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The Wealthy Accountant World Headquarters and Camp Accountant

Today I want to think out loud within earshot of readers. The benefit to readers is they get a better understanding of how I think about business, investments and life/work balance. It also allows me to crowdsource my thoughts  where readers can provide advice I can use to make a better decision. And, of course, readers have skin in the game as will soon become apparent.

Before we begin we need to know how we got where we are before we can move forward. 

 

How We Got Here

This blog is very important to me and I want to continue growing and improving the venue. I also own a tax practice since 1982 part-time and from 1989 full-time. There is a lot of history and memories.

When this blog started a piece of my childhood was still with me. Growing up on a farm in the boondocks of Wisconsin is like no other childhood. While running my practice I enjoyed raising beef and chickens. . . until a few years ago. 

Saving your business when illness strikes. Build and grow your business in the toughest of times. Guarantee your business lives on long after you do. #business #illness My first writing started in high school, but it took until the early 1980s for anyone to bother publishing what I wrote. Publication was rare, yet enough to encourage me to keep honing my craft.

Before The Wealthy Accountant (TWA) I wrote in a variety on genres. The last gig was flash fiction. The contract required 4 flash fiction stories per day, seven days a week. It sounds like a lot, but flash fiction is a few hundred words at best so it wasn’t a heavy load. And no research was ever required.

Once this blog started it was time to phase out the flash fiction work.

TWA was more demanding than any prior writing. Much more response from readers kept the workload heavy. Things that I loved doing had to go to keep up. With heavy heart I bid my boys (the steers) goodbye. The price was heavy for this country boy.

Still, I wanted a successful writing career along with my tax practice. Writing in my preferred field was a huge bonus. Unfortunately, the demands are more than most of my kind readers understand. Reaching a decision to stop farming illustrates the seriousness of my commitment.

While TWA enjoys a modest readership, a massive percentage of those readers need more than a short post. They have unmet tax and financial needs. So I accepted more clients; too many, in fact. To help those I couldn’t take on as clients I consulted with. And still I was only serving a tiny fraction of those crying out for help.

Tax season no longer ends on April 15th for me. Extensions stretch well into summer with clients not always understanding the toll this was taking. In between I consulted and wrote more blog posts. The goal was always to elevate my work higher and higher so readers enjoyed the greatest value.

And then life stepped in.

 

Boy, Interrupted

As the weight started taking its toll I adjusted as best I could. First the other blogs were cancelled. Then my farm was sacrificed. The weight of my choices extracted a serious penalty.

I have always been healthy. I did have a heart operation in junior high, but outside that I’m like a machine. I enjoy life and take the largest bite I can chew. If life is worth living it is worth living to the max.

It was easy to brush off the first warning signs. Yes, I was working long hours, but I enjoyed the work so why not.

To compensate for fatigue I started devising ways to increase my productivity. Two years ago I started building daily goals, especially when I worked weekends and holidays, to complete a certain amount of work. 

Surviving tragedy in business. Survive flood, fire and natural disasters. Keep your business alive when things are darkest. #business #tragedy #disaster #flood #fire #health #medicalVisualizing my goal allowed me to increase my production a fair amount. But every action has a opposite, yet equal, reaction.

Last summer I never snapped back from the prior tax season. The growing workload even from current client’s expanding (blog clients do that a lot) real estate holdings, investments and businesses gave me no time to rest. 

Spin down had begun and there was nothing left to give up. 

When the last returns were filed last year I tried to take time to relax. It didn’t matter. My system couldn’t recover. And then another tax season arrived.

My entire office reached burnout trying to keep my pace and eventually left. I picked up the slack because I gave my word to my clients. I couldn’t let them down.

Even without accepting new clients (and a few clients leaving) the workload increased. Clients from the blog always had significant issues. I never anticipated that accepting a 4-hour tax return client might end up taking 40 or more hours, as sometimes happens. 

The new tax law (TCJA) added to the tax season workload. It was my goal to speak with every client so they knew how the changes affected them. I was exhausted, but motivated and excited to serve clients.

Then the inevitable happened. Around the middle of February a nasty cough returned and refused to relent. Within a few weeks I could barely speak. Working with clients expended more energy than ever due to my health.

By the end of tax season the well was dry. My voice completely collapsed. Employees were concerned I might die I looked so bad. Nothing seemed to help. There were no options left to force more out of this country boy.

I blamed it on the long and cold winter followed by a cold spring. When the weather improved so did my health. . . temporarily.

Many tax extensions are still on my desk and it seemed every return I touched I couldn’t finish it. It was mentally draining. Something always came up. Information was missing and/or extra work required. Without any reserves I struggled to have any productivity.

The 4th of July holiday was a chance to catch up some without interruption. It was the final straw. An all-nighter is not what my body would allow anymore. 

The cough which never really went away reinforced and worse than ever. My voice collapsed again and this time it really hurt (as if it didn’t the first time around). 

The extra hours were for naught. Monday I left the office at noon barely able to drive home. The level of burn out I was experiencing caused a high fever. Tuesday I left early and again today. 

After tax season I went to the doctor to see if there was anything for the cough. There was nothing physically wrong with me. 

I was pushing past burn out toward a nervous breakdown; the doctor made that clear and warned me I needed to slow down. I was working at an unsustainable level and had been doing so for so long there was a real risk of permanent damage. 

With a desk still piled with extension I am back in the pit. 

No matter what it takes I will finish the work I promised. But one thing is certain; I will never survive another tax season business as usual. Changes must be made or it will all crumble to dust.

And this is where you come in, kind readers.

 

New World Order

I know my body will not allow another year or tax season the way I’ve been doing things. At the same time this blog is something special, helping countless people.

Once again something has to go. The blog is more important because it helps more people than working one-on-one in the tax practice.

Transitioning your business. Take your business to the next level. You worked hard growing your business. Make sure it lives on after you leave. #business #transitioning #growth #sale #sellingBut I can’t let go of my baby. I have run my practice for so long it is like a body part. This is what I am. Letting go is as impossible as cutting off my right arm with a dull butter knife. It just can’t be done.

And if I push one more time I may not live long enough to see the long days of next summer. 

My options have narrowed. The current breakdown after the 4th of July weekend scared even me. My throat swelled so much from the cough I had a hard time breathing. I might be slow, but I eventually get the message.

This is an existential threat to the tax practice and employees would like for me to change while I still can.

The office started throwing around ideas to deal with my health. Everything was on the table. And I mean everything.

You, kind readers, need to help us with this. Consider it crowdsourcing TWA’s tax practice. You actually get to help decide the future of the practice and this blog.

My practice is unique in many ways due to this blog. Over half the clients have multiple state returns. Almost all returns are complex requiring research. This isn’t the easy way to run a firm, for sure.

Now I will run down the ideas we had in the office with the pros and cons. Please add new ideas we haven’t thought of in the comments and give your opinion on the ideas we did have.

Remember, everything is on the table.

 

Complete Sale

My first reaction was to just throw in the towel and quit. With over 30 years in the field and my 55th birthday only a few weeks history, it might be time to finally do what the FIRE community always recommends: retire. 

It is not something I want to do. To walk away completely is alien to me. Once I recover from the stress I know where I will want to return and it will be gone. So much has been sacrificed already. Not this, too.

