How Mike Jesowshek Built a Successful Cloud-Based Accounting Firm

Episode Transcription

Glenn Harper [00:00:00]:

Hello, everybody. Welcome to another edition of Empowering Entrepreneurs podcast. This is Glenn Harper.

Julie Smith [00:00:04]:

Julie Smith.

Glenn Harper [00:00:05]:

What’s up, Julie?

Julie Smith [00:00:06]:

Hey. Nothing. How are you doing?

Mike Jesowshek [00:00:07]:


Glenn Harper [00:00:07]:

Did you have a good lunch?

Julie Smith [00:00:09]:

Well, now everybody knows that this is after lunch.

Glenn Harper [00:00:11]:

It’s okay.

Julie Smith [00:00:12]:

Yeah, no, we had a good lunch.

Glenn Harper [00:00:14]:

Oh, good. Well, we’ve got a really exciting guest today. It’s amazing where we find these quality people at, so we’re all excited. We’ve got mike Jesowshek is a fellow entrepreneur ner who is the driving force behind the Small Business Tax Savings Podcast. He’s helped many of entrepreneurs increase their cash flow by showing clients how to reduce taxes legally. He is also the pretty face behind Incite, which helps small businesses navigate the complex world of accounting, tax, payroll, and advisory services. Thanks, Mike, for being on the show.

Mike Jesowshek [00:00:44]:

Yeah. Glenn and Julie, thanks for having me.

Julie Smith [00:00:46]:

Now, Mike, we have to know, do you really do that legally? No, I’m just.

Glenn Harper [00:00:51]:

Fun. So even though you’re from I think it’s Kawaskum, Wisconsin, I detect a slight fondaluk accent. Is that true? Because of the lake town that’s right above you.

Mike Jesowshek [00:01:03]:

You must be from the area. No, people from the area.

Glenn Harper [00:01:06]:

You know, I did a couple golf trips up there, and I’ve driven through both those towns, and so henceforth, that’s how I put that together. Beautiful country.

Mike Jesowshek [00:01:14]:

There’s some beautiful Gulf in Wisconsin.

Glenn Harper [00:01:16]:

Oh, my goodness.

Mike Jesowshek [00:01:17]:

Most people don’t think of but it’s actually a very good Gulf, and it’s.

Glenn Harper [00:01:21]:

Every time I’ve been there, it’s been sunny blue skies, the bluest skies ever. It’s been the craziest experience. Just been a wonderful thing. And again, it’s my favorite cheese curd state in the country, of course, because that’s what I always get when I go there. I’m a big fan. So what we like to do is just kind of get a little bit about your journey, what’s going on? But I did a little stalking, which, with limited skill set that I have, I was able to come up with a couple of things, and this was the most amazing thing. But I think at some point are.

Julie Smith [00:01:52]:

You sweating right now, wondering what happens when you Google your name, right?

Mike Jesowshek [00:01:56]:

Yeah, I’m kind of wondering, oh, boy, what other information does he know? He knows Kiwaskum and yeah.

Glenn Harper [00:02:01]:

Well, I got one other cool is and again, it’s funny how things become full circle, and I think on this one, I think your college journey included some time spent at Keller Graduate School of Management in Naperville, Illinois. Is that true?

Mike Jesowshek [00:02:16]:

It was now, that was an online school, so I never made it to Naperville.

Glenn Harper [00:02:21]:

Well, that’s going to kill my yeah, well, let’s pretend you were there, because, by coincidence, that is very close to Aurora, Illinois, where Wayne and Garth started their media empire from Wayne’s World. And so I just wanted to make sure know that you knew that you’re going to be a podcaster when you attended that school because of the Wayne’s World show.

Mike Jesowshek [00:02:42]:

It’s funny, I didn’t even know I was going to be a podcaster when I was a podcaster. The journey of backing into a podcast was kind of funny for us because we had some videos online and a team member on our team said, hey, why don’t you start a podcast or put those on a podcast? And I’m like, I wasn’t a podcast listener at the time. Didn’t really know much of a podcast. I was like, okay, whatever. We’ll throw them up. So we put three videos on a podcasting platform and did nothing. And six months later, we had some people reaching out and said, hey, I love your content, love what you’re doing on your podcast. Can I start working with you? Can I get more information about what you guys do? And I’m like Podcast. What podcast are you talking about? And that started getting the brain clicking and thinking, okay, let’s maybe see what we can do with this. So I always say I was a podcaster before I even really knew I was a podcaster.

Glenn Harper [00:03:32]:

Funny how things work out. Did you always want to be a CPA or how did that start?

Mike Jesowshek [00:03:38]:

No. So CPA was really my backup plan.

Glenn Harper [00:03:42]:

Hey, I’m sitting right here. Come on, help us out.

Mike Jesowshek [00:03:45]:

I started as an entrepreneur at a pretty young age in the online marketing industry. And so was doing kind of a unique part of the online marketing industry and was doing that at the age of 14. Started to kind of grow my business there. Ended up exiting at the age of 18. Now the exit, don’t get too excited. It was a $7,000 exit. I was talking to someone the other day, I have a purchase agreement kind of framed and in my office of that exit. But I was excited. And it was an opportunity to expand more into the online marketing industry and so started to get into different parts of it, had some partners, different parts of the business. But while all that was going on, I was like, well, your typical entrepreneur spirit, you expect the bomb to fall out at some point, and you’re always worried about, okay, what could possibly happen? And so while that was going on, I was going to school, going to business school, and decided to go accounting. And while I was doing accounting, I decided to get my CPA. So that was kind of the full backup plan and came to fruition once I graduated high school, was with a company. There were seven of us that were partners of that company. All really talented, but really good at different parts of the industry. And it was hard to pull a company or create a company that was trying to do seven different things and specialties. And so at that point, we decided, hey, let’s disband and do what we do best. And at that time, I decided to go out and start a bookkeeping firm specific to that industry just because we had a good reputation, a lot of experience in that industry. And that’s kind of where that journey of down actually practicing as a CPA started.

