About this Episode
Ross Brunson 0:00
Well, I could take somebody who is having those types of concerns and problems and put them in a position where they’re going, Man, this is so much nicer, so much easier. Those are big paydays for us.
Angela Giovine 0:15
Pop culture has become obsessed with entrepreneurship stories from Silicon Valley, and big startup. But the backbone of our economy is made of small local businesses. Every day, millions of small business owners deliver quality products and services, support the local economy, employ their neighbors and follow their passion. We think their stories are worth telling. I’m Angela Giovine. Welcome to the extra ordinary small business podcast. Taxes. business structures. These seemingly straightforward topics are actually anything but simple. This episode is brought to you by WP Engine.
Angela Giovine 1:04
Large corporations all across the world employ teams of people to develop the ideal business structures for legal protection and tax advantages. But what about small businesses? Enter Ross Brunson. Ross has devoted his entire career to assisting small business owners in these important matters. And as a business owner himself, Ross has seen firsthand how the digital age has transformed his industry.
Ross Brunson 1:37
Hi, my name is Ross Brunson, and I’m one of the owners of Bookies.
Angela Giovine 1:41
So tell us what does bookies do?
Ross Brunson 1:44
Well, we’re a company that’s been around for quite a while we do three major things. One, we help people who are a lot of times just getting started in business, and they’re looking to set up a business organization of some sort. Like an LLC, or S corporation or a C corporation, and lot of times, they don’t know what would be the best type of entity for them. And so we get together with them and we discuss their particular situation and we help them come to a conclusion as to which entity would give them the most benefits for what it is that they’re trying to do. So that’s the first thing and then we help them set those businesses up. We help them get the articles of organization or the articles of incorporation, drawn up, we get them to the, to the state where they need them registered in, we then get them processed, we then get EIN numbers for this for the companies. We draft up all the legal documents they need to have to support their company, and we put them all together in a nice three ring binder and we provide that to the client. So that’s kind of the first step. The second step is we have a team of accountants probably close to nine accountants that work in our company, that do accounting for small business owners. And we probably have about 440 small business owners across the country that we help do their, their accounting. And because of the fact that we’re not in the city with a lot of these people, we have a special way of being able to log into their accounts behind the scenes, gather their income information, their expense information, we enter that all into our QuickBooks file,t hen provide profit and loss statements for them each month. And the final thing that our company offers is we have a CPA that is a major part of our company. And so she’s there available to help file personal tax returns and business tax returns. So it’s kind of like a one house, one stop operation for setting up, you know, doing the accounting for and filing the tax returns for small business owners.
Angela Giovine 3:54
That is an area that’s many small business owners, not only avoid, but are intimidated by and confused by how did you become involved in this? How did you decide that you wanted to go into accounting?
Ross Brunson 4:11
Well, that’s a good question. When I got out of college, I had some accounting experience that I picked up there. And I was thinking about doing accounting, but what I really was interested also in doing is working in the construction trades. And so I got had the opportunity to start a business. And it was a in it was an insurance restoration business. When when people have a fire in their home or water damage in their home, they need people to come in and help restore those homes back so that they can live in them. And I ran across the opportunity to be able to start up my own business doing that. So I decided I would take advantage of that. And so we started this insurance restoration business and for a while I was doing the accounting for the company but as you know, small business owners, their their time is more valuable working with clients, you know, building client relationships, finding new customers, those type of things than it is spent, you know, sitting there behind the computer trying to handle all the accounting and tax preparation. So, to give myself more time, to be able to you know, go out and actually work my business, I ended up hiring this CPA to help me keep track of my accounting and my in the taxes at the end of the year. Well, you know, things were going good. My business was really accelerating, were making good money and, you know, the accountant would come by and grab my information and then he would, you know, I guess he would do the books, never really gave me a profit and loss or balance sheet ever. And he would then prepare the tax returns and I remember, taxes were due on April 15th for my business at that time, on April 14th, he showed up at my door about six o’clock and said, Well, I got your tax return here. Let me give it to you. And by the way you owe $10,000 by tomorrow.
Angela Giovine 6:07
Ross Brunson 6:09
$10,000, you know,
Angela Giovine 6:12
Ross Brunson 6:13
By tomorrow, you know, how am I supposed to do that? So, after I scrambled and got loans and things to take care of that, then I said, well, let’s have a meeting, once you come over to my house, and we’ll sit down and let’s discuss ways that we can plans that will happen in the future, you know, make payments or whatever I got to do, you know or if there’s a way you can help me reduce my taxes, please let me know. And so he said, Sure. So he came over and sat at my kitchen table for about an hour and my wife fed him cookies and milk and we chatted, and after that period of time, he left and he never, he didn’t tell me anything at the meeting what he was going to do, he didn’t, you know, afterwards summarize anything he was going to do. I just assumed that he must have figured out what he needed to know to help me out. Well the next year,
Angela Giovine 7:00
Thought you’re all clear, it was all set up. You trusted him.
