It was late May of 2015 when a wayward accountant from the backwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin traveled to Cascadia. Tucked away in the Washington State foothills stood the Rainbow Lodge where a nondescript gathering of devoted followers of the emerging Mustachian movement were preparing for Camp Mustache II. This was our hero’s destination.
The goal of our accountant was to meet the Great One, Mr. Money Mustache himself, Pete Adeney, and present him with a business offer.
The wayward accountant had a game plan. Since Pete had no idea who this crazy guy was he needed to build rapport before springing his devious plan on the unsuspecting celebrity. He had four days to build this rapport, present his offer and seal the deal. The pressure was on!
Since our hero was already attending the event he figured he could volunteer to give a short tax presentation. And wouldn’t you know it, the Big Guy attended the session and sat right in front of him, no more than five feet away!
Oh, well, figured our country boy. He went ahead with his tax strategy presentation. No more than ten minutes into the presentation and Pete interrupted, saying, “You’re my new tax guy.”
Cool as a cucumber, our backwoods accountant never missed a beat as he finished his session. When the session ended Pete introduced himself to the accountant and said, “When I say something I mean it. You are my accountant.”
You would think the pressure would be off at this point. Mr. Backwoods Accountant had his foot in the door three days early. Not only did he have his coveted rapport, he had a new client; Mr. Money Mustache himself! (Can I squeal like a girl in delight now?)
But there was one problem. Mr. Accountant wasn’t looking for new clients. He had a business proposition to make and he had to figure out how to present it.
Honesty is the only way. Later the same day our hero pulled Pete off to the side and spilled the beans on why he was there.
He admitted to Pete he wanted to offer his DIY online tax software service, using MMM as the platform. Pete didn’t care for the idea. (Disappointment.) But he would be happy to mention the project on the MMM blog without strings attached. (Glee!)
But there was still one overwhelming problem.
The story to this point is public information. I’ve shared this story in the past and many are aware of it.
What is not publicly known is why I wanted to make the business offer to Pete in the first place.
The reason for the DIY tax software project was because I was ready to take a step back and start living the MMM lifestyle. Now that I ended up with a very visible new tax client that dream fell to dust.
The DIY tax program is alive and well, thanks to the extra push Pete gave it in February 2016. However, the idea of slowing down and focusing on teaching the next generation of tax professionals had to be put on hold.
The phone and email server started to smoke the traffic was so heavy. Mr. Money Mustache gets close to 10 million page views per month and his readers are devoted. They all wanted the same taxguy Pete had. This wasn’t going to work.
At its peak I was receiving over 300 emails a day that tax season just from the MMM blog alone. Just saying “No” to each request was a strain on resources. And these weren’t the simple returns either. These fine people took serious advantage of the tax code.
Instead of slowing down I was winding up at a rapid clip and it was wearing my team and me out. It took a few years to adjust to the New World Order. I had to learn to say “No” at a level I never imagined before.
Employees were crushed by the onslaught. I still don’t understand how I survived the transition. Stress was higher than at any other time in my career.
Let’s be clear. None of this was Pete’s fault. He had no idea what was about to hit me. Every action Pete took was to help someone he admired and liked. Pete and I became friends. And he empathized with my situation. He offered to break the links on his blog, but I begged him to keep them up. My ego was the only thing enjoying the ride.
My descent into hell was complete. I was adding new clients, but couldn’t keep up with the pace. The first tax season (spring of 2016) was non-stop triage. It wasn’t good at all.
The quality of my work suffered and I was exhausted. And my attitude started to show it.
This was NOT what I had planned. I couldn’t even dream something like this would happen. We’re country folk and live a fairly secluded life. More people contacted my office that year than there are people in the county I live in! Think about that for a moment.
The next tax season (2017) was better, but not my much. I wanted to help all these people and I still fantasized I could. I was saying “No” more, but still held myself open to more clients. It was a round robin at this point. When I said “Yes” to one new client I would lose another. And all the while Pete watched patiently.
Pete knew I was struggling no matter how brave a face I put on. He offered helpful guidance and even mentioned on several occasion I was working too hard. But I kept thinking, “This is Pete! He thinks everyone works too hard. I’m a Wisconsin boy. I can take it.”
But I couldn’t and I knew it.