Glenn Harper [00:05:25]:

It’s funny. Entrepreneurs listen to this. Your backup plan should always be an accountant CPA, because then at least you understand the numbers. Most entrepreneurs don’t understand the numbers. They just have that idea, and they have to go find somebody to do that. So the question for you is, were you your own accountant or did you hire somebody to do your books for you?

Mike Jesowshek [00:05:48]:

I was my own accountant. So when we were in this online marketing industry, once I started to get in deeper into the accounting side in schooling, is when I really kind of transitioned to that was my main role in these entities. That was kind of the idea there when I decided, okay, what kind of degree am I going to be in? My little part of my entrepreneur journey was in online marketing. Should I go to school for marketing? But I knew that a degree in accounting, you could still do marketing, you could still do finance, you could probably do HR if you want. So that degree in accounting was really versatile, where a degree in marketing, you can’t become necessarily a CPA. Of course it’s possible, but that transition is much harder. And so my backup plan, for some reason, I picked accounting. And here we are today talking about it.

Glenn Harper [00:06:40]:

Accounting is universal. You get into dentistry, law, medicine.

Julie Smith [00:06:45]:

I feel like I would rather do anything than have an accounting degree, especially as my backup plan.

Glenn Harper [00:06:50]:

The only thing you can’t be in as account is an engineer, because all the engineers that fail become accountants. That’s a rule, as we all know.

Mike Jesowshek [00:06:57]:

Well, you said it, Glenn. I didn’t.

Glenn Harper [00:07:00]:

I remember my business classes in college. I’m like what? Did you start it? Well, I was an engineer, and they couldn’t make it, so I had to pick something else. So accounting was the next easiest thing. I was like, wow, that’s saying something that feels great.

Mike Jesowshek [00:07:13]:


Glenn Harper [00:07:13]:

Math is. Thanks, everybody. So when you started your first gig as being an entrepreneur at 14, doing the online thing, how did you say, hey, most kids go get a mow grass, they get a paper route or whatever back, depending on what age everybody is, or they’re working at a restaurant. You decided to start a company who influenced you to do that. Why did you even think that was an option? Most people don’t think that they can immediately start a business.

Mike Jesowshek [00:07:38]:

Yeah, well, I was very into kind of the online kind of tech world, and I actually say that this journey started before that. When I was younger, my dad would go to a lot of auctions. He’d buy antiques, different things, and resell them. And there was one auction that they were selling this box of bottle caps, like from a glass bottle cap. And I don’t even know what the brand was. It wasn’t something that I recognized because it was pretty old. But we bought a box of like 2000 of these bottle caps for $20. And we ended up, he said, okay, I’m going to have a project for you. We’re going to take these 2000 bottle caps, we’re going to take them out into batches of 50, and we’re going to go on ebay, we’re going to resell these bottle caps. And so we did that and every bag of 50 sold for the same price that we paid for the whole box of 2000. So it’s kind of that idea of like, whoa, there’s Arbitrage here. You can buy something and redo something to it, change it, sell it to a different audience and make money on it. And so when I first started at 14, what I was doing is I was selling ebooks on ebay. So I’d find something of how to build your own cornhole game or something like that, and I’d sell it for ninety nine cents on ebay. And that was kind of this idea getting into this online marketing industry. And just from doing that, you start to find out other people that are doing something similar. And that quickly transitioned into more of an online marketing and more specifically affiliate marketing within that space. And so that’s kind of all on my own. And I still to this day, I think my parents tell me, when are you ever going to get like a real job? Because they weren’t used to somebody working online back in those days. Obviously, it’s so common now, but I always remember when I was in high school making money, and my parents probably I don’t know what they thought I was doing down there where some kind of money was coming from. But the comment was always like, when are you really going to actually get a real job where you can actually start to transition yourself? And to this day, they look back and be, you know, we got that wrong. I think you were doing the right thing back then. But funny.

Glenn Harper [00:09:45]:

But two questions that begets because I find the humor and funny things. So you’re basically Jeff Bezos in a different way, buying something reselling on Amazon. That’s hilarious. And the second thing, do you still have any of those bottle caps left or do you sell them?

Mike Jesowshek [00:10:00]:

I don’t.

Glenn Harper [00:10:00]:

I mean, that is like an iconic.

Mike Jesowshek [00:10:02]:

Pretty young we sold them all. And if I did have them, I probably would have thrown them away or tried to skip them across the driveway, something fun like that.

Glenn Harper [00:10:10]:

So your dad was a hustler, and that’s kind of where you learned that process of how do you create something, right?

Mike Jesowshek [00:10:18]:

Yeah, he was initially an insurance agent and got sick of that, and so he got into antique stores. So he had a couple of antique stores. Eventually got rid of that, and then he just started doing handyman type stuff. I was a guy that from the beginning did not like physical labor. So I knew that whatever I did for a profession, it would not involve being able abusing my body to do it. And so that handyman and antique and carrying furniture, that stuff wasn’t definitely not in my wheelhouse.

Glenn Harper [00:10:51]:

That’d be tough for me to I love antiques. I’d have a hard time reselling them. I’d probably be the hoarder.

Julie Smith [00:10:56]:

You are the hoarder.

Glenn Harper [00:10:57]:

Now, I got some good stuff, but.