Pros: The biggest benefit is it would be over. I could return to health reasonable fast if the damage isn’t permanent. 

Cons: Do you kill the patient to kill the disease? What about my clients? Employees? Community? These people count on me. People don’t hire a tax pro 3,000 miles away because there is an equal choice two blocks away. My work is not done! Walking away would be such a waste after all the progress made.

 

Partial Sale

I checked around my community and found it will be hard to sell my practice. My clients require special accountants and if they were available locally I would have hired them by now. I also placed an ad on Indeed with a starting wage for a tax preparer of $26 – $32 per hour, plus benefits. So far not a single candidate. (A few accountants working A/P or A/R applied, but they didn’t read the listing requiring letters after their name and at least 5 years tax experience. My clients are not for the faint of heart.)

There is the possibility another firm may want to buy or merge with mine. However, most tax offices are working long hours already and don’t need an influx of extraordinarily difficult tax returns.

That leaves the option of a partial sale where I either sell part of the practice, keeping maybe 125 clients for myself, or just letting all but 125 clients go if a partial sale isn’t possible.

Pros: This half measure brings the headcount low enough where I still can enjoy plenty of tax work, still write this blog and have a life. (Oh, and remain healthy.) I would also keep two write-up (bookkeeping and payroll) clients, too. Consulting and the blog added to these 125 returns and two write-up clients would give me a very good income. I am seriously considering this option.

Cons: The biggest drawback is the office will be a very lonely place. Most clients live far away so very few will walk through the door. Every day I’d work alone in silence. Summer will be eerie, indeed. I will miss the tax office I once had and might end up with more solitude than I’m able to bear.

And how do I let go of so many clients? It would break my heart.

 

Hire Remote Employees

This is an appealing idea to me. It works like this:

I would hire people from various Facebook accounting and tax groups I belong to. I’ve noticed many tax professionals willing to work remotely in these private groups. Most have experience and I can vet them by just watching how they ask and answer questions within the group. 

There will still be work finding qualified employees, of course, but the gene pool will be much larger and I’m casting were the fish are swimming. 

The best part is I can hire more tax professionals than I ever could locally. Some semi-retired, very experienced, tax pro might want to take on maybe 25 returns a year. Another might want to handle 80; another maybe 50. No one employee will do so many that if one gets sick or quits the house of cards collapses.

Pros: Hiring tax professionals from around the country allows me to send tax returns local to the remote employee. Office space in not an issue. Many can be hired so there are plenty of skilled tax people on the team. This is my favorite idea to date and will be pursued regardless just to understand how it will work. It is also the best solution allowing all my clients to stay and get better service going forward and even add new clients.

My office is set up for remote employees already. I work from home often and it’s just like sitting at my desk. New remote employees will work the same with full security, like having their own desk in my office.

Cons: Herding employees around the country (they must all live within the US) could be like herding cats. Only time will tell. Secure remote setup costs money. Adding 10 or 15 new remote users could get expensive. Not prohibitive, however.

Another risk is taking on too many client because I think I have people to handle the work. Future growth must be controlled to avoid a repeat of what I’m going through now.

 

Selling Chairs

One of my accountants came up with this idea. It would work similar to beauty salons where the owner leases out a workstation to people owning their own hair care business.

I have never seen this done in a tax office before. There will be some technical hurdles. Each room would need new doors with security locks as each tax professional is their own business. They could piggyback my EFIN with some updates and modification on my part with the IRS. 

The front desk could be a shared expense. I could keep my 125 clients as listed above under Partial Sale and shift remaining clients to employees now running their own practice. Clients will have the exact same environment they are used to with the same support structure. No client would be let go under this plan!

One current accountant and a CPA employed by me years ago might be interested if the terms can be worked out. (I will make the terms work out for them.) 

Pros: I like this idea as it cleans my desk and allows me the freedom to explore other business ideas while serving all my clients in a respectful manner. My income goes down, but it’s like selling my business and renting my office without selling my business. Each tax pro can work with others in the building, helping each other (at their regular rate) wherever needed.

I don’t want to do bookkeeping or payroll so I can keep some clients that require such services by hiring another tax business in my building to handle that facet. 

My current employees will earn more and own their own business so they should be happier.

Cons: The building will need some remodeling and updating. The parking lot is too small and will need to be expanded. Upgrade costs will top $50,000 easily. I have the benefit of the partial sale as listed above with a steady stream of rent income. However, income will be less than managing it all myself.

The same issues exist as with remote employees. The entire office can rent usage of my server and the software. Printers can be shared. Real effort will be needed to structure this properly and there may be regulatory issues.

 

TWA World Headquarters

The choices listed above are what I have. If you have a better idea I’m all ears. 

If I sell 100% of my practice I will keep the office building and use it as TWA World Headquarters. Classes, training and other activities will be offered to the community. 

If I decide on a partial sale the building will still be re-purposed as TWA world headquarters. 

There are advantages to focusing on the blog. Financially, focus should allow the blog to equal and exceed what the blog and practice combined produce now within a year or two. 

If the tax practice fills the whole building I may decide to restructure the businesses. The tax practice would not have a sign out front anymore as TWA takes a more public image. Local clients will understand the name change. 

The future is this blog. Still, I always want to spend time in the trenches so I continue growing experience in tax application as well as theory.

I will share with you, kind readers, as this evolves.

 

Camp Accountant

As you may have guessed, Camp Accountant is on hold until my health improves. Sorry.

 

Decision Time

Realistically I need to make a decision on my practice before the extension deadline (October 15th). I will explore each idea to see what might work as some ideas might not be what I expect. 

The unique nature of my firm makes it hard to sell or merge. Someone willing to manage my firm would allow me to expand (another option). Unfortunately, I can’t do it all. 

What my experience shows is that there is a massive need for good tax professionals around the country.

I don’t want it to end here. Before I do something I regret for the remainder of my life, I need to make good decisions for the future. 

In our brave new world we can crowdsource ideas like never before. I don’t have to solve every problem. One of you readers might actually have the solution to my problem.

Don’t be afraid to share your ideas in the comments. The future of this entire dreams depends on you.

 

Update: A lot of you are commenting. I am reading all the comments, but lack the energy to thank and answer each comment separately. Thank you, everyone. You have no idea how much you motivate me. You are the best.

 

More Wealth Building Resources

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Keith Taxguy

61 Comments

  1. Devan on July 10, 2019 at 10:38 pm

    What would you think about alternating every other year? Perhaps One year focus on accounting with your clients while writing short sporadic blog posts. The next year perhaps let a vetted accountant do the work for your clients and you can focus more time on comprehensive blog posts. Hope you feel better soon!

  2. Tony on July 10, 2019 at 10:45 pm

    I like the remote accountant idea the best I think. Renting out offices in your current building seems like it would be as difficult as finding new qualified employees if you plan on distributing some of your client list to them.
    Working remotely is the way of the future, espesially in a field that like taxes that can be worked from anywhere.
    I hope you come up with something that joves with you and your health gets better. In the mean time, stay strong and keep the slower days ahead in sight.