Ross Brunson 7:04
Yeah. So I just trust that he was doing this and watching out for my back, side and and then the next year again April 14th, he shows up and he says, Here’s your tax return this year, you got closer, closer to $20,000 in taxes. And so I’m just like, I can’t do this, you know, I can’t keep doing this type of thing. I need to have more more control. And so I started looking around for someone else that might be able to help me and I ran across a guy who claimed to be a tax attorney. And one of the things I was looking not only for someone to help me do my taxes, but also help me reduce my taxes. And so this, this attorney, was supposedly a tax attorney and I went to his presentation, and he talked about specific entity at the time, which he thought was a really good entity. It was a business trust, and he promoted it and he in his presentation, he told about how you could reduce your taxes through the use of a business trust. Specifically, because of the entity that it was. It had these certain features granted to it. And so I said, Great. And so I signed up and he started helping me and teach me a little bit. And then after I signed up, I realized where I found out the hard way that that the IRS felt that these trusts were, you know, a tax avoidance schemes. And so they knocked on my door and wanted audit me. And so, well, you know, I don’t know much about this. All I know is this tax attorney told me that this was, you know, great, and he help me do the tax return and whatnot and so it turned out that it wasn’t very good. They collapse the trust and made me back to be a sole proprietorship and I had to pay additional taxes and things. But that gave me a clue in my mind, I realized there are more things in business trusts out there and do these additional entities in a corporation, a limited partnership, an LLC, Would any of these type of entities also have tax benefits associated with them inherent within them? And so I spent a lot of time and money I spent over $10,000 buying materials on all the different types of corporations and, and LLCs and limited partnerships, everything that there was on on different entities out there. And I studied those for very long and for a long period of time, and I realized that Yeah, there are certain things that you could do just by the entity type that you choose, that will allow you to reduce your taxes.
Angela Giovine 9:43
Just choosing properly and having that knowledge.
Ross Brunson 9:46
That’s correct. Yes. And so I started doing it in my own business, you know, my you know insurance restoration business. I started using some of those things and my taxes were going way down, and so I was doing my own tax returns at that time. And and I had friends in the industry that were talking to me and they’d say, Well, you know, how was tax season for you this year? Was it terrible? And I said Well not too bad. I said I only had to pay about this much in taxes, and they were making about the same amount of gross income as I was and they’re going like, we’re paying two or three times that amount.
Angela Giovine 10:18
They’re like what voodoo have you learned? And can you teach us?
Ross Brunson 10:21
Exactly. What are you doing? And would you be willing to do it for me? And so I said, Well, okay, so I kind of start taking over for some of my friends doing their accounting on the side, and helping them set up their structure correctly so that they could take advantage of these things. And as I was doing that, they then told their friends, and before I knew it, I was having quite a few people come to me. And so I, I kind of left the insurance restoration business and I started up my accounting business, probably in about 1992 or so. So it’s quite a while back and since that time, you know, I started out helping people, when do their business structuring and setup, helping them do their accounting and helping them do their tax returns at the end of the year. And so that’s how I kind of got started into it. It wasn’t something I had planned originally, it wasn’t something that was easy to to discover. They said I had to spend years and and money, a lot of money to be able to find this information out because it’s just nowhere out there. That’s kind of how I got started into this business.
Angela Giovine 11:30
You experienced so many things that every small business owner experiences, you want to seek the the advice of an expert, especially in something like taxes, and unfortunately, not all CPAs are created equal. And so you experienced the lot of those wolves in sheep’s clothing or people who just weren’t as expert as they should have been in the world of of insurance, as you we’re doing this insurance restoration business. That’s something that so many of us deal with. And it’s it’s always such a challenge to trust someone with something as sensitive as your financial information to say, Yes, like, you’re not only am I going to give you all this very sensitive information about me, myself, my family, my business, but I’m going to trust that you know, everything that I don’t know, in order to make the best decisions for my future and you started your business in the way that most of us do, which is you saw a need, and it kind of grew organically from there. It sounds like.
Ross Brunson 12:36
Yeah, it just kind of took over and it’s become my life’s work basically.
Angela Giovine 12:41
You mentioned that Bookies was founded in 1992. And before that, you were doing insurance restoration. So how long were you in insurance restoration before you you switched?
Ross Brunson 12:54
I was in it for five years.
Angela Giovine 12:56
Okay, so out of college? Or were were you a newly wed?
Ross Brunson 12:58
Yeah, pretty much out of college, one of my first jobs was working for an insurance company as a claims adjuster. Doing, you know, if a person had a fire claim or a water damage, I would help them settle that claim. And I would write out the check from the insurance companies and, and I realized, as I was writing out these checks to these contractors that they’re getting paid a lot more than I was.
Angela Giovine 13:22
Ross Brunson 13:22
And so that’s kind of made me interested in going into that field. You know, I felt I had the expertise to be able to do it. And so all it took was, you know, making the decision and making the right move and getting into that field. And so I did and I was in it for five years. And then from there, I got into the accounting business.
Angela Giovine 13:41
And did you study accounting in college?
Ross Brunson 13:45
Yeah, I had some accounting there, and I’ve taken classes afterwards and things, you know, that I wanted to do to upgrade and, you know,
Angela Giovine 13:52
Ross Brunson 13:53
my knowledge in the field, so, you know, I felt real good. I like I say I could keep a set of books very well.
Angela Giovine 14:00
Ross Brunson 14:00
I did that for a lot of my clients for a long-
Angela Giovine 14:02
Yeah, we have that in common I I well, I did a minor in accounting. So I experienced a lot of what you experienced probably in that, not a lot of accountants, not maybe not not a lot, but accountants aren’t always by definition entrepreneurial. The typical track of someone who studies entrepren- accounting in college is an accounting firm or in house at a corporation to do their accounting. But yet you very quickly started to nurture that entrepreneurial itch inside you. Did you always know that you wanted to work for yourself? Or is it something that you sort of naturally discovered?