I might be slow, but I ain’t dumb. (No comments from the back row.) Last tax season (the third since that fateful day at the Rainbow Lodge) I was starting to adjust to my new situation. I slowed the pace of client growth (I actually orchestrated a small decline) to a manageable pace.
Back on Track
The saving grace of this whole ordeal was automation. I was forced to think in ways I never had to before.
My team did not fare so well. Every employee I had at the start is now gone. The last one left late last year, burnt out from the experience. My senior employee is now three years with me. It is hard sometimes to see how I could rebuild, but rebuild I did with my original goal back on track.
I’m one ornery backwoods Wisconsin coot that refuses to give up! I had a plan and it got detoured. Nothing more.
After three plus decades in the tax industry my value wasn’t best utilized serving one client at a time. Yes, this blog does help spread the word and teach others. This blog isn’t enough, however.
With headcount lower and the door closed to virtually all new clients, I was able to focus on the original goals.
To accomplish these goals I needed to focus on what I was good at: tax. I outsourced all payroll. Except Pete. Pete was my friend. I couldn’t do that to him.
Bookkeeping—a low margin service—was curtailed to just those clients needing the service as it related to their tax situation. Automation and outsourcing did the rest.
Last tax season was at least reasonable. Even my senior employee, Dawn, with me three years, noted the difference. Things were looking up.
Then I made a serious decision. It was time to explain to my friend, Pete, that he needed to have his payroll handled elsewhere and I facilitated the transfer to the service I use in my office. Pete contemplated doing it himself, but decided to take my direction.
Then I got the email.
Pete saw the handwriting on the wall even if I wasn’t totally honest with him. He knew I was under tremendous pressure and was putting on a brave face for the world. I was the only one fooled into thinking nobody knew what was happening behind closed doors.
Pete is one of the smartest. most common sense, guys you’ll meet. His email was titled: Continued Collaboration Plans. Yeah, I can see a pink slip when I see one.
I wasn’t really fired (or is that FIREd) and it wasn’t a surprise. Discussions in our conference room at the office centered several times around the Pete issue: Should we continue doing his taxes? The discussion revolved around how narrow the office demographic had become. We wanted to return to a more traditional tax office. My teams—what was left of them—knew I still wanted to work out of the traditional tax environment and start preparing the next generation of tax professionals.
Pete had no idea. In truth, we never would have turned Pete away: he is too much a friend; I admire him and his work too much. Still, it wasn’t the right thing and apparently Pete knew it too.
Pete made very clear in his email how happy he and Simi were with my work. I responded I wasn’t as thrilled with my performance as he was. I knew where I dropped the ball. Stress and taking on too much are not valid excuses.
Then Pete said he wanted my blessing for a new tax accountant he found, saying,
But at the same time, I’d love to continue collaborating with you on whatever you see fit, whether it is talking about life, blogs, tax strategies, sending folks your way, or whatever.
Pete is all class, as if you guys didn’t know that already.
Pete finished his email with,
So my own taxes are just a footnote – I feel with your firm being so busy already, I’d rather not be a burden myself, and I also don’t feel comfortable sending too many additional customers at you, because you are all so busy already! As stated earlier, I want to be able to bring in more new firms to the fold so we can help more people.
Like I said, all class.
(Don’t bail on me yet, kind readers. The best part is still coming!)
I shouldn’t feel such relief that the ordeal is over, but I do. Serving a very visible client is distracting at best. But the change will serve Pete, his readers, and even you, kind readers, better than ever!
I did something horrible, however. When Pete sent the email I could tell it was hard for him to write it. I waited almost a week to respond, though I saw it the moment it hit my mailbox. My response, you see, was equally difficult to write.
Pete gave some sage advice in his original email:
. . . your teachings through both the Wealthy Accountant blog and the in-person seminars have helped tens of thousands of people – or more. So I want to continue all of this!
How could I let my friend down. He wanted me to realize my goal from five years back when we first met. You have no idea how humbled I am by his encouragement.
I finally was able to write back what I wanted to say. Now Pete was overjoyed.
I wrote in my email:
Pete, I can only imagine the apprehension you had writing this to me. Understand I think your proposal is a good one so no worries.
Rather than just assigning 2018 to his firm, let’s do this as a full transition to the new accountant. If he has difficulties I am available to consult; if he doesn’t live up to your standards I can always step in again.
