Are you sick of completely grinding 14 hours a day, craving that work-life balance, sacrificing your time with your family and loved ones, and postponing those vacations? If you are tired of the vicious cycle of pleasing clients and losing sleep, and feeling exhausted, depleted, and powerless, this episode is for you. Marc Schnoll, Owner of Sexton & Schnoll, shares his journey on how he grew his firm to $1M and achieved time freedom. By changing their practice, he positioned the firm for growth through competing and delivering a high level of service. He also shares the significant aspects they’ve gotten from working with us. If you want to learn more from Marc, head on to this conversation!
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Case Study: How Marc Schnoll Grew His Firm To $1M And Gained Time Freedom
We have a special guest. He is a client of mine. We have a little case study on how to create a work-life balance when owning an accounting firm and growing it to $1 million. His firm has been established since 2004. He’s also an undergrad from the University of Wisconsin and earned a Master’s degree. He has a licensed CPA in Florida and is also, a certified tax planner. He brings 32 years of experience in specialized, planning, and providing sound fiscal management for his clients through proactive tax planning strategies. He brings several years of experience and specializes in providing sound fiscal management for his clients through proactive tax planning strategies.
Before we welcome Marc to the show, I know that many of you are sick of completely grinding fourteen hours a day, are craving that work-life balance, and are sick of sacrificing your time with your family and your loved ones, and postponing those vacations. I imagine that you’re also exhausted from being on a financial roller coaster ride of discounting your fees, not getting paid for your value, or your worth, and being seen as a commodity.
If you are tired of the vicious cycle of pleasing clients, losing sleep, and feeling exhausted, depleted, and powerless, it’s not your fault. I know that there are a lot of people that are just not prone or taught how to handle those situations. This is what I have in store for you. My team and I have set aside time to speak to some of you personally about how you can apply some of the ideas that we talk about in this episode. If this episode sounds great to you and you learned a lot, then head on over to TheAbundantCall.com to book your phone call with me or Denise.
Whatever your biggest challenges are, trust me, we’ve seen them and we know how to overcome them. If this show resonates with you, you want to take the leap of faith and jump two feet in like Mach did, but the purpose of this episode is to get crystal clear on where your firm is at and what is keeping you stuck you get massive clarity to make some shifts and changes.
Let’s welcome Marc to the show.
Thank you. I’m glad to be here.
Thank you much for taking out the time to be here, and share your story and everything with some of our readers who might be in a place where you were years ago and frustrated in their firms, feeling overworked, needing that better life-work balance, which you and I even spoke about back in the day. Before we dive into your story because this is a unique episode where it’s a case study format, Marc and I have worked together for many years now. He’s come a long way. Marc, why don’t you share with everyone where your firm is and what things were like in the beginning?
We’ve been working together since 2018.
That was right when I started in 2018.
Where we were in 2017 or 2018, I had been rolling along for years doing okay but wasn’t happy with where things were and progressing. I was seeking to change our practice, and how we do things so that we could grow candidly so that I would be able to generate a higher income and a better lifestyle for my wife and myself.
Before that, in 2017 or 2018, you wanted to grow, but things were stagnant and you were rowing along in a boat very slowly. What was it like and how did you feel that you were like, “I need to make a change?”
The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I had been doing more or less the same thing over and over again for a year. I’m doing okay, but not building what I wanted to build. I was busy constantly, but not making the money that I wanted to make or generating growth. It wasn’t fun anymore. That was a problem too. We’re a small firm. At the time, we had 5 or 6 when we were mostly local. We’re in Gainesville, Florida. That’s our base. That wasn’t enough. I wasn’t happy with how things were.The definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result. Click To Tweet
It took me a while to get to the point where, “We have to change things.” A big client sought the services of a bigger firm in South Florida because they were looking for higher-end or higher-value services in tax planning. That was a shock to me. The question is, “How are we going to be able to position ourselves to compete so that we can provide and deliver those high-level services and position ourselves for growth?”
Grow that you’re happy again because it sounds like we weren’t even happy doing the work. Before we dive into how you did that, can you share with everyone maybe some numbers too, so they get some context of where you were around 2017 or 2018 to where you’re at now?
In terms of revenue?
Revenue and percentage growth, or whatever you feel comfortable sharing. It provides some context for the conversation and what we’re going to be sharing with some other readers that haven’t maybe gotten to their definition of insanity yet, doing the same thing over and over again. What was that tipping point for you that we’ll get into? It’s good to understand where things were before and now where you’re at.