    • Tamara on July 14, 2019 at 12:51 pm

      Sell your practice. Give yourself some significant down time so you can decide what you really want to do next, whether that involves some sort of tax prep (volunteer?), consulting, or something entirely different. Keep the blog if you love it, consider teaching continuing education, write a novel, or whatever sounds fun. Your clients will find another tax preparer. If you keep at your crazy pace, they will have to when you collapse. Better to move them along before you reach your breaking point. You will be able to have a meaningful life, if different. I have done so personally.

  3. Karl on July 10, 2019 at 11:11 pm

    I think I’m mostly in favor of the remote accountant(s) idea. This is the scenario I’m looking at to solve my current practice dilemma. I’m in the building phase, but the growth from referrals was almost more than I could handle this year. Like you, I’m also still busy, and close to burnout myself. I’ve appreciated your recent bluntly honest posts about the state of affairs.

    So looking ahead to next year, I am considering firing a handful of problem clients (or doing some massive price increases), as well as seeing if I would have the revenue to support bringing someone on to help with my workflow. But I work out of my home, so adding an in-person staff isn’t feasible for the space or my family life. That’s why a remote worker that I could securely send work to is on my radar.

    One suggestion is to study how others have done this. I’ve been soaking up CPE and other resources on this topic. Key takeaways I’ve had are 1) have good systems for workflow and communication documented before you hire, 2) engage legal counsel to help you consider other state’s employment laws you may need to factor into your HR strategy (and possibly rule out some states), and 3) trust your people. Another topic I have yet to explore is the compensation structure of ROWE (results only work environment).

    Looking forward to one day attending Camp Accountant. You’ve taught me a ton, and I’m so grateful for this blog. Until then, rest and get healthy.

    I think you’re wise to evaluate the con’s of each of these choices you’re weighing.

    • Patrick Kissane on July 11, 2019 at 1:00 am

      Hi Keith, as a chartered accountant (CPA) and also lawyer, I envy you. I live in a remote part of tropical northern Australia and competition is very keen here with plenty to choose from. H & R Bock are here.
      You need to hire a CPA to get on top of things. If things continue to expand, hire more with perhaps a manager.
      You should also consider outsourcing to places like India or the Philippines. They have some very knowledgeable qualified accountants in these countries with very cheap rates. And, when you are on Skype or the internet, it does not matter whether the person is next door to you or thousands of miles away.
      You really ought to visit the doctor more often. What you describe could be serious. If you have a fever, it normally means you have an infection somewhere.

  4. Cathleen Cooks Stuff on July 10, 2019 at 11:13 pm

    Keith, this is not relevant to your tax practice situation at all, but I have found as an Asthmatic that there are pressure points on the pectorals, chest, arms, and back, that really help with coughs and seem to help hold off the swelling throat issues- it also works when I have a cold- I think I made a video somewhere outlining how to do it, if you want, you can email me and I can forward it to you. This may at least help alleviate some of the muscle pain from coughing so much- though I have to warn you, it will hurt, a lot.

  5. Bear on July 10, 2019 at 11:54 pm

    Wow, Keith, I’m sorry you’re in this situation. I’m not a tax pro, unfortunately; I simply enjoy reading your blog and seeing what applies to my life. Personally I think bringing in remote staff is your best option if you can find people you trust and believe are competent. I don’t know that youd be able to find sufficient people immediately local to you for the WeWork solution (renting out TWA HQ space) to work.

  6. Triple Fi Guy on July 11, 2019 at 12:28 am

    Hey Keith,

    In my honest opinion, I think it would be wise to choose an option that will give you the most flexibility and time to spend to improve your health so you can be there for your wife and daughters.

    It seems like you’re thinking about the money side of things a bit too much. You’ve won the game already. You have enough money to be able to do or have whatever your heart desires. I honestly wouldn’t be too bothered if your incomes went down some. You could never do any work again and still live like a king!

    If you don’t have your health, you don’t really have much.

    Now a comment on your options list:
    Option one seems like you don’t want that at all costs so you should scrap it.

    Option two is not much better it sounds so it’s either option three or four or whatever else idea comes up.

    It sounds like you really like option three which could work for you.

    Personally I like option four. It really would be the easiest transition and you could scale down easily in the future when you finally decide to really cut back. It still gives you control over your practice and you wouldn’t upset the apple cart really. As for the cons, I really wouldn’t worry too much about putting some money into the business as it’s really just a tiny scratch of your total net worth. I don’t think you’d regret spending the money.

    Anyways, just my two cents…

  7. Ckarion on July 11, 2019 at 3:01 am

    I suggest an approach with redundancy. Keep only as many clients as you can comfortably handle (125, you said) and then in addition experiment with how to structure your business – hiring remote employees or selling chairs.
    From your blog it is clear that you need several gatepoints to stop you from overextending yourself.

  8. Debbie on July 11, 2019 at 4:45 am

    I vote with trying the remote accountants to help your business. And continuing to thin the business to make it more manageable for you and your employees. You might want to consider some type of assistance outside of the finanical community to help you look at why you pushed yourself so hard and continued to ignore growing signs. Becoming that sick is a red flag that you need to work on taking care of yourself. Gotta find the root cause so you don’t do it again. Wishing you the best.

  9. Marc Stump on July 11, 2019 at 4:57 am

    Keith,
    What part of the business do you love the most, gives you the most joy and makes you feel the most alive? Be SURE to keep that part.(It sounds like that part is the writing and tax prep).If it is the tax prep, then keep the magic 125 you mentioned. (One chiropractor was suffering burnout because he had a 2,000 client base. He didn’t want to lower his income of $450,000 so he picked his 300 favorite clients and offered them a yearly fee of $1500 per person(maybe per family) to keep his income the same, then fired the rest of his client base.
    As for increasing your income in the tax arena you could write books; give online classes and charge for training; or hire employees to delegate your tax work to and make piggyback your charges on them.
    Remote accounting works pretty well I guess. I watched a presentation earlier this year that was done this year by a Canadian CA that is traveling full time in an RV. His business is 100% virtual.Though he said the structure would not work so well in the US, a Canadian Certified Accountant went to his legislature and convinced him to pass a law that allowed a person to run a CA firm without having an actual physical building. He did a presentation I saw earlier this year of the structure of his entire business, and it had a lot of good points that could be adapted to running a business in the states. If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll get the information for you. (On the way to work; can’t remember it offhand right now.)

    • Shelly Matulin on July 11, 2019 at 3:52 pm

      Hi Keith, found your writings the other day and spent most of the day reading them. Love your style and knowledge. You came up the hard way and you speak on a level which is understandable and captivating. Whatever you decide it should definitely include teaching and writing. Remote workers or contractors seems to be your best bet. Please don’t outsource outside the US. I’ve worked remotely(corp accounting-media) for the past 5 years and the benefits to all are superior to in office situations. Create a model, workflow, hire experienced tax pros for the really challenging stuff and then tap all of us forced to retire accountants and teach us. There are a ton of us who are 50+, degreed which believe it or not, can’t really retire, but dont have the EA or CPA behind our name. Please teach us and give us a way to earn a living and get us out of the enforced retirement he’ll. The answer is to outsource and add clients, all while retaining control and direction by creating an academy (which can be done remote) or apprenticeship model. Oh and you can delegate more and more as you teach and train. I’m in.😊 Your health and mental health are more important than total control.

