Each year in recognition of Women's History Month, SPARK features exceptional women small-business leaders. Concluding its 2023 coverage is Jamie Trull, a financial literacy coach and profit strategist.
Jamie Trull wants to be a different kind of CPA.
"Everybody has a picture in their mind when someone talks about their CPA," she says. "A traditional business model goes along with that, one that I don't subscribe to. I have the designation, but I want to be more approachable. I want to be with it."
Who in the world is Jamie Trull?
Jamie Trull is the founder and owner of jamietrull.com, a virtual – approachable – finance education business that helps small businesses gain control of their money. Jamie's an experienced financial professional and CPA, having spent 13 years at Ernst & Young and Coca-Cola Enterprises. Her home is the South, her head is filled with numbers and her heart belongs to small-business owners.
Reflecting on her beginnings, Jamie says, "I started helping small-business owners that I knew needed help with finance. I was like, 'Well, I did it for a Fortune 100 company. I can probably do it for them.'"
But that epiphany came after Jamie left a decade-long career at Coke. Her reason for leaving? A merger, without which she may not have discovered her entrepreneurial purpose.
Coke was good. Home was better.
Jamie's departure from corporate America isn't like other stories you may have heard. She didn't leave the Fortune 100 because she was unhappy or seeking a new career. She left her professional home because she didn't want to leave her personal home: the United States.
"We had a big merger inversion, and our headquarters moved to London," she says. "I loved the company I worked for, but I had a choice: leave Coca-Cola or move to Europe. I was pregnant with my second child at the time, and I ended up deciding to stay. It was a family-driven decision, and Tennessee is where my family is, so I moved closer to home."
Hello, Franklin, Tennessee!
Money, motherhood and mixed feelings
Jamie moved home with her family, a severance package and no plans for her career. Running a virtual finance education business? Nope. Hadn't even crossed her mind.
First and foremost, Jamie was focused on caring for her then-newborn. She took an extended maternity leave, relying on her severance for support. When that ran out, it was back to work.
"I said, 'Okay, maybe I'm going back to another corporate job.' But I was picky," she says. "It was during that time that I started to think, 'Is there another option here?' I didn't want to go back to another 70- or 80-hour-a-week job with two young kids at home. That didn't make sense."
But Jamie felt she had no choice. She shipped out her resume to recruiters and was on track to land a great job, albeit one that required her to be away from home. All she had to do was provide an updated resume.
"But at that moment, I just cried," she says. "I looked at my daughter and said, 'I can't do it.'"
Home (n). A place for gaining perspective.
Jamie wanted (and needed) to return to work, but she didn't want to return to an office. Fortunately, the freshly merged Coca-Cola Enterprises reached out to her. They needed help training their new team. The best part? She could do it from home. But not forever. While the Coke gig kept her at home, where she could prioritize her kids, contractually, it was temporary.
"I really liked working from home, and I said, 'I want to do something that I can do while having my life, too. Maybe I need to create it.' And that's where it started," she says. "I just started helping some small businesses with their finances."
That's also when Jamie realized she'd stumbled onto an idea. She started putting her name out there, reaching out to various small businesses and becoming more active on social media. She quickly amassed 10 clients and a waiting list. But 10 was her maximum.
"I was already working a lot," she says. "I knew I had to do this a different way."
A different way
Jamie started providing her expertise on Facebook Live and in a Facebook group she created, to satisfy client demand. The group exploded, she says.
"That's when I realized there was this need for education and this need to empower people," she added. "But the people I really wanted to work with were the smaller businesses that couldn't afford a virtual CFO, which is what I was doing with my clients. I wanted to help small businesses."
Jamie dropped the service business model, phasing out her clients individually, and pivoted to an education-based model prioritizing small-business finances.
Today, jamietrull.com uses snackable educational content and clever digital marketing to attract new businesses. In other words, jamietrull.com is "with it." Jamie's become an efficient content marketing machine, developing courses, bundles, cheat sheets and toolboxes for all to enjoy.
"These days," she says, "my job is more online marketing than being a CPA or doing anything in the financial realm."
And you can tell. Visit Jamie's website, and you'll discover how much time she puts into creating an engaging educational experience. Her brand is upbeat, encouraging, straightforward and down-to-earth, and there's a good reason for that.
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Eliminating the judgment
Jamie's troubled by some financial professionals' inclination toward judgment and criticism. She says this tendency can keep people from getting the financial help they need. Ultimately, it may keep them away from financial professionals like Jamie, who reject judgment and criticism in favor of compassion and empathy.
"When people are already judging themselves for their choices, it's easy for them to pick up on judgment from others, and then they keep things close to the chest," she says. "They don't make positive changes or get help for the behaviors that have held them back. Money-wise, habits-wise, they just stay where they are."
Finding a financial professional who doesn't make you feel bad about your decisions can be a weight lifted off your shoulders. Through jamietrull.com, Jamie wants to help more small-business owners feel validated.
"When you find someone you can open up to and talk about these things with, you realize you're normal," she says. "When you work with somebody who makes you feel like you're normal and that your situation is normal, it empowers you and paints a picture of what a positive future can look like."