I made it clear to Pete I was still on his team. His new accountant is close to his home and I am certain will do an awesome job. Because of the new tax law changes I will reach out to the new accountant (name undisclosed at this time for reasons obvious in above writings) to make sure he understands how this will affect Pete. That 199A thing is really important. I can provide guidance (my true value) and he can perform the application.
So you understand how overjoyed Pete was I didn’t take it personally, he started his response:
WOW, thanks so much for that helpful response! You are right that I was nervous that you’d take my request the wrong way. But as I said, it just seems like a win/win for everyone, so why not!?
There is one more morsel to share later. You want to stick around.
Now for Something You’ll Really Love
While all this was happening, a certain accountant from the boondocks of Wisconsin was still planning and working hard toward his goals of serving his people better than ever before.
Outsourcing and downsizing certainly made a difference in the office environment. With new processes in place working and Pete doing what I should have presented long ago, I have been able to focus on things you, kind readers, have been asking for. And so far this has been the best tax season in well over a decade.
Camp Accountant is now almost certain to happen. Before it was just too much to fit into an already crowded schedule. The new world order turns this into a real possibility.
Camp Accountant is tentatively planned for late summer this year in beautiful West Bend, Wisconsin. Attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents will earn continuing professional education (CPE) credits for attending. No other camp has ever done that!
And I have another secret no one reading this will know.
This blog has been growing thanks to training courses I’ve taken. The best course by far is Moolah Marketing. Highly recommended.
The Moolah course, by the way, is remarkable in more than just driving traffic. Rachel Miller, the wonderful woman running the course, hammers first on identifying who your fans are. This is important as I’ll now illustrate.
When I started the Moolah course Rachel kept asking who my fans were and I kept saying the FIRE community. She kept telling me I was wrong. I finally figured out the FIRE community is only a small part of my demographic, but tax professionals scream for more of my work. The tax pros are my people!
What Rachel instilled in me is a new path for this blog, my work and fulfilling my original goal back in May 2015. Several courses in this vein will be produced by this blog or are in the works!
Rachel invited me on a Facebook Live and asked her people if they would like a course from me on 30 Tax Tips for Solopreneures. She said if 50 people were willing to pre-order I was obligated to create the course. It took less than 5 minutes!
So I need to be committed, ah, I’m committed to creating the course. Now I need to set up the order form (a future post will list details and how to order) and create the course. Due date is May. (This year!)
Here are a few more courses in development:
- 20 Tips to Avoid Taxes When Investing in Real Estate
- Build a Million Dollar Tax Practice
- Investing For Dummies (May need to change the name due to copyright.)
- Bookkeeping for Profit
We are floating more ideas.
This means I will be teaching more than ever. In the past I was locked into serving one client at a time. Now I will serve thousands at a time! If you have a topic you want my team to consider be sure to let me know.
Finally, you may have noticed a new feature here. I started a Find a Local Tax Pro page! (This might be what triggered Pete to email me. A few weeks after I launched I heard from Pete.)
If you need a tax professional, this is the place to look. If you are a tax pro willing to add more clients to your book and follow The Wealthy Accountant tax principles, allow me to add your name to the list. If your tax pro is awesome, be sure to point her to this resource. It is free and you can change or delete your listing anytime your situation changes with no fee. This is for the people of this community.
Did Pete Finally Get Something Wrong?
I’ve known Pete for about 5 years now. The one thing you quickly notice is his clarity of thinking. Anytime I’ve asked for his advice or he just gave it because he saw I was in desperate need, he has always hit the nail on the head.
Pete gave me this final warning:
I’m not sure if I’d post the MMM new accountant thing just yet (and of course you never have to, I can always explain if ever needed that we still work together and collaborate) – but I’ll leave it up to you. In general, I find it’s good not to stoke the gossip engine, because people always get stuff wrong!
I feel this post is about more than Pete using a new tax professional. I covered a lot of material today that will serve your needs, kind reader, for a long time to come.
I can’t be a mini-Pete forever; I need to strike out on my own in a direction I feel best serves my people, you.
Pete is right. People tend to get it wrong. Many will read the title and no further, building their entire opinion on those few incomplete words meant to drive traffic more than anything else. (Gotta get ya to read it before I can help you.)
Just this one time can we prove Pete wrong. He is a good man. He’ll be happy to be proven wrong on this. This is a major step forward for this community and desperately needed. We need more qualified tax professionals and this is a serious first step.
Now if you’ll forgive me, I need to find my handkerchief. I was just FIREd.
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