Under Jennifer Barnes’ leadership, Optima Office has emerged as a specialist in outsourced accounting, fractional CFO and COO services, and human resources support. Catering primarily to the West Coast clientele, the company serves nearly 300 businesses across the nation. Optima’s unique selling point is its commitment to employee flexibility and work-life balance, encapsulated in the company’s motto: “Happy Staff = Happy Clients.”
Jennifer’s journey to founding Optima Office began with her college education in finance and marketing. Although initially not interested in accounting, she found herself working as a staff accountant at PETCO Corporation. Her natural talent for numbers eventually led her down the entrepreneurial path, culminating in the establishment of her own company.
Over the course of six years, Jennifer and her team nurtured the business from her living room, gradually expanding their client base. Despite facing challenges with business partners and a subsequent dissolution of the partnership, Jennifer persevered, launching Optima Office just three days later.
Today, Optima boasts approximately 100 employees and has doubled in size in half the time compared to Jennifer’s previous venture. With projected revenues of at least $12 million for the year, the company ranks 143rd among the fastest-growing businesses in the region and 10th in San Diego County’s small business category. Optima consistently earns the title of “Best Place to Work,” a testament to Jennifer’s dedication to employee satisfaction.
Optima Office provides an array of services, including fractional CFOs for high-level financial analytics and strategy, controllers for financial management, and accounting managers, bookkeepers, and staff accountants for general ledger maintenance. In addition, the company offers human resources services, such as HR directors, managers, generalists, and support for various HR tasks.
Jennifer takes immense pride in Optima’s exceptional team, which comprises some of the industry’s top accounting and HR professionals. She applauds the multitasking abilities of her female staff members, who often complete full workloads in less time. Optima welcomes professionals from diverse backgrounds, such as CPAs and MBAs, and prioritizes flexible working hours to maintain a healthy work-life balance for employees.
Optima Office emphasizes creating an environment of reliability, retention, loyalty, and kindness. Jennifer aspires to create a workplace where employees want to stay for their entire careers. With an impressive retention rate of around 80%, she believes they may have already achieved the highest retention in the industry among companies with at least 50 employees.
Despite challenges with turnover, particularly when clients wish to hire Optima Office employees due to their exceptional performance, the company charges a high recruiting fee to discourage this practice. Nevertheless, several clients each year still choose to pay the price, reflecting the high quality of work and strong relationships built with clients.
Optima Office employs a rigorous assessment process for identifying top candidates, including an IQ test, verbal and written essays, and accounting, HR, or operations assessments. After passing these assessments and speaking with the HR team, candidates meet with one of the company’s executives. Jennifer personally interviews every potential employee, focusing on understanding their values and motivations to ensure a good fit with the company’s culture.
Team building and fostering a positive work environment is at the core of Jennifer’s leadership philosophy. She believes in rewarding employees for their hard work, expressing appreciation, and avoiding micromanagement. By empowering her staff, she nurtures a happy and productive workplace culture.
Optima Office provides a formal mentorship program, pairing new employees with seasoned colleagues for six months. This structure allows new employees to learn, grow, and receive guidance. Existing employees seeking career development, or a sounding board can also participate in the mentorship program.
The company primarily works with small businesses, focusing on startups and smaller enterprises with revenues between $3 million and $40 million. While Optima Office occasionally assists large corporations, its emphasis remains on providing support to smaller ventures.
Jennifer Barnes is a highly motivated individual who approaches life with enthusiasm. As a naturally happy person, she enjoys working hard, having fun, and living life to the fullest. With a passion for travel and a strong support system of friends, Jennifer finds balance and joy in her life. As a new mother, she cherishes her role as a parent and her resilience and “moxie” help her tackle challenges head-on in both her personal and professional lives.
Jennifer envisions a future where more companies will require outsourced accounting and fractional leadership. She believes that the industry will continue to evolve and attract more competitors. Her goal for Optima is to double its size over the next five years, aiming to reach $20 million in revenue and eventually grow to $40 million. She would also like to join the Young Presidents Organization, which she regards as an amazing group of people.
Simultaneously, Jennifer believes in working smarter, not harder. She values her family and personal life, enjoying a work-life balance that allows her to take care of her son and go to the gym before arriving at the office around 11 AM. While she spends time on her laptop most weeknights, she does not work on weekends and feels that she has found the right balance between work and personal life.
Jennifer offers valuable advice for women aspiring to start their own businesses, emphasizing the importance of developing a well-crafted business and strategic plan. By outlining their goals and identifying sources of funding and capital, women can establish a solid foundation for their ventures. She also stresses the need to create a cash flow forecast, allowing for a clear understanding of their current financial situation and the extent of their investment capabilities.
To achieve success, Jennifer highlights several key qualities, including self-belief, strength, and resilience. She encourages women to persist in the face of challenges and adversity, always pushing forward with confidence in their abilities and the potential for great accomplishments. In doing so, they can pave the way for a bright and prosperous future in the world of entrepreneurship.
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