Julie Smith [00:10:58]:

That’S not for this podcast.

Glenn Harper [00:10:59]:

I know that’s a whole nother I got to talk a therapist on that.

Julie Smith [00:11:02]:

Maybe he can help you get those.

Glenn Harper [00:11:04]:

Off your so now you live in Milwaukee, which is algonquin for the, you know, you love still living in mean did you ever go anywhere else or did you just stay local?

Mike Jesowshek [00:11:16]:

Born and raised in Wisconsin, grew up in Kiwaskan, which is just north of Milwaukee. Went to school in a town called Oshkosh, which is south of Green Bay. So born and raised in Milwaukee or born and raised in Wisconsin? Still know. I always say the winters are brutal here, and people always know, why don’t you just get out of like, why don’t you leave Wisconsin? And I always, you know, if it wasn’t for family, I wouldn’t be here. But I look back and look at some of these days, especially summer, spring, fall, and just say it’s a great place to know. Take that winter, piece out those couple months out of there. Wisconsin is a great place to live and raise a family. So I don’t foresee us leaving here if we do, and probably in the future, we’ll be, you know, the January through March, getting out of the cold.

Glenn Harper [00:12:08]:

For a little bit and coming know it’s funny. We get lots of guests and over the years talking with entrepreneurs and usually there’s some sort of they travel somewhere, they go away for school, they go on a vacation, they go visit somebody, and they move away just to start something. And that’s where they get that entrepreneurial bug, right? And then they bring that back home and do that. It sounds like you just had that the whole time where you were at, right?

Mike Jesowshek [00:12:32]:

Yeah, I don’t know where it came from. I think my dad had some influence on it with some of the things that he was doing, but I like to be somewhat in control. And I know, as an entrepreneur, you feel like you have zero control when you’re running your business, but in reality, you have so much control, and you can really do whatever you want to do with your business and your career. And so that was an opportunity. I just love that opportunity. And so really have been an entrepreneur working for myself since the very beginning. I had a few OD end jobs, started out in grocery bagging groceries and also was a banker in the early days, but outside of that have always.

Glenn Harper [00:13:15]:

Kind of worked for myself, the dreaded banker role. Oh, that sounds horrible.

Julie Smith [00:13:19]:

So when you say in control, did you not like anybody else telling you what to do either?

Mike Jesowshek [00:13:25]:

It’s funny because people say, could you ever go work for somebody else? And I’m like, I don’t know. I get along with people. I don’t foresee myself kind of really bunning heads with people. But yeah, I can do what I want whenever I want to an extent. And that’s something you don’t always get when you’re working for somebody else. So? Yeah. I don’t know.

Glenn Harper [00:13:48]:

Are we going to need you to come in on Saturday and work on those TPS reports? I just can’t imagine that being something that I don’t think I could handle. I don’t know if Julie, you could handle that.

Julie Smith [00:13:56]:

Well, I don’t even like TPS reports to begin with. But I think what the bigger thing on that is if you see something can be done better, you can pivot really fast when having that control. Oftentimes, I think when you are working someplace else for someone else, that pivot is a little harder. Right. You got to get everybody’s. And so sometimes I think that’s where we’ve seen entrepreneurs run into that wall.

Mike Jesowshek [00:14:22]:

Oh, yeah, so true. And I think as an accountant, as a CPA, I really took a unique approach. The typical route is go do your schooling, maybe get your Master’s or a double major, sit for the CPA exam, go work for the Big Four or some big regional firm, and then go private or start your own firm. That’s the route that everybody in my class took. And I took a completely different approach where I started out working in an online marketing industry and the companies that we were a part of and then started an accounting firm and had no experience in accounting, never worked for another firm. But I say that that brought some good things and some bad things. The good thing is I’m not taking the baggage from a traditional accounting firm where you’re working 60 hours, weeks, you have rough tax seasons. And I didn’t have any of that experience. So when I built my firm out, I didn’t build it knowing that, hey, we’re going to work long, long hours. Now. The bad part of it is I had to learn, how do you do an accounting firm? How do you do this? And are we doing it the way everybody else was? But it gave us an opportunity to really kind of build that firm differently. When we started our accounting firm back in 2013, there was no such thing. At least it wasn’t very common as a cloud based accounting and servicing clients around the country like that. But that’s what we know. We were been completely virtual since the very beginning and so I say it’s just kind of a refreshing approach. Exactly right. Julie is where you can build it how you want to. You don’t have to follow the same framework. You don’t have to change minds of other people. You’re in control of what do you want to build, how do you want to build it and go do it now, that means you’re going to have some road bumps, you’re going to have some stumbles. There’s going to be some really tough times in there because you’re not just following that framework and you don’t have somebody that’s backing everything that you’re doing behind you. It’s up to you. You’re the one that’s holding the gun when it comes to performance of that. And so that can be tough. And that’s where entrepreneurs, I think, really get into that rut sometimes where they’re struggling.

Julie Smith [00:16:30]:

But I also think you talk about the highs and the lows, the peaks and the valleys that you face when you go through those pivots per se, but don’t you think it’s when you kind of hit the valley that you learn even more that that next peak is even higher?

Mike Jesowshek [00:16:47]:

Oh, yeah. And I think, too, one thing that I always found is, you know, when you’re getting to that valley, you can kind of see it coming, and there’s just something in your spirit that bounces up and say, okay, we got to prepare for this. What are we going to do to fight this? And I think that that’s the entrepreneur mindset is those people that say, hey, we’re going into a dark space. Things are not going how we planned or wanted them to go, but having that idea of we need to prepare for this so that we can get out of here and really catapult out of that valley, that’s where the entrepreneurs really shine. And some people get stuck in there. They don’t prepare for it. They don’t see it coming. They don’t think that, hey, this is never going to happen. And that’s where that valley can just really last longer than they could have ever imagined.

