Tag Archives: our first tax season

Our 10th Year Anniversary!

 

Thanks for the past 10 years!

Thanks for the past 10 years!

So this tax season was a little more challenging than anticipated; thus the reason this post is coming out in October.  Needless to say, back on September 14, 2005 Wilson Rogers & Company came into existence.  That means that 2015 marks 10 years of us being in business!  A lot has happened in that time frame.  So with this post, we thought we would not only recap our history, but just how we were able to make it that long.

2005
So after years of Jared getting “hey, your’re an accountant, I have a tax question for you.” he and Aaronita Wilson decided to start a tax company.  “What are we going to call it?” was the question for a while.  “How about we call it Rogers Wilson” Aaronita would say.  “Nah, how about Wilson Rogers?” Jared replied.  “Kind of sounds like a person.  Some estately dude on a horse playing polo.  It also sounds like another tax company we know…”  And with that, Wilson Rogers & Company took form.

2006
This was the first year that we actually started doing returns for pay.  Some of the key highlights:

  • Mr. Asberry becomes “client number one” by sending us his information.
  • Mr. Simpson becomes the first transmitted return as he was quicker to process than Mr. Asberry!
  • Jared and Aaronita get married on September 22, 2006, thus effectively removing a person named “Wilson” from the company.  Don’t worry, people still ask to speak to Wilson Rogers when they come to the office!

2007-2010
These were the “slow years” for the most part as there really wasn’t much that changed.  Client levels stayed pretty consistent and revenues were largely flat.  This was primarily due to the fact that both Aaronita and Jared maintained full time jobs within Corporate America.  This would start to change in the following year.

2011
Sometime towards the end of 2011, the decision was made that Jared would leave Corporate America to head up our first “retail” office.  Up until this point, all the tax returns were done “in house” by making appointments to pick up documents, preparing the returns at night and then providing the completed return to the client at a later date.  2011 was filled with decisions about health insurance, resignation dates and how to outfit the new office.  Somehow, someway, it all managed to come together.

2012
Tax Season? Ready, Set, Go!

Tax Season? Ready, Set, Go!

So this was the first tax season with the new office.  If you want to read the recap on how it went, you can check that out here.  Some of the things that you won’t see in this post:

  • Mr. Campbell had the honor of becoming “retail client number one” on a cold day in January.  He had all his paperwork…we didn’t have the nice frilly folders to give him his tax return in. Oh man…the early days!
  • At the same time we were opening the office, Jared was moonlighting with the fine folks of Intuit with their Turbotax Ask A Tax Expert (ATE) team.  It was also the year that he broke the wrist on his dominant hand and had to finish out tax season using his left hand.  Talk about bad handwriting!
  • We also took many steps into the marketing world to help get the word out.  One of these included developing relationships with sites like Teaspiller (which was later acquired by Intuit)

2013
So we survived another retail office tax season.  That recap can be found here.  The one standout item for this year was that Teaspiller was purchased by Intuit and folded into the TurboTax brand.  What that did was drive additional tax preparation business to us that was above and beyond what we had projected.  It also continued Jared’s relationship with Intuit, which further broadened in late April when he became certified as a Quickbooks Proadvisor.

2014
This was the year that we hired “employee number one” so that Jared could have a little help.  You can read all about Stephanie in a little interview that we did here.  If you want to read about the season, that is located in this post.  That post will also talk about how we began using bus benches to advertise to local traffic in our area!

2015
This was our fourth tax season with the office, and man did things really pick up.  They picked up so much that we hired Patricia as “employee number two” to keep up with things.  This was also the year that we launched www.fileoldtaxreturns.com to offer those needing to file older tax returns an option to do so.

How Did We Survive 10 Years?
Everyone knows the statistic that most businesses fail to make it to the 5 year mark.  While we have been lucky enough to avoid the top 5 reasons businesses fail, we must admit that it takes a little more than that to last for 10 years.  So what are the keys to the castle?  In summary we think:

  • Provide good service.  If you don’t do that, you’ll be lucky if you last beyond a year.
  • Value your customers. We have wonderful customers and we try to let them know that as frequently as possible.  Without them, there would be no Wilson Rogers & Company.
  • Stand out from your competitors.  We’ve all heard that insanity is defined as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.  If you look, sound and act just like your competitors, expect to get their results – average!  So be bold. Do things differently. Give the public what they want, not what YOU think they want.
  • Make adjustments when necessary.  Getting to 10 years has not been a straight line drive.  We’ve had to adjust and pivot along the way.  Have we made mistakes? You bet! Have we learned from them? Continuously.  The key is to make adjustments when needed, forget the past and try to do better in the future.  If you can do that (combined with the above points), then maybe one day we’ll be reading about how you survived your first ten years.

