Have you seen Bench's stock photos? All those smiling people, drinking coffee in a Restoration Hardware inspired office, with their tortoise-shell glasses and perfectly organized finances?
If you have, maybe you'd agree: the company’s visual aesthetic seems more like a West Elm store than your typical bookkeeping firm. I’d venture to say that the look is so perfected, that it's easy to assume the photos you see on Bench’s homepage, Facebook, and Instagram are all shot on some Hollywood sound stage.
Not the case.
As a client of Bench and contributor to the Bench Blog, I was invited to visit Bench's new office any time I was town. So, one Tuesday afternoon on a recent workcation, I dropped by.
Mostly, I wanted to say hi to my bookkeeper in person. But part of me also wanted to confirm that “Bench in real life” matched the Bench I had come to know online.
You're going to think I’m making this up, but as the elevator door opened and I walked up to the reception desk, a familiar face came over to greet me. It was Luke, the guy who’s been standing on Bench's homepage for the last year, whom I'd long suspected was a stock-photo model.
Luke leads a team on another floor, so he disappeared into the stairwell just as Max and Charlotte arrived to show me around. (These two work on Bench’s Client Care and Onboarding teams, but they’ve also made a cameo appearance in a couple of blog images.)
Benchmates (the nickname Bench employees use to refer to themselves) were spread across three floors of a large building in downtown Vancouver.
The sales team was tucked away at the front of the building, followed by bookkeeping teams, the people team, and the accounting department (yep, even a bookkeeping company needs an accounting department.)
I met the developers and designers that work on the Bench app, and the social media and marketing team. I also got a surprise visit from Ian (the CEO) on his way down the hallway.
But the real purpose of my visit was to meet my bookkeeper face-to-face.
As I rounded a corner, my bookkeeper, Reece, emerged from one of the meeting rooms. He was familiar to me only through his Calendly page avatar. And, in real life, he was about a foot taller than I expected.
It's funny... Working with an online service, you almost forget about the people behind the subscription. Here’s a guy I've never met, who lives thousands of miles from my office, and who knows my finances intimately enough to share that my newest statements will be ready on Friday.
But rather than talk business, we dug into Game of Thrones, and travel, and recommendations for local restaurants, before I was shown to the kitchen for a cold brew coffee (on tap, of course.)
When I first hired Bench in 2014, the team was a small group of about 20 people. They took over my books and made my life easier. Since then, as the company has expanded to help more entrepreneurs with their books, the team has increased tenfold, outgrowing three offices in two years.
I can see why people might need some convincing when they first come across Bench. The company doesn’t resemble a traditional bookkeeping firm at all. But it is the kind of business that plenty of the entrepreneurs I consult for are striving to build.
Yes, there are bikes and dogs, espresso machines and ping pong tables. And it is full of people that you'd want to hang out with outside office hours. But at the center of it all are real people using an innovative product to help small business owners solve a real problem.
As a lifelong entrepreneur, I've never had a conventional “job.” If I did, though, Bench is where I'd want to work. While I’m busy running my own small business, I’m glad I have them as part of my team.
The next time you message your Bench bookkeeper, keep in mind that you may just find yourself having coffee with them sometime. Either that, or you'll get your photo taken Hollywood sound stage style like I did, whenever you find yourself in Bench's neck of the woods.
Want to grab a coffee with us while you’re in town, or share a suggestion for the Bench Blog? We welcome your thoughts and ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.