Julie Smith [00:17:35]:

Have you had any of those that you can remember or give an example of?

Mike Jesowshek [00:17:39]:

Unfortunately, I have. Yeah. When we first started the firm, I didn’t have any tax experience, never worked tax. I did my own tax return, but that was about the extent of it. And so started out as just a bookkeeping firm, accounting bookkeeping type work, was referring out a lot of tax work and was just really struggling with the people that we were referring out to, struggling to get answers for our clients. And it was just more of like, here’s your tax return, see you next year type experience. And I didn’t like that experience for our clients. And so what did I do? I said, oh, we’re going to start offering tax. And so that first tax season and I’m by myself, never done a tax return before. Now, my wife’s a CBA too, and does have some public experience, but she’s more on the audit. But man, that first tax season was like, okay, this is not what I want to do. Tax is not the answer. What do I do? Where do I go from here? And luckily, I was fortunate enough to kind of think through that, knowing that, hey, this tax idea might not work out, but what are some options if I don’t like tax or I’m not good or I can’t catch on to tax? What are some options to continue to maybe offer this moving forward? And so we started to kind of vet some contractors out that really kind of acted as part of our team, but were just independent contractors to try to get us through that phase of saying, yeah, tax is for us or Tax is not for us. So there was a couple of years there where it was rough doing tax returns. I’m seeing things that I’ve never seen before. Now, again, we’re a completely virtual firm, so we have clients across the country and I’m dealing with different states. Never, you know, lived out of Wisconsin, so I’ve only ever filed one state return. And so, yeah, it was tough.

Glenn Harper [00:19:27]:

I think the one thing that resonates with me a little bit on what you’re saying is when people start a business or become an entrepreneur, they usually have this idea and they want to do it, but a lot of times they have some experience of working for somebody else, and they’re saying, well, I can do this better, right? So there’s some history there to do it, but then there’s a lot of times when people just go cold turkeying on it. And one of the cool things with you, like I said, you didn’t learn all those bad habits of accountants and what those expectations were in the industry and how clients viewed you and what you thought you had to do, and that had to be amazing. I’m looking at going, man, I wish I’d have kind of done that because it’s just a different perspective. And you said, I’m going to build it this way and then grow into it versus, well, we’re just going to grind this out for the next 50 years and just be a sweatshop and all those things. I think that was kind of a cool way to look at it, that if you didn’t know what you didn’t know and you just made it work and a lot of entrepreneurs, you don’t have to have the answer. You can navigate and figure out at some point you should probably get some advice on how to better run your business, per se, but not necessarily the task that you’re doing, right. The thing, the product or service that you’re doing, that’s up to you to kind of figure out. Right?

Mike Jesowshek [00:20:47]:

Yeah, absolutely. I think the idea behind that is when we first started the problem that I had is clients weren’t getting that proactive tax advice. So we had a problem and I couldn’t find a solution from outside sources. Now there were accounting firms out there that did a phenomenal job at that stuff, but for whatever reason I couldn’t find them or we weren’t connected or they weren’t open for new clients, whatever it was. And so there was a problem that I didn’t necessarily know how to fix, but I knew I had to fix it. And so I put myself in that situation and again, it’s kind of foreseeing that Valley. I knew going into tax, it was going to be a rough couple of years trying to understand this type of stuff. But it was something that I felt like we had to put ourselves into because otherwise we had to transition and say, okay, what do we do about this tax piece? We can do great accounting, get you great financials and help you through running your business. But if I can’t help you at all on the tax side, I feel like I’m not doing a disservice to you. And if I can’t get you in front of an advisor that I know can give you a good service at that level, I feel like I’m doing a disservice, even if we’re doing everything perfectly fine and so forced myself into fixing that problem that we knew our clients had.

Glenn Harper [00:22:07]:

Well, I think that’s the whole part about the peaks and the valleys, right. You were able, I’m going to say it’s because you’re accounting training to participate. The Valley, a lot of entrepreneurs, they don’t anticipate it just happens. But that separates everybody as well that says, are we going to quit? We never quit. We never quit. As entrepreneurs, you always have to say, okay, I got to tweak this and do this better. Because as much as we grow in the Valley, we don’t like being there. We operate better as we’re growing, trying to build something up now and that precludes to the next point. So are you in the phase of entrepreneurial journey where you are doing business or are you in the phase where you are building a business where it can run without you or with minimal input? Where are you at in your journey on that?

Mike Jesowshek [00:22:57]:

Yeah, so that was a struggle that I really had. And you say if we could look back and start an accounting firm without the baggage, that sounds refreshing. There’s a lot of things too when I look back and say, okay, if I could start my accounting firm over again, I would do a lot of things differently. And the main part of that was I was so intertwined in the company. The clients knew me, I was selling, I was providing the services, I was providing the tax returns. And even though we had staff, everybody was coming to me as kind of that sole resource, which made it extremely hard to say, okay, I want to start stepping back a little bit. But you always get sucked in from those clients, some of those older clients that you had. And it’s a really tough experience. So looking back, there would be a lot of things that I could change there. And I got to a point where I said I want to step away from the day to day. I love training, I love talking about tax savings. I love helping clients in this area. But I don’t like doing tax returns. I don’t like doing accounting. That’s just something that I didn’t enjoy or find fulfillment anymore. But being able to broadcast and being able to bring these things to small business owners across the country, that I enjoyed doing. So about two years ago, I actually had an exit of my accounting firm, which was what I envisioned as the easiest opportunity I had to really be able to step away and step away and focus on what I really kind of wanted to go at a higher level. And so sold a majority portion, majority of stake in my accounting firm, still retained a small percentage and work as an advisor at that firm now. But that allowed me now to have my attention focused and say, okay, the accounting firm is great. If they need help, I’m there to help them, assist them, work with them through it. But my day to day has nothing to do with working with clients, nothing to do with doing taxes, that type of work. Now my focus is training, doing a podcast, those types of things. And so where am I today? I’m at that position where, yeah, I’ve kind of built a business, exited now, I would say rebuilding a little bit. We’re working on some software, different things like that. But it’s with a much different mindset, a much different way of going about it to ensure that, hey, this is not going to be a business that is going to require me inside of it to operate effectively.