Here’s to a bright future!

Our 2nd Tax Season

So last year was our first season with the new office.  Based upon what we learned, we planned to make 2013 even better and we’d have to admit that it was.  While we can’t share specifics around all our numbers, here are some of the things we can volunteer:

  • We engaged roughly 112 clients and processed 130+ individual and business returns (not including state returns)
  • Experienced revenue  growth in excess of 150%
  • Processed returns in 10 new states
  • Completed our CTEC certification so that we can now prepare California tax returns (we processed 2 for this season)
  • Placed more returns on extension that in years past; largely due to not being able to service demand in the last 3 days of the season (from clients like the one pictured below)

No, we can’t finish your return before the 15th!

What went well

Delivering excellent customer service.  One of the ways in which we try to different ourselves from our competitors is by focusing on our relationships with our clients.  We have always sought to treat our customers like they were members of our family and make it a point to deliver excellent customer service.  We think that this must be working pretty well as we received 30% of our client growth from existing client referrals.

Leveraging free advertising.  Our company uses social media, posts ads in places like Craigslist, has profiles on platforms such as Yelp, Bing, Google etc.  What’s common about all of the above is that is cost us nothing more than a few minutes of time to set up and maintain.  Yet each one of these platforms more than pays for itself in that it brings us at least one new client per season.  With that being said, we think we’ll continue to make sure our presence is felt out there in the internet ethos.

Deepening our partnerships.  In 2012 we had a few independent sales reps who helped promote our brand.  In 2013 we increased that number to around 6.  Each one of these individuals helped us significantly expand our presence and was responsible for a fair amount of growth.  Likewise, we forged another partnership in early 2013 with a 3rd party that drove significant business to us this year.  We look forward to continuing all these relationships next year.

What we’ll adjust 

Marketing that isn’t working.  Each year we test out some things to see if we can get an edge on our competitors.  Some of it works and some of it doesn’t produce much of anything.  The key is to be able to track what a marketing piece is doing so you can know what should be retained and what needs to be scrapped.  With that being said, we’ll probably shift some of our dollars out of print, organizational and media advertising.   We have some ideas of what we want to test next; such as Jared Rogers’ mug on a bus bench or big billboard on the side of the highway so stay tuned!

Aspects of our client relations program.  Existing clients are how we generate a lot of our new business.  Thus, it’s pretty important that we engage them on a regular basis.  But when certain things don’t yield the engagement or interaction you would like, then maybe it’s time to shake things up.  On this front we’ll probably modify our newsletter program and reduce the frequency of it.  In its place we plan to increase some of the other ways we “touch” our clients such as birthday cards, holiday correspondence, biannual client calls and increased classes/workshops.

Our commitment to working smarter.  One of the epiphanies we had this season was how much more lucrative it was to work with our corporate clients on a revenue per hour basis.  Jared has a pretty good background working with Partnerships and S-Corps, which in turn sometimes have problems because they weren’t set up correctly.  To that end, the firm may make a switch to more actively seeking these clients as opposed to individuals.  While this doesn’t mean we’ll abandon taking on individual tax clients, it does mean that we will place some marketing efforts towards attracting more corporate clients.  Hey, if you can make 3 times as much revenue in the same amount of time, doesn’t it make sense to work a little smarter?

2014 will mark our 3rd season with the retail office and we are truly hoping that it is more successful than our wildest dreams.  To that end, keep your eyes peeled as we’ll be making many of those adjustments noted above in the coming months.  How knows, maybe next year we can exceed the growth we achieved in 2013.  If that happens, we think we’ll need to start hiring some more folks before Jared collapses from exhaustion!

Until next time…

Our 1st Tax Season

Okay, so the title is a little misleading given that we’ve been around since 2005.  But this post is supposed to be a look back on our first “retail office” tax season.  As posted earlier, we had a pretty eventful time getting the office set up once we decided we were going to launch it this season.  We outlined some goals for ourselves, plotted the course of action and set off on our journey.  So what happened?

