Dorothy Kolb of dk east associates on the moment she realized she wanted to launch her own business, her upcoming podcast, and more!
Describe your business in a few words?
dk east associates provides outsourced CFO services and accounting strategy to women-owned small businesses to drive bottom line profit and streamline processes. We specialize in companies in the creative, social impact, media, and sports spaces with $1M-$10M annual revenue.
What made you take the leap to start your own business?
In 2014, at the end of my marriage, I had 4 kids and no financial support. Then, I was downsized from my CFO job. I’d worked at major corporations for my entire career and had never considered being an entrepreneur. I could get another 9-5 but I wanted to have control over my career, my work-life balance and my future. So, I took a leap of faith and invested in myself and started a business.
What was your background prior to starting your own business?
I had a foundational start at Deloitte in NYC combined with leadership positions in production at CBS Sports, FOX Sports, NBC, HGTV & Food Network. Working at events like the Winter Olympics, the Super Bowl and Taste of Honolulu and Vail, I learned there’s a small margin for error when it comes to financial forecasting and profitability. That experience put me in a unique position to offer a suite of services that combines financial strategy and operations for small businesses.
Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I did not! I would love to say I come from a long line of small business owners like so many successful entrepreneurs do, but honestly my father worked for NBC for almost 40 years and my mom was a stay-at-home mom and then worked for the Girl Scouts. It wasn’t until I found myself a single parent of 4 that I realized I wanted to have the freedom to call the shots in my life.
Take us back to when you first launched your business, what was your marketing strategy to get the word out and did it go as planned?
Believe it or not, I started with responding to a post on Upwork for a part-time controller (I still have that client!) and another on LinkedIn for a similar position. That’s all I had for about a year and then those clients began to recommend me to their networks. Now I still receive referrals for clients regularly, but I’m starting to really up my game as a content provider and thought leader.
We always learn the most from our mistakes, share a time with us that you made a mistake or had a challenging time in business and what you learned from it?
I partnered with another firm for a project with a lot of moving parts because I wasn’t able to take on all the additional work myself. That firm then circumvented me and went to the client and said they could do all the work themselves (including my strategic work) and that the client should fire me. My clients are all very loyal to me and the founder fired the firm and told me about it much later. I have contracts in place that address this but it clearly didn’t work. Now, I only refer out to firms or people that I trust, have good working relationships with and share my values.
What is the accomplishment you are the most proud of to date?
Launching dk east associates at all is a huge accomplishment for me. I was so afraid to go out on my own and so afraid to fail but circumstances forced my hand and I’m so glad they did. I’m happier, less stressed, more motivated and frankly a better parent than I was.
When hiring for your team, what is your go-to interview question? Please share any hiring tips you can share from your experience?
I learned (almost too recently) to take into account more the personality and emotionality of the person than even the experience. Let’s face it, accounting isn’t rocket science but making sure I’m hiring people who are in line with my values and the culture of dk east is so important because that’s what sets us apart from our competitors.
How has your business or industry been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?
We immediately had to shift to damage control for our clients and help them figure out how to work effectively in the new remote workspace. We assisted in getting PPP and EIDL loans and were really humbled by the fact that we were integral in helping many of our clients keep the lights on.
What’s next for your business? What can we expect to see over the next few years?
I’m in pre-production for a podcast called Oh sh*t! What Now?! for mompreneurs. My colleague and I have 9 sons between us and are both killing it with our businesses. She is in e-commerce consulting but we have been friends for almost 10 years by virtue initially of all the sports we sat on the sidelines for!
What is the biggest lesson you have learned in 2020?
2019 & 2020 were challenging personally. I lost my parents and my dear friend within 18 months, on top of the pandemic. My lesson was life is short. Don’t spend time on people or places where you are not appreciated for the wonderful person you are.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were first starting your business?
I wish I realized how emotional finances are. It’s not all numbers in a spreadsheet, not only for myself but more importantly for my clients. Now that I can see that, my approach has pivoted to a better understanding of how finances make my clients feel and how my services can support them.
How have you managed to stay grounded this year?
Does wine count? I’ve learned to be more present, re-prioritize things and focus on the things I can control in the life I have. Realizing that I’m doing a lot of this for my sons also helps me stay grounded.
Do you believe in work/life balance? What are some of your best tips?
Of course! I’m a single parent and became one when my kids were 7, 9 and twin 12’s so I needed to really be in their lives otherwise, what’s the point? I start my day at 6am so that I’m done with all the things that need my biggest concentration earlier in the day. That allows me to be able to go to their sports games or do practice runs and most importantly have dinner together. I’m a huge proponent of family dinners – even with 4 boys who are now 14, 16 and twin 19’s. Although it’s harder now that the oldest three have their own jobs.
What’s something our audience would be surprised to learn about you?
That I coached boys basketball at one point! 15-17 year olds! They towered over me but they were all friends of my twins so they were very respectful and we had a lot of fun. I’ll probably coach again next winter for my youngest. Oh and I’m a huge Britney Spears fan!
What are your top 3 tips to stay productive each day?
- Time blocking! This is new to me but keeps me on task. I not only block off the time to focus on a project or deliverable but I silence all notifications.
- Take short breaks during the day – it can be only 15 minutes but just walking around outside or getting some sun on the deck helps fight fatigue.
- Have a plan. I plan out my week on Sundays and then each night I look at the schedule for the next day so I get in the right mindset for the tasks I have in store for me.
What does being an Entreprenista mean to you?
Being an Entreprenista means I’m killing it but I’m lifting up my sisters along with me. After working in environments where women did not support each other, I love the support and collaboration I’ve found in this community. My latest work with social impact firms has allowed me to be part of positive growth in this world.