Ross Brunson 14:47
Yeah, that’s good question. In my, all my grandfathers and grandmothers, if they were working off, they all had employers that they work for. And same thing with my father. He was had an employee all his life. And so I was kind of in that rut also I was working for so like I said, Farmers Insurance Company. And so I was working for him but I, like I say, as I was paying these contractors, I saw how much more money that they were making than what I was making. And I had a young family and they were starting to grow up and I, you know, I was struggling financially. And I just thought, No, it working for somebody is not necessarily the best way. You know, I mean, unless you were really intelligent and had a great number of degrees and had some specialty, that some company really wanted to pay you a lot of money to do that. But for the most part for the general public, you know, you’re working for someone else, you’re not going to be making the type of money that that business owner is going to make. You’re going to be making less and, and I just really felt that, that I would like to take that risk and it was tough at first. In fact, my wife gave me a lot of pushback. When I was telling her I was going to quit our job and start a business.
Angela Giovine 16:00
So you were married at that point when you decided to start a business?
Ross Brunson 16:03
I was, yeah. She wasn’t happy at all.
Angela Giovine 16:07
Ross Brunson 16:11
She was saying, why would you leave a job where you have a guaranteed paycheck? You know, to go out there and do something, where you don’t know if you’re going to even get paid at all. And I said, well, you know, the potential is so much greater on that side, even though the risks are high. You know, and it’s scary, the potential is so much greater that I’m willing to take that risk.
Angela Giovine 16:32
And you probably used that same line that we’ve all used, which is, what’s the worst thing that could happen? I could always go back. Right?
Ross Brunson 16:40
Angela Giovine 16:42
I remember I remember having that same conversation with my husband because I left my corporate job. We were about a year married when I said if I don’t do this, now, before we have children, I think I will regret it. It was something that I just had to do. So I totally get that. So you, you incorporated, you began Bookies in 1992, and it was just you at first, and you were basically just getting your clients by word of mouth. And God knows in 1992, the world looked a lot different, there was no internet, the world of accounting, the world of taxes, it was all paper. Paint me a picture, What did it look like?
Ross Brunson 17:26
Well, yeah, you’re right. There there wasn’t a lot of there. I mean, when it came to the information on structuring on the, on the types of entities that that information was extremely hard to come by. They’re just there were just no books written on it.
Angela Giovine 17:43
I honestly don’t even know where you would look. Like you can’t Google it, like where would you even go?
Ross Brunson 17:49
That was the problem is it and you know, nobody talked about these things and nobody really had a clue as to, you know, the internal workings of the company. The liability attorneys would say, you should be this, because we believe this has a stronger level of liability protection associated with it. The accountants, you do talk to the CPAs, they say well, you should be this, because there’s greater tax benefits. But this, the accountant had no idea what you know anything about the liability and the liability attorney had no idea about the accounting. And so their recommendations were just based around what they knew. And they would recommend that to the person out there and that person has no clue whatsoever on either side, and so, you know, they’re just kind of left to the whim like, what should I be? Well, you ought to be an LLC. Okay, well why? You know and you talk your friend Why? I don’t know. I just
Angela Giovine 18:46
Someone suggested it. Yeah, I heard it was good. That’s basically what I did.
Ross Brunson 18:51
They would tell you, You have to be an S corp. But why? Well, I don’t know why. Just-
Angela Giovine 18:55
I heard it’s good for your taxes. Period. Okay.
Ross Brunson 18:58
My CPA told me to be one, so you should be one.
Angela Giovine 19:01
And because you just want to move on to starting your business, you just do it. And like you said, because this information wasn’t something you could just Google that, most people probably didn’t even know what they didn’t know, it wasn’t even like a consideration.
Ross Brunson 19:15
Right. And so there wasn’t anything easy to get ahold of and in the books that they get were expensive. Like I said, I spent well over $10,000 on books, specialty places to be able to try to get some of this information. And then of course, there really wasn’t much in the way of tax programs, you know, TurboTax was just kind of starting to come on the scene at that time and, and, you know, so yeah most
Angela Giovine 19:40
Differnt world know, a world without in to it.
Ross Brunson 19:43
Yeah, what we were doing back then is is all by hand, you know, keeping track of your, you know, your chart of accounts and you have a paper for each chart of account, the checks, you’d list them on, you know, whichever account
Angela Giovine 19:56
Ross Brunson 19:57
Went on and on, you know.
Angela Giovine 19:58
ledger meant a whole different thing back then, it meant a kind of paper.
Ross Brunson 20:03
Right, right and you know, the accounts would do their work, you know, outside under, you know, under a shade tree sometimes rather than the porch, you know, or, but they you know, they’re always working on on paper. So things were different that way as well. And so, yeah, it was was a lot different.
Angela Giovine 20:21
And in terms of having clients, I would guess it most of your clients were local at the time.
Ross Brunson 20:29
Angela Giovine 20:29
That a fair assessment?
Ross Brunson 20:31
Yeah, they had to be because of the fact that, you know, they would bring me bring me over their checkbooks and, you know,
Angela Giovine 20:37
Ross Brunson 20:37
there wasn’t an internet to to send them digitally to me, you know,
Angela Giovine 20:41
Or find them or they find you it was just not as
Ross Brunson 20:45
Angela Giovine 20:46
or cheap to do. You could possibly buy a national television commercial, but that’s not the same thing as what we do today as small business owners to market on a larger scale. So at what point did your business grow to the point that you said I need to start hiring people?