While the season still technically has a few days left (returns aren’t due until April 17th) we think we have a pretty good read on the past three months.  While we didn’t hit our target numbers on a few fronts, we didn’t do too shabby given that we were essentially starting this location with zero brand recognition and it was its first year of existence.  In the end we engaged roughly 55 clients, processed 65+  individual and business returns (not including accompanying state returns), secured two recurring accounting clients and performed a host of accompanying services.

What Went Well

Delivering exemplary customer service.  Without having a major brand name on your office, you’ve got to figure out a way to differentiate yourself from all the other tax shops.  While CPAs prepare and review the returns that come through our doors, for most customers this isn’t that much of a selling point.  But what we did find out is that if we upped the service level by doing a few simple tasks (e.g. explain the return to the customer line-by-line, display a genuine interest in their situation, promptly answer any post filing questions), the customer felt that they got more from us than their past preparer.  Result?  A happy customer that tells us they’ll be coming back!

Leveraging our networks.  We all know someone.  “You need your car fixed?  We’ve got a guy for that!” The most successful marketing for a financial services firm is word-of-mouth; preferably from satisfied customers.  When you’re looking for services from professionals such as accountants, doctors, etc. you tend to ask the people you know who they’d recommend.  Thus, we continually engaged our network to let them know this was our first season with the new office.  We also asked them to mention us to their friends if they liked us, thought we were competent, liked our work, etc.  Remember, it’s not always what you know but who you know.

Sourcing alternate work from Craigslist.  Craigslist has a reputation of being a mythical land where everyone is a scammer looking to take your money.  While there is some truth to this, in reality there are plenty of people who are just looking for a deal and someone who can provide it for them.  We didn’t get any tax work from Craigslist ads, but we did get some quick bookkeeping, business plan and other types of one time work.  We’re not talking thousands of dollars here, but the income did help keep the cash flowing into the bank account between tax clients.

Being persistent.  This is pretty simple.  You’re new, you need revenue and you’d better not give up.  Sales don’t just fall from the sky, they take time and cultivation.  This is particularly true if you are a new business and customers don’t know who you are.  Someone might want to come into our office because they are dissatisfied with their current provider.  However, they might have some concerns as this is the first year they’ve seen our office.  For us this may mean a few phone calls, a face to face and ultimately a follow up visit where the client finally engages us.  Point is it often takes multiple contacts to seal any deal.  Be persistent and professionally pursue all potential clients until you either 1) win their business or 2) they decide you’re not a good fit for their needs.  Reaching either of these two outcomes is the ONLY acceptable option.

 What We’ll Change

Marketing efforts.  For the 5000 door hangers we distributed in the neighborhood, only one client was generated.  In general, we started our marketing late in the season (i.e. January), probably didn’t do enough “multiple contacts” with community marketing and didn’t spend enough to generate a meaningful ROI.  With that said, we’ll start our community efforts around September in 2012, but will also do more “year-round” marketing (e.g. newsletters, client recognition, etc) as well as increase our marketing spend.

Independent sales force.  One thing we employ in our company are independent sales reps.  These fine people generate leads and get a commission for doing so.  While we had good results with this program, we fell a little short of expectations.  The main reason for this was we didn’t recruit a big enough sales force nor did we do it early enough.  Come mid 2012, we’ll change this which should help us hit our marks next year.

Hours of operation.  If the theme of the previous two points was we didn’t start early enough, then this one would be we didn’t stay late enough.  Due to the transition from Corporate America to Main Street America, the office hours designed maybe weren’t as good as they could have been.  While the office was open until 6:30PM during the week and 5PM on both weekend days, it could have been later.  This would have allowed us to potentially capture more of the “after work” crowd who just couldn’t get to us before we closed shop.  We’ll probably move to later hours in 2013.

So what does 2013 hold?  Well, we’ve already executed our lease renewal option for the remainder of 2012.  This means the office WILL be back in 2013!  Hopefully some of those potential clients who wanted to visit us but thought that we were “fly-by-night” will see we’re here for the long haul and stop in next season.  Through making the changes outlined above, we’ll attempt to double in size and continue what we hope will be a pretty sustainable growth trend.  Lastly, we plan to make our client engagement even more frequent, more personal and more value additive.  Will 2013 be more successful that our 1st season?  Only time will tell but we’re thinking so.

Until next time.