Julie Smith [00:25:17]:

And so how do you think you were effectively able to build your team? I think sometimes entrepreneurs struggle with delegation, and some of those items control. So how do you think you were able to build a team where you feel really comfortable taking that step back and kind of finding a different passion?

Mike Jesowshek [00:25:39]:

Yeah, that was so tough for me. My first couple of hires were very bad and not bad as employees. They were bad hires for me because I wasn’t ready for employees yet. They probably look at me and be like, man, I’m not working for you, because I expected them to replace me. I expected them to talk, do everything just as I did so that our clients just had a seamless transition, like whether I’m talking to Mike or whether I’m talking to employee XYZ, I’m having the same experience. And it took me a little bit to realize that’s never. Going to happen. You’re never going to have that. And I also realized that I don’t want that. I don’t want a bunch of mes in our company. I want people that are better than me or people that do things differently than me to bring refreshing ideas and different things that we can do better. And so I started to look at hiring and approached it in a different way. I would say, okay, if I do something at 100%, let’s say I perform a tax consultation at 100%, I want to expect my employee to do it at 75%. And when I came in with that mindset, it was funny because the same employee was performing so much better. In my mindset, that employee probably was performing at 110, even though I was at 100. But they weren’t doing it the way I did it. They weren’t doing it the way they weren’t a replica of me. And so to me, I didn’t see it at that 110%. But when I started to take my expectations down a little bit and then I would evaluate kind of, where are clients going? How are these conversations going? I would jump into meetings. I’d see clients start to say, I don’t need to talk to Mike. Let me talk to whoever else is handling that because they’ve had such a good experience there. Even though it’s a different style, it’s a different way of doing things that allowed me to really kind of understand and get that AHA moment of when we’re hiring employees, it doesn’t have to be a replica of me. We’re looking for someone to bring new ideas, new style to it, and in a way that’s going to help our business grow because they’re bringing a different approach to the table than what I brought.

Glenn Harper [00:27:48]:

Yeah, that’s that whole there’s the technical skills of how you advise a client and whatever it can be accounting be anything of what you need to do to what you do, there’s a way to do it. Right. You can’t really argue with a tax plan for somebody, and you could take ten clients that have a rental property, a Schedule C, and you’re going to probably do the same thing for those same ten clients, right. And you can duplicate that. However, your swag and how you do it, it’s really hard to teach that. So that’s where you have to empower somebody to kind of put their spin on it. They’re still going to get the same results technically, but how do they get that relationship, which is what really matters in our type of work, right? And yours as well. It’s really about the relationship to have that connection where they trust you and you can communicate it effectively. Because if not, it doesn’t matter how good you are on the numbers, if you can’t talk to them, it just isn’t going to happen.

Mike Jesowshek [00:28:40]:

Oh, so true. Yeah.

Julie Smith [00:28:42]:

Well, and I think as you’ve built a team kind of what you’ve described is you were able to kind of differentiate between the intangible things that can happen and the tangible characteristics and values and whatever you’d built your business around. So you were able to decipher between, okay, I can give on this, but I can’t kind of give on this type of type of scenario as you kind of have went through that.

Mike Jesowshek [00:29:06]:

Yeah. And the whole idea, too, is also realizing that as you make that transition, there’s some clients that you’re going to lose. There’s some clients that are not going to be able to adapt to not working with the head of the company. And that’s fine, that’s healthy, that’s good for your business. And so coming to that realization and saying, hey, we’re going to lose some clients, but that’s a good thing because those clients, as we lose them, that means that it’s freeing up more time for me. That’s freeing up more time that we can focus on the business. How can we grow this thing? Where can we take it? How can I really build our staff into leaders that can take control of this business? And it also gives us direction of, okay, what kind of clients do we want? We know we don’t want this one over here because they need to have that one person that owner of the company that they’re working with. So how can we try to pick and choose and get into an area of let’s build our firm, our business, with the clients that we do want and we can grow with? Because, let’s be honest, you can be an accounting firm. You can make a really good living. You don’t have to grow at Bay. You can make a good living working 50, 60 hours, weeks and just having your good bunch of clients if that’s what you want. That’s not what I wanted, and I think that’s not what a lot of accountants want. And so you have to kind of approach it in a different mindset of that traditional way of looking at accounting.

Julie Smith [00:30:24]:

Are you suggesting that accountants shouldn’t do what they did last year?

Glenn Harper [00:30:28]:

They should maybe evaluate I’m sitting right here.

Mike Jesowshek [00:30:31]:

Is that the Sally approach last year? Everything yeah.