Ross Brunson 21:03
Some of your audience may know, my son Russell Brunson. I I don’t know. If you’re in the internet marketing world, you’d probably have heard of him. But, you know, I was working alone. And he got out of college, and he started into the internet marketing business. And we were on vacation one time and we were, we were doing a river running trip and we were in the bus traveling to where they’re going to drop us off in river and go down and, and he was just telling me about this new thing he was getting into called internet marketing. You know, the internet was just brand new at that time. And so, and obviously, well, that’s interesting. Tell me about it. He goes, Yeah, you know, we sell things, products over the internet and works out well. And everything’s great, he says, but the best thing about it dad, was that you don’t have to pay any taxes, on the internet.
Angela Giovine 21:51
I’ve heard him tell the story.
Ross Brunson 21:55
You know I said, wait a second. Let me
Angela Giovine 21:57
You’re llike Oh, no.
Ross Brunson 21:59
Oh no, is right. And so then I started saying, Well, you know, you may not have to pay sales tax in some situations, but I think you still have to pay income tax to your state into your federal government. And he was like, I’m just shocked, you know, I’m just shocked.
Angela Giovine 22:15
Ross Brunson 22:16
And so he said, Well, you come over and help me out? So I said, Okay, so I came over to his house and he tell me, his business checkbook, and it was in a mess. I mean, he would have, it would just a check stub you know, could be rip the checks out. There’d be a date and name, but no amount. Or there’d be an amount and a date and no name? Sometimes not,
Angela Giovine 22:35
Any of us can relate. Uh huh.
Ross Brunson 22:37
And so, I had to go back and get copies of all of his checks and start entering in, you know to like, catch up all of his accounting, and so that I can then help him file his tax returns. And so, once he, you know, we did that and I got him going and he saw the benefit of it as he grew as a entrepreneur. He would tell people about It. He’d say, you know, my dad really help me out. He got me squared around, he helped me choose the right type of structure to be in. He helped me do my accounting, he does my tax returns for me and so people would start, you know, finally I started getting some people that would contact me through this means of promotion. I remember one time he, he did this, and he was just driving to work, you know, and he had this little thing called drive to work podcast. And so while he was driving, he would just talking this, in this phone, this podcast, and then he would release it. And one day, his whole trip to work, he just talked about me and my business and what I did, and gave out my information. Well, immediately after that went live, I must have had 70 or 80 people contacting me wanted me to help them structure their business and setting up. So all of a sudden I had this huge clientele. So now I couldn’t do it all alone anymore. I needed help. And at that point in time, I had a friend of mine whose son had married a girl that had a degree a degree in accounting. And she was looking for work, and they asked me, would would I be willing to have her come on board and work with me doing the accounting? And so I chat tech talk with her for a while. And he was a real sharp individual, very, you know, meticulous and very organized and all and I said, Sure. So we started splitting things up and I started doing more of the setting up the businesses and she started doing a little more of the accounting side of things. And we worked well together. And then we both kind of shared the tax returns at the end of the year that were a business owners. So that was kind of our first movement into expanding. And this was as we were expanding, we were keep getting more and more work and this poor girl was overwhelmed and she started having children. She was working from home, you know, because at that time we had the internet.
Angela Giovine 25:01
Around what year was that? That you first hired her?
Ross Brunson 25:04
Probably around 2000 something like
Angela Giovine 25:11
Oh okay, earlier than I, okay.
Ross Brunson 25:11
Maybe or 2005 I don’t , somewhere just kind of there at the beginning, but we had more access to more things and
Angela Giovine 25:17
Ross Brunson 25:18
over the Internet and different things. And so we work together and, and she’s, you know, was just a housewife as well and was doing that kind of on the side, she did had a child, then she had another child, then she had another child, were on she had five children you know. I can’t do all this anymore. You know, I to spend time with my children. So that point in time, I had a nephew, who was in the master’s program in in accounting. He was just finishing up with his master degree. So I said to him, would you be willing to help us do some accounting work? This girl’s getting a little bit overwhelmed and Lisa will give me some of her work, and as we grow will continue to give more and more.And so He said, Sure, I’ll be happy to do that. And he was kind of working again on his own, doing accounting for a company and then working with us. And so we continued to grow and we continue to grow. I kept giving him more and more business to the point where he finally said, I either got to quit my job, or I got to quit you.
Angela Giovine 26:19
This is now two career paths, yeah.
Ross Brunson 26:21
Right. It’s just too much. And so I said, Well, I would love to have you with me a part of the company. And so he said, Okay. He says, tell you what, you know we have enough work here where we can start hiring some additional accountants, would you be willing to allow me to be the supervisor over the accountants? You know, I’ll do continue to do some and I’ll supervise and I said, Sure. That sounds like a good deal. And so we set him up as a supervisor, and he then started interviewing accountants, finding ones that were good and hiring them on to to help us and again, they were working from home, and lot of them had other accounting jobs. You know, we were giving them as you know, our clients that they were serving on our behalf. So that was going good, and then all of a sudden, we were getting the point where we were having so many tax returns, because of all the the accounting and things that it was difficult to keep up. And it just so happened at that point in time, my sister got her CPA degree. And so, my sister came along and said, I just got out of school, I just have my CPA. I’m want to start my own business. Can you help me out? And I said, you bet we got so much tax return work bit. And we just loaded her up to the point where now she can, I mean she’s had to hire two or three new CPAs in her office just to keep up with the tax work that we’ve that we’ve got. So we’ve so I expanded from myself being a one man operation to a two man with with my nephew, helping with the accounting and then to, three man with my sister doing these, the actual the tax returns, and so we now, the three of us are kind of the principals of of Bookies.