  10. Josh Lopes on July 11, 2019 at 7:33 am

    Keith,

    Sorry to hear that your health hasn’t improved in the “down time” since tax season. It’s tough to scale back and still do what you love. You have outlined some great options. They all have pros/ cons associated with them. Some of them could possibly not improve your health situation. A key question to ask yourself is “Can you handle ‘managing’ a business office with all of these independent contractors and still being connected physically to them without getting in the weeds of individual returns again?” This option may be the hardest to disengage from as all clients/ employees are within sight.

    Also, would it make more sense for you to hire a business manager to manage the remote providers? To me, while it’s complex, the remote provider option is the most intriguing. You clearly want to stay engaged and having a more national footprint, effectively with boots on the ground in all states, would greatly expand your reach/ impact and would serve clients even better. The key to that is to vet the providers you’re bringing into the fold in each geographic area.

    Good luck with your decision. Feel free to reach out with ideas for the New England market.

    • Kelly on July 11, 2019 at 12:22 pm

      Agree with the business manager comment above. I’m sorry that you are working through burnout to this level.. but I would definitely suggest that you take seriously a significant break/sabbatical to try to regain your health. It can take a long time to recover from what you are describing.

  11. Cindy on July 11, 2019 at 7:38 am

    I was in kind of the same predicament, and I have tried most of your suggestions. I sublet my office ‘desk spaces’, I hired remote accountants, I pawn out some of my difficult clients, those who costs too much like you said, 4 hours turn into 40 hours work. I hired remote workers to maintain my blog and social media. But time cannot catch up fast enough until my health total collapsed me.
    Hiring remote accountants actually takes a lot more managing efforts than I anticipated. Renting out my office spaces did help with rent expenses but that barely made a dent. Getting rid of some trouble clients have the major benefits of my health I realized.
    I also ‘swtiched’ some of my full time accountants to contracts.
    I also found partner to come into the business. BIG MISTAKE.
    Anyway, at the end I still couldn’t keep up. I layoff all my remaining staffs, all bookkeepers and admins, sold some of my customers to one of the accountant contractor, and kept only a few long time clients for my own. Now I am just self employed, working with only a few clients, I feel like I am retired.

    One idea I didn’t implement, which if I thought about it then I would. Make a proposal for the employees to take over the business in exchange of dividends or royalties. In exchange you become a part time trainee, still providing them support and such. There is a restaurant here, the owner set up a program to allow employees to set up their own restaurant as franchisee, only requirement is that the employee works in his restaurant for at least a year and attended a few management course he offers internally.

    Good luck and get well

  12. Petyo on July 11, 2019 at 7:59 am

    Hi Keith, please check this out and do your own research. I think this will help your cough:

    https://youtu.be/Amvrvme4rBs

    Thanks

  13. Scott on July 11, 2019 at 8:19 am

    Hi Keith,

    I know this isn’t advice you’re seeking from this post, but just wanted to pass on my situation as a warning to make your health and family a priority. I just turned 55 and last week was diagnosed with cancer for the second time (first time was 32 years ago). Currently, waiting on test results to see how extensive the cancer is. But even if I find out my time here is coming to an end, I can know I lived a full life of the greatest memories of spending time with my wife (of 30 years) and my 3 kids.

    Hope you find a solution to your problem.

    All my best,

    Scott

    • Keith Taxguy on July 11, 2019 at 8:40 am

      I see clients like this all the time, Scott. We have a client who died 3 days after retiring. Rest assured this is on my mind.

      Hope you do well, Scott. Your attitude toward your wife and children provides us all with a role model.

  14. Dani on July 11, 2019 at 8:29 am

    I’m kind of surprised to hear you are still considering growth and expansion at this stage–if it were me, I’d definitely be looking to wind down. Health issues are nothing to take lightly, and the potential for permanent damage is a harrowing thought. I would not be even considering taking on a single new client at this point–health and not being dead trumps everything else, and I’m not talking about basic survival but thriving health. Once gone, it is difficult to get back, and since you’ve given up so much that you love, you simply must save something for your Golden Years (which may start sooner than you expected!)
    I believe every business–small and larger alike, even the smaller departments within a larger one–should have a succession plan. When you’re a one-man show, that makes it tricky. I like the idea of the remote workers–yes, there are hurdles, but you have already said that you have exhausted the local market, so don’t really see the third option as all that helpful–it’s the same people, still overwhelmed with the clients you already have. Perhaps there is one that you already have who you could expand their duties and ownership gradually, and bring up to take over some day? In the meantime, you’ll need to hire someone to deal with managing all of these offsite contractors; that is not a stressor you need to be inventing at this point.
    Your clients will ultimately need a successor. My CPA retired and basically announced that they were retiring and left me with nobody to stand in that gap; I was on my own to find a new one (she recommended a few, but we had no familiarity with any of them and didn’t know their strengths). Since you feel so attached to the intricacies of your clients’ situations and needs, it would seem to make the most sense to build a successor or three into your plan, and begin enacting that plan–perhaps as a limited partnership with increasing ownership and responsibilities on their parts as time and responsibility dictate, or some other structure. This would allow you to remain active with your clients while alleviating the great strain that you’ve been carrying.
    Hope you feel better soon!

    • Keith Taxguy on July 11, 2019 at 8:41 am

      Thanks for the ideas, Dani. Just to be clear, I put everything on the table, even possible expansion if it could work. In reality that is not a real option anymore.

  15. Dave on July 11, 2019 at 8:40 am

    Hi Keith, I’m sorry to hear of your illness and wish you a speedy recovery.

    On the topic at hand, if you ever watched The Profit, Marcus’ big pain points are people, processes and product. While you touch on other people and processes, you didn’t really touch on yourself and your product in your suggestions, so I have various thoughts:

    1. As far as additional cons with remote preparers, doing so may give you nexus in various other states, which would most likely increase and the work and cost on the business’ tax return (and possible your own). As well as the other common issues I hear of are A) how will you stop them from poaching clients, will all communication between them flow through your office (so they have no direct contact; and if so, how will you manage that on your end). B) If they are doing it for multiple firms, how will you manage their work flow (such as restricting the number of returns you give them at any time)? C) Coordinating will take extra hours. D) If they are remote, how will you assess them initially and on an on going basis (as my boss has mentioned that managing others does take a significant amount of time and if you increase your employees, total management time should also increase).

    2. As far as the blog and so on, have you considered stepping back even further (as I know that you have reduced posting over the past year or two)? Such as either reducing posting even further or perhaps acting as an editor and either having guest posts that you approve or getting someone to help out with the writing and you do the final touches before posting it.

    3. I’m sort of surprised that a partial sale would be that difficult, as my understanding is that you probably realize very well and at higher than normal rates (based upon some of the numbers you have put out over time as far as your rate). But then, you are also right in what I’ve heard as the perfect storm, as a number of baby boomers are starting to retire and there aren’t enough new accountants to replace them and not enough talent to run a professional service firm that provides excellent advice on difficult aspects of tax law.

    4. I’m unsure how you have the firm set up, but is there any potential to bring in a new partner and start transitioning clients to them? Such as someone that has worked for you for a long time, is hungry and ready to step up? While would probably require additional work in the short term, but decrease your workload over the long term.