Glenn Harper [00:30:36]:

And that’s the thing, again, there’s certain things in life that I just think there’s just harmony with them. And one of those things is golf. You’re really playing against yourself. Right. And accounting, it’s just a self evaluation of what has to happen and the processes that you have to get your results you want. But in any business, if you can apply those concepts, you’ll be successful at it because it isn’t necessarily to evaluate your client. For example, you don’t have to keep those clients if you don’t want if they don’t fit the ones that argue and complain about their bill and whatever, life’s too short to deal with that it’s okay to release them, set them free, and it’s okay to go after a client. You want accountants, and every entrepreneur thinks they have to take everybody. And at some point, you do start off that way. But then once you get your sea legs, you got to start parrying that back, or you can never grow, you can never scale, and you’ll never get out of your own way. That’s a universal law. So all you entrepreneurs listening, please take that to heart.

Mike Jesowshek [00:31:42]:

Yeah. And when I first started, you say you’re not going to do this, but it ends up happening. Every phone call you get, every email you get, every lead that comes through, you’re selling. Whether it’s a good deal, whether it’s a good client, whether it’s the industry you want to work with or not, you’re selling it because you just want to put food on the table. But there comes a time where there’s going to have to be a transition phase if you want to be able to breathe. And I think that it’s fine to have that approach at the beginning, saying, we’re going to take in everything. But I say that if you’re going to do that, at least have the foresight that you know what’s going to come from that. And how can you start to build that a little bit differently? If we’re going to be taking in all these clients and we’re going to be the head person, I’m going to sell. I’m going to deliver the tax returns, I’m going to deliver the financials, because it’s just me in this business. How can we let clients know that, hey, this might not always be this way? Or what way can we approach this? So clients don’t think that this is going to be forever? Because that is where you start to see that break apart. That’s where you see accountants, business owners getting stuck in their business because they can’t get away from those clients because they took them when they needed them, they no longer need them, but they also don’t want to lose them. And they’re forced into they can’t get out of that rut of how do I back away from my business a little bit because they’re afraid of the fear of losing clients.

Glenn Harper [00:33:05]:

Well, and I think accountants, again, we’re just weird people to begin with, but one of the basic premises, we want to help people. And that is, I guess our fatal flaw is we’ll want to help anybody, and we can’t help everybody. We can help anybody. We just can’t help everybody. And then once you realize you got to be a little selective, it makes it a little easier. And again, that’s in any business, right, if you’re selling a service, you’re trying to help somebody, a product, you’re trying to get somebody that’s going to help them, but it may not be for everybody. And that’s okay. It’s okay if it isn’t. I don’t know if that was your biggest fear that you had to overcome. I mean, that’s one of our favorite questions is that one of your biggest fears is to recognize what you wanted to do and which clients you were going to do that with. Is that your biggest fear or did you have something else?

Mike Jesowshek [00:33:54]:

Well, I always say this. I’m a golfer as well. And so I always look at it this way. When you hit a good golf shot, you’re like, that’s good, feels good. But you move on really quickly. When you hit a bad golf shot, you’re angry, you’re overanalyzing it. You’re doing everything bad. Even if you hit three bad shots in around, I hit many more. I’m much more lopsided than that. But even if you hit three bad shots in around, your focus is on those three bad shots. We had a client the other day that’s been a client with us since the way beginning that decided to leave our firm. This was a client that was underpriced, very needy. We were losing money on this client for many years. When they decide to leave. Internally, it hurt because you’re losing a client, you’re losing a friend. You’re losing somebody that you’ve really gotten to known and help grow, help see their business, where instead of focusing on that hurt, what my mind should have been was, hey, we just lost a client that we were losing. Money on. That was taking our staff that was making our staff frustrated. Upset because they knew they were putting so much work into it. Knowing that the value wasn’t there for the price and everything else. But instead of focusing on that, business owners will focus on this. I just lost a friend. I just lost somebody that was close to us that we’ve helped grow their business. That change is a dynamic that I think all business owners, if they want to get out of the day to day of their business, they have to be able to fight that difference. Because we have a lot more clients that are in that situation that we are hanging on to because we don’t want to feel that pain. Whereas if we look at it from a different mindset of saying, hey, we lose this client, our firm, our staff, our team, our other clients are all better off, who cares about that little bit of pain that we’re going to get when you lose that client?

Julie Smith [00:35:45]:

You just described Glenn and I’s dynamic his thought process and my thought process in the firm. But it’s so interesting because you’re so right. There’s such an emotional capacity to those firm owners. I kind of want to pivot. And I mean, I love talking accounting and golfing. No one can sense my sarcasm over.

Glenn Harper [00:36:02]:

Here, but you don’t.

Julie Smith [00:36:04]:

What does a day look like for you now? What is your day? What are your hopes and dreams? What are you moving towards as you’ve kind of gotten out of this one business?

Mike Jesowshek [00:36:15]:

Yeah, so most of my day now is we have a few projects that I’m working on right now, writing a book, building out a software. So those are kind of back burners side.

Julie Smith [00:36:26]:

What’s your book on?

Mike Jesowshek [00:36:29]:


Glenn Harper [00:36:30]:

Small business.

Julie Smith [00:36:31]:

You say it like, I should have known, I’m so sorry.

Glenn Harper [00:36:33]:

I knew what he was going to be on.

Mike Jesowshek [00:36:36]:

That’s the only thing I talk about. You’re creeping and you’re googling should have realized that anything you put my name on, it’s always got the word tax next to it.

Glenn Harper [00:36:45]:

And don’t forget, the cool thing is if you release this book in the next year, you’re going to have to do a sequel a year after because the TCJ expires and you have to do another one. So I know a guaranteed audience.

Mike Jesowshek [00:36:55]:

Writing a book on taxes or some form of taxes is really tough. I work with my editor and we’re like, how do we keep this relevant past when the book’s published? How do we make it still relevant then? It’s really a battle.

