Business ID: Lyle Phipps, CPA
NAME: Lyle Phipps
JOB TITLE, COMPANY: Lyle Phipps, certified public accountant, Northampton
WHEN THE BUSINESS STARTED: Jan. 1
WHAT YOU DO: Solve the problem of lost time and increased tax risk caused by “hindsight” bookkeeping and tax planning because there is enormous value in proactive bookkeeping. We want small business owners to know who owes them what and what needs to be paid but without a shifting of gears. We can help them remove the accounting hat to create the head-space they need and focus on the velocity of their core business projects.
EXPERIENCE: I worked for a “Big 4” accounting firm doing tax engagements for individual executives, partnerships and corporations. I left a nice offer on the table in 2010 after seeing the good and the bad of Wall Street financial services. It was a thrill to get that perspective but even more so to bring that perspective to the Pioneer Valley. Over the last few years, I have been preparing tax returns, going paperless and helping people get up to speed with their financials.
THE MARKET: Our focus is primarily on LLC’s and S-Corp service businesses who are spending too much billable time tracking invoices and bills. We also serve families with tax issues like rental properties, international income and other investment income to save them so much trouble when preparing tax returns.
HOW YOU REACH OUT TO IT: Marketing has not been on the top of our list because we get more than 90 percent of our business from referrals. We realize that we need to grow so that we can continue to serve small clients well. I have been talking to Ruth Griggs at The Creative in Northampton. I am thankful for her keen eye for my shortcomings and for her graceful deliverable.
WHAT FINANCING HURDLES HAVE YOU FACED AND HOW HAVE YOU HANDLED THEM? I have not asked for any debt or equity financing for this business, and I generally do not advocate such debt leveraging. However, the cost of cash is so cheap right now that it can be a good deal so you should not be afraid to have the conversation with your local banker. Twenty-one years ago, I got a nosebleed baseball ticket for $7; the same ticket is now $25, which is a 257 percent increase or 12.25 percent per year. Sure, it is paying for the new stadium, but the point is that each dollar is worth more now than it will be in another 10 years so your debt could become smaller if your earnings keep up with inflation.
KEY TO SUCCESS: A quality control system to manage “control issues” for the business manager. I am a DIY’er at heart and so I have a hard time letting other people handle the detail work. A quality assurance review allows me to bring better value to my clients and maintain the quality.
CHALLENGES: Doing my priority tasks first instead of doing all of the fun stuff (like this interview).
MISSTEP YOU LEARNED FROM: Listening to my DIY urges; I built my own website. It took me a month to do. I spun my wheels on a lot of issues that could have been answered by a pro. I learned that it was best to let go of the pride/control and spend the time communicating about what my needs really are with a professional rather than having them keep patching what I pulled together on my own.
WHAT OTHERS COULD LEARN FROM YOU: A crash course on Cloud-based applications that are available and that are becoming available to small businesses. They have really changed what is possible for accountants to do for their clients, so I am happy to be able to leverage those to create value for my clients.
WHO HELPED MENTOR YOU PROFESSIONALLY: Click Workspace in Northampton is a cooperative workplace and home to successful entrepreneurs; Ali Usman, Paul Silva and John Galvin have been very helpful to help me evaluate where I stand and what it looks like to succeed.
TOP GOALS FOR 2013: Build client base by 20 percent. Create a full-time job. Finish several bike-building projects.
ADVICE FOR OTHERS SEEKING BUSINESS SUCCESS: If you find yourself spinning your wheels on something, just stop for a moment and think about how much value your time creates in other areas of your business. Save yourself a tough lesson and make the call or send the email to someone who has been there before and probably won’t even charge you to talk about it.
PARTING THOUGHT: Maintain dialogues with people and keep risking boldly. There are people in our community who genuinely want to see you succeed. Periodic, lunchtime sessions with other small business owners will give you insight to maintain perspective and clarity when you are stuck staring at the trees instead of the forest. When your vision and conscience are clear, you will see and feel your path.
B2B ID is compiled by Janice Beetle, owner of Beetle Press in Easthampton. Beetle Press offers writing, editing and graphic design services. www.beetlepress.com. To suggest a subject for B2B ID, email Beetle at firstname.lastname@example.org.