Lee Podolsky: Breakwater Accounting & Advisory CEO
After a decade in the corporate world, Lee Leonard Podolsky knew she needed a change.
So, Podolsky launched herself into the world of freelance accounting and bookkeeping. As she raised her two young daughters, she realized she had tapped into an underserved area, soon finding that there was more work than she could ever take on.
By late 2014, Podolsky’s plan for a better work-life balance had evolved into a new company: Breakwater Accounting & Advisory Corp. Fast-forward to 2021, and Podolsky can barely believe how her idea to make a livelihood has grown into a successful business with more than 200 clients across the country and 44 employees.
“We’re that hidden gem,” said Podolsky, Breakwater’s founder and CEO.
Breakwater provides outsourced bookkeeping and accounting for private businesses, from small to mid-sized companies in a variety of industries from schools to restaurants, as well as nonprofits. Their goal is to modernize and streamline back-office needs, from accounting to business planning and strategy.
“We want to work with them as an extension of their business,” Podolsky said. “We’re in it with them to help them succeed. And now here we are.”
It wasn’t always smooth sailing as Breakwater has tried to keep up with demand, she said. There were some growing pains with the company’s rapid expansion, but Podolsky is now taking the time to step back from the front line work that got her started and help the business grow for the benefit of its employees and clients.
Working with companies through the challenges of the pandemic, including navigating the federal Paycheck Protection Program, has helped strengthen those personal relationships. Business is booming, and more growth is on the horizon for Breakwater, Podolsky said.
“It’s definitely that relationships have to be really strong and [built on] trust,” she said. “We’re very team-oriented. Every client gets their own team. … The team really does feel like an extension of their business: We’re in it with them – in the day-to-day.”
Breakwater’s success has been totally organic, Podolsky said, noting that all of the clients and businesses they’ve picked up over the years have come exclusively from referrals and word-of-mouth.
“When you’re doing something well, word travels,” she said.
Podolsky, 53, began her career in finance by working for DuPont shortly after graduating from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The Delaware native now lives in Wilmington.
Outside of Breakwater’s office in Independence Mall on Route 202, Podolsky enjoys spending time with her family and pets, and taking long walks along the beautiful vistas found in northern Delaware. But even moreso, she enjoys working with the University of Delaware’s Horn Entrepreneurship Program.
“I love sharing everything I’ve learned through this with other people who are just starting out,” Podolsky said.
Back on the clock, Podolsky has prioritized her employees’ happiness by focusing on the culture at work. And just as Podolsky was looking for a flexible work environment as she became a mother, she also offers such flexibility to her employees — a majority of which are women, including the entire leadership team.
“As far as positives, the people are the positives. We’re all supportive of each other,” Podolsky said. “It’s definitely very unique, very different, and very collaborative.”
As Breakwater enters its second five-year plan, more growth is in store. The business is currently hiring for part-time and full-time positions.
“I just wanted to start something and help more clients, and then I kept wanting to help more clients,” Podolsky said. “[Now], we have lots of big plans. And we might even start marketing at some point.”