's got that. She's got the gumption, she's got the smarts, and it's a good balance. While we made butt heads, you know, being so different, we're really a lot alike and we work well in business.

Cadie: I think that growing up, kinda, I don't want to say underneath your shadow, but walking behind you with my notepad taking notes, I've kinda had the observer to see, "All right, there she is marching through the room. Let me take a look at what else is all going around." So that kinda gives me....That's what I grew up saying is, "Let's look at the whole picture," whereas you were just, "There's my end goal, what do I have to do to get there?"

Karen: I think that comes from a lot in history, you know, growing up not having very much of anything, I knew that education and going and getting it myself was the only way it was gonna happen. Now I think what God's put in my life is you to be able to be there with me on this journey and coming up and being able to see those things.

Cadie: So I know....Okay, so let's back up. I know a lot of people, you know, they have a backstory and you say you grew up without a lot, so I mean, go into that just to tell people because I don't think a lot of people do know.

Karen: Well, growing up, you know, we had no air condition or heat, and while we lived in a great place, you know, it was a struggle. It was a constant struggle and the only way to make money was whatever you could find. Now, for being personally, I started a general ledger at 12 when Dad had a fiberglass business and would leave me with grown men picking fiberglass. Well, I told them I required 10% and the only way to make sure I would get my money was I kept the books. And that's how I got started and knew that education was my only way out.

Cadie: Karen, a lot of times people have ideas for businesses or they wanna start a business, but often, you know, they are in their day job 8:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday. You know, when you left the larger CPA firm, I guess what was going through your head was there, "Can I do this? Will I fail?" All those variables, kinda what was at the point where you decided, I can do this and I will do this?

Karen: All of that went through my head. It was scary. There's a lot of faith put into this, you know, in my head and in my heart. Leaving the security is a very scary thing. For me, when I wasn't happy and I started to take it home and it was affecting my family, it became a very personal matter. I think the signs started coming up that, you know, this was the right thing to do and that's what led me to just give it all and take the chance. And then so, I went home to your dad and I said, "Hey, I wanna open up my own CPA firm." And he went, "Okay." So, I gotta put up our house to do it. And he said, "Okay." Now, that's a lot of faith in that. And I was right. But, you know, right after I decided to go out on my own after some debts of getting out of the whole practice and house repairs coming out of pocket, you know, we were 46 and 52 years old and had to start financially over again.

Cadie: So, was that the low point? I mean, as far as, you know, owning a business and even life, in general, is a rollercoaster, it's nothing but ups and downs. So was that kinda the low point where you....did you ever doubt yourself? Did I do the right thing by leaving?

Karen: Yes, every day. I think it's human nature to do that, and it's very emotional to talk about because it was hard wondering when I'm gonna get a paycheck. I was used to get a paycheck, 8:00 to 5:00, you get a paycheck. There was no paycheck. You know, I started with 4 people and now we're to a team of 13, and they have to get paid before you do. So, how are you gonna eat? And so, you know, it is a struggle, you know. Then I came home to him one day and I said, "Hey honey, I want to open up a payroll company."

Cadie: Payroll Vault is the payroll company that we started together and then I took over. We were at a tax conference. Where were we? Maryland, Maine, somewhere?

Karen: I don't know.

Cadie: We were at a bar. We always find an Irish pub whenever we travel. And she wrote on a napkin, she just started writing, and then next thing I know I see the word "payroll." Well, I was doing payroll through the CPA firm and she said...

Karen: You've been doing payroll since you were 14.

Cadie: ..."Let's start a payroll company." And I'm like, "Oh boy, here she goes, another business, just adding, adding to the list." And I grew up watching my mom, you know, work in a business, then work on a business, and it was her life. And so I never wanted to do that. I wanted the 8:00 to 5:00 job, you know, go to work, then go home, and work is over. Then it's kids time. I wanted that separation. The thing is, that separation is on someone else's terms. And that's the beautiful thing about owning a business is you're in control. You know, if it's 12:00 and I need to go pick up my kids, that flexibility is there. And that's kinda my goal in business is to pass that on to my team. So, offering a flexible schedule, you know, flexible PTO, personal time off, all of that.

Karen: But it's hard when you first started and you're growing it because you sometimes you can't leave.

Cadie: Oh, I mean in the beginning, no, there's no flexibility. I mean, how many times have we slept at the office? We don't go home.

