UP Man Makes Accounting Less Painful

David O'Brien (seated left) works with a group of instructors to teach QuickBooks.
David O’Brien (seated left) and his group of instructors teaches QuickBooks.

For nearly 20 years, David O’Brien and his company, Real World Training, have been teaching small business owners to do the one thing they all dread: accounting.

“For most people, they don’t start a business because they want to do the accounting,” O’Brien said. “Usually, they’re intimidated by it.”

The University Park resident worked for years with small businesses at a large firm, selling and installing accounting software for $50,000 or more. Then O’Brien found a light at the end of the tunnel: QuickBooks. When it came on the market in the mid-1990s, QuickBooks offered small businesses all the perks of accounting software for just $250.

“It felt disingenuous, so I left and started my own firm of me and my dog, though the dog didn’t really help much,” he said.

Flash forward to 2015, and that firm has taught more than 1 million people how to use the software, teaching two-day training courses around the world.

The courses, both online and in-person, give business owners the opportunity to collect all the tools they need to start working in QuickBooks.

“If you attended one of our classes, you’re in a little bit of pain. There’s some driver that brings you into training,” said Brad White, the company’s chief operating officer. “The important thing for us is that we answer everybody’s questions. We’ve got instructors, David included, sitting there at 6 p.m. with three people asking questions, because these people need the training to be able to do their job.”

O’Brien recognizes the community he’s built, both in and out of the classroom, of hard workers who appreciate balance.

“I made a decision long ago to stay small. My first year working, the only day I took off was Thanksgiving, and to grow the business it takes that same kind of effort, and my team understands that,” he said. “But I want to be the soccer coach for my kids, too. It’s all about lifestyle balance.”

As the years have gone by, and the product has evolved to stay up to date with today’s technology, the company’s balance of work has changed as well. Real World Training isn’t just working with small businesses anymore.

Since being officially endorsed by Intuit, which produces QuickBooks, O’Brien and his team of 27 has trained Intuit employees and given feedback on software developments.

“In essence, when we see a gap with what Intuit’s doing, we fill that gap,” O’Brien said. “Like the Discovery Channel, during Shark Week, when you see that little fish that swims alongside the shark and helps keep them clean. That’s us.”

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