Angela Giovine 27:57
And how many of you are there in total?
Ross Brunson 27:59
Our CPA has probably two other CPAs plus a enrolled agent, that she has. Our my supervisor over the accountants, my nephew, he’s got about nine accountants that work underneath him.
Angela Giovine 28:13
Ross Brunson 28:13
And I have my my production. If you know, what I do is I help them set up their business. And so there’s a lot of paperwork that have to be drafted up and so I have a drafting department. So I have one person who helps me draft up the documents specific to the particular individual I’m working with. And he then drives them up, gives them back to me to review and then I give them to another person, the lady at the housewife who takes that information prints them all up for me nicely, she puts them in boxes to be mailed out, She brings them back to me to mail. So that’s everyone we’ve got so far in the operation.
Angela Giovine 28:53
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Angela Giovine 31:23
You are a solopreneur for quite a while It sounds like.
Ross Brunson 31:26
Angela Giovine 31:27
And it wasn’t until early 2000s when, this moment happened, where it sort of exploded your growth. What made you choose for such a long time to take on as much work? What is the saying like eat what you kill, basically, you know, do the work that you can handle and keep it just as a solopreneur. What was your rationale there?
Ross Brunson 31:50
Well it at the time there was nobody that could do what I was doing.
Angela Giovine 31:55
Ah so you’d you were having trouble finding someone with your capabilities?
Ross Brunson 32:00
Right, right. Like I said, I spent years and years and thousands of dollars to gather this information structuring. There was nobody out there that even had it. In fact, my son Russell started holding some conferences, and I would go and speak and I would talk to the people about structuring in there. I mean, there were people that would come up to me and says, I have a degree in finance, and I’ve never heard any of this stuff. You know, I’ve got accounting degree, I I I’ve never heard any of this stuff that, that you’re explaining to me. You know, I’ve even had attorneys come up to me and say, I want you to set up my structures for me. Attorneys who could have done it themselves, they came to me to help, It was because of this, this specialized knowledge that I had, and there’s nobody out there that really that has that. And so, for that reason, I was kind of stuck with that and I was just kind of out of necessity. I had to do that until this girl came along who was an accountant and and could take on a portion of that business for me.
Angela Giovine 32:57
Being a solopreneur, there are lots of stresses but they’re very different stresses than, when you have a group of people that you manage,
Ross Brunson 33:04
You know, you have so many hats that you’re wearing and it’s so difficult, you know, because you know, you’re trying to find clients, but if you have to do your accounting, and then I need to talk to this guy, but I have to send out a bill otherwise I can’t get paid, you know, you’re always just running around. Like your hair’s on fire, you know, that’s a difficult way to operate, though there are definitely problems there. But when you get to the point where you start having staff, now you have additional types of problems, you know, this staff person and that staff person, they won’t work together, or I need you to do this, well, I’m busy, I can’t do that now. Or, you know, I think I’m going to not work with you anymore. I’m going to go some place else, and all of a sudden, well, you had 15 of our clients, we have to move those now to someone else, you know, where are we going to move those two and so you get those type of things, more managerial part, as you expand your operation. You know, by necessity, you have to kind of become more of a manager as opposed to a salesman, and so that’s where a lot of people, they start to expand like that and their business stops growing, because they’re no longer doing the sales. They’re just all busy managing what they have. And so a lot of times the business will stagnate or even start to drop. It’s not till they understand that, hey, I’ve got to give up some of this myself. I’ve got to hire somebody who knows this, who can take this off my hands that I’m sure will take good care of it and do it well, but will free me up so I can talk to a client again, so I could tell people about my business. So I can, you know, get people excited about what I do. And so that’s the next big part that’s really difficult is for people to let loose and let go and say, I gotta trust in somebody else to do this, a new parts of this.
Angela Giovine 34:47
When you first started hiring, did you just have the urge if if somebody did a piece of work for you to just do it your way and change it and what was that like to kind of loosen those reins?
Ross Brunson 35:01
Yeah, it was difficult when I first went into business and I was in that insurance restoration business, I had employees that were working for me. And, you know, I wanted them to do things certain ways, and they wanted to do things themselves their way. And so as a result, I never felt like I could leave them alone. I needed to be there, you know. And so for three or four years, we never went on a family vacation, we never did, I mean, I just worked every single day, you know, six days a week, running my business and have to be there always. And so it finally got to the point where my wife is saying, you know, we need to go on a vacation, you know kids are growing up, we need to do something here. And after a while, it just got to the point where I said, it’s so difficult I have to let go with this. But I guess I gotta let go a bit, you know, and I’m gonna have to then see if they can rise to the challenge and if not, we’ll have to deal with the consequences. But it after a while, it just kind of becomes imperative that you you do that.
Angela Giovine 36:01
Right, right. And sometimes you’re pleasantly surprised you’re able, it turns out the thing can keep going without you.
Ross Brunson 36:09
Right, exactly. That’s when it’s really nice. The opposites not so nice. When you come back and find out everything’s fallen to pieces. But yeah, fortunately, if you’ve trained them well, when you’ve taught them what they’re supposed to be doing, and they know what they’re supposed to be doing, then you’ll have good experiences at that point in time.
Angela Giovine 36:25
Yeah, yeah. So your business, is everyone in one brick and mortar or are you really taking advantage of, you know, the way people work these days in a remote way across the country?