She continued, "Many people do the 'tough love' thing in this industry. I think it's detrimental that we're always using that to manipulate people about their money. I wanted to create this space that makes people say, 'I used to run away from money, but now it feels doable.'"
Decoding the jargon
Jamie's also interested in simplifying the jargon some small-business owners encounter while managing and growing their finances. She's observed the problem firsthand while working with mom-and-pop shops, boutique owners, pet sitters, landscapers and other small businesses across the U.S.
"These are people in our everyday lives who didn't get an MBA," she says. "They all own businesses, and they did it because it's something they loved or were good at. The finance stuff came secondary."
Jamie says the jargon can take over when you reach a certain point in your business's growth, creating confusion, miscommunication and frustration.
"When you get to the point of needing to hire people to scale your business or of needing to invest in various things to make the business grow, it starts getting hard," she says. "You can get lost in all the jargon of taxes and other things that are intimidating for people."
Jamie encourages small-business owners to remember one thing when they're feeling defeated: In the end, it's really just simple math.
"While accountants love to make up fancy words for things (don't get me started on EBITDA)," Jamie says, "the formula that really matters is an easy one: revenue minus expenses equals profit."
Check out Jamie's Financial Fitness Basics course for more on decoding the jargon.
Jamie's small-business outlook: Recession and inflation
Recession: Preparation is everything
Recent reports of a potential recession have stoked fears among small-business owners, including those under Jamie's wing.
"Unfortunately, when there's more fear about a recession, the worse that potential recession gets because everybody stops spending," Jamie says. "Yes, other factors are at play, but there's also this panic that happens."
Take a deep breath, prepare and get creative.
"Let's feel confident in the things we can control and not let them arrest us," she says. "We have to lean into our creativity. These cycles happen, and they're going to keep happening. We need to build up our reserves. We need to be clear about our profit margins and make sure we're priced appropriately. We need to be agile and able to adjust quickly. Can you cut certain areas proactively, including where you may be overspending, which may keep you from reducing staff? There are so many things we can do."
Get the scoop on recession preparedness in this MainStreet Macro video.
Inflation: Deflation is unlikely
Jamie advises small-business owners to think critically about sources claiming inflation will decrease and become deflation, or a general ongoing decline in prices. Instead of deflation, disinflation, which is a temporary slowdown in prices, is more likely.
"If you look at history, inflation will slow, but it rarely goes negative," she says. "We rarely have deflation. For example, if we're at 7 percent inflation, it might slow to 4 percent, but that's still growing. It's not going to go negative, so you don't want to wait to act. You're hurting yourself if you wait too long to adjust your prices."
Understand the difference between price gouging and monitoring your profit margins.
"The small-business owners get squeezed because the big businesses they're buying supplies from are increasing their prices. If you're a restaurant buying meat, for example, from 2020 to 2022, average meat prices increased by more than 20 percent," Jamie says. "You can't keep selling at a loss, because you're not going to stay in business, and then you're going to have to let go of your employees, impacting their lives and those of your customers. Ensuring your profit margins are sustainable is not price gouging. You have to [watch your profit margins] to be able to stay in business."
Read How Leaders Can Address Worries Around Inflation and Support Workers for more on adapting to inflation.
Empowering women small-business owners
First and foremost, Jamie wants all small-business owners to feel confident about their business finances. But she has a special place in her heart for helping women, particularly moms. It stems from her experiences working and starting a business with two young children at her feet.
"I started to recognize with motherhood that there are different challenges women face," she says. "I was always a high achiever at work. It was a difficult transition when work went from being my main priority to me having a family and having to figure out how to adjust. My job, for so long, was my identity, and now I'm a mother, so I care less about that, but I still care about it. Becoming a mom made it difficult to live up to my expectations of what I could do simply because I had less time that I was willing to devote to work."
She continued, "When I went into the small-business world, I identified with so many of the women small-business owners because they were caretakers for their children or their aging parents and needed something more flexible than a job that requires you to sit in an office every day. They wanted something different. I've gotten so much freedom and flexibility out of my business that I want more women to feel that way. I want them to realize that there are choices. It's not one or the other. You can run a business and be a mom."
Through jamietrull.com, Jamie hopes she can help more women small-business owners, moms included, achieve freedom and flexibility in their work and personal lives.
"I want more women to feel confident," Jamie says. "I want them to feel more empowered with money, with making decisions about their money. I want them to find the freedom they're looking for."
One thing's for sure: Financial literacy and savvy money management can be liberating tools for all. And if the help received along the way happens to be compassionate and straightforward, the journey to financial confidence will be that much easier – and a lot less painful.
Jamie's partnership with ADP
Helping Jamie succeed behind the scenes is RUN, Powered by ADP, a small-business payroll solution that handles the nitty-gritty, so Jamie can focus on her business.
"I've really enjoyed using RUN," Jamie says. "I think it's really easy to use. I'm big on intuitive software. I've used a few different payroll programs, and I really like [how intuitive RUN is]. What I like about it most is that I have my own advisor. If I have a question, I can ask and get an answer from the same person. I don't have to call a 1-800 number. I don't have to sit on hold for a million years. It's nice to have somebody who can just take care of it."
Experience RUN, one of Jamie's top picks for payroll solutions.
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