Optima Office was established by Jennifer Barnes in 2018 and is woman owned business. From 2011 until 2018, Jennifer served as the company’s founder and CEO before establishing Optima.
Since her graduation from the University of Arizona in 2001, Jennifer Barnes has worked in the accounting and financial industries. She was appointed Controller for a mortgage company that grew quickly. When the housing market crashed she wrapped up her involvement with the organization and began consulting. After five years of consulting, she was forced to go off on her own. She says, “Being fired from a consulting firm that we now compete with was the best thing that happened to me because it forced me to start my own company.”
Below are highlights of the interview conducted between World’s Leaders and Jennifer Barnes:
Describe who you are as a person, inside and outside of the workplace.
I’m a tenacious, driven, and extroverted person who values friendships and relationships. I’m a natural connector who really enjoys helping others and making a difference in the world. Being kind, loyal, and genuine is who I am inside and outside of the workplace. I generally want everyone to like me and love being around friends and family. I am an avid snowboarder, regularly go to Orange Theory Fitness, have been boxing for over a decade, and I have my first baby on the way. A month to go before baby Mason arrives. My husband and I are really excited to be parents and have spent 14 years together having fun and enjoying one another.
Tell us about the inception of the company. How did it all start?
Optima is my second company. In 2012, I became the managing partner of an existing company and was given 50% equity to run that organization. In the first three years of that company, I grew it single-handedly to over $3 million in revenue, and we were the 5th fastest growing company in San Diego in 2016. The partner who owned the other 50% finally got involved in the organization in early 2016 as our full time COO. I was growing resentful that I was doing all the work and he owned half of the company. During that same timeframe, we gave away 10% equity to a CFO who we felt would bring value to the company. This was a huge mistake on my part because I gave up control. Long story short, the guys decided to outvote me in 2018 and did a hostile takeover of the company. I only owned 45% of the company I built on my own, which allowed it to be taken from me. I fought extremely hard and spent 18 months in litigation with the guys, but I ended up prevailing. It turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise, and now Optima is twice the size and I did it in half the time. It certainly helped that a couple dozen employees and many clients came with me from the beginning. Our first year’s revenue was over $3 million. We will close our 4th year of business with revenues of close to $10 million.
What has made you successful? What do you value?
Resilience, Tenacity, Drive. I refuse to let anyone push me down and I stand up for others. I am strong and I fight for what I believe in, always doing the right thing and being a good person no matter what.
Which are the major services of the company and how do they the company to get ahead in the competition?
Optima provides fractional CFO and COO services, along with outsourced accounting and HR solutions. We have a team of over 90 employees, from bookkeepers to accounting managers and controllers, to high-level executives who are CFO’s and COO’s with extraordinary backgrounds. We differ from the competition in that we personalize our solution for every single client and don’t believe in a one size fits all approach.
What value-added services does the company provide?
Of the 90 employees, 45 of them are at the controller level or above. We slice and dice data to help our clients achieve higher profits and strong growth. Ensuring our clients have accurate and timely information is critical. Putting together personalized financials for them has really helped them with their success.
What are the most important aspects of a company’s culture?
Our vision is to have the highest retention in the industry, which I am pretty sure we have achieved. I do not think any of our competitors can say that they have as high of a retention rate as we do. Our focus is to keep our team extremely happy so that they never want to leave. Happy Staff=Happy Clients.
What principles do you believe in and how do you build this culture?
Take care of others and be a good person. Focus on relationships and do the best you can for the businesses you work with. Be a collaborative and kind co-worker. You are never alone, and the executive team is always open to feedback. Flexibility is crucial.
What is the significance of innovative ideas in the company?
Well, we are accountants, so we can’t be all that innovative, but we do aim to personalize our services for each company we work with, and we come up with meaningful key performance indicators that will help a business make better decisions.
Give us your opinion on; do organizations rely heavily on individual heroics or team processes?
A little of both. We need strong CFO’s and controllers at the organization who can come up with really great metrics and ideas for how a company can grow and become more profitable, but we also need teamwork so that the numbers being input at the staff and bookkeeper levels are accurate. We are a happy team here at Optima.
What are your responsibilities as the Founder/CEO of the company?
I have too many to name, but I do tend to stay pretty high level. I bring in much of the revenue, am the company ambassador, and support my team as much as they need. I delegate as much as possible. I do tend to spend quite a bit of time answering emails, which seems like a never-ending part-time job.
What is the happiest part of your daily routine?
Hiring people I absolutely love giving new employees an opportunity. Seeing their faces light up when they are offered a position here makes me really happy. I care tremendously about running a great organization that shows appreciation to its team.
What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?
Take the time to listen to your team and take their advice and feedback seriously. Stay out of the weeds. You need to delegate and focus on what you do best.