Unlocking the puzzle
By Jim Ryan
When most people receive their yearly tax return from their accountant, they don't see it as anything more than columns of numbers with a bottom line that may or may not be good news to them or their business. For Sandra Mann, EA, the completed form is a piece of art.
Mann has owned Andrean Accounting in Liberty Lake since 2008 and has recently moved her office to 2310 N. Molter Rd, Suite 205. She has scheduled an open house for her clients and the community today from 4:30 to 7 p.m. Wine and hors d'oeuvres will be served.
Sitting in her corner office with a forest of trees behind her just on the verge of their explosion of fall colors, Mann explained that her move last month from a small strip mall on County Vista Drive was necessitated by a growing staff, an expanding client list and the need for a little more peace and quiet while crunching her numbers. She said her new office location is more geared toward a professional environment, and she and her new bookkeeper, Jessica Fuhlendorf, can get "in the zone" when working on their projects.
Mann also has plans to bring in an administrative assistant during the tax season, with an eye toward making that position permanent.
Mann was born in Western Washington, just about an hour north of Seattle, and graduated from Central Washington University.
"I went to college with the idea of becoming an aeronautical engineer because it was always my desire to build a rocket ship for NASA and maybe one day go up in one," she explained. "Then after my first year in college, I realized how important it was that I should have paid more attention to those classes in high school; I didn't do so well. So I went back to my career goal I had in seventh grade, and that was working with numbers."
After graduating from college, she sat for her CPA exam but failed it. Instead of taking the advice of some of her friends to retake it again, she decided to reassess her goals.
"I have always been someone who has done very well on tests, so that was a pivotal moment in my life where I thought that maybe I should step back and reevaluate my career path," she said. "So I went into private accounting work for a private corporation in downtown Seattle. I got a really wonderful job with a seven-and-a-half hour work day and great benefits. I was a single mom at that time, and it was a much better deal for me."
After 20 years, she lost her job in 2008, and Mann began considering what she wanted to do for the next segment of her life. She said she had always loved doing taxes. In fact, before going into the corporate world, she spent some time doing taxes for "mom and pop" businesses in the Seattle area and even worked for H&R Block while still in college.
"Twenty years of running the rat-race just wasn't that fulfilling," she said. "You know, money is money and it's great, but what's the point of having a lot of money if you aren't fulfilled? So I decided to start my own business."
When she described the spectrum of her clients, Mann gestured that she gets "that proverbial shoe box of yearly receipts," which she goes through, puts into a financial statement and ultimately into a tax return.
Her office also does payroll for businesses and customizes the bookkeeping for each individual client.
"One thing I've found is that every client is different," she said. "What they do as a business is different; their needs are different."
Andrean Accounting does all aspects of bookkeeping, which includes: invoices, receiving payments, payroll, quarterly tax returns for payroll taxes, as well as state sales and B&O taxes for both Washington and Idaho.
Her office also does accounting analysis work, which helps companies understand if they are profitable. It also helps them make decisions about buying another business, the prospects of expanding or even shutting down.
When talking about her profession, Mann's face lights up.
"I'm one of those sick people who really loves working with numbers," she said. "I love puzzles, and I believe accounting is like a puzzle. When I'm working on a tax return, I'm taking bits and pieces of information from here and there, and when it's done it looks great. It's not as beautiful as a seascape; it's just a tax return, but to me it's a piece of art. When we are given a gift, and I believe my gift has to do with numbers and working with people, you get joy out of it."
She credits her natural sense of calmness with being able to make her clients feel more at ease and less stressed when they come into her office with that aforementioned shoebox of receipts and a looming IRS deadline.
When she isn't at her office, Mann donates a great deal of her time to programs in her adopted hometown of Liberty Lake.
Mann has taught workshops for the SCORE program in the area. SCORE offers professionals with real-world experience to help small businesses succeed. Counselors are experts in such areas as accounting, finance, marketing, technology, management and business plan preparation. Because her own growing business has kept her so busy this past year, she was only able to teach a few classes, but she hopes to have the time to hold more workshops in the coming year.
"I love working with SCORE," she said. "Again, it's an opportunity to mentor someone when they are in a desperate need to find solutions. When someone starts a business, there is so much they don't know. I love working with SCORE because I really do think I have a gift to be able to teach people and to work with numbers."
When she teaches her workshops, it is usually on financial recordkeeping and cash flow. She explained that many new and established businesses don't realize the true definition of cash flow. They are surprised to learn that just because they have a healthy volume of business coming in doesn't mean they are making a profit. Her workshops help them realize the difference.
Mann is also actively involved with Women Executives of Liberty Lake (WELL).
She explained that when she first joined the group four years ago, about six local businesswomen would meet for lunch at Hay Jay's and talk about their business and how they could help each other. As their numbers grew, the WELL members moved their meeting to the Liberty Lake Municipal Library and started inviting guest speakers to their meetings. The group of 25-30 women now meets monthly at the Liberty Lake Sewer & Water District administration building.
She has been asked to give annual tax updates to the organization. Other presentations have been given by individuals on obtaining SBA loans, social networking and even how to fix a hairstyle to complement any business situation.
Andrean Accounting can be reached at 928-8500 or email Mann at email@example.com.
Husband, Michael (newly married in June); son, Brandan, who is in college.
Favorite weekend activity
Jigsaw puzzles, collecting key chains, building dollhouses