Julie Smith [00:37:08]:

But is your software tax related to.

Mike Jesowshek [00:37:11]:

A couple of side? Say it again.

Julie Smith [00:37:13]:

Is your software tax related too?

Mike Jesowshek [00:37:15]:

It is.

Julie Smith [00:37:16]:

Okay, just laughing. I love it.

Mike Jesowshek [00:37:22]:

So most of my time now is just done on research. I’m big into not necessarily tax prep, but tax savings. How can we help lower the tax bills of small business owners across the country? So doing research, creating content, we have a podcast, do a lot of stuff on that and then these projects are kind of taking up the rest of the day and where they come in and fill in. So also do a little bit of advising and management of the firm as well.

Julie Smith [00:37:49]:

So it’s like full circle. Like you didn’t want to do that tax for the firm. Right? And now look where you found that passion. To be able to help other people is right in that tax realm.

Mike Jesowshek [00:38:01]:

It’s so weird.

Glenn Harper [00:38:03]:

Crazy. Do you have any regrets or son of a biscuit moments where you’re like, man, if I’d have just known this, then this would have been so much easier. I mean, I don’t have to push this thing uphill. Do you have any of those types of things? And what advice could you give our listeners to have awareness of when that might happen, to try to pull that trigger a little earlier so you don’t have to struggle for so long?

Mike Jesowshek [00:38:31]:

Yeah, I think two things. The first one we kind of talk on a little bit, so I was touching it briefly, but it’s that idea of at the beginning stages of growing your business, have an envision of what that end might look like or what does your ideal day look like five years from now, ten years from now. And you need to start having that in mind as you’re building your business from day one. Because if I had that mindset from day one, our business would have grew much quicker. I would have been in a position where I can do what I’m doing now without having to necessarily exit the business in order to get to that position. So having that mindset of saying, okay, here’s what I want my day to day life to look like down the road, I know that it’s not going to look like that today. I know it’s not going to look like that in the next two years, few years. But how can I build it so that I can get to that point in a much easier fashion instead of going this way, way left and then having to veer right to try to get back to that ideal situation? The second piece is when we first started our firm, cloud accounting wasn’t out there. People weren’t running virtual accounting firms back at this time. Very common nowadays. So we ran into an issue of how do we manage clients, how do we manage projects all in a virtual type environment with staff across the country. And so we started to build out our own project management software. That project management software took three and a half years to build. And eventually when we came to market, there was six competitors out there, all with project management software specific to accountants with a lot of funding. And so we kind of just let that project die. But the wisdom from that was don’t try to build everything perfect for its first iteration, this software was perfect. It had all the features we wanted. It looked great. We tweaked all these different things before we launched it, where we could have launched it two and a half years earlier at what I call a minimal viable product or a very here is some basics. Here’s feature number two. And then next six months we’re going to add another feature and slowly grow that we could have maybe got our foot into that market. But by the time that we had this perfect software built out, it was too late. There was so much competition in there in that three years that it took to build that the competition sweeped in in that time.

Julie Smith [00:40:48]:

So what do you think your superpower is?

Mike Jesowshek [00:40:53]:

None. I don’t have a superpower. Yes you do.

Julie Smith [00:40:56]:

Yes you do.

Glenn Harper [00:40:57]:

Yes you do. You have to have.

Mike Jesowshek [00:41:03]:

That. I don’t know. You stumped me on that question. As an accountant, and I’m sure Glenn is this way. We don’t traditionally are very humble people. So we’re not going to go bragging about things. But you can brag. I guess a passion to be a business owner, being able to have control over what I’m doing and being able to look into the future and grow that, being able to take hard stuff and get through it. I guess I’ve never given up in the ventures that I’ve been into. I’ve had businesses with partners, businesses without partners, exits, failures, everything in there. And you just keep fighting. As an entrepreneur, I’m going to guess.

Glenn Harper [00:41:51]:

Maybe a piece of your superpower is that probably one of your core values is you want to help people. And if you help people to be better, not only staff, but clients, the industry and everybody has a better standard. You’ll get paid for that at some point and you did, but you’ll get paid again. But I think you get joy in having that. Something bigger than yourself, probably because it isn’t about you. It never has been, I don’t think.

Mike Jesowshek [00:42:22]:

Yeah, and that’s really kind of what is so fulfilling about what I do now. Most of the stuff we put out there, it’s free. We’re putting out free content, free podcast episodes, we’re doing all these things. And the idea is that of course you have to be monetized somehow. We have to make a living. But the mindset I know is that if you do good, you help other people. Just as you mentioned, Glenn, you’re going to get monetized. There’s going to be a way to do it. There’s nobody out there that has put in a lot of hard work, helped a lot of people out that never got a reward from that in some sort of way. And so it just takes time, it takes a push, it takes resilience to kind of get to that point. You can’t put out 510 articles, blog posts, videos that are really good content and just expect that’s going to be enough to monetize it. You have to do this day in and day out and that money will follow at some point.

Glenn Harper [00:43:16]:

There’s definitely a correlation between effort and relevance and payback or payoff whatever you.

Julie Smith [00:43:23]:

Want to look like and commitment.

Glenn Harper [00:43:25]:

Yeah, you can’t just half assed it. Sure.

Mike Jesowshek [00:43:28]:

The hardest part, I think, as an entrepreneur is sometimes we want things to happen quick, we want to do this now, we want to do this now, do this now. And the world just doesn’t work that way. It’s a journey. As I talk to entrepreneurs, I just say, get ready for a ride. There’s going to be some great ups and downs and just when you think you’re on top of the world, something’s going to crash and you have to be ready for that and being able to sustain that because guess what? You’re going to be higher up on top of that world the next time up as long as you just keep pushing.

