Over the last few days, I’ve had several former TaxCoach members ask me about aspects of their new TMN membership. Folks are generally enthusiastic about the new features and opportunities. However, I wanted to step back for a few minutes and discuss why we’ve revamped the program so thoroughly to give you some broader context to understand the new direction.
Back in 2005, Keith VandeStadt and I sat down with a vision for creating an online tax-planning software that you could use to show your clients how to pay less. We didn’t start in a stereotypical garage — we had a couple of desks in a co-working space in a renovated church in Loveland, Ohio. Over the course of 10 years, we grew to serve over 500 members. We added the All-Stars one-on-one coaching program and the Networker done-for-you weekly email newsletter. But we never really outgrew that intimate “startup” feel.
We also never really outgrew our original mission. I’ve described the tax-planning as a three- step process that looks a lot like visiting the doctor. The doctor starts by diagnosing the problem. Then he writes a prescription to cure that problem. Finally, someone fills that prescription. Easy, right? Well, we were stuck on the prescription. The TaxCoach software itself was a great “prescription pad.” But we weren’t doing much to help you fill all those prescriptions you were writing!
By 2015, we had plateaued. Revenue and membership were stuck. We had a core group of members, paying as much $600/month for our complete lineup of services, and loved everything we did. We had a quieter group of mostly long-term members chugging along with a
$99 membership. And the biggest group of all were casual members who dipped their toe into the tax-planning water, exiting the program after a year or two without any notable success. We realized that our own efforts were best directed at helping new members see immediate successes, turning those members into true believers, to escape the horrible churn that was strangling any greater growth.
Since you’re all numbers people, I’ll share some numbers. Our member value ranged from $99 (for those poor unfortunate souls who joined for a month and quit) to about $7,200 per year (for those long-term members who were consuming everything we offered). The average had settled in the neighborhood of just under $1,000 per year. It wasn’t great, and it wasn’t growing. And if I’m being honest, I was getting bored and complacent.
That’s when John Pollock and Financial Gravity came along. John was a long-time TaxCoach member himself, a financial advisor who built an entire business around our brand of proactive planning. He was looking to take his new company, now named Financial Gravity, national. And it made sense to incorporate us into his organization to support that growth.
At that same time, we were in the same place many of you faced when you first found us. You have a successful-enough practice . . . but how do you grow it? You might look at several options:
- You can beef up your tax-prep and accounting services.
- You can add new tax services like planning and audit protection.
- You can add financial services — wealth management, insurance, and financial planning.
- You can add business consulting services.
- You can earn referral fees for directing clients to vendors for services like cost segregation studies, monetized installment sales, and even business and personal lending.
That’s where we found ourselves at TaxCoach. Which of these services could we help you take to your clients to make you more valuable to them — and, in turn, make you more valuable to us? The hard part was deciding which to add. So, being the ambitious visionaries that we are, we decided to add them all.
Now we’ve turned TaxCoach into more than just a prescription pad. Now we’ve moved from being just planners to being implementers. We want you to make money on prescribing at the office and on the prescriptions too!
The new model puts you at the center of a collection of services. Some of them, you’re already offering yourself, and want to keep. Some, you’re already offering and would be happy to outsource. Some of them you aren’t yet offering, but you know your clients would appreciate. And some of them may be completely new to you.
You can pick and choose from a menu of these services to plug in to your own business. Let’s say you currently offer accounting, tax planning, and tax preparation, and you want to offer financial services. You can keep the accounting, tax planning, and tax prep services you already provide clients yourself, and offer the financial services through us. Maybe you already offer insurance and want to add wealth management. You can keep the insurance through your existing relationship and offer wealth management through our registered investment advisor. Maybe you’re offering all those services, but you’re unhappy with the compliance headaches of your existing broker-dealer. You can keep the accounting, tax planning, and tax prep, and move the wealth management to us. And of course, you can count on us for specialized new services like cost segregation, monetized installment sales, charitable trust formation and administration, custom health insurance programs, TOS 2.0, legal services and a host of similar opportunities.
Of course, we’re going to try to convince you that you (and your clients) are better off going through us. Sometimes you’ll see that’s true, and you’ll move! Other times, for various reasons, it won’t be. For example, you might get a lot of your clients through a local financial services relationship, and it won’t make sense to upset that apple cart. That’ll be fine, we’ll still welcome your business in areas where we don’t compete with those existing arrangements.
The next step in our process is branding YOU at the center of the constellation. We’ve trademarked the terms Fractional Family Office® and Certified Tax Master® to describe the role you play and help clients quickly grasp the unique value you offer relative to the hundreds of thousands of people in the tax and accounting space trying to offer them one or more of those services. (If you’re familiar with the concept of a “fractional CFO,” you’ll immediately “get it.”) Remember how I told you that TaxCoach plateaued at 500 members? Well, our long-term goal is to support 500 Fractional Family Offices across the country. We’re hoping to have the first 50 in place by the end of 2019.
Finally, let me finish by outlining one specific service, and that’s the opportunity you have, as part of your Tax Master Network membership, to offer clients a Tax Blueprint®.
What, exactly, is a Tax Blueprint®? At its core, it’s a TaxCoach plan, with additional information and content that tees the client up for you to implement the plan (which you can do yourself or through our “Tax Operating System®” service). That implementation is the key difference.
That’s the “secret sauce” that gives you a compelling reason to use Financial Gravity’s “done-
with-you” service instead of TaxCoach’s old “do-it-yourself” model.
It’s important for you to understand that selling a Tax Blueprint® does NOT mean simply turning the client over to Financial Gravity. When you sell a Tax Blueprint®, the client remains yours.
The client engages you to provide them a plan, not us. The client pays you a fee for the plan, determined according to the Quote Tool included in your Tax Master membership. You pass the fee along to Financial Gravity, and you engage us to prepare the plan — our engagement is with
you, not the client. You deliver the plan to the client just as if you had prepared it yourself. Then we pay you a commission equal to 30-50% of that fee. In many cases you will make more money getting paid a lower % than the 100% you used to make.
Do you have to sell Tax Blueprints® to do proactive planning? No. As with any of the other services we highlighted in the previous graphic, you can continue offering your own plans, using the old TaxCoach software application, on a DIY basis just like you always have. Just be aware that you’ll be giving up opportunities to use planning to introduce even more lucrative implementation business. We think most former TaxCoach members will come to see DIY planning as stepping over dollars to pick up dimes.
There you have it — a “warts and all” look at the old TaxCoach, the new Tax Master Network, and why we’ve made the changes we’ve made. We hope this answers any lingering questions and gives you the broader context to understand they why in addition to the what. As always, feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions. And remember, success stories are never off topic!
My New Years resolution is to work tirelessly to help the right type of tax pros realize; Lower Taxes for their clients, Higher Profit for their business and with less clients, less headaches and no numbers in boxes and Greater Wealth for you and those you care the most about. The question now is are you going to work as hard as we are on YOUR future.