Wise Women Wednesday: Lou Anne Gaffney

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Q. Who are you? What is your background? 
A. I am a life-long learner and always a teacher. Born and raised in eastern North Carolina, I moved to Greensboro to attend UNCG and never left. I have a bachelors and masters degree in music education and spent an entire career teaching elementary school music. Leaving that world in 2016, I returned to school and gained certification in wine marketing and spent some time working to promote the NC wine industry. Along the way – 2015 or so – I started bookkeeping training and have been doing that for small businesses and entrepreneurs for the past couple of years.  What I have found is that there is tremendous overlap and blending between and among them. All involve continuous learning to stay at the top of the game, and much of my time is spent in educating others.

Q. What is your work?
A. My company is Balanced Vintage, and I provide bookkeeping services for small businesses and entrepreneurs.

I still love teaching piano and helping people discover the nuances of wine but have found a different kind of passion and satisfaction in helping businesses grow with accurate financial management. Old school bookkeeping is still around – it is all the data entry and reconciliation. But gone are the days when that was the extent of it. Thanks to automation, that part isn’t nearly as time consuming as it once was. The fun and gratifying part comes from taking that data and creating strategies that help companies become more profitable.

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Q. What is one project you are excited to be working on right now?
A. Rather than a project, it is more like one area of the bookkeeping world.  I have found a knack for helping new businesses get their books set up correctly from the get-go. Over half of all new businesses fail within the first two years due to cash flow issues, and I am working hard to make sure my clients with new businesses are among those that succeed. I can teach them best-practices and make recommendations based on current revenue.  

However, I am also finding that established businesses frequently don’t understand what the information on their financial reports is telling them. The information is only useful if you actually do something with it. Drawing on my experience as a teacher, I can explain it in a way that makes sense using plain language  - basically translate what the reports are telling us – so that businesses can be proactive in managing their finances and in making decisions related to the timing of major purchases or the increase/decrease in staffing. 

It makes my soul happy to be serving in this way.  One of the most rewarding aspects of my first career was the impact I was able to have on my students.  Now, I have found a way to have the same level of impact on the development of businesses.

Q. What is one thing you've done recently that's scared you and took courage, but you're glad you did?
A. In December I left my position with the NC Center for Viticulture and Enology in order to have the time to focus on Balanced Vintage.  Leaving a job I enjoyed with a regular paycheck was scary, but I had started Balanced Vintage and it had just been sitting there on a back burner. It had really started tugging at my heart, so I just went for it! I can’t remember a time in my professional life that I have been as happy, so I know I made the right decision. I am so loving watching my own business grow while simultaneously helping other people grow their businesses. What could be more exciting? 

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Q. What is the work you most want to be doing and are you doing it?  If not why not what's stopping you? 
A. I think I have found my place for this season of life. As I get older, my goals change. I am nowhere near ready to stop working entirely, but definitely see phasing out all the other areas gradually so that my entire focus is on bookkeeping. The reason is that I am entering a time in my life when I don’t want to be constrained by a schedule. Since bookkeeping is in the cloud, I can complete my work from anywhere and at any time. My daughter is currently in Manhattan and my son is likely moving to LA within the year, so I want to be able to visit them whenever the mood strikes and still be able to work. That will be even more important when there are grandkids in the picture.

Q. What would you tell your high school or college self?
A. It’s not about me. I’ve always been self-conscious and shy with a healthy dose of introvert. Socializing is hard and small talk is something I truly struggle with. It’s only been in the past few years that I have realized that other people perceive me very differently from how I perceive myself, and understanding that other people are more focused on themselves than on me, what I am saying or doing, or how my hair looks has been real change in paradigm. 

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Q. What's one piece of advice or motto you love and use in your daily life that you would like to share with my sweet readers?
A. Look at the glass as half full. I have a naturally optimistic personality and when I do get down or worried, I only allow myself to stew for a certain amount of time. Depending on what the issue is, that might be 20 minutes or a whole day. But then I get to work on looking for a solution or way to deal. If nothing can be done, rehashing just takes mental and emotional energy that is better spent in other ways.  I can still be sad or mad, but having decided what to do about the issue, usually I am able to put it in a box so that it doesn’t interfere with the rest of my day. 

Q. What keeps you creating when you don't feel like it?
A. I am wired to keep going no matter what; I guess that comes from decades in the classroom when you truly can’t take a break!  I drink a lot of water, and think hydration is key to mental alertness. However, I love my coffee too, and drink half-caff coffee so I can have more of it.  I usually drink coffee until lunchtime!  Wine also helps – if I know when I get a certain amount of work done I can have a glass of wine, it keeps me motivated to finish.

Q. Anything else you'd like to share?
A. I want to take a moment to give a shout out to my family. My husband and I have recently celebrated our 32nd wedding anniversary. My daughter is a singer/songwriter living in Manhattan, and my son is entering his last year of grad school where he is pursuing a degree in film score composition. It is an exciting time in our lives as my children are working to fulfill their dreams and I am hitting my stride in what I like to call my “encore career.”

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Q. What's your favorite yoga pose? 
A. Tree, falling star, and half moon.  I have terrible balance and feel very accomplished when I can do those poses without wobbling. I like dancers pose too. I don’t do much yoga, maybe once or twice a month I’ll attend a class. I usually do cardio 2-4 times per week and strength training 2-3 times per week, with a goal of doing something active every single day. I love working out and find that I feel so much healthier when I do it consistently. Unfortunately, I injured a knee a few months back and have had a hard time getting back into a regular routine. I have been “good” for the past couple of weeks so am hoping I am a back on track!

Q. How do you live a life of abundance?
A. I am grateful! I frequently reflect on how blessed I have been and downright lucky with the way my life has and continues to evolve. We might live in a time of political chaos, but I am so happy that I was born in this country, this time and place. I reflect on this beautiful world we live in and when I’m driving or looking outside think about what a gorgeous day it is. Nothing and nobody is perfect, but focusing on the good rather than negatives is the way to live a happier life.

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