Scott Cytron: Thanks, Miguel, for participating in this profile of your firm. Tell me more about Tax Hack Accounting Group.
Miguel Alexander Centeno: Tax Hack is a specialty tax firm that was born out of my experience with the Big 4. We are built on the singular principle that Fortune 500 tax strategies should be available to businesses of all sizes. We’ve been happy to see the tax advisory space grow since we started back in 2017, when most tax professionals were primarily focused on compliance.
SC: This success story will be published during Hispanic Heritage Month. As managing partner, are there any cultural differences you encounter when working with clients that other Hispanic accountants and bookkeepers should know about?
MAC: I truly am aware of the awareness of these differences, but these differences help make dynamic teams. Some of these differences may be workstyles, and cultural differences are especially important when you have a global team.
I learned early in my career that great leaders adapt their style with an awareness of those differences. We have a global team across Asia and Latin America, and I can tell you that there are notable and important cultural differences that we love—and strive to keep in mind when we decide how we communicate and motivate. While the Hispanic professionals aren’t monolithic, culturally, you’ll see a tendency toward community; as a result, we have a pretty strong view on the team approach. Part of that is getting together, so we put a pretty big emphasis on gathering once or twice a year when we can connect over what most would consider very long dinners, often followed by dancing.
SC: I appreciate your candor, Miguel, and I’m sure readers can learn from your examples. What do you consider your single most important business accomplishment?
MAC: The most important business accomplishment at our firm has been seeing our first staff person, Karla Guardado, rise to manager and then to a junior partner this past year. Firm leaders tout internal development, but the bottom line is how many partners come up from inside a firm. Promotions aren’t automatic at Tax Hack, so when we see a six-year partner come up like that, it’s a testament to their hard work, as well as to our ability to grow our business. It’s a huge win.
SC: What kind of Intuit accounting and tax software do you use?
MAC: We have a pretty large base of clients on QuickBooks Online, and exclusively use Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax, which we love since you can’t override form entries without drilling down into the details. We also use eSignature and Intuit Tax Advisor.
SC: On your website, it says Tax Hack is a tax advisory firm focused on internet, software, and e-commerce businesses, but you also have other industries you serve that are listed. What is the firm’s sweet spot, and what is it about these areas that interest you and the firm?
MAC: We view these types of businesses as an industry cluster we call digital businesses. As a firm focused on a tax specialty, we decided early on we wanted to work with a specific type of client—rather than locally or regionally. We found that our best clients have tech and workflow stacks for two important reasons. First, these are the types of businesses that are often doing qualifying activities that lead to tax savings, and second, they operate digitally so we have a seamless workflow.
In fact, we were training clients to use digital systems well before the COVID-19 digital transformation, and decided that clients who worked this way were going to be the best fit for us.
SC: That’s really interesting. I also saw “People Advisory” as a service on your website. What is this all about?
MAC: People advisory has to do with the human component of HR, payroll, and benefits.
This is a supporting service we offer to our clients who typically are too focused on other parts of the business to roll out people policies, performance management, and rewards and benefits. With talent retention becoming critical for small businesses that can’t necessarily compete with large businesses, people advisory has become top of mind for the SMB C-suite. We believe accountants are the best-positioned advisors to add value in this area.
SC: Why do you think your clients like working with you?
MAC: Our Net Promoter Score surveys suggest we still have a little ways to go, but we aim for responsiveness and forward thinking in all of our engagements. That means we aren’t overly focused on our compliance checklists or the past, but rather, we're asking the right questions that help our clients look forward and implement strategy.
SC: What about any firm niches or specializations?
MAC: We are very focused on niches. We don’t aim to be the cheapest provider; instead, we focus on creating ROI in our lines of service that are clear to clients and the team. That value focus allows us to focus on the relationship, and take a long-term approach that makes our fees an investment or afterthought, instead of the singular focus from the client’s point of view. Breaking our team into these industry niches enables us to develop customized playbooks and knowledge that allow us to add that value very quickly, and rinse repeat in a way that is more difficult when you’re industry agnostic.
SC: Where does your confidence come from?
MAC: Probably my mother, or as I call her, “mamá.” Mexican moms tend to go to the extremes when it comes to supporting—”you can do anything”—and criticizing—”why don’t you do more?” While it sounds like a paradox, all of that can work together quite well if you know you’re supported and loved no matter what. We didn’t grow up with much. My mom was a single mother of three, but I knew she had a belief in me and my sisters that let me mess up, take risks, and aim high. Knowing she came to this country for a better life still shapes how I think about our people and clients who fundamentally have the same belief: The point of business is to create a better life. And I think that’s something that a lot of the Hispanic community and other immigrants can relate to closely.
SC: This has been incredibly insightful and thank you, Miguel, for your insights.
Here’s the final question I ask in most of my interviews. If you were stranded on a desert island with access to only one kind of technology, what would it be—and why?
MAC: The original Nokia phone with snake! There’s no email or other distractions with apps. You can really only do one thing: Focusing on your business—finding your first client problem to solve, followed closely by finding someone to support you as you build your team. Then, of course, you can play snake.
SC: That’s great Miguel, thanks again!
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