BookkeepingFinancesI AM CEO PODCASTOperationsSystems

IAM1892 – CFO and Business Owner Helps Business Owners Stay On-Track with Their Financial Systems

Podcast interview with Courtney Barbee

Why it was selected for “CBNation Architects”:

This podcast episode features Courtney Barbee, the owner of The Bookkeeper, a rapidly growing business that offers bookkeeping and CFO consulting services. Courtney started in the accounting industry as a 15-year-old intern and has since developed a passion for it. She previously worked in corporate environments, CPA offices, and governmental accounting before establishing The Bookkeeper.

In this episode, Courtney shares critical aspects of her business philosophy and personal growth:

CEO Hack: Courtney stresses the importance of maintaining constant communication with her team for optimal business operation.
CEO Nugget: Encourages listeners to be authentic and true to themselves.
CEO Defined: Courtney defines a CEO as the individual responsible for the direction and outcomes of a company.

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Courtney Barbee Teaser 00:00

They work with a little bit shy of 200 companies right now. And some of them are one-person startups. You just need somebody to set them on the right course, and give them a little bit of setup and training for their financial systems.

Intro 00:11

Do you want to learn effective ways to build relationships, generate sales, and grow your business from successful entrepreneurs, startups, and CEOs without listening to a long, long, long interview?

If so, you've come to the right place. Gresham Harkless values your time and is ready to share with you precisely the information you're in search of. This is the IAMCEO podcast.

Gresham Harkless 00:36

Hello. Hello. Hello. This is Gresh from the IAMCEO podcast, and I appreciate you listening to this episode. If you've been listening this year, that we hit 1600 episodes at the beginning of this year, and we're doing something a little bit different.

Where we're repurposing our favorite episodes around certain categories, topics, or as I like to call them, the business pillars that we think are going to be extremely impactful for CEOs, entrepreneurs, business owners, and what I like to call the CB Nation architects who are looking to level up their organizations.

This month, we are focusing on operations. The systems will set you free. So think about systems, think about flow, sustainability, potentially working out in your morning routine, waking up early e-commerce, and different business models. Think of the operations in the models that basically set up the foundation to allow the creativity within organizations, but also to make sure the trains are running on time and things are going as they should.

Now, this is extremely important because we often can turn to the sexy parts of business and forget about the operations and how important that is. So I really want to focus this month on this specific topic. So sit back and enjoy this special episode at the IAMCEO podcast.

Hello, hello, hello. This is Gresh from the IAMCEO podcast. And I have a very special guest on the show today. I have Courtney Barbee of the Bookkeeper. Courtney, it's awesome to have you on the show.

Courtney Barbee 01:54

Thank you. It's good to be here.

Gresham Harkless 01:55

Great to have you on. And what I want to do is just read a little bit more about Courtney. So you can hear about all of the awesome things that she's doing.

And Courtney is an owner of the Bookkeeper, a fast-growing business bookkeeping and CFO consulting firm. She got her start in accounting as a 15-year-old intern and loved the industry right from the beginning. Before the Bookkeeper, she worked in corporate CPA offices in governmental accounting.

She is a lifelong native of the Raleigh Durham triangle area and outside of the office, enjoys hiking and backpacking.

Courtney, are you ready to speak to the IAMCEO community?

Courtney Barbee 02:25

I'm ready.

[restrict paid=”true”]

Gresham Harkless 02:26

Awesome. Let's do it. So the first question I had was to hear a little bit more about your CEO story. What led you to start your business?

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Courtney Barbee 02:32

I'd always loved accounting and the problem that you run into working in corporate or governmental offices, you end up doing the same thing over and over.

And, I'm here in Raleigh, Durham triangle, huge startup tech world and saw all these companies that needed some help. So it's okay, this is going to be the kitchen table side job, that my father and I were going to do together and just exploded. We had to quit our day jobs.

We had to hire staff. We didn't office. It took off so quickly. So that's a became an accidental CEO.

Gresham Harkless 03:01

There you go. It's funny you say that sometimes, like you said, you just think it's gonna be like a side business or a side hustle. And then next thing everybody's craving exactly what it is that you're providing because you're providing such a great need and things just take off from there.

Courtney Barbee 03:12

Yeah, we were not prepared.

Gresham Harkless 03:15

Yes, it's funny. I always you know, talk with people and sometimes everyone wants to be able to prepare everything, have all the ducks in the row before they take action. But sometimes you just have to take that first step and then things start to sometimes get in line from there.

Courtney Barbee 03:27

Especially in my industry, we're all about preparation. And so when you're just holding onto the rocket ship without any real control, it's a little scary.

