We invited Jackie Meyer, CPA, CTC, MSA, a member of our Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Council, to share insights about her online tax practice. Over the next year, we will learn how Jackie manages her practice and makes a difference with her clients.
Jackie Meyer is president and founder of Meyer Tax Consulting, LLC, in Southlake, Texas. Her team works with a select number of executives, investors, entrepreneurs and business owners throughout the year, with an all-inclusive strategy focused on tax and accounting. With her team working completely virtually across Texas, the firm stays on the cutting edge of technology, working closely with industry leaders on innovative products and offerings.
Jim: Tell us how you got into tax prep and how you started your firm.
Jackie: As an elementary school teacher, my single mom struggled to provide, yet I saw my father thriving as an IT executive. Logically, I knew from an early age that being a business executive could ensure financial stability, but as a finance major in college, I had no specific passion or path.
One of my many full-time jobs to pay for my education was working for a three-person CPA firm in Benbrook, Texas. Thinking I’d learn the financial planning side of his business, I ended up doing mainly tax preparation. I absolutely loved playing detective and thrived in a field that most shy away from, while breaking the mold of the baby boomer, white male-dominated expectations in this arena. The constant mental challenge and appreciation clients had for the work I did to maximize their returns hooked me, along with the idea of controlling my own destiny, versus working stuck in a white collar job.
Once I knew I wanted to be a CPA, I began expanding my corporate accounting experience at Countrywide. I then took the backdoor path into Deloitte Tax of Dallas, while pursuing a master’s degree in accounting at Southern Methodist University and working with the technology group developing complex Excel macros to calculate executive equalization comp when overseas. With less than six months of actual tax experience, I then convinced the high net wealth tax team to transfer me to their group.
While I will thank Deloitte forever for its name on my resume, the unforgiving 20-hour days (and nights) were too much. I sent my resume to a 20-person local CPA firm near my home and was immediately recruited. In this role, I learned the softer side of the profession and the ins and outs of practice management, along with using tools such as QuickBooks® and other Intuit products. Always pushing the norm, I pushed for a Southlake, Texas, location, where I knew there was a great market. I pushed so hard that I pushed myself right out of that job, and was faced with a big choice: continue working the way others wanted me to or begin working for myself.
I was offered a role at a regional firm with great benefits and higher pay than I’d ever had, or I could pursue my innate drive as an entreprenuer. So, I started my practice at age 27 and started building my firm. At the time, LinkedIn was a hidden gem of niche marketing. It enabled me to target business owners in Dallas for a complimentary review of their accounting processes and tax planning pointers. At the same time, I was on the search for a web-based tax software platform and ProConnect Tax Online was free to try. I wanted to be on the next great technology platform, and I could tell Intuit was on the cutting edge. You can find out more about my journey to ProConnect Tax Online in an article published in 2016.
Jim: What do you like most about having your own firm, and what are some of the obstacles?
Jackie: What I like most about having my own firm is holding myself to my own standards, versus living for someone else’s. While it’s liberating, instead of having one boss, I technically have about 150 by being accountable to every client, which is more weight on my shoulders than I anticipated. I love being able to find apps to make us more efficient each day, but there are growing pains; my staff grew to eight last year, and everyone isn’t quite as tech savvy as I’d like.
The biggest issue by far, which I still do not have the solution for, is staffing. When I did every aspect of the job myself with one or two other people, I felt much more at ease that work was completed on time and to a client’s standards, but I waited too long to delegate work. When I had my daughter in 2013, it wasn’t just my forgiving husband’s time that I was sacrificing working day and night. The breaking point came to when I had to choose sanity over obsession.
Keeping my practice completely paperless by producing PDF returns, providing those returns for electronic signature and collecting organizer data online from the client was a life changer. There was no initial cost to start my firm other than a domain name, website hosting fees and my LinkedIn marketing budget. Since I collect retainers up front for all work, I was already paid by the time I needed to efile a return and pay for ProConnect Tax Online.
In other firms, I had to have a dedicated laptop for other staff to login to remotely access the software. Constant backups of the data were a nightmare. It just doesn’t jive with a small firm’s needs.
Jim: What advice would you give to someone reading this who is thinking of starting a tax practice?
Jackie: Owning my own firm has been a dream come true, but I wish I’d had a business coach from the start who would have warned and guided me on certain aspects. Here are my suggestions:
- Instead of having one boss, you’ll potentially have hundreds (of clients), so understand the weight on your shoulders and the never-ending workdays. It took three years before I didn’t work almost every week night. Last year was the first year that I didn’t work a weekend during busy season.
- Even if you are extremely available at first, don’t act like it. To avoid a one-sided relationship, play hard to get, set boundaries and create mutual respect. My two-week turnaround is based on the clients’ promise they will turn in requests at least two weeks before their deadline.
- Recruit early for contract staff, and give them real test scenarios in QuickBooks, ProConnect Tax Online and other software, so that you don’t crash and burn when you are desperate for help. (There are many overconfident people out there who don’t really know what they are doing.)
Look for the next installment to find out more about Jackie’s practice; we’ll take a deep dive into staffing, technology, client recruitment and retention, and more.