An embarrassing bit of my past you may not know…

This is fairly embarrassing, and therefore not something I discuss very often in public.

But I’ve spent the past couple of days hanging out in Colorado with my friend, mentor, and partner, James Orr. We’ve been discussing a lot about how he his simplifying his real estate business model, and focusing on building really strong referral relationships with a small group of folks that are friends first, and clients second (more on this concept in the future).

One of the things he reminded me of was the fact where you come from really does matter, and it does have an impact on your ability to relate with others.

It’s obviously difficult to get to know each and every one of the readers of Tax Marketing Tips. However, despite the limited interaction capability of email, I genuinely enjoy hearing from readers, and I’m always open to answering questions and bouncing ideas around, so please feel free to use me as a resource.

Anyway, one of the important “where I come from” components has to do with how I got into taxpayer representation in the first place. The reason why I think this might be of interest to you is because it partially answers the question, “Why should I listen to you?” You may not have necessarily verbalized this question, but it’s something that often lingers in the back of our minds, right?

So here’s the deal: In 2007, in the wake of the real estate bubble bursting, I basically lost everything and was flat broke. Here’s the embarrassing part: After my own home was foreclosed on, I was literally living in a van, down by the river (Boulder Creek, to be precise).

This is even more embarrassing than the fact that I filed Chapter 7 bankruptcy the day after the bank took my home.

I tell you this because I want anybody reading this that questions whether they can succeed in this business to know that it’s possible to start from absolute scratch and build a successful tax practice.

When the 2008 tax season started, I took a part-time job at Jackson Hewitt just so I could put food on the table (err, dashboard). Shortly after, a close friend told me that the company she worked at was hiring entry level unlicensed assistants. I took both jobs just so I could make ends meet.

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That rock bottom period of my life turned out to be one of the greatest things to ever happen to me.

Within about six months, I was adding services to the tax firm that they hadn’t previously offered. I was introducing new and innovative marketing strategies to an industry that was completely telemarketing driven. I was introducing automation and software tools that literally revolutionized this particular firm’s operations, allowing them to handle nearly twice as many tax cases with no additional staff simply through systems, automation, and leverage.

Once I became licensed as an Enrolled Agent myself, I also starting innovating the licensed side of case work.

Within 18 months, I had put this company on a whole new track. Revenues tripled, and the company had to move into a much larger (and nicer) office space in order to handle the higher case load.

The most important thing was that I had created systems which could be applied to any tax firm. This became important to me personally when I realized that the door to partnership in the firm was never going to open, and I decided to go out on my own. Within 9 months of leaving, I had a full case load of 40+ clients, was billing well over $30,000 per month, and was doing my case work remotely from Japan.

In less than two years, I had gone from literally living in my car to growing an existing firm from about half a million per year in revenue to over $2.5 million in annual revenue, then left and grew my own firm to almost $400,000 in annualized billings in just nine months.

The systems work, and those systems have provided me the lifestyle that I have today. Being homeless like that is an incredibly humbling experience, and one that leaves you wondering if you’ll ever break out of it. It’s not really all that fun for me to think about those days, especially during Colorado’s cold winters.

But by developing systems, and taking action, I’ve demonstrated twice on my own that it’s possible to rapidly grow a tax practice.

So there it is. If you’ve ever wondered where I “came from” in this businesss, or why I consider myself qualified to advise others on practice growth strategies, there you have it.

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If you’re a solo practitioner in particular, and you’re struggling to make ends meet, I want you to know that it doesn’t have to be such a struggle. I sure hope that you’re not living in your car, but if you’re nowhere near where you want to be financially, have faith that there is a way up.