Gresham Harkless 03:33

Yeah, exactly. Exactly. So I know I touched on a little bit when I read your bio, could you tell us a little bit more on how you're serving clients and what exactly you guys do?

Courtney Barbee 03:41

Yeah. We try to just fill whatever need the client has. We work with a little bit shy of 200 companies right now. And some of them are one-person startups. You just need somebody set them on the right course, give them a little bit of setup and training for their financial systems.

And then we've got a multimillion 250 employing midsize businesses where we're the whole outsourced accounting department. We're paying all the bills. We're running payroll. We're the CFO doing projections, expansion, planning, things like that. So, of course, other different things in between.

Gresham Harkless 04:09

Yeah, absolutely. A little something for everybody, which is awesome. So it doesn't matter like what I guess stage or I guess even size a company is, but they're able to work with you?

Courtney Barbee 04:18

Yeah. And you know, I have a real heart for the startups, right? Because that's who this community is. It's a small business startup inventor-type community around here. So I love working with those, people who haven't gotten funding yet or on a really limited budget and just helping them as much as we can while they're getting themselves up and running and just giving some guidance.

Gresham Harkless 04:36

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. And it's funny because I always heard, whenever you start a business, you want to make sure that you have, an account CPA, you want to have that in place along with an attorney and things like that.

Is that one of the things you would definitely recommend to, especially if you're starting out or even if you're more established to make sure you have that taken care of?

Courtney Barbee 04:50

Oh yeah, definitely the attorney and then the accountant. It's as an example, I had a client who accidentally made 2 million last year, just took off really quickly.

And so they called this emergency huddle in November and it was, me, their tax prepared, their financial advisor, their attorney. And we just figured out, okay, how are we going to protect these guys? Because again, they weren't expecting that to happen. They didn't have a ton of systems in place.

Gresham Harkless 05:14


Courtney Barbee 05:14

Better early.

Gresham Harkless 05:28

Yeah, it's funny you say that. I say a lot of times the most important thing sometimes it's not necessarily having the things in place. Obviously, you want to whenever possible, but making sure you know who to call. When something like that happens so you can tap into that equities that you guys have.

Courtney Barbee 05:28

Yeah, yeah. And you see, now we do a lot of pro bono work for people who are just getting going for nonprofits. And we always like, we always hope people will ask us for help, even if they're not quite ready to hire. Yeah.

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Gresham Harkless 05:38

That's awesome. That's awesome. And and now I wanted to ask you for what I call your secret sauce, and this could be for you or your organization, but what do you feel sets you apart to make guys unique?

Courtney Barbee 05:47

You know, in general, our industry is full of people who are very reserved and very rigid thinkers. That's not us at all. We're people, people. We're a little bit creative. We try to work with systems that make sense for the client. So, whereas they might come to somebody and they're like, okay, you're going to use this platform and here's how we're going to do it.

We'd like to see how we fit into that client's business and how we support them without trying to order them around or take things over.

Gresham Harkless 06:12

Yeah, that's absolutely huge. And correct me if I'm wrong for what I hear from that as well, too, is you're actually sitting down and figure and doing that due diligence sounds like in the very beginning to understand what that client, how they worked, what their ecosystem is, and then you're figuring out how best you can support them.

Courtney Barbee 06:25

Yeah, I mean, even just figuring out what's the best accounting software for somebody, it's not gonna be the same for each client. And so we try to really down top of the new and upcoming ones too, so that we can recommend something new. If that's a good fit.

Gresham Harkless 06:37

Yeah, that makes perfect sense. That makes perfect sense. And I wanted to switch gears a little bit and ask you for what I call a CEO hack. And this might be an app, a book or a habit that you have, but it's something that you feel like makes you more effective and efficient.

Courtney Barbee 06:48

Honestly, since we've had the rapid growth, I would just say having constant communication with your team and, always checking in, seeing how you can support them.

I'm very much an open-door boss. Sometimes someone has questions or something's bothering them. I couldn't do any of this on my own. And so just having that relationship with my people and them knowing I've got their back has been everything.

Gresham Harkless 07:09

Yeah, I can imagine that. And especially, when you have a team, you have employees, you have, people that are on the same page. You're not necessarily always going to be over them doing exactly, checking and making sure they're doing everything exactly right.

But to make sure they have that open door policy and also you guys are having and striving for the same mission is definitely, something that's really big.

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. And now I wanted to ask you for what I call a CEO nugget. And this is a word of wisdom or a piece of advice, or if you can hop into a time machine, what would you tell your younger business self?