    5. From an outsider, it seems like the breaking point is you. Is there any additional work that you can push down to others (such as office admin or an office manager)? Or are you like a lot of small business owners, and do you need to review everything and conduct most meetings (as it is your name on the door and rep on the line)? Is there potential to extend anything, so that you aren’t rushing at the due dates, or are you busy from year end until the extended due dates? Is there any thing you can do to minimize the time you spend on a return (such as less meetings with clients, or running through them faster; though I do understand that this would potentially decrease your enjoyment or decrease the perceived service they were receiving). But then, this starts touching on what you do want to do (slash find enjoyable, energizing, and profitable) and what sort of service you want to provide to others.

  16. Sarah on July 11, 2019 at 9:27 am

    Keith,

    Incredibly sad to hear about your health challenges!

    Something to think about…another option that a few have touched on above. Have you thought about finding 2, 3, or 4 younger people that you can train and develop? My recommendation would be to pare down your business so that you can take some time to rebuild your health. But if you can find 2 – 4 people that you really click with, who are smart and hungry and have your heart of service to your customers, wouldn’t working with them and developing them be the greatest gift you could give your clients and future generations? Then you keep your fingers in challenging cases, you have camaraderie, and you are developing future leaders. I would actually recommend dropping your workload below 125 cases, because developing leadership is time consuming but so rewarding!

    Thank you for your sharing your story and creating this blog – we so appreciate you!!

  17. JR on July 11, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Hey Keith,

    I really enjoy your blog. I first found you from the ChooseFI podcast. I’m sorry to hear about your health. It makes me think of the silly quote: “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.”

    What’s the point of success if you can’t be around to enjoy it?

    I think you’ll figure out the business end. There are plenty of great suggestions already in the comments. I don’t think that’s the underlying issue(s) however.

    It may sound too wishy washy, but I would highly recommend exploring meditation and potentially acupuncture. I have gone down the path of meditation a bit (to help with anxiety) and I’ve made great strides. My father has some health issues related to his service in Vietnam and recently found acupuncture. It has demonstrably changed his day-to-day life.

    Like you, I’m a country boy at heart. I cannot emphasize how cathartic going back to the country or going out in the woods is for me personally. Maybe you just need a little bit of that farm back in your life…

    • Keith Taxguy on July 11, 2019 at 9:39 am

      JR, I linked in the post to a prior TWA post of the same name as your quote. All I can say is that I haven’t followed my own advice as well as I should have. Thank you for the encouragement and tips.

  18. Mark Seale on July 11, 2019 at 9:31 am

    1. You are your product. Your experience, expertise, and eloquence are the basis of your success.
    2. You have an ever growing population of potential clients looking for your unique product.
    3. You have to take care of you. No one else can do that.

    To that end, of the possibilities laid out, hiring remote solves most of the problem. But, while a slower ramp up, what I would be looking for as a potential client would be TWA Certified practitioners. What I’m getting at, is the remote workers are not that different than selling chairs, except the location of the chair. I want to be assured that the accountant I’m working with is steeped in the TWA practice standard and has the resources necessary to work a complex return at or near the level of TWA. What if the answer wasn’t a retraction in your business, but more an expansion through satellite offices/employees that you personally trained? What would personally handling select returns that are long term/important clients and spending the rest of the year developing new accountants in the TWA style look like?

    • Keith Taxguy on July 11, 2019 at 9:35 am

      Mark, TWA Certified is already in the works. It requires Camp Accountant to happen so appropriate training is conducted. The tax pro would be required to complete a certain level of annual training just like CPAs and enrolled agent, plus additional training provided by TWA so the lesser known tax advantages are not missed.

    • Maria on July 11, 2019 at 12:57 pm

      Sorry to hear about your health issues. You mention the blog is the future and given your health, sadly, it seems like the best option is to sell the practice all together. Perhaps the terms of the sale could keep current employees for at least a year and you could stay on as consultant for 12 months or so and let someone else do the heavy lifting. The time required to shift business models to renting chairs, outsourcing, or hiring more people, may help a little but wouldn’t give you enough to focus on getting better. These other options simply require to much time to set up and manage, even if you’re not doing the tactical, operational day to day stuff and ultimately you’d just be trading one set of issues for another.
      The loss of revenue from selling Would be immaterial given the priority is your health, the earning potential of the blog, and your current financial independence. Wishing the best.

  19. Troy Erwin on July 11, 2019 at 10:15 am

    Hello Keith,
    Wow, very sorry to hear about your health issues. I know all too well what burning the candle from ends can do to one’s body and mind. As for suggestions I have two. In the short term if you need any help getting through this season, I am sure their are plenty of tax professionals like myself that own you a debt of gratitude. Make no mistake, you have changed the way I run my tax practice and I am forever grateful. I have no doubt that many others in our profession share that sentiment.
    As for a long term solution. Have you considered your own ” TWA “ELP”. If memory serves, we both have some experience in how DR runs his operation. The TWA “ELP” would and could be something completely new and exciting, something more. A group of EA’s and CPA’s that use your TWA best practices. Make no mistake I’m talking about another “CTC” or “CTM” store-bought ” designation” (sorry, I may have issues:). This could a real community, using tax law and financial literacy to make a real difference in the lives of their clients. TWA world headquarters would be just that. A place for TWA tax professionals to come and learn how to actually solve problems and help clients reach their financial independence.
    ” Keith, people will come. They will come to Wisconsin Keith. And they will pay for the privilege, for it is money they have and peace they lack.” (Ok maybe the Field of Dreams reference was abit much).
    Just a suggestion and something tells me one that may have already crossed your mind.
    Cheers my friend
    Troy Erwin, EA

  20. Keith Turgeon on July 11, 2019 at 10:28 am

    Keith,

    Let me see if I can sum this up. You like work but you just have too much. So I would say a complete sale is out of the picture because you would just pick up some other project and be back where you started. The remote employees and selling chairs option is helping others which is good, but I think it would be trading one work for another. My suggestion is a partial sale. You still work on what you enjoy, but are busy enough you are not tempted to push it. Once you are recovered you can always work more on your writing or some other project.

  21. George Wood on July 11, 2019 at 10:49 am

    You are not your work my friend. I have enjoyed reading through your blog, discovered you a few weeks ago and have been working through your entire post history starting with the first, and discovering someone who has a big heart, a keen mind and a desire to help those less fortunate. Many of your stories have shared a piece of who you’ve chosen to be and I have learned many lessons reading your words. I am also in the accounting world as a CPA and see far to many of my peers sacrifice their health, relationships and life for the pursuit of their “careers”. To many of us identify as our work. You have so much to offer the world, your family, friends, the FI community with your words, support and desire to help. Please take care of yourself, I have seen to many in this industry die way to young as they have minimized the need to take care of their health and focused on clients/work/career/etc. I’m sure you know that many FIRE people have the fear of moving to their next gig but over and over I read stories of those who have taken the leap, for a variety of reasons, and been just as happy or happier with where they land. You have much to offer the world and 40 years, at least, left to do it if you take care of yourself. Wishing you the best. Also, your words and blog have inspired me to leave the firm I am at, and not happy doing the work I am doing, to start my own small practice out of my home doing taxes. Thank you for giving what you do.