Ross Brunson 36:38
Yes, we definitely are due by remote. I because of the fact that the work that I do is, you know, separate now, encapsulated from what the accountants do, from what CPA does, I can be where I want to be and so I actually just work out of the basement of my home right now. I don’t need to have an office. You know, most most of my clients don’t live in even live in the state where I’m at.
Angela Giovine 37:03
Ross Brunson 37:03
I may be working with someone in Pennsylvania or in Florida and I’m in Utah, you know. So there’s not a reason for me to have a brick and mortars place where someone could come in and sit down with me. My nephew, he works some out of his house, but he has some from time to time people that will come by and need to meet with him. And so he has kind of a little office that he has. Also he’s got some younger children and he needs to kind of be away from the family
Angela Giovine 37:29
Get out of home.
Ross Brunson 37:30
doing the work you know, as he have all the kids piling on dad all the time while he’s trying to
Angela Giovine 37:34
Yeah, yeah yeah.
Ross Brunson 37:34
He has a little office but he does a lot of work from his home. And he then has these you know he’s he supervises all these accountants that we have and he supervises them over the internet. He has a Dropbox account that has every single one of his you know his people in it, you know, he has them back up the the accounting for every single client we have, and so he can go in at any time, and he could look and find out if this accountant’s doing the work properly or not. He can, if they’re not, he can talk with them. You know, he has checks and balances are supposed to send out a profit and loss sheet every month, he asked them to send him a copy of that, you know, digitally as well. So he’s knowing whether these things are happening and not. So he he does a lot through his internet, through the internet. And you know, and like I say, his, the people he supervising are not in the office with him. They’re usually in their own homes, these people. And then my sister who has the CPA firm, she does a lot of the, you know, because a lot of her clients she, she gets from us who are putting up these business owners all over the country. She she does work with them, you know, over the Internet, as she has secure portals where they can send her the information, and she can accept it and then send it back to them and, and so yeah, a lot of her work is done outside of the office. She has one person that sits in there, chases walk in traffic, but the majority of them some of her, her other CPAs who work from their homes, you know when they need to, or when they’d like to. So we utilize that technology a lot nowadays.
Angela Giovine 39:15
We happen to be having this conversation in the middle of the Covid 19 pandemic, when pretty much everybody who can is working from home. And I don’t know about you, but I think that this one of the things that’s coming out of this pandemic is, while people sort of on the back of their head, like knew they could work from home, it wasn’t always top of mind or preferred, or maybe it was people, some people pushed against it. In my opinion, I think it’s really normalized it a lot over this past two months that we’ve been all working from home and now you’re starting to see the headlines that even like large companies are starting to say we might not go back to the way it was in terms of brick and mortar. It’s, it’s really taken what was more on the fringe and made it the mainstream.
Ross Brunson 40:11
Yeah, If I could mention my son Russell again, he has the click funnels company and he has well over 300 employees and he has a big office in Boise where a lot of them would come to do their work and they bought another big plot of land, that they were going to be an bigger office in to house more people, and this corona virus thing came up and so all these people went home and they started working from home and he said You know something? They’ve been more productive, working from their home, I guess probably because they weren’t talking with their friends or you know they are more productive than they were when they are sitting in the building with them. And so now, he got this building, nobody’s there, they’re all working from home. He got this plot of land that he bought he was going to build a building on he said, What am I going to do with this land now?
Angela Giovine 40:58
Ross Brunson 41:00
plans to bring them back anytime soon.
Angela Giovine 41:02
Right, with as a company that size certainly need a space of some kind for people have meetings, but I think that initial fear of like Oh people aren’t going to be productive, it’s gone. It’s it’s really interesting to live through that but I have to say I commend you because your’ve been in business through many decades and many people wouldn’t be as open to change as you seem to have been in your business specifically from a technological stand point. Most people, a new technology comes in, I don’t want to learn it. That’s not the way I do things. I I don’t need the internet. I talked to CPAs who say I won’t even do email, please don’t please don’t email me I don’t send people my email address, I want to talk on the phone. And it really seems like you have had the capability to open your mind in ways that other people may not be willing to. How do you think that happened? Is that just your nature? Or what do you think?
Ross Brunson 42:07
Yeah, I think it’s kind of was my nature, like I say I came from a background where people work for employers and not as a entrepreneurs. I had to break free of that mold, you know I had to start on my own, I didn’t have a father that could say this is what you need to do, this is how you structure yourself, this is how you you know pay your bills, I didn’t have any of that. I had to i had to seek it out on my own. And so since I was looking for new avenues, new ways, you know to make myself work. I just had to accept the things that came along. And you know and after a while I got to a point where know you’d be having to struggling with this this something that you’re working on and all of a sudden a new adventure comes along that takes care of it. It’ just like Wow, you know this makes my life so much easier, so it wasn’t that difficult for me to to make some of those changes. This should like it always made my life easier to move forward with this technology.
Angela Giovine 43:02
That’s really… awesome. I hope more people and I think more, every day more people are becoming open to that but it is something that a lot of people struggle with as just just the oppotunity to change. As a small business owner and a father and the breadwinner in your family, tell me about times in which that was extremely stressful or struggle for you to have that kind of responsibility, you know as oppose to being able to just sort of clock it in and clock it out.
