What do you do? 

Shawndel Spader's relationship with SCORE began 20 years ago when she used a mentor to help set up her first business. Now decades later, she is CEO of Spader Group and a frequent guest presenter for the Twin Cities Chapter on "Knowing Your Numbers."

"Spader Group supports business owners with bookkeeping and administrative services. When you think of our team, it’s really thinking of that back-office support.  We've got a bookkeeping team and an administrative team. Each client gets their own dedicated account manager with additional layers of support."

What inspired you to start your business? 

With over 20 years in accounting and office management experience, Shawndel formalized Spader Group in 2014.

"When you think of our team it is really a well-rounded backend catch-all, providing structure, providing the information necessary to really know the health of the business, so our clients can make educated decisions and have those important metrics. 

“It's a really cool place to be able to support business owners. I love what we do."

What's special about your business? 

"We don't just say, 'here you go, here's this information, good luck.' We literally jump in the vehicle with them. While we're not back seat drivers, we are helpful in the navigation process. When there's something that gets in the way, something we must navigate around, we will be that thought partner with them, and strategize what needs to happen.”

What have been the high and low points of being a business owner? 

"Nobody saw the Covid roadblock coming, and that was really eye opening for us too.  One example that comes to mind is client we were working with, and his business was absolutely crushing it, but he's in an industry that was hit hard by Covid. We checked on him, like a legit welfare check, and his response was, 'I think I've been under my desk, sucking my thumb, rocking back and forth in tears for like three days'. Which was totally fair. I am super happy to tell you today, he's crushing it, and exceeding what 'crushing it' was two years ago.  It's so much fun and cool to be a part of those journeys. We didn't do the work, he did. But we got to be a part of the conversation and it's just a really cool place to be able to allow them that safe place to cry and crumble and celebrate."

What have you learned from your experiences as a business owner? 

"Your bookkeeping, your financials, all of that is so much more important than just what you need to report to the IRS. It is really something that can be a tool in your business that you can make educated decisions, and you can feel good about where you're going. It shows you so many different things, such as whether a service or product is profitable.

“That was one of our greatest revelations from watching our own finances and bookkeeping was we used to do payroll inhouse. That didn't make sense. First, we were netting zero on it, which ultimately really did mean if I really looked at it, we were negative because all that time we were spending breaking even we could have been spending in bookkeeping or in admin where we were making profit. So essentially, we ended up outsourcing all our payroll services because that's what made sense. Not only just for us as a company, but it also made the most sense for our clients because we couldn't serve at a level that they needed us to serve in, at a rate that was reasonable and competitive.”

What influenced you to seek help from SCORE? 

"My first contact with SCORE was with a business I started with a friend. It was a new construction cleaning business. While both of us had accounting and office management backgrounds, neither one of us had set up a company from scratch. We had always walked into existing companies, become the office manager you know, dealt with the money in that sense.

“So, when we decided to do this together, we sought out a SCORE mentor. We worked with a gentleman who was a CPA. He was instrumental in helping us set up our books. Working with him confirmed we knew what we did know, but also shed additional light and education on what we weren't super clear on.”

How SCORE helped. 

“Both of us knew how to run QuickBooks, but man did we probably avoid some sharp curves because we had our SCORE mentor in our pocket to be able to say, 'Hey. We've done all of this. Can you double check it? Cool. Thank you for, you know, finding these things that we need to change.' And we would change them. And then even months down the road after we were off and running and it came to tax time, our mentor would give us advice on what to do.  

“I will say part of my desire to do the educational pieces now with our clients is because I understand how it was so incredibly helpful to just know we had options and choices, and the pros and cons of each.

“Today I teach a workshop for SCORE Twin Cities called ‘Knowing Your Numbers.’  We go through the importance and why behind having systems set up. I also do a talk on delegation. At the end of either of my presentations, I invite everybody to just jump on zero strings attached, just a conversation to talk through and brainstorm and strategize their business.  Not enough people take me up on it. Because I do think that on some level, people just think there's string attached. I promise there's not. But the ones that we do get to talk to, the conversations that I have with those after are really a lot of fun because it's with business owners that are really thinking forward in their business.”

What advice would you give to someone thinking of starting a small business? 

"The initial investment to set up your bookkeeping and set up the innerworkings of your back office is invaluable. It doesn't have to be extremely expensive. But what does become expensive are the corrections down the road.   I think it's a huge piece of getting you to that comfort level of knowing, yes, I can take on more business. No, I'm at capacity. Yes. I can make this investment, or I need X, Y, and Z to be true before I can make this investment."

What would you tell a fellow business owner about SCORE? 

"I think it's so important to have that thought partner. I often see people who will speak to somebody you know, moms, sisters, brothers, friends, aunts, uncles, spouses, whatever, and that's great. But if they're not in business, they don't get it. They also are less likely to tell you the hard things you need to hear.

Spader Group