Curious about what a bookkeeper’s day looks like? Today, we talk to Tom Jopling. He has only been a bookkeeper for BELAY for a few short months, but that hasn’t stopped him from impressing us with his wit and quick contribution to the success of his clients. And we are a little jealous of his virtual workspace – while we were chatting for this interview, he may have seen a dolphin or two.
Tom and his wife, Valerie, have been married for thirty-nine years. They have five incredible children that are all married and have blessed them with twelve grandchildren.
Growing up, Tom was one of those kids that wanted to be and do all kinds of things – he wanted to be a soldier, a fireman, a doctor, a businessman, an explorer, a professor, and a philosopher. He also wanted to climb mountains, scuba dive, explore jungles, travel the world, write books, and entertain his grandkids with tall tales.
If that wasn’t enough, Tom wanted to experience volcanoes, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, blizzards, and the desert heat. He has been blessed to accomplish (and survive) all of those things, much to his wife’s surprise. Tom and Valerie currently live on the island of Roatan.
Virtual is Tom’s lifestyle
Tom enjoys a very simple, relaxed way of living. Commuting to a job, sitting in a structured office and succumbing to a daily work ritual is not his idea of enjoying life. A virtual workplace allows him to balance those “other important life factors and values” that are at his core while earning a living. Here’s our conversation:
BELAY: Tom, describe your current and past workplaces.
Tom: “My virtual workplace is wherever I happen to have my office at that moment. Over the past two decades my office has been in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas, the mountains of Central America, the jungles of Belize, and currently – a Caribbean Island. My virtual workplace is allowing me to watch dolphins and fishing boats outside my office window rather than hurrying pedestrians and traffic jockeying at the intersection.”
BELAY: What do you love most about your clients?
Tom: “I have a mixed client list. It is that variety that I like so much. I have for-profit business clients – business owners that are entrepreneurs. For them, being accurate and taking care of the details can literally be the difference between having a job or being unemployed.”
“And then there are the churches and nonprofits. Many of our church leaders do what they do out of a desire to serve. While they understand the importance of taking care of the business side of a church or ministry, they would prefer to be ministering to a person rather than balancing a checkbook. I have the pleasure of helping them to get back to doing what they have been called to do – to serve and minister to their people.”
Communication builds trust
Tom has an extensive background as a business owner himself, which has helped him in his engagements with BELAY clients. He has an idea of how other business owners think and what they need from a bookkeeper. Additionally, his background with international mission organizations and churches gives him insight into what happens in churches and mission organizations Monday through Friday as well as on Sunday, and he is able to apply this background to his engagements.
Tom says that, “Living and working in areas without telephones to call home certainly taught me the value of concise, prudent, and effective communication. Virtual relationships and communication challenges, due to technology or topography, have helped me to learn to have faith and trust those who support me and those I support.” He goes on, “In the virtual setting the client does not have the ability to watch over me or micromanage all of my actions. And my client can’t visually see how busy I am. They develop faith and confidence in me through the product that they receive and the support they get from me – I must provide results to be successful.”
BELAY: What is one thing about what you do that makes you excited to get up tomorrow and do it again?
Tom: “I get to choose how I will arrange my day. Those choices are not dependent upon a time clock, traffic, or the person in the office next door. My income is dependent upon the quality of my work – if you are not self-disciplined, don’t even attempt working virtually. If you struggle with integrity, the virtual set-up isn’t for you – or if you are not self motivated. If you possess those three basic qualities for having a positive, healthy life and virtual position, then do it.”