Glenn Harper [00:44:02]:

It seems like what we had to do back in the day to be an entrepreneur, there were no shortcuts per se. You had to learn it and figure it out today. At least there’s content out there. There is shortcuts, but you still got to do the work. But all those ancillary things, that would be exhausting, you don’t make money on those things. You can farm those out. There are shortcuts. And that’s kind of as an entrepreneur, don’t feel like you got to do it yourself. There are lots of resources out there, some free, some not. But you don’t have to figure it all out. Your core business thing that you do, you got to figure that out. But all the other stuff there are shortcuts, thankfully, because if not, nobody get anything done. If we had to do the same timetable we did 30 years ago, we’d be outdated before it even got to market.

Mike Jesowshek [00:44:49]:

Yeah, and you don’t want to do it yourself. That’s just going to slow you down. I see so many business owners just get stuck in growth because they are trying to do it themselves. I was that person, I was that business owner. I have an online marketing background. So why not just I do all the online marketing but in reality that’s not where my time should be spent. That’s not where I can bring the most value is putting up a social media ad or doing a media buy somewhere. That’s not where I can bring value to my company, but somebody I can hire that specialize in that and is focused on that, can do that, where I can start to build that content, I can give that content and spend my time on that research that they can use to then do that online marketing with it.

Glenn Harper [00:45:32]:

That’s why I asked you at the very beginning, do you do your own accounting and taxes? Because believe it or not, the second you put that with a second set of eyes, it lets you see things a little more clearer to kind of pick apart the things, man, I just didn’t see that because somebody else is doing it different than you would and now you’re like, oh, I didn’t even think about that. So it’s always fun to have somebody double check your stuff just for fun.

Julie Smith [00:45:58]:

So Mike, we have one last question. What is your end?

Mike Jesowshek [00:46:04]:

Know, I think as an entrepreneur that there is never an official end.

Julie Smith [00:46:12]:

You must have listened to a podcast.

Glenn Harper [00:46:13]:

Before the right answer.

Mike Jesowshek [00:46:17]:

I always think kind of what does that look like my end game or what? I envision as that end is a long end and it’s this idea of just being able to provide value, help people out and get monetized for it, but really just kind of enjoy what I’m doing and really focus on what I want to do. I don’t enjoy tax returns, so why should I spend my time doing tax returns if that’s not something I find value in? So when I look at an end game or envision of where do you want to go? It’s that you really enjoy doing everything that you can do and that’s going to bring value to other people by doing that. So that’s kind of my goal. I’ve seen have some close friends, have some close clients that have had really big exits within the past five years and you start to see like you have to have that plan. Like these people are set for life, never have to work again, never have to worry about money, but what do you do? This person has worked all their life, has put long hours in, has put their heart and soul into their business, and now they don’t have to, but they lose that fulfillment. Like if you were used to waking up at 06:00 every day, going to the office, coming home, working with your family, going to bed, and that’s your pattern. You can’t just retire and say, okay, now I’m just going to go sit on the beach every single day. And so I don’t think there’s ever that end game. What I look at, too, is doing something in the charity world. I love to support charities. We do it a lot in our firm, do a lot in our podcast, is just find ways to bring and help other people out in the things that we’re doing. And so I do think that eventually that will be my goal, is to be in a position where some type of charity work.

Glenn Harper [00:48:01]:

Mike, it is a pleasure chatting with you. And again, on the entrepreneur journey, sometimes we talk to people that they’re trying to figure it out. Sometimes they’re done, sometimes in the middle. It sounds like you’re on a great path where you kind of have some purpose of what you’re trying to do. You had an exit event, so you got a little capital, if you will, to do what you need to do, and that frees you up your time to do the things you really, really want to do. And isn’t that it’s not about money, it’s about time. As you get older and you’re trying to do your thing, it’s do you have the freedom to do what you want to do. And that is really what it’s all about. All the entrepreneur listeners. So, Mike, appreciate you being on the show. It’s been a pleasure and congratulations.

Julie Smith [00:48:41]:

I think you have a new little baby at home, right?

Mike Jesowshek [00:48:44]:

We do, yeah. So it’s our just about two months old now, and so we have a two and a half year old as well. So it’s a bit hectic and quite sleepy over at this household, at least.

Julie Smith [00:48:56]:

Well, enjoy it. It doesn’t last forever.

Glenn Harper [00:48:58]:

It’s the best.

Mike Jesowshek [00:48:59]:


Glenn Harper [00:49:00]:

Well, thanks again for being on the show. This is Glenn Harper and Julie Smith. Take care, everybody. See you next time.

Episode Show Notes

On this episode of Empowering Entrepreneurs, we have a special guest, Mike Jesowshek, who shares his unique journey of becoming an accountant.

Starting out in the online marketing industry, Mike took a different approach to building his accounting firm. With no prior experience of working in an accounting firm, he had to learn how to run one on his own. Mike started a cloud-based accounting firm, which was not very common at the time, and he emphasizes the freedom and control that comes with building your own business.

However, he also acknowledges the challenges and tough times that entrepreneurs face.

One of the struggles Mike faced was hiring employees who could replicate his own work style. However, he soon realized that he needed individuals who could bring fresh ideas and different approaches to the table.

With this mindset shift, Mike found that different styles and approaches actually brought positive results and allowed his business to grow. Mike also talks about the initial struggle of selling every opportunity to make money in order to support himself. He highlights the importance of transitioning away from this approach to have room to breathe and grow. 

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