Charles J. Read, CPA, born in Iowa City, Iowa and as a child raised in Cambridge, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa, is an accounting expert. He like many accountants, he has seen many businesses make costly mistakes in finances. He is the author of a few books focused on small business owners in educating them on the correct way to handle their books. His first book on the subject, “Starting a New Business: Accounting, Finance, Payroll, and Tax Considerations,” was published in 2013. His latest book, “The Payroll Book, A Guide for Small Businesses and Startups,” in his words, “is everything … a small businessman or entrepreneur…need to know to be able to process payroll and stay safe and legal, to do it right.” I asked him a few questions about his book, his publishing experience and a few other questions.
1. When did you discover accounting was your niche?
During my senior year of college, things just started to fall into place as I had moved more of my courses into accounting and finance. A CPA career started to sound pretty good. At my university, most of the accounting professors were CPAs. It is a good and profitable profession and can lead to opportunities of all kinds in exciting fields.
2. What inspired you to publish your first book?
Trying to educate clients and potential clients about the business. There are so many people who go into business with an idea of what they want the company to do but don’t have any idea of what it takes to run the back office. That lack of knowledge and further not knowing what they don’t know can make or break a business.
3. Did you have any fears of publishing before you started?
I knew it would be not easy, but my training allowed me to forge ahead. In the Marine Corps, mission completion is a way of life. Once I decided that I would write it and started, I could not allow myself not to finish. There was not as much trepidation after the first book, but every book is a mission, and I have to finish
4. What were three things you learned about the publishing process?
It takes longer than you expect with your first one, which I self-published; you don’t know what you don’t know, and you learn along the way. My latest one is with a major publisher. It was a whole different experience with a lot more people involved with lots of different skills and a lot more cost.
Publishing does not make you into a celebrity or rich overnight, if ever! If you are doing a book to become famous, think again. You have to be publishing because it is the right thing for you to do even if no one ever reads it.
The book does not promote itself. Promotion is another skill you don’t realize you need. It is what gets the book out and people to see it and hopefully buy it. Another skill set to develop.
5. What was the most surprising thing your learned in the process?
That being a professional nitpicker (CPA) is good for an author, who would have thought it. As a CPA, you know that tax returns have to be perfect to withstand an audit. In the payroll business, everybody’s check has to be right, but on time, every time, or else you lose clients. That mindset helped me review the book, repeatedly looking for mistakes and omissions. I wish I could say I found them all, but I am making notes of things I want to add to the next edition.
6. Have you done any unique marketing that other authors can borrow?
The book was released in the middle of the pandemic, so traditional book tours and in-person events were out of the question. We had to pivot and focus more on social media promotions and getting on as many podcasts as possible.
7. What is the title of your latest book?
“The Payroll Book, A Guide for Small Businesses and Startups”
8. What is a brief summary/synopsis of the book?
The book is 30 years of running payrolls for clients, years of education, hundreds of training classes, hundreds of trade journals, dozens of conferences all rolled into 85,000 words. It is everything I thought that a small businessman or entrepreneur would need to know to be able to process payroll and stay safe and legal, to do it right. The Payroll Book is the only book that demystifies payroll with clear, concise, and real-world examples on how to tackle the process.
9. What was your purpose of writing the book?
Three-fold. To educate small business owners and entrepreneurs about payroll and to help keep them out of trouble. To give them a source for answers, and finally provide an alternative if they chose to outsource payroll.
10. What inspired/encouraged you to write and publish the book?
The lack of good sources out there for the average person. The next best book is $554.95 unless you pay for an APA membership, then it is $329.95, wow
11. Is there a specific type a person this book is targeted?
The small business or the person who wants to start a business. When a business gets big enough to hire an experienced payroll professional that person should have access to all the APA resources and books. Until then, the business person needs my book before they even start.
12. Name three accounting/financial mistakes you see often in businesses?
Not knowing the law.
Not following the law.
Not making deposits or filings on a timely basis.
13. Name three simple steps businesses can do to begin to get their finances/books in order?
Outsource payroll! Payroll is complex and ever-changing. The knowledge you need is vast and the various 15,000 taxing authorities, ranging from the school system to the Federal Government change, there is a rule change every day somewhere. If you don’t keep up, you will make errors. Those errors will cost you a lot of time, energy and effort that you could be placing into your business. You can outsource to an expert who will take on all the problems for less than your actual cost in time and money to do it yourself.
Learn how to hire and fire people tax effectively. Unemployment rates are determined by how you hire, manage, educate, and terminate employees. If you learn how to plan for, document, and execute hiring, employee indoctrination, ongoing management and where necessary termination, you can keep your unemployment insurance rate low. If you don’t, it will rise and stay high, costing you substantial amounts of money that you have effectively thrown away.
Understand all the factors in classifying people for overtime purposes and whether or not they are independent contractors legally. Department of Labor estimates 70% of businesses in the US misclassify. Misclassification can be costly. Auditors can go back years and assess penalties and interest for all of them.
14. Are you working on another book at the moment?
I already have a new edition in the works with all the COVID changes: the CARES Act; the FFRCC; FICA deferrals and more to come.
The next book may well be on taxation, how much we actually pay in taxes both obvious and hidden like tariffs, excise and corporate taxes that are passed on to the ordinary taxpayer.
15. Where can your future fans follow you on social media?
16. Do you have a website?
16. What advice would you give a small business whose books are crumbling at the moment?
Stay the course. Economize where ever you can. Take care of your clients.
17. What advice would you give a professional who is thinking about sharing his/her knowledge in book form?
Start typing! Type every day. Edit later! Procrastination is your biggest enemy!
18. Which author would you like to take a plane ride with and to what location?
Tom Peters, anywhere that was far away for a long conversation.
If you are a business owner who have had some troubles with payroll, I hope this article has helped you. I also hope Mr. Charles J Read’s latest book will be of help to you. Many times people think they need more money to have a better business. But many times you do not need more money, you need to manage the money you have better.
Interviewer: Casey Bell