We were at about 5 or 6 people. We had been at that size for about a decade. In terms of revenue growth, it had been somewhere between flat and maybe 5% a year. We were growing with inflation. We all remember when inflation was low. We were rolling along and not having substantive growth. That’s where we were then. Now, team member number eleven just started. We’re about double the size in terms of people from that point where we were in 2018. Our overall revenue growth, we’re on target to have our fourth straight record year in terms of revenue. Revenue has been growing from 15% to 20% a year. It’s accelerated. I’m very happy with how things are right now.
It took a ton of hard work. It doesn’t come without a lot of hard work for sure. I was wondering if you could share specifically, what were some of the main issues that your firm was having as it related to some of the sales conversations. The reason you’ve had this fourth straight record year of growth is that a lot of things changed in your sales process, how you communicate with clients, take payments from clients, or got rid of a big client. There are many elements to it, but what would you say the main issues were for you back then?
There were a few issues. In terms of the sales conversation, we didn’t have a method or a repeatable approach to explain to clients and prospects the value that we can deliver. How do we deliver that value and how much it is? Our sales presentations were not as effective as they could be. Even when they were, we weren’t asking or getting the fees that our value should be capturing. We were giving away a lot of expertise and value without collecting our piece of that.
I’m sure that got old real quick. The definition of insanity led you to some change, but I also know what was important to you was your work-life balance. For a lot of people here, I’d love to focus on that in that conversation because, in your sales conversations, it is not having the repeatable approach. You weren’t able to explain your value and weren’t able to get the fee for the value, which also created this unhappiness that you shared earlier. What was it like on the work-life balance side for you?
It was not great. Certainly in taxis working as long as I possibly could, working from 8:00 in the morning until 10:00 or 11:00 at night struggling and generating low fees. The work-life balance was not very good at all. Certainly, in tax season, I was working a ton of hours, 80, 90. There was no one but me to do a lot of the work that needed to get done. Even at other times of the year, we couldn’t afford to have the high-level people that could do some of the work that I would like to be doing, or that historically, I had done. In order for me to spend my time on sales, growth, and leading the firm into the future, I need to be able to be out of the day-to-day. At that time, I couldn’t. We kept doing the same thing over and over again without changing.
I’m sure that led to your change. I’d love it if you could share with the readers what you feel was one of the most transformational things that you’ve gained in working with The Abundant Accountant program, and what you’ve gained on your journey.
There are a couple of things. One is having that approach. You have the fifteen-step sales conversation. In the class, we went over and did a deep dive into each of those elements so that when I come into a sales meeting, I’m comfortable knowing what to say, how to present the information, and how to respond to the inevitable objections from the prospective client. That’s one major thing that made it so much easier to communicate what we have to offer.
Another major thing, knowing our value, knowing that we need to ask for the fees that are commensurate with that value, and not being worried if the client says no. If I quote a fee, that’s the fee. We’re not going to have a negotiation about it. If you want to pay for it, that’s great. You will get value and we will get value. If you don’t want to pay for it, that’s fine. You can find other services for less money. I’m not sure you’ll do as well, but you can pay less. Those are the two major aspects of what we’ve gotten out of working with you.
You’ve created this firm. I hear many people that, “I don’t want to burn myself out next year. I can’t do it again. I can’t not see my family. It’s taking a toll on my marriage. I can’t keep going this way,” but yet some people still stay stuck. For you, I know travel was important and that you wanted to design your firm in your life where you could step away and you could rely on your people. You had a team of 5, now you’re going on 11. You’re about to go to Europe for seven weeks. Could you share about that journey and what you had to implement in your firm each year in order for you to go on this seven-week trip that you’re about to embark on?
There are a number of things that have enabled this. The first one at the base level is our increased use of technology. Years ago, we were paperless, but everyone was in the office and had little remote work. We had one person that was remote at that time. The pandemic hastened this, but even before the pandemic, we already had half of our people working remotely, and now everybody does. We just have one person in the office. Being able to have that infrastructure enables any of us to work from anywhere.
It also enables us because we’re fully remote. When we look to hire, we don’t just need to hire locally. We can hire folks from around the country. That helps us tap into a bigger and better pool of talent. As we’ve grown, we’ve added people at the high end of the skillset level. We have more of those folks that can do what I have historically done in terms of the day-to-day work, freeing me up to do the sales, marketing, and leadership. That’s now the vast majority of what I do.