Karen: I think you even slept there more than I have. I would text her at...all of a sudden, I get it 11:00 at night and she's still at the office.

Cadie: And I think that's the biggest variable if you're even thinking about going into business is do you have the grit to just get the job done no matter what it takes? I think that's the biggest thing that sets people apart from, you know, just wanting the standard job, 8:00 to 5:00, versus owning a business because it is 24/7. But it's like a baby, you don't resent it, you know, it may keep you up all night...

Karen: Sometimes you do. I do, sometimes.

Cadie: ...Well, I mean it was like a newborn. It may keep you up at night sometimes, but you still love it and you're still gonna do what...

Karen: You love it but you don't necessarily like it when it won't stop screaming at 2:00 in the morning.

Cadie: So, this is where I...I think I'm more maternal than you are. I mean you weren't a bad mom but...

Karen: I sucked, and you know it. I was not there.

Cadie: So, in middle school, all these other kids had like hand-cut apples and homemade bread and...

Karen: Oh, my God. If I have to hear about the peanut butter and the apples one more time...

Cadie: This one mom cut the center out of a apple and stuff...

Karen: I heard about it all the time.

Cadie: Anyways, but she asked me, she was like, "So we're gonna New York this summer." I was like, "Yeah, we are." She said, "Do you want hand-cut apples or do you want a New York trip?" And so that's when it clicked, you know...

Karen: It went further. It went further. I said, "How do you like that four-wheeler you got for Christmas?" You said, "Huh?" I said, "Well, it's not paid for, so it's got to go back if you leave this private school."

Cadie: So that's the bit...I'm glad you bring that up though, because now I'm able to pass that on to my kids. You know, my daughter knows if she's going on a field trip and she wants to visit the gift shop, it's up to her to take her money. So the week before, she's asking me what chores can she do to make some money? You know, sticking postage on the envelope that way...

Karen: I am so proud of you right at this moment right now.

Cadie: Well, it's just, no parent is perfect. But you learn from your parents of what...

Karen: And their mistakes.

Cadie: Can I finish my sentence?

Karen: Yes, I'm sorry. I'm sorry.

Cadie: Good grief. So you, you know, not every parent is perfect, but you learn from one generation to the next. And it's the same with employees. I mean, the first person that we had working for Payroll Vault, like things got rough, but I learned from that, and you learn with every experience.

Karen: I am still learning, every day.

Cadie: Oh gosh, you never stop learning about your industry, about how to handle situations, how to...

Karen: People and personalities, drama. What else comes into business? I think drama's the...

Cadie: What? You're extra feisty today.

Karen: I am. I'm excited about this, and I'm know, I get very passionate and...

Cadie: Obviously.

Karen: I do because it's so much fun and it can be so much fun, but it's so hard. But if it were easy, the cliché, you know, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it, but you nailed it. You have to give it your all.

Cadie: And you have to find people. You have to find people to talk with about what you're going through because it can go crazy. You literally can lose your mind in business.

Karen: Cry on the way home sometimes. Just saying. A friend of mine did that. But it does. Sometimes you cry on the way home because it gets so much and there's so many people depending on you. But, you know, if we can pass on just a little bit...You said, you know, going from generation to generation, going from experienced employer to employee, you know, one thing I'm taking away from this conversation right now that's sticking in my craw is that if you don't have the grit, it's okay. You have a great idea, you're gonna go in business. If you don't have what it takes, find those people who have the grit. Don't try to do everything yourself. You know, we were able to be a team. You know, sometimes outside of work, we butt heads. In work, we feed off each other, and in business, and is a great balance. But find that person or those know, my biggest client, the smartest thing about him is he surrounds himself with smart people.

Cadie: I think that goes for any successful person, really.

Karen: Totally agree.

Cadie: And, again, find your people. So, just very quickly, I'm just curious, what is your, like, highest point in your career so far? The moment that you think like, this is awesome. I made it.

Karen: You buying me out of Payroll Vault.

Cadie: Oh.

Karen: That's a deep down honest. I felt like mission accomplished and you're gonna be okay and your babies are gonna be okay. Watching a business, it's got extra emotional with you, but it's no different than seeing new clients come and they build these things, and you help them build these things. That is the most rewarding thing in the world, it's not about a dollar. It's about helping build something and building these businesses and then all of a sudden people are eating and able to feed their families because you created something. That's just fun.