  22. Amy Valenzuela on July 11, 2019 at 11:26 am

    Patrick- I am interested in the possibility of outsourcing to the Philippines , but have no idea how to even begin this process. One of the issues I struggle with is client data protection. How is this handled when working with remote resources . Do you have experience in setting up outsourcing within you own tax practice? If so I would be interested in speaking with you,

    • Patrick on July 12, 2019 at 12:22 am

      Hi Amy, I don’t have any direct experience of outsourcing in my practice. But at the start of the tax year, I get lots of organisations trying to sell outsourcing to the Philippines and India.

  23. Rid Hoxha on July 11, 2019 at 11:28 am

    Keith, I have followed your blog ever since I read about you from MM. Sorry about the health/exhaustion issues you are having. I would highly encourage you to try to take the necessary time to get better. Nothing is worth more than your health.
    As far as the next steps go, given your location, i would suggest setting up some relationships with CPAs and EAs. I am an EA based in Philadelphia and I am in the middle of trying the next steps after almost two decades as a financial controller and small business owner (restaurant). In my search I came across Greenback Expat Tax Services (greenbacktaxservices.com). The owners live abroad and the team is made up of CPA/EAs living both in the US and other countries. Something like this might really work.
    Wish you the best!

  24. Mike on July 11, 2019 at 11:45 am

    Hi Keith,

    I’m sorry you are going through this, as a fellow tax professional I can relate. I think your focus should be on your health though, I’m sure your family wants to spend many more years with you. The work you do is important, but not as important as your life. I think clients and readers will understand whatever your decision ends up being. That being said, I think a partial sale might be the best solution. Or a very significant downsizing to a more manageable level. Hiring remote workers or selling chairs are good ideas, but it would require some up front work to be effective. And I would imagine you will be pretty busy until the 10/15 extension deadline. And then you only have a few short months to get this all up and running, it doesn’t sound like you can go through another tax season at the same pace. I would immediately talk to many of your clients and explain the situation, and tell them they should find a new accountant for next year, delegate whatever work you can to your staff and then choose the 125 clients or so that you can focus on. After your health improves I’m sure you can work on rebuilding a different model for the future. I would see if any of your current employees are able to take on any of the work in an effort to keep more clients in house. Maybe some are interested in becoming partners. But again, your health and family is the priority, work and the money are secondary.

  25. Steve Dye on July 11, 2019 at 12:56 pm

    Hi Keith,

    Sorry to hear about your stress/health. I love the blog and greatly appreciated our couple of one on one advising sessions. Here’s a path that I think would be a big win and fun too plus could reduce your load relatively quickly.

    * You and I partner together to create a new branch in Eau Claire. (some level of sensible partnership – % of revenue royalty, you own all just subcontract employees or operations to me – something that seems reasonable) I’ve been looking at getting into an accounting project for some time here – either buying an existing place (multiples are so low for service businesses) or building one starting with payroll services etc. even talked to my existing tax guys about spinning off their ‘retail tax’ part they don’t want to do. Of course me not being a CPA causes challenges too.

    * We start by hiring a few folks now that can help cover the more urgent demand. (Add a CPA and/or tax prep person – I have a controller and accounting assistant on staff that already do some of our basic tax work, as well as a UWEC prof finance adviser for higher level finance planning) You help interview and setup/copy the implementation business processes you use – like a franchise book. I cover all the costs to get going.

    *I make sure all the stuff gets done and you make sure we are doing the right stuff.

    * We (the new location) partners with our local UW campus and our local tech school (as well as a few high school students)to bring in great new partners. We’ve got good practice working with students both as interns and as new employees.

    * Lots of potential to help build financial planning tools and create support team that way too. (Marketing, IT, Business Management etc)

    A whole bunch of other details come to mind but will leave it at that for now. Will call later to setup a call or a meeting – can make the drive next week to the world headquarters. As I keep revising this it maybe seems crazy and stupid (done plenty of both here) but, really seems super awesome at this point! 🙂

    Stay Healthy,
    Steve

    • Keith Taxguy on July 11, 2019 at 1:30 pm

      I’ll be in touch. Give me time to gather my thoughts and get a few more promises honored (returns out).

  26. Sveta on July 11, 2019 at 1:02 pm

    Keith, I enjoy your blog periodically, especially about real estate and tax planning , even though I’m in Canada and our tax systems are totally different beasts. This is the article/essay I would recommend you read as it’s very relevant to your stage of life. Might give you some really good insights 🙂

    https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/07/work-peak-professional-decline/590650/

    • Keith Taxguy on July 11, 2019 at 1:30 pm

      Thank you. I’ll check it out.

  27. Raquel on July 11, 2019 at 2:55 pm

    I agree with Mark on the idea of TWA Certified Tax Professional. I will sign up right now if it’s available. I prefer to do remote work but willing to travel to TWA Headquarters to work during tax season if needed. Looking forward to Camp Accountant.

  28. Becca on July 11, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    Immensely saddened to read of your health woes. Immensely happy you are seeking alternatives to find your best “retirement”. You’ve mentioned before about FIRE and so many people get caught up in that and give grief to those who continue to work despite the need not to. The phrase oft used is You Only Live Once…I added the addendum “so Make it *$@&*%@ Awesome”.

    The idea for remote employees is *thumbs up* *100*. It is the future, across nearly all genre of business. There are many resources at your disposal if you reach out to other mainstream areas of the nation. Brilliant reference above though about employee laws by state and thus the negation of using any CPA’s in said state.

    Best of luck.

  29. Gene on July 11, 2019 at 4:16 pm

    Stop. Just stop. Take a year or more off, close the business. You have made it. Your family deserves the healthiest of you, for the number of years you have left. Much like the old saying in the job world. Your job will be posted before your obituary. Some clients will slightly miss you, all will find another way to get the taxes done. If the blog stops, people will simply move on.

    You don’t owe the world anything.

    Occam’s razor.

  30. Laurie Howard on July 11, 2019 at 6:45 pm

    Keith, just read your blog. It has a lot of useful information on it. Thank you for writing it.
    I am sorry for all of your health issues.
    I would love to talk to you about working remotely. Thanks!

  31. ThinkingAhead on July 11, 2019 at 8:40 pm

    Hiring remote help sounds like the best idea. I wish I could help, but I’m in the IT space, not accounting. I also think it’s time to sell or fire some clients. Pick some of the most interesting/challenging clients, as well as some of the more profitable ones and keep them on, lowering the demands on your time.

    The other suggestion I have is related to the blog. Could you hire someone to help with that? Editing, posting, responding to emails (if necessary), etc? Seems like you’re considering help for the tax practice, but I’m sure the blog also takes time and work.

  32. Ginger on July 12, 2019 at 12:01 am

    You’re financially independent, so focus on what you love instead of money. Your business income is just a scorecard at this point. Change your scoring system. Possibilities, based on what you seem to find rewarding:
    1. Did I consult with 12 clients who truly benefitted this year? Who needed my expertise, not advice a less experienced tax accountant could provide?
    2. Did I tackle 6 tax issues that required the in-depth research I love this year?
    3. Did I help 1 early career and 1 mid-career tax accountant develop significant new skills this year?
    4. Do I work with 25 clients who I enjoying communicating with during several seasons and am pleased to see every year?

