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Claire's Journey: How Life's Surprises Led Me to Start a Tax Firm

The Backstory

I recently learned firsthand just how much life can change in the span of a few months.

Let me share my story with you. As of January 1st, I was happily leading a financial planning firm, personally serving 175 wonderful clients. Fast forward to June 1st, and here I am, having made the deliberate choice to leave traditional employment to be my children’s primary caregiver and dive headfirst into building my own tax firm. Sounds crazy, right? Well, that's life for you—full of unexpected twists and turns.

Much to my surprise I recently discovered that I am pregnant with my second child, due just 14 months after welcoming my first bundle of joy into the world. Talk about a whirlwind! At that time, my days were spent assisting clients in shaping their life and financial plans, but suddenly, my own roadmap took an unexpected turn. It made me pause and rethink everything. Sure, we could make it work, given our privileged position of financial flexibility thanks to my husband’s career and intentional decisions we've made along the way. But deep down, I wondered whether it would be worth it. My mind was flooded with countless questions: What kind of relationship did I truly desire to have with my little girls? Could my emotionally demanding job truly allow me to nurture that connection? And what kind of childhood did we envision for them?

So, I made the difficult decision to step away from the financial planning firm and my beloved clients. I spent a month with my baby girl at playgrounds, museums, and the zoo. My once fast-paced life suddenly shifted into a serene slow-motion. I found myself walking behind her, cherishing every precious crawl and experiencing the world anew through her innocent blue eyes. And you know what? The changes didn't stop there. The constant buzz of emails, Slack messages, and LinkedIn notifications were replaced with cozy library books—literary classics intertwined with guilty pleasure tales of true crime. It's amazing how stepping away from the hustle and bustle can lead us to discover the simple joys that make life truly extraordinary.

At the end of the month, I reassessed.

  • Did I miss my clients? Yes. My clients were the absolute best. Though, I did enjoy being "real-life" friends with them without the barrier of the almighty dollar.

  • Did I miss wealth management / financial planning? Yes and no. I am tired of the inherent conflict-of-interest that comes with any form of wealth management, whether fiduciary or not. I am tired of the emotional drain of coaching my clients, behaviorally, through scary market conditions or navigating a world with an alarmingly high cost-of-living.

  • What did I find interesting, without a salary attached to it? Sleep. Ice cream. Skincare. Politics. Cincinnati parks. Advocating for the everyday person. Personal finance. The power of no-code automation and artificial intelligence applications. Especially, ✨Zapier ✨ and ✨Airtable ✨.

The Idea

Probably unsurprisingly to everyone except me, I had the itch to keep building! I continued to fixate on the same problem that plagued me as leader of the financial planning firm: How do we continue improving the financial lives of the everyday person?

One tangential problem from my days as a financial planner kept plaguing me: finding trustworthy CPA referrals for my clients' taxes. It was a never-ending struggle. Some CPAs were stuck in the past with their old-school methods, relying on paper forms and fax machines. And don't even get me started on their responsiveness—or lack thereof—when it came to simple emails. But what frustrated me the most was that many of them failed to think strategically about taxes in a way that could truly benefit the financial planning process. It felt like they didn't want to bother with everyday clients because they didn't bring in enough revenue.

With my experience in no- and low-code technologies, I had a strong conviction that I could enhance various aspects of the traditional CPA firm. By eliminating archaic paper-based and manual processes, I could not only reduce operational costs but also revolutionize the way clients experience our services. Imagine this: I could craft tax "products" that were tailored to align with our clients' unique financial journeys—a true reflection of the services I always longed for as a financial planner. The approach would be client-centric, featuring transparent pricing, user-friendly interfaces, and a complete absence of confusing jargon.

Though I can’t ignore a common reality: tax services for everyday individuals are typically not as lucrative as handling complex taxes for businesses or business owners. That's just the way it is. However, I remain optimistic that the future holds promising advancements in tax preparation through Generative Artificial Intelligence applications, such as ChatGPT (please note that we are currently not utilizing ChatGPT to prepare taxes). These technological improvements have the potential to significantly reduce the high costs associated with manual labor in tax preparation. In the meantime, we have an alternative solution in mind: to offer opportunities to stay-at-home parents, or anyone, seeking a flexible seasonal schedule, empowering them to develop new skills. By teaching them the art of tax return preparation, they can work closely with our trained CPAs to ensure the accuracy and quality of each return. It's a win-win situation that could benefit both the community workforce and the clients we would proudly serve.

The Partnership

Bringing this idea to fruition required the ideal partner, and I found just that in Logan Holman. Logan and I go way back—we became close friends during a transformative leadership course over six years ago. Right from the start, we connected on the significance of mental well-being and the pursuit of a career that aligns with our personal and professional passions. Together, we shared a common vision: to make our respective corners of the financial services industry more accessible and relatable to everyday individuals. And the best part—Logan happens to be a seasoned CPA with nearly a decade of experience in public accounting. It was as if the stars had aligned, bringing us together to embark on this remarkable journey of creating a new type of client-centric tax firm that truly understands the needs and aspirations of the everyday person.

By adding Logan’s accounting expertise to my passion for building client-centric financial products and services, Vivify was born!

My Journey to Start a Tax Firm

We are excited to announce that we will start accepting clients on August 1st, 2023! From now until Baby Girl #2 arrives in October, I hope to bring you along with me on the journey as I use no- and low-code tools to start a modern tax firm with top-notch client experience. I'm excited for the successful and invigorating days, I'm prepared for the inevitable hard set-back days, and I'm hopeful for your support throughout the journey! Stay tuned.


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