We head to Europe for seven weeks. I’ll be working sometimes part-time. The firm isn’t dependent on me. In the past, I wouldn’t have even been able to think about a trip like this. Now, it wasn’t that hard to think about it. I trust that the team that is here will continue. As long as the internet works where I am, I can work from anywhere.
We’re talking about your journey and what you’ve created, but in many people, I hear, “I want to better quality of life during tax season. I want to be able to spend time with my kids, go to church, be at home for dinner at nighttime, have that peace of mind by making more money, and working less.” You’ve been able to do all of that. What would you say was your biggest fear in making these changes in order to get to where you’re at?
I was concerned that it wouldn’t work from the standpoint of suddenly start demanding higher fees in some cases, dramatically higher fees, and what that would mean. It’s interesting. Early on in this process, I had taken whatever training to increase my skills as well as the sales training with you. I examined some of our client relationships. They were paying us more than anybody, but our biggest client was not profitable because all of the time, we hadn’t examined it. They were paying us and we were doing the work. The work had grown much more quickly than the fees had.
When I examined what it was, I realized it was unprofitable and this one client was taking an outsized portion of my personal time as well as staff time. When I presented this to the client and we hear about the offer that you can’t refuse, I gave this client an offer he couldn’t accept. I told him we’d be happy to keep doing what we were doing, but the fee would have to triple. That’s what it was. I knew he was going to leave. Almost anybody would. He did. There was a little gulp there. This was a big client at the time.
How much percent of your total revenue was it?
It was 7% to 10% depending on the year. That’s a big client. It was a concern. We certainly felt it, but it freed up staff time. Having this client not there freed up significant staff time and created some capacity that we needed. Within a year, we had replaced the revenue and more with better and more profitable clients and we’ve grown from there. When we talk about the growth that we’ve had, that accounts for the fact that during this period we lost or gave up our biggest client.
Ultimately, it goes back to that fear you had, “Will it work for me? How is this going to work for me? I’ve been doing the same thing for many years.” That’s the legit fear that a lot of people have when it comes to making these changes because what you’re doing might not be working out. In order to make a change, it takes a massive turnaround, accountability, and transformation in order to make it happen.
I have a question that I’d be curious about. What would you share with another accounting or tax professional who might be in your shoes, completely stressed, working too much for too little money, not getting the fees, having a hard time communicating their values, on that hamster wheel and the insanity roller coaster ride? What would you share with them from your perspective and putting in all this work that you’ve done over the last years?
Certainly, working with you has been a huge impact, not just on the eight-week course several years ago, but the sales master’s momentum that we continue to work together. It’s a continual reinforcement of all of that knowledge and the way to present information. We’ve talked about this privately, but you are good to work with. You push me and the others that you work with out of our comfort zones. We need to be there. That’s helpful and impactful. Another thing I strongly recommend, know what you’re worth and demand it because if you don’t ask for the fees that you are worth, you won’t get them. The only way to get out of this cycle is to push yourself out of this cycle.Know what you're worth and demand it because you won't get them if you don't ask for the fees you are worth. The only way to get out of this cycle is to push yourself out of this cycle. Click To Tweet
Sometimes you need to be held accountable for it because if you want a better firm and life at home with your significant other and kids, and spend that time with them, there’s never a good time to make these changes. It’s almost like you’re putting yourself through a CPA exam boot camp or you’re doing a mini-tax season when you make these shifts. On the other side, you get to go to Europe for seven weeks. You get to have a whole different firm. Your firm should hit about $1 million in 2022 in revenue.
That’s massive with eleven staff members and you get to work part-time while traveling the world. Kudos to you. Is there anything else that you would like to share with the readers about the challenges that you had and also those fears that came up for you? I know it is terrifying and scary to make these changes. It took a while to get to realize that this definition of insanity needs to make a change. What were those fears or what were you terrified about when it came to making the changes when you decided, “Enough is enough?” What had you got to that tipping point where you broke over the other side?
There were a number of things. One is the fear of continuing to do what we were doing. I’m in my early 50s. Life is of a limited length. You only have a limited amount of time to do what you want to do. I felt like this was not working and there needed to be more. That was a driver. I felt like everything all of the research and studying that I did in trying to figure out what was next, what I ought to do, or how I should proceed, you take a risk. You try to make the best decision you can, go for it, and be all in.