    Some of your ideas seem to involve figuring out a new business model (fun!) which you’d then have to manage (yuck!) instead of spending time on complex tax issues. Since you love complex tax issues and they providing writing material, that’s where you should be spending time a year from now.

    Not an accountant, but I enjoy your blog. And, I remember working myself into serious health problems because I was trying to both do what I enjoyed and do what others needed. By most standards, I’m less successful now than I was a decade ago, but by my standards I’m more successful.

    Take care of yourself.

    • Keith Taxguy on July 12, 2019 at 9:08 am

      Ginger, as you guessed, money has been a scorecard for me for a long time. That has worked against me. Always trying to do just a bit better than the year before begins to compound after several decades. I’ve had a serious discussion with Mrs. Accountant (and myself) on the wisdom of just doing more for m ore’s sake. My quality suffers and work/life balance is way out of whack.

      I like your list and have started something very similar. The idea is to do more by doing less. Focusing on helping fewer clients, but helping them to the nth degree is a goal where all win.

      Glad you are enjoying the blog. I’ll always publish tax ideas as they enter my head. I’ll also share my journey because so many have a similar experience. Who knows? Maybe some backwoods county boy might have something to add to worldwide lexicon.

  33. Rounding the Bend on July 12, 2019 at 10:02 am

    Hi Keith,

    I think you are asking the wrong question. You don’t work because you need the money. You are financially independent. You work because you enjoy it (and this is the important part) and because you can’t say “no” to people who come and ask for your services.

    You need to figure out why you can’t say, “no.” You already know the right workload — you have data and analytical skills to figure out the right size for your book of business. It’s probably about one-third of your current workload. You say, “yes,” because there is some emotional need to do so. But when satisfying that emotional need adversely impacts your health, it has become a problem and you need to deal with it.

    Once you figure out how to say, “no,” the business structure question will become easy to solve. You enjoy being a trusted expert and problem-solver for your clients. You enjoy your relationships with them. Having a bunch of employees or chairs will give you management work (but you don’t need the money) and it will not be as fulfilling as working mostly by yourself. So you will downsize your business and get some value from another firm (or startup) that buys the customer list from you. You may also be bored during the off season (and that may lead you to saying, “yes,” when you shouldn’t). You probably need to grow something that you enjoy that also fits around the seasonal aspects of tax accounting.

    • Keith Taxguy on July 12, 2019 at 10:17 am

      That was a mouthful, Rounding the Bend. And dead on, I might add. My greatest thrill is helping people solve problems and grow. But too much work means I help no one, including myself. Thank you for pointing out what I should have acknowledged all along. The real issue is saying “no” for me.

    • Carly Scofield on July 17, 2019 at 1:19 pm

      Very well put, Rounding the Bend.

      My best friend has a very interesting perspective on saying “yes” that really changed how I respond to pretty much everything. It might be helpful to your situation, Keith. When you say “yes” to something you’re really saying “no” to everything else. Saying “yes” to too many clients means saying “no” to good health, “no” to family time, “no” to diving into the research and problem solving you so love, “no” to camp accountant and teaching the next generation. The list goes on. It’s much easier to say “no” when it’s the only way to say “yes” to what’s most important.

      Selfishly, I want you to hire remote workers in the hopes that I could become one of them. I don’t yet meet your requirements. I only have 3 years of doing taxes and while I’m studying for the EA exam I have not yet completed it. Due to financial goals and decisions I’ve recently taken up a full time position as an optician. There’s nothing wrong with the job. But I’m increasingly disliking it and wondering what my other options are for bringing in a full-time income outside of tax season. I think it’s because it lacks the fulfillment and challenge I get from doing taxes and consulting with tax clients. Rather than work as an optician, I would much rather grow my client base, and fill it with fun, challenging clients! Working with you seems a fabulous way to do that.

      In an ideal world I would be spending my time on what is important to me. But, I’m at a stage of my life in which increasing my income so that I can pay off debts and invest is crucial for me to do that very thing. A dollar today is worth far more than a dollar to me ten years from now. So, my personal interests are temporarily being set aside so I can earn more. As it’s been pointed out, you have the money you need! Its seems to me that you’re in that ideal world were you can choose to do what is most important to you, pursue fulfillment, and say “NO!” to everything else. You’re health is pretty damn important.

      Thank you for writing your blog. It’s a wonderful resource. You’ve helped build a wonderful community. I’ll thank you even more for taking care of yourself. Here’s a digital toast to your recovery, may you be happy and healthy.

  34. Maggie Freespirit on July 13, 2019 at 9:31 am

    Your health is the most important thing. At the end of this wild, beautiful life you will probably not be wishing you had worked more. What I hear from what you say is that you feel responsible for all your clients. Not true – you are responsible for yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself and are unable to work ever again, your clients would be in the same position as if you said, “NO more, I need to take care of myself”. They will survive, and find other options. There seems to be a feeling of “almost no one can do their taxes as well as I can” in what you have written. Possibly true, but not your responsibility. We have one go around in this life, please let go of the guilt.
    Having said all that, my opinion is the best compromise between feeling responsible for all your clients and taking care of you are the options of reducing your clients to the 125 or so, or having remote employees. I don’t know you, but I see my past in what you write, and my concern regarding remote employees is that you will stress wondering if they are doing well enough, and letting them do their work without overseeing it may bother you. I may have overstepped my bounds by reading a lot into what you say, but that’s my two cents worth.

    • Cindy on July 13, 2019 at 10:01 am

      I second with @Maggie Freespirit. Your health is the most important.

  35. Mr. Hobo Millionaire on July 13, 2019 at 10:19 am

    Since this is a psychological decision of trying to figure out why you can’t wind down/say no, let me throw my non-doctor’s advice into the ring. I’ve dealt with a bit of this over the past 2-3 years, I here’s what I figured out:

    1. When you’ve come from nothing and you’ve “won” in life, you want to keep winning, keep creating new stuff, keep moving forward. It’s hard to wind down, to shut off that desire to keep getting bigger (whatever “bigger” means to you).
    2. If you’ve created a few products, businesses, etc, you have a natural desire to keep creating. When you DO decide to stop, it’s a punch in the gut, because you realize you’ve created your last thing. It doesn’t feel good. As a mildly successful software developer, it’s been hard for me to stop making new things. But I also know it’s super hard to have even one success — I did that, and I should be content and appreciate it. You’ve been/are successful. It’s OK to slow down.
    3. I’m sure you have an endless list of ideas. It’s exhausting. I’ve bought .com domains over the past 20 years based on ideas I had. Many very good ideas, but I’ve come to the realization in my early 50’s, I’ll NEVER do/finish even a 1/10th of these ideas. Just the process of not renewing these domains has been a bit depressing for me, but LOGICALLY, it makes complete sense. I realized even with unlimited money, and unlimited staff, I would never finish all the ideas I was keeping. This is Elon Musk’s issue. He’s got nearly unlimited money and BIG ideas, and he’s exhausting himself trying to do them.

    It’s OK to stop, Keith. Just maintaining what you’ve already created/built is above-average work for most people. Unless you’re trying to be the world’s richest man (which is unattainable), you’ve done and made enough. Slow down. Just keep telling yourself “it’s OK”.

  36. Katy on July 15, 2019 at 10:26 am

    My vote is with whatever Mrs. Accountant votes for.

