Debra Kilsheimer
Debra Kilsheimer

Tax Pros Who Have Interesting Hobbies: Debra Kilsheimer and Harold Hickey

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What do you like to do in your spare time? I recently sat down with Debra Kilsheimer, co-owner of Behind the Scenes Financial Services in Port Orange, Fla., and learned about the unique hobbies she and her husband, Harold Hickey – also co-owner in the firm – enjoy doing.

Bryan Cytron: I understand you began playing the violin when you were five years old; tell me more about that.

Debra Kilsheimer: I am concertmaster and treasurer of the Volusia Community Symphony, and have been a proud member of the symphony for six years. Every Saturday morning, I get to rehearse; we have our concerts on Sunday afternoons at various venues in Volusia County and Central Florida.

I also play with the Ramblers, a group that plays music from the 1920s, as well as another group that performs Klezmer, the music of Eastern Europeans Jews. Sometimes, clients ask me to play for weddings and special events! What fun it is when guests ask how I know the host or the bride and groom. Who would think their accountant would be playing at their wedding?

I love being on stage. People think it’s difficult to play the violin and, certainly, some pieces can be more difficult than others. It’s challenging taking an intricate piece of music and making it come to life, but with practice, your fingers hit the right spots. Take your time, listen and just begin. Do it again until it flows.

You can see the joy music brings to people. The symphony travels all over Central Florida, bringing music to people, and one of my favorite venues is a retirement community. These people cannot get out easily anymore, so they are so appreciative. Take my father who just celebrated his 92nd birthday; to have him hear me play means so much. He loves bragging about me to his friends: “That’s my daughter! I made her practice everyday!” He sure did, and to make it even more special, my violin was his father’s.

BC: What’s is the most challenging piece of music you’ve ever played?

DK: My favorites, and some of the more challenging, are the classical pieces, especially where I have a solo! One of my favorites to play is Haydn’s Symphony No. 45 in F♯ minor, better known as the Farewell Symphony. Haydn had a dispute with his patron, a prince, so he wrote this work to prove a point. During the piece, the entire orchestra gets up and leaves. Only I and the principal second violinist are left to play. It’s really fun to see the audience’s reaction as everyone leaves. What also makes this so challenging are the six sharps, and because you are the only one left on the stage, you better hit every note perfectly. When I am done playing that piece, my face hurts from smiling so much.

BC: I understand you and Harold have a passion for junk?

DK: Yes, we go to yard sales on the weekends in Port Orange and anywhere we travel. We purchase the trash people don’t want and turn it into treasure by selling it on eBay. We’ve earned enough to pay cash for our house. I affectionately refer to Harold as a “junkie.”

BC: What are some examples of the more unique things you buy?

DK: We have tons of stories; how much time do you have? Just last week, he bought 15 old smoking pipes for 25 cents each. One just sold for $130. In another sale, we purchased some office supplies. In the bottom of the box were 17 unopened Polaroid film boxes. We thought, “What are we going to do with these? No one has a Polaroid camera anymore.” Much to our surprise, people do. We sold those film boxes for $50 each. It was so successful that Harold advertised on Craigslist for more.

We also love buying things for people. Harold buys bags, boxes and suitcases full of costume jewelry. He takes them to my mom at her retirement community. She invites all the ladies over to sort through them and take what they want. She gives any leftovers to the staff. One my clients was a domestic abuse shelter. I’d get clothes and baby items for the women and kids. Harold really enjoys buying bikes, fixing them up and giving them away to kids who need them. And, if a client says, “Boy, we need a new coffee pot,” you’ll probably find me dropping one off soon! It’s amazing the stuff we find!

We meet great people who also go to sales, and they become your friends. If you know they have an interest in a particular item, we share that information. We even got married at the house of a friend we met at a yard sale. We’ve also picked up new clients. I start talking and happen to mention what we do, and sure enough, the friend needed a new accountant.

BC: Harold started Behind the Scenes Financial Services 27 years ago. What’s the history behind the name?

DK: Harold thought of the name and kept it because we believe our role as accountants truly is behind the scenes. In our opinion, accounting exists to answer questions.

People start a business not to file a tax return, but because they have a dream. They build their business to make that dream a reality. When our clients ask the right questions, we can answer them through good accounting and implementing great business processes. Some of the questions may be, “How am I doing compared to last year?” and “Who is my best customer?” Design a good accounting system and those questions can be answered. Changes can be made to increase profits, decrease expenses, save time, save money, increase efficiency and improve customer service. Accounting is more than just compliance and paying taxes.

We want to make a difference in our clients’ lives tomorrow by looking at their lives today. I always say it’s like losing weight. The first thing any program has you do is write down what you’re eating. Then, you find out what is actually going on. From there, changes can be made to meet your goals. Accounting is very similar. By tracking what you are doing today, you can change, tweak, update or enhance what you are doing to meet your business goals. With QuickBooks® Online and Intuit® ProConnect™ ProSeries®, we can do this with clients in real time. We can make the change NOW to impact tomorrow. We aren’t just looking at history; we are making history.

BC: You recently mentioned that you have a unique approach to the work you do. Tell me more about this.

DK: Accounting has a reputation as a “necessary evil,” so we want to change the paradigm. We want our customers to think of accounting as an asset on their balance sheet, not an expense. By working with us, clients have a third eye, seeing that as their trusted advisor, we will help them make decisions and make sense of the ever-changing government regulations. Most importantly, we believe in what they are doing to make their dreams and goals a reality. We want our customers to enjoy their lives more. To do this, we lead by example. We take an interest in our clients’ businesses and them as people. I was at a ribbon cutting for a client the other day. Someone asked my relationship for being there. “I am their accountant,” I said. Their response? “My accountant is too busy to attend these events. That’s really great that you take such an interest!”

At our firm, we ease our clients’ pain and stress. They like coming to our office. We look for clients who are big dreamers and big doers. We take great joy in seeing them succeed. If they don’t want to do the right thing, we turn them away. We have discovered that clients that do things correctly actually make the most money! No one likes to pay their taxes, so we encourage tax planning, technology use and creating their vision. This can only happen when your accounting is in great shape. We make this experience enjoyable. We really believe in great customer service by creating a great customer experience. Everyone talks about customer service, but we really live it.

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