I remember starting the sales mastery class with you during tax season. It seemed crazy to me to be doing this in the middle of our busiest time, but there’s never a good time. The best time to make the changes is right now. You made it palatable, and doable, and it helped during that tax season as I learned and I was better in that season and was able to start generating those higher fees and having those conversations in a more productive way. I wouldn’t have done it any other way at this point.
I forgot you did do it during tax season, but I’m sure being tired of feeling that all of your years of experience, and technical knowledge and not having it be valued by clients takes a toll on you, and being able to reduce your stress but not reduce revenue and increase. Also, you’ve made massive strides in delegating work, and giving it to your team members in order for you to create this life. Kudos to you. There’s never a good time.
What would you say to those who are reading that are also wondering and having the fear, “Would this work for me? Can I make these changes? I’ve tried many other things, programs, coaches, reading books, doing all these CE credits on practice management, making these shifts and raising my prices by 10% or 20% and it’s still not enough to turn the needle.” What would you share with them to give that last word of encouragement?
You’ve got to be all in on this. What I get working from working with you is great on the sales side. We also have a marketing program that is important to us. We also do everything we can to upgrade our skills so that we continue to generate value. It’s not just one thing, but it’s achievable in a relatively short amount of time. I’m not sure I imagined that things would be how they are right now when we started this. Once the train got moving, it becomes easier. It required a leap and a commitment, but then it was just, “Let’s keep doing what we’re doing. We’re getting the results we want, so let’s keep doing that.”We must do everything we can to upgrade our skills to continue generating value. Click To Tweet
It took a ton of courage and effort from your point. Kudos to you because this does require effort change, courage, and also trust. There is a different way to help you create that freedom in the life that you want to go to Europe and have that work-life balance. That’s what this comes down to. On a scale of 1 to 10, where is your happiness at? I know that before, that was one of the major things that you wanted to turn around.
I was probably at about a 3 or 4. Now, I’m at about eight. I’m happy, but there’s still more to do and to grow. There are still more mountains to climb, but I’m confident that we’ll do it. I’m upbeat about what the future is, the team we have in place, and what we are able to accomplish. Thanks to you, other folks that I’ve worked with, and our own work. It’s a big team.
Kudos to you for having the courage to dive two feet in and go all in because that’s how this happened. Thank you much for being here with us. It’s an honor to work with you, to have you here sharing your story and your journey with others, and looking forward to seeing what happens in the next years.
Thank you. I appreciate it.
Thank you all much for joining Marc and me. It is always fun to be here and I love watching the client journeys and having them share stories with you because we all are terrified to make a change. Many people are scared to make a change in general, but let alone, if you’ve been doing something for this long in your firm for the last 5 to 30 years and you’re like, “How am I going to make those changes? I’m not like Marc. I’ve got this difference.”
It’s completely normal and we get it, but if you want to make sure that you know what you’re worth, you demand it and you need the confidence to help you get that, then make sure to head on over to TheAbundantCall.com so we can identify it and get you crystal clear on what are those things that are keeping you stuck on the hamster wheel. Marc said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again.
If you are sick of doing the same thing over and over again and you want your firm to not only be profitable but grow in revenue, so you can have that work-life balance, step away and go on a trip and maybe work part-time somewhere in the world, then book a call. We’ll get clear on that. These calls give you massive clarity.
Once again TheAbundantCall.com if you are sick and tired of the vicious cycle of losing sleep, being exhausted, stressed, powerless, depleted, burnt out, and want to get on the other side where you can have freedom, peace, and tranquility because it is possible we’ve seen many people accomplish that. Grab the first spot you see. We’ve got some slots open. For those of you continuing to read, make sure to hit subscribe on Spotify or Apple Podcasts and I will see you on the next episode. Thank you and have a beautiful day.
- Marc Schnoll
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About Marc Schnoll
Marc has owned Sexton & Scholl, CPAs since 2004. His undergraduate work was done at the University of Wisconsin, and he earned master’s degrees in Business Administration and Accounting at the University of Florida. He is a licensed CPA in Florida, as well as a Certified Tax Planner. He brings 32 years of experience and specializes in providing sound fiscal management for clients through proactive tax-planning strategies. He offers strategies that can save his clients money by becoming your trusted partner.