Ross Brunson 43:35
Yeah, one of the first things you discover when you become an independent business owner, right off the bat. You’ve never been a business owner, soleproprietor or anything before, you’re working for someone, you finally take that step and you become a you know your own boss, the first thing you’re going to find out, is that people don’t care whether you survive or fail. People don’t care. It’s kind of up to you, you know, you’re saying, Oh my family is starving to death, I need this job or I need to be able to do this, they’re like, we don’t care. We got take care of our families as well, so if it puts a lot different outlook on you, you know, you start thinking Wow, if I don’t get work here soon, I don’t have any money to buy food, I don’t have money to pay rent, I don’t have money to you know, take care of-
Angela Giovine 44:28
There’s just extra fire there.
Ross Brunson 44:30
So it builds an internal flame inside as you mentioned a fire or you just mean, I got to produce, I got to produce, I got to work, I got to go after it. But as a result of that, you know from the suffering that my family had to fo through, is I would spend 15 18 hour a days working, trying to make sure that I could get things stablilized and income come in so I could keep them in a home and keep feeding them and keep clothes in their back, you know. So as a result, I think specially in the younger years of my kids, I wasn’t around as much as I would have been if I’d been working for somebody, but there were still great things though that that came about because of it. You know I had 3 boys and 2 of them were great little wrestlers and I used to spend time go to their wrestling practices every day, after school, and then I’d stay afterwards, I used to wrestle myself when I was in high school and college and so I would stay afterwards and coach them and and work with them and I got to google all the wrestling tournaments, and travel with them around the world, around the country and things and and be a part of their lives, so it opens doors like that for you as well. You’re own business person and can control your own time.
Angela Giovine 45:43
Well, I wouldn’t be so hard on yourself, I’m the daughter of an entrepreneur, small business owner as well who also worked every waking minutes of the day, and he still does. And me and my sister and my brother, were all work horses because of it. So I’m sure that you imparted some of that DNA as well.
Ross Brunson 46:03
Yeah, you’re parents were good example to you and you followed that, and that’s what I tried to do is be a good example to my kids, and several of them have started their own businesses and things and so it’s it’s been fun to see them mature and grow into this same type of a lifestyle.
Angela Giovine 46:19
As they entered those entrpreneurial journeys, is it something that you wanted for them? Or as a small business owner who had already been through it, and been through the tough times of it, did you wish that they chose a different path? Early, not now but like back then.
Ross Brunson 46:38
I always wanted them to have their own businesses where they could. One of the things we emphasize lot in our family was education, and so we wanted our kids to go to college, we wanted them to have a degree if possible, we wanted them to to be marketable in the event that they weren’t going to be their own bosses and but I I’ve always talked to them about it, they I was telling you about talking with Russell, you know he was telling me about his his business and I was excited and I would further learn more about it and talk to him about it and give him support and give him you know, some some wisdom maybe that I may have learned over the time to help him out. So yeah, I’ve always thought that’s a good way to be and then I’ve encouraged that as much as I could with them.
Angela Giovine 47:27
As a solopreneur, and when you’re a solopreneur and you don’t have a a co-founder or a partner, the mental burden can be significant, what were the ways that you’d cope with that kind of stress? Were there people that you turned to as confidance, people that you took advice from in order to sort of mentally strengthen yourself as a solopreneur?
Ross Brunson 47:51
It was tough for me because I didn’t have a lot of entrepreneurs that I know of, and so where I got my best comfort I guess was in my family. My wife and I we had 5 children, we were very close, we did a lot of things together, and as we became more successful we did lot of travelling, and you know we travel back east and then cross the county, so it was those times when I could break away from the stress and just be with my family. And just that environment was so comforting to me that it made it easier to go back to work when I needed to.
Angela Giovine 48:31
And now that you’re a grown company with 3 principles, do you find that that lessons the load so to speak, there people that are sort of in lock step with you that you can kind of go back and forth so on in spitball step, is it how is it changed?
Ross Brunson 48:48
Yeah, it you know, we’ve add the stream line and we’ve even recently we’re still stream lining our operations. It’s good, you know to have people that that we can work with because you can bounce things off of them. You know I I can bounce things off my sister who’s a CPA when it comes to you know taxes and how these entities are taxed. You know but times will come in some some real tough, you know gray areas, where we have to kind of you know make decisions on, so she’s good to be able to balance things off there and and then accounting as well, when you know I’m looking to do some things and a person has maybe their accounting is all out of whack, they haven’t been doing it and they you know come in to me just to structure to them, I can talk to them about you know their accounting a little bit but I could then turn it over to, my nephew who then gets in and he’ll he’ll catch them up all their back accounting and get it all nice neat for them and and we could discuss them and also, structuring is a unique thing, as I mentioned there are certain tax advantages built in to various entity types. And you know you ,might start off with one entity type but you might get to a point where your tax is hard going up, well we could put a second entity type into the program with you and make have this 2 entity types work side by side together which could then cause your tax obligations to drop again, down lower. And so, he could look up these people new in their accounting, he could say yeah, you know what you’ve done for them is good but they’re making this amount of money and we think you know, they’re looking to reduce their taxes even more and would you mind talking to him about perhaps a way to alter their structure a little bit so that they can take advantage of somebody’s other tax reductions. So we talk a lot between the group and we help each other out and you know my CPA will call me up all the time and say well I got a wth a trust here and I’ve studied trust, you know after that attorney talk me into buying that trust, I spend a lot of time studying trust. So I could find out-
Angela Giovine 50:56
After, you never get audited again.
Ross Brunson 50:58
Never get audited again. So I have a really strong knowledge at trust, and so she’ll call me up and ask me Well how does this work in the trust and how does that work in the trust? So we’re always bouncing things off back and forth on each other all the time.
