Sabrina founded her firm in 2021 after years of experience in accounting, tax preparation for clients with multi-state taxes, individual and corporate taxes, tax planning, and more in-depth services such as payroll, bookkeeping, account reconciliation, budget analysis, and financial planning. Her business with two more employees is located in Columbia, Maryland and what guides them is the understanding that each company has unique needs. That’s why custom accounting, document management, and storage solutions are created to fit peoples’ businesses.
How did you start your business?
My accounting and tax specialty began when I was a senior accountant for residential and commercial real estate companies. For years, I consistently provided financial guidance to small business owners of various sectors. One of my biggest takeaways is that small tax and accounting firms—as well as small businesses in general—need to leverage technology. And that is what I do.
״But instead of losing motivation, I decided to look at the chaos around me as an opportunity.״
After working for more than a decade as a tax and accounting specialist, I joined the millions of people who lost their jobs at the height of the pandemic. But instead of losing motivation, I decided to look at the chaos around me as an opportunity.
I quickly realized that more must be done to support small businesses and their accounting needs. That’s when I took a leap of faith and founded my own accounting firm, not only helping entrepreneurs navigate pandemic-related headwinds but also becoming a small-business owner myself.
Who are your customers? What are the main channels that attract customers to your business?
Small business owners and mid-size corporations are my typical clients. The main channels that attract clients are word of mouth, Google, LinkedIn, and networking events. In the beginning, I was surprised to be getting so many new clients from LinkedIn. But it really is a great platform to display my credentials and accounting and tax experience.
How do sales occur in your business? How do you close deals? Can you describe the trends you have seen with respect to business sales?
New tax customers are charged a non-refundable engagement fee. This covers our time for starting the tax return. Depending upon the client, we are able to give them a more accurate quote after reviewing all of their tax documents. We are sure to share our tax knowledge and how we are able to save clients money in the short and long term. Most clients understand the cost of our tax preparation in only a small investment compared to how much they save in taxes.
What is a problem you’ve faced as a business and a solution you discovered and recommend?
There were several time-consuming tasks that I needed a better solution to. When receiving payments from third-party merchants, I used to spend way too much time trying to apply payments to the correct invoice. Because of deducted service fees, I often did not receive the full amount on bank transactions.
Also, it was difficult to apply the payment to the correct invoice without knowing the exact total of the service fees to subtract from the invoice. I then had to take additional steps, such as logging into the merchant portal and printing the reports before I could apply the payment to the invoice.
There are dozens of platforms and apps specifically designed to help tax and accounting professionals do their jobs more efficiently, and many of them are free or come at a low cost. Especially for small firms like mine, where resources are spread thin, it is critical to take advantage of these tools.
How do you bring customers to your business and increase your sales?
I attend networking events in industries in which I have a niche. For example, I specialize in real estate accounting. I attend real estate networking events and usually, I’m the only accountant in the room. Customers are looking for someone who understands their industry.
I also ask customers to leave me a Google review. This helps other customers feel comfortable utilizing my services based on another person’s experience.
What’s a tool that helps you run your business successfully?
Technology is not a panacea, but it can certainly help firms navigate times of economic instability. More than ever, small tax and accounting firms—as well as small businesses in general—need to leverage technology. Using a client portal, for example, will help streamline the onboarding process and make it easy for new clients to sign up.
״Technology is not a panacea, but it can certainly help firms navigate times of economic instability. More than ever, small tax and accounting firms—as well as small businesses in general—need to leverage technology.״
Of course, it’s equally important to continuously educate yourself and your staff on preventing and responding to data breaches and other cybersecurity threats. It’s a necessity to invest in reliable security software and learn how to keep your clients’ information safe.
Do you have tips for those struggling with the first step and constantly changing?
The pandemic reminded us that with every challenge comes the opportunity to grow into something even greater. Like so many others, I was forced to adapt and reinvent myself. I learned numerous lessons, but one of the most important was the necessity of embracing the digital revolution and searching for new tools to save time and money. For a small business like mine, technology increasingly takes a central role—and that’s a positive thing because every dollar truly counts.
What advice would you give to your past self before opening your business?
I would tell my past self to focus on growing the business and hiring more people. This allows for time to oversee the firm and not be caught up doing the day-to-day work.
Sabrina James is AccounTAXstic owner, located in Columbia, Maryland.