Courtney Barbee 07:36

So, I'm only 33 and the company just turned six. So I was pretty young when I started and I felt I needed to have, the long hair and a bun and we're all black and be very serious. And it was so disingenuous and people picked up on that. And so when I stopped taking myself seriously and stop, let go of what that CEO of a bookkeeping firm should look like, we had all this success because people respond honesty.

Clearly, I'm not necessarily what most people would expect looking for an accountant.

Gresham Harkless 08:02

No, but it is like that. I don't know. I guess it's a buzzword now, but it is so true. Like that authenticity, you being who you are into me. And I don't know if you found this, like a lot of times when you are consistent with that, you attract those same people or the right people a lot of times just because they can, it's like a vibe thing, but a lot of times you can pick up on that with people.

Courtney Barbee 08:20

Yeah. And again, essentially here in the startup world, the young inventors, they don't want that middle-aged guy in a three-piece suit. He's not someone they're going to trust. They want to talk to the young woman with her head shaved trying to help them out, so.

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Gresham Harkless 08:33

Exactly, exactly. That makes perfect sense. And do you find there are certain things or I don't want to call them landmines that might be too excessive, but things that people like startups could potentially do to make sure they have all their ducks in a row or a little bit better prepared.

Courtney Barbee 08:45

It's heartbreaking to have to say it, but cash controls, making sure that whoever's tracking the money is not the person spending the money.

We see it all the time and we see it a lot in family businesses, which is what's really sad. But if you can just remove the temptation early on and have those systems in place, that's a big landmine people step on, so.

Gresham Harkless 09:04

Yeah, no, that makes sense. And it's like the checks and balances, making sure that, you're holding, the team accountable, you're holding, family business, whatever it is that, like you said, the person that's writing the checks, not spending the money and taking in the money. So on and so forth, things like that.

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. And now I wanted to ask you my absolute favorite question, which is the definition of what it means to be a CEO, and we're hoping to have different quote-unquote CEOs on this show. So I want to ask you, what does being a CEO mean to you?

Courtney Barbee 09:27

Being the person who for better or for worse is responsible for the company, hopefully, you get to take some credit and you'll take a lot of blames.

Gresham Harkless 09:34

Absolutely. Absolutely. And I know you mentioned too, that a lot of times people have a certain picture of, especially like you said, in the accounting world of what being a quote-unquote CEO of an accountant is.

So it's great to see that one of the things we're trying to echo is that there's different, there are all different types of quote-unquote CEOs and people that can run businesses and anybody can definitely do that. I'm sure you experienced that a lot.

Courtney Barbee 09:52

Absolutely. So many of our clients are, jeans and t-shirt types and we love it, so.

Gresham Harkless 09:57

Exactly, exactly. So. Courtney, I truly appreciate your time. What I want to do is pass you the mic, so to speak, just to see if there's anything additional as far as advice or just any information you can tell for entrepreneurs and business owners. And then also how best they can get ahold of you.

Courtney Barbee 10:11

My kind of personal motto is that I take the business seriously and I never take myself seriously. There's gonna be a lot of failures. I think you just gotta roll with it and never take it personally.

If people do want to get in touch with us. We've got a free consult we do. We've got a contact form on our website. It's And yeah, and also people are free to call the office at 9195783886. Happy to talk to you.

Gresham Harkless 10:35

Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. We'll have that information and links in the show notes as well too. And just to clarify, can anybody, do you have to be based in North Carolina to reach out to you to work with you?

Courtney Barbee 10:45

No, that's the magic of the internet. We got clients all over the country and a few international, so.

Gresham Harkless 10:51

There you go. Awesome. Awesome. Awesome. So anybody could definitely reach out. So we'll have all those links in the show notes, but Courtney, thank you so much for taking some time out. Thank you so much for all the awesome things you're doing to help out these startups and all the massive growth that you guys have had and happy birthday as well too.

Happy six years. I hope you guys have a great rest of the day.

Courtney Barbee 11:09

All right. Thanks. You too.

Outro 11:11

Thank you for listening to the IAMCEO podcast powered by Blue 16 Media. Tune in next time and visit us at IAMCEO is not just a phrase, it's a community.

Be sure to follow us on social media and subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, Google play, and everywhere you listen to podcasts, subscribe and leave us a five star rating.

Grab CEO gear at This has been the IAMCEO podcast with Gresham Harkless. Thank you for listening.


Dave Bonachita - CBNation Writer

This is a post from a CBNation team member. CBNation is a Business to Business (B2B) Brand. We are focused on increasing the success rate. We create content and information focusing on increasing the visibility of and providing resources for CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners. CBNation consists of blogs(, podcasts, ( and videos ( CBNation is proudly powered by Blue16 Media.

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