    You seem to have a burning desire to pass your knowledge on, raising up a new generation of accountants. Focusing your efforts on those aspects is going to have the greatest long term return and is in the long term best interest of your clients.

    One final thing, you have value and identity beyond your status as a master tax wizard. I think you can still be who you are even if you don’t prepare another tax return in your life.

  37. Leann on July 16, 2019 at 11:55 am

    Keith, I have followed your blog since MMM brought you up in his. You are a rare bird who is a true expert in his field, and a highly entertaining writer to boot. This illness is your wake up call, your cue to figure out your career 2.0. How can you impact the most people going forward? How can you best spread your wisdom to your fellow accountants and regular old taxpayers? (I am the latter and learned of a QSEHRA and the Christian Health Sharing plans from you! 1,000,000 thank you’s)
    The answer would seem to be ditching all one on one client contact and tax prep. Too micro. You have clearly evolved to macro! It is my responsibility to find my own accountant. There are good ones everywhere, we just have to dig. But I can bring up your fantastic ideas, see? You are a teacher at heart, it seems to me. Spread your wings far and wide and high above the day to day work that brought you your great knowledge. Time to think larger in scope, which can easily allow you to take the break and get the treatment you need. Godspeed in your journey.

  38. Kevin on July 22, 2019 at 9:56 am

    So sorry to read all this, Keith, but, seeing the state that you were in when I saw you in April I am certainly not surprised. You and I have spoke of balance quite a bit in our past encounters, and so it’s time for the doctor to heed little of his own advice… As a survivor of burnout myself, it is clear that you need to slow down and lighten your load.
    I understand where you are coming from with the blog. It’s new. It’s intellectually exciting. I likewise understand your reluctance to give up your tax practice. It’s your baby, and to abandon it altogether, after all the years of hard work and dedication, would be devastating. Like many others above, I think that the remote employee option seems to afford you the greatest flexibility and should allow you the time and space to determine the long-term solution to this.
    No matter what you decide, I want to thank you personally your tax guidance these past several years. Should you decide to give up that practice, I fully understand and wish you nothing but the best.

  39. Miranda C on July 24, 2019 at 8:53 am

    I love the idea of remote employees! So many people want to work from home or are FI accountants looking for a side hustle. I really think you could get some great qualified employees to contract with to do the extra work. It doesn’t require extra office space and you may have great candidates even from within the FIRE community! (As a former tax professional, I would offer to take on some work but currently have SEC restrictions on outside business activities!! Plus, I prefer the bookkeeping /financial organizational side of things now that I am out of the actual tax return prep part of being a CPA!) Good luck to you! And don’t hire ANY MORE clients until you know you can adequately service your current clients!
    Miranda C, CPA

  40. Ron on July 27, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    Hi Keith,

    I hope you recover well from your current health situation. I have learned a lot from you and the blog and thank you for your literary contributions. I almost reached out to you in the past with hopes you would take on my small business and personal returns, but now I’m glad that I didn’t add to the workload 😉

    From the many posts I’ve read, you clearly have a deep desire to help your clients within your practice and the public in general. One person can only do so much with the time we are granted so helping everyone yourself is out of the question. We have a tendency to let our egos convince us that if we don’t solve all the problems, then the problems will remain. That simply isn’t reality; there is always someone more capable, smarter, younger, hungrier, etc. If your dream is to impact the world with tax advice and education then focus on the blog and building the TWA brand. If you’re concerned about where your existing clients will seek counsel then find the best accountants you can and connect them with your clients. Educate other accountants and share your knowledge and approach with them. You won’t be able to service clients needs forever. If you burnout and are forced into an early retirement your clients will have to find support somewhere anyway.

    As far as the suggestions that have been thrown on the table, I would ask yourself if you really want to keep the practice because you love it or because you are attached to it. I think it was Buddha that said attachment is the root of suffering. Maybe something to meditate on.

    It doesn’t seem the financial outcome should factor into your decision at all. You have more than you’ve expressed you’ll ever spend so I would only focus on the outcome that brings you peace and joy. You have proven that you’ll continue to make money regardless of the path you choose. Finding balance with your health will arrive much quicker if you can make space and time for yourself. You’ve given so much to others and you’ve received a message from your body that deserves a listen. There is nothing more important than our health.

    Again, thank you and it’s with love and respect that I offer any input.

  41. Rahul on July 31, 2019 at 12:47 pm

    I like the partial sale option. I think hiring and managing remote workers will still be time consuming and stressful. I am a solo-practitioner with no desire to expand beyond myself for accounting work to keep my stress and health in check, and still I miss my goal on that often. Perhaps you could sell clients to various tax practitioners instead of just one? I’m not on FB or the group you mentioned, but see how many practitioners would be interested. I would be interested in purchasing a few if the client met my minimums and was a good fit for me. Only downside to this is you are probably not selling your A+ clients, so might not be worth it.

  42. Stephen Jensen on September 3, 2019 at 1:59 pm

    I’m curious if you’ve made a decision? I’m a junior partner in an Omaha Nebraska CPA firm and have been an FI follower for about a year and just today started checking out your blog. I understand what you’re experiencing.

    My goal is to strike out on my own next summer/fall and may be able to handle some additional work this tax season and beyond, especially if you had any NE clients. I’m currently struggling with my vision for my own firm – go solo or have some help. Retention rate (I’ve taken over [purchased] a retiring partners book) will probably dictate this for me.

    I have 12 tax seasons under my belt but no CPA, never tried. Neither audit nor financial accounting interest me enough to justify the cost and time studying just to get 3 initials after my name. I’m a tax guy through and through, walked into the EA exam and passed all three sections without studying, just based on my experience. All the difficult research in the firm is thrown my way, even the CPA partners with 30-40 years experience need my help!

    If you’re interested feel free to reach out – although I’m not sure if you’re still looking or how much or in what fashion I could help.

    P.S. – for those that have suggested you find a few younger accountants to mentor and train for stepping into the partner role and taking over your book; sorry, those people are just not out there. At least not in Omaha. There are WAY more partners looking to retire than there are young accountants looking to become partner. Most in this market are left with no other option than selling their book to a large CPA firm.

    • Mr. Hobo Millionaire on September 3, 2019 at 5:55 pm

      Hi Stephen,

      Not that you asked for my opinion, but I’d highly recommend you get the CPA credentials. I have no doubt that you know as much as you say you do, but I think you will lose a ton of business (and/or not be able to charge higher rates) not being “CPA” credentialed. I consider seeing “CPA” after an accountant’s name a minimum if they want to be taken seriously/professionally. And while I understand anyone can do bad work, even someone with those credentials, there’s no way I would trust my books/accounting to anyone that’s not a CPA.

      • Stephen Jensen on September 3, 2019 at 7:16 pm

        I appreciate the feedback Hobo, and you’re right I have considered the need for this license at the very minimum from a marketing perspective.

        • Patrick Kissane on September 4, 2019 at 12:22 am

          Here in Australia in recent years, it seems to matter little what qualifications or Institutes you belong to. Anybody can call himself an accountant and as long as one is a registered tax agent, the public does not differentiate. Possibly for large company audits, they man like to have a qualified accountant(s) on the job. For smaller clients e.g. personal Tax Returns, it is refund obtained and fees charged that are the sole criteria.

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