Balancing the family books

Roxanne Sterling Dudicz '02


Fall 2010

A certified public accountant, Roxanne Sterling Dudicz ’02 (pictured above, second from right) thinks: assets, liabilities, costbenefit analysis. It didn’t take her long to see that the 60-plus hours a week she was working during tax season at a public accounting firm would be a definite liability when she and her husband began to have children. Dudicz moved to the accounting department of a private corporation. There her hours were shorter but not especially flexible. The job’s chief asset—a dependable paycheck—was rapidly losing value compared to the flexibility she knew she would want as a working mother.

So she left that job and turned what had been a periodic freelance venture into a company that not only matches her cost-benefit analysis, but that of six other women, too.

Rivertown Finance specializes in offering a complete array of bookkeeping and accounting services to small- and medium-sized businesses. Equally important is the company’s mission “to provide flexible job opportunities to working mothers to help promote quality time with family.”

Those two things—openly structured employee schedules and complete, efficient service for clients—need not be at odds, Dudicz said. But, she’s learned, staying true to both components of the mission takes extra attention to communication.

“We try to be extremely clear with clients about who is doing their books and on what days she works. That being said, all of us will go over and above to meet any client’s need at any time. If a client has made a mess of things late on a Friday, we’ll help, no questions asked. Or, if they neglect to send us their weekly information on the day we’ve planned for it, we’ll manipulate our schedules to accommodate them.”

Dudicz looks for that willingness to go over and above and to work closely with business owners when she hires. She found those qualities in Lindsey Miller Heuker ’04 (pictured above, left) and Tracy VanDenBerg VanderHeide ’05 (pictured above, right). Like Dudicz, both had worked in public accounting and longed for a less stressful, more family-friendly work environment.

With two small children, Heuker has had the most variable schedule of all the women at Rivertown Finance. “I love being able to work when I can,” she said. “I get out of the house and challenge myself as an accountant, then go home to be a mom again.”

Though VanderHeide has worked 40 hours a week since starting at Rivertown Finance in September 2009, she’ll cut back this November when she has her first child. The company has hired two new women, including Katie Haveman Zwart ’10 (pictured above, second from left), to help with the transition and support continued growth.

Though they’ve sometimes had to buck the perception, Dudicz said, “that we’re just a group of simple-minded women bookkeepers,” the bottom line at Rivertown Finance speaks for itself. In a sluggish economy, the company has grown rapidly.

Besides personal, attentive service and low rates, VanderHeide offered another reason for that success: “The attitude in business toward working women is changing. We work with a lot of women- owned businesses and also men in business who want to support our family-centered values.”

As she takes time off this fall to have her second child, Roxanne Dudicz is proud that her risk has succeeded: “We fill a crucial need for our clients and offer flexible job opportunities for multiple women. And we’re profitable. We’re making this more than a job for all of us. We’re making this a career.”