Four years later, it’s the end of an era

Today marks a special anniversary for me: It was four years worth of Mondays ago today that I made a life-altering decision. I walked out on my day job to enter the world of private practice and become a nomad.

Six weeks later, I was traversing a still-slick Vail Pass on a heavily overloaded motorcycle, threading the needle between two major snow storms. I remember stopping for gas along I-70, and people looking at me like I was nuts. I was also freezing my butt off.

But it was all worth it. I managed to rapidly build myself a successful, “stereotypical” tax resolution practice, and then just as quickly scaled it down to “boutique” size. While doing that, I’ve literally circled the globe, spent a decent amount of time in 13 foreign countries, met wonderful people, and experienced amazing cultures.

I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything in the world.

I’m a firm believer in living the life that you want to live right now. The whole fantasy of working your tail off for 40 years so that you can retire at 40% of your previous earnings and then going off to travel the world is exactly that: Very few people accomplish it.

Either they don’t have enough money, or they’re in poor health, or they’re simply dead. Yes, that’s right: It’s amazing how many stories are out there of people that wanted to travel the world “when they were able to”, but then kicked the bucket before everything was “perfect” for them to do it.

Not this guy.

Maybe I’m an odd duck. OK, I’m definitely an odd duck. But I’m OK with that. My life has had it’s ups and downs, just like anybody else, but I’ve made the best of it, I think, and it’s worked out well. But the single best decision I’ve ever made was to live life on my own terms, rather than what’s expected of me.

Fortunately, I’m not alone in this. There is an entire world of lifestyle design and location independence enthusiasts out there. The other nomadic types that I have met in my travels, and the “famous” ones I’ve chatted with online, all say that eventually they get burned out on being a nomad.

I’ve always been incredibly conflicted between the nomadic life, and having a home. It drives me nuts at times, because after a few months on the go, I’m ready … Continue reading

What’s *actually* important in your tax practice?

“Lately it occurs to me: What a long, strange trip it’s been.” –Robert Hunter, “Truckin'”

Going to Burning Man is like spending a week in an alternate universe. It’s an event that is almost indescribable to somebody that hasn’t been there, and it’s even more difficult to define exactly what it’s all about.

Having been to Burning Man before, I experienced this year’s festival through a slightly different lens. In fact, this year’s week in the desert turned into more of a business planning retreat than anything else.

Some readers from the accounting world may be familiar with the concept of an annual retreat. Traditional, this consists of several days each year wherein the partners of a CPA firm disappear into the wilderness together in order to evaluate the hits and misses of the previous year. This is usually conducted shortly after tax season.

Due to the cost of such retreats and the questioning of results obtained from them, this practice has seen dwindling popularity in recent years. I think this trend is a mistake — particularly when the annual retreat is properly applied.

DUring my week in the desert, I had zero access to the Internet. There was no temporary cell tower erected off-site this year, so nobody had cell service. It was 8 glorious days of absolute communication blackout.

When we disconnect ourselves from the constant ringing, beeping, and blinking of our modern digital universe, we can obtain a clarity of thinking that is simply impossible to achieve otherwise.

From this year’s Burning Man event, I don’t have any super-crazy tales to share. I even kept all my clothes on for the entire week (which my camping companions were very grateful for!). In fact, by the standards set by almost any other burner, this was a boring Burn. I didn’t imbibe to excess, and spent a significant amount of time actually in the RV. Defeats the purpose of going, some would say.

I’d say quite the opposite. By taking the opportunity to unplug and disconnect from the default world, I was able to make monumental leaps in my business life. I had the time to work ON my businesses, rather than just IN my businesses.

I was able to take the time to formulate my zero-to-hero marketing strategy for the new tax office in Washington. I was able to determine what I really want out of that tax office, and how it works … Continue reading

Setting Revenue Goals For Your Tax Practice

The most common answer to the question of “How much money do you want to make?” is “As much as possible.”

Anybody that is in private practice for themselves, either as a solo practitioner or with a small group of partners, has to take a serious look at this question, however.

Obviously, different revenue levels require vastly different levels of work, commitment, infrastructure, marketing, etc. The decision to make X dollars is not as simple of a decision as what you might think.

I believe in two approaches to this decision process. The first is to decide how much TIME you want to put into your practice, and make revenue and expenditure decisions from there. The other approach is to determine how much take-home income you want, and work backwards from there.

I personally make the decision more from a time standpoint. My lifestyle design objectives are somewhat unique, as I am willing to sacrifice significant financial gain in order to have extensive freedom to travel around the world. You may be more interested in earning a certain income to support a specific lifestyle.

If you want to make $500,000 per year in take home pay, then you are going to need a certain size organization, as it is unlikely you can achieve that income goal completely on your own. That size of organization is going to require infrastructure, employees, office space, etc. All these factors need to be taken into account.

If you want to work as a solo practitioner, and only work 40 hours per week, then this is going to create an income limit for you. You can increase this limit by focusing on niche clients, charging premium fees, performing high end services, and doing specific styles of marketing.

Keeping in mind the various challenges and limitations that come with having certain income goals is important. Keeping an open mind, and having realistic expectations about how much money you can make, and what it will require, is critical to your success as a firm.… Continue reading