Angela Giovine 51:10
It’s the definition of 2 heads are better than one or in this case, many heads better than one.
Ross Brunson 51:16
Angela Giovine 51:16
What is the most gratifying thing about what you do?
Ross Brunson 51:21
I think the most gratifying thing is is helping a person. Just yesterday I was talking to a a gentleman, he said I got, I set up this entity and then I set up this one, just on his own, I set up this one and I got so many of them and I’m cancelling out this one, and it just so unorganized. I just don’t know, what to do and how to deal with this. And so, we’re sitting down and we’re taking his the one he’s built so far, and we’re putting it into a you know, a format and we’re showing him how he could change this here and change that there, and how it’s going to make his life so much easier. And everything’s going to be organized for him as opposed to this chaos that he’s living through. WellI I could take somebody as having those types of concerns and problems and put them in a position where they’re going Man, this is so much nicer, so much easier, I know I can I have time now for other things and not all stressed out and worried. Those are big paydays for for us when were able to provide that kind of help for our clients.
Angela Giovine 52:23
Because it is. It’s tangible, that that clarity you talked about earlier on, when you’re in your insurance restoration business and you didn’t know, you had an accountant who wasn’t even providing a. So pianelle how do you even know what you’re doing at the end of the day, and and be able to just give people that kind of clarity in their business.
Ross Brunson 52:44
Right, it’s a big help to them, it’s a very big help to them for sure.
Angela Giovine 52:48
For sure. Where do you see your business in 10 years? And where do you see your self in 10 years? Are they the same thing?
Ross Brunson 52:55
Well, yeah. I see our business growing, continuing to grow, because we offer a very unique product. You know I have CPAs call me all the time trying to find out what it is were doing. What are you doing and why are you doing this? They don’t understand that. In fact my as I mentioned my sister’s a CPA, she took the CPA exam and there is not one question in the CPA exam about structuring. and entities, and what their strong points are and what their weak points are. It’s it’s just not there and there’s not a lot of places a person can go to get this information. And when they come to us, I can’t tell you how many times people just said, Man, you just educated me tremendously or you just blow me away with with what you’re telling me, you know nobody else has a clue about this type of thing. So the product we have is good and I believe that that thing even though the self is going to drive it. In fact we have not advertised at all. We don’t do any advertising currently, and last year I set up 265 businesses, the year before I set up over 200, this year so far, I’m almost at a hundred new businesses being set up. So word of mouth is just fantastic, people are talking about us out there a lot. I mean theres they’re sending their friends at and once they get set up, they’re sending their friends to us. So if we needed to you know, if things got really slow, I guess we could start advertising and stuff but we haven’t had to in you know in the last 5 years, just from word of mouth we’d been able to to grow you know quite large.
Angela Giovine 54:34
Right, I think like you said just people overlook how important that foundation is and if there’s more education out there that starting with the right foundation will lead to so many fewer headaches, in the long run, I mean it’s a win win if you’re starting a business you have to think about it.
Ross Brunson 54:51
Angela Giovine 54:52
Finish this sentence, I would not be standing here today if not for…
Ross Brunson 54:58
Well, two things. One, I think I would not be standing here today if not for the work ethics first of all, that my parents taught me. You know even though they were not you know self employed business people they put us to work. I grew up have on a farm and I worked from morning til night alongside my dad. He taught me how to work. And that that work ethic I think has helped me a lot in my life. And the second thing is that I would be here probably without my good wife. She has sacrificed time with me, letting me go out and pursue my dreams and she took care of the household, she took care of the kids, and she made life nice for me when I came home, so you know, I I couldn’t have done those things had there not been her, her steady influence and guidance back here at home front.
Angela Giovine 55:49
So true. What’s one piece of advice that will you would go back and give your 18 year old self?
Ross Brunson 55:58
That’s a good question. When I was 18 years old, I was more interested in wrestling and girls. I wasn’t that interested in in becoming greatly educated. And and so I would probably first of all tell myself you really need to spend a little more effort in your school work you know, you need to do it little more because you’re going to need some some heavy duty studying throughout your life to be able to to live the life you want to live. And I probably would also say, you know the true success of any business is how can you help somebody achieve the goals and dreams that they have. If you sorround yourself with that concept and if you build your life on that concept, I am looking for some way I can help this other person gain what they want in this life that I’m going to be successful as well. And so that probably a little bit of wisdom I would have given to myself is to look around there people that need help, you know reach out, help them, and then soon you’re going to make you better.
Angela Giovine 57:09
Love that. That’s that’s such a great answer. Ross, thank you so much for your time, It has been a pleasure.
Ross Brunson 57:19
Well thank you, I really appreciate this chance to be able to talk with you and and a little bit about my life and about our business and and how it’s growing through the years, so it’s been a really fun experience.
Angela Giovine 57:31
And one more time, thank you and shout out to WP Engine, check them out and get your special offer today, at extraodinary small business dot com, backslash WP Engine.
Angela Giovine 57:47
Thanks for listening. For more information about our show and our company, head to extra ordinary small business dot com. And don’t forget to follow us on Facebook or Instagram. We would be so grateful, If you could help us reach more listeners. All you have to do, is go to iTunes or wherever you get your podcast and rate, review and subscribe. It would mean the world to us. Ratings, reviews, and subscribes are how iTunes decides which podcasts are worth sharing. Help us continue to bring these stories of extraordinary small business owners to the world. By rating, reviewing and subscribing, you’re helping our small business. It’s free and it takes just a minute. Thanks!