Transforming your accounting firm starts with a leap of faith and a commitment to your own value. In this episode, Jonathan Bengel, founder of The Small Business Start-Up Foundation Program, shares his remarkable transformation from a struggling firm owner to a successful, empowered entrepreneur. Jonathan reveals how his leap of faith led him to overcome his fears and invest in his growth through the Eight Weeks Sales Mastery training. He candidly shares the nervousness he felt before taking the plunge and how his analytical mindset clashed with the concept of valuing his services. Throughout the episode, Jonathan runs through the mindset shifts necessary to elevate an accounting firm and recognize your value as an accountant. Tune in to be inspired, motivated, and empowered to embark on your own journey of transformation and embrace the abundance that awaits.
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The Power Of Embracing Your Value: A CPA’s Guide To Building A Thriving Business With Jonathan Bengel
In this episode, we have a very special guest. He is also a client here at The Abundant Accountant. He is an IRS Enrolled Agent. He’s also a bestselling author and a public speaker. He is also the Founder of a small business startup foundation program. He loves to empower, elevate, and enrich the lives of heart-centered women as his clients and also a few good men. He also helps speakers, coaches, and small business owners fulfill their purpose of living their true, authentic selves while making a whole lot of money and paying a fraction in taxes legally.
Before we welcome our special guest to the show, if you feel underpaid and overworked in your firm, make sure to keep reading. No matter what is happening in your firm, it’s 100% possible for you to work with fewer clients, work fewer hours, and still get paid more money. I know that all around you, firm owners work long hours. They have lots of clients and are probably scratching their heads wondering why they’re working fourteen-plus hours a day yet having little or nothing in their bank accounts to show for it.
That is not how we do things here. We show you how to create the firm you’ve always wanted, bring in the revenue you’ve always desired, and only serve the clients you choose that you want and who also make you happy. You don’t have to do the things that you’re not passionate about. If you’re ready to start making these changes to create the firm you’ve always dreamt of, then book a call with me and my team at TheAbundantCall.com. Let’s welcome our special guest, Jonathan Bengel, to the show.
Welcome to the show, Jonathan.
Michelle, thank you so much for having me here.
Thank you so much for being here with us on the show. It’s an honor to have you here. This is a very special episode. For you guys that are reading, Jonathan was a client. He has been in The Abundant Accountant family for quite a few years, completed the 8-Week Sales Mastery Training, and is a case study worth sharing. I’m honored for you to be here and share your story with other firm owners that might have had a stressful tax season.
They are saying to themselves, “I can’t do it again. I can’t have another year like I had. I’m burning the candle at both ends. I feel exhausted and burnt out. I’m never seeing my family. I keep postponing vacations. I never feel like I can get ahead,” on and on. I’m sure you can relate to that or some of it. Before we dive in, if you can share a little bit about where you’re at, when you started your firm, and where your firm’s at?
For the guest that may not know who I am, I’m Jonathan Bengel and I’m an IRS Enrolled Agent. The title that I go around that was given to me in 2020 by the universe is I’m a business profit tax coach and teacher extraordinaire. I’m a number one bestselling author, both nationally and internationally, for a book that I wrote called The ABCs of Deductions: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Tax Write-Offs.
I’m also the host of my show, Naked Tax Talk, on YouTube. I am the Founder of an online masterclass called Small Business Financial Happiness Blueprint. It is where I help to elevate, enrich, and guide the lives of heart-centered women entrepreneurs, a few good men, speakers, coaches, and the like, transforming their lives to financial happiness.
I know that none of that existed when you and I first met. Why don’t you share what Jonathan Bengel was back when we crossed paths when things weren’t so glorious? Can you share what that was like, the fees you were charging back then, and how you felt before joining The Abundant Accountant? How did you feel?
It’s interesting that you point that out because it’s true. This new opening is who I am. It’s what I embrace. You’re right. Before I met you, I remember I didn’t have a sense of what my worth was or my value. I had made a fatal error in my life and that was that I assumed that my identity as a business owner was the same as my identity as a person. As a result, I allowed my trauma, triggers, and subconscious thinking to impact the way in which I dealt with a potential client.
The client gave me what I call a triple S. Everyone has a triple S, which is a Sad, Sappy Story, including myself. It’s the truth. The moment they gave me their triple S, I went in with them because I’m triggered by things like poverty. “I don’t have the money. I made mistakes. I don’t know what I don’t know. I’m paying too much in taxes. I can’t pay for this or that.” That trauma of my background would flow into and get sucked into their drama. I would find myself saying things like, “Don’t worry about it. I can give you a discount. I’ll do it for less.” Before I met you, on my own, I was making about $100,000 a year but I was working a lot of hours.
How many hours were you working back then? Do you remember?
I was working every single day, a minimum of eight hours a day. This is what got me going. During tax season, I would start about mid-January through April 15th from 9:00 to 9:00, Monday through Monday. I had no life. I was fighting with clients, which I call price shoppers, that want to come in and are like, “Can you prepare me? I have a 10-40 and I got a Schedule E and a Schedule C. I have a K-1 but I’m not sure. I only want to pay you $100.”
What were your discounts back then? I know you did $100,000. You were working a lot, which was eight hours a day not during tax season, Monday through Monday. During tax season, it was 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM. You let your past traumas and your feelings of like, “They don’t have a lot of money,” or whatever it was. Do you remember how much you were discounting at that time?
No, but I’ll give you a reference. The minimum fee to work with me on an annual basis is $30,000. In November alone in 2022, I made $160,000 in 4 hours. Back then, I would charge that same price, $200 a month for the same outcome. That gives you a perspective of how far I’ve come.
You’ve come a long way. What do you feel were some of the biggest changes that you made in your firm from learning what you learned at The Abundant Accountant, specifically going through the 8-Week Sales Mastery course, that helped made an impact in making a lot of changes that we’re going to talk a little bit more about in your firm? Maybe you can share with others that are giving discounts saying, “I feel bad.” You’re people pleasers. You want to help everyone. You feel bad that they owe all these taxes and you’re bending over backward like Gumby, that little green toy. You’re like, “I can’t do it anymore.”
What I figured out is that back then, I didn’t understand that subconsciously. I wanted to be loved and liked at all costs by everybody. For me to say no felt like I was ashamed and somehow I was hurting somebody. To not value myself was something like, “That’s okay.” It’s what I was conditioned to do. We’re conditioned to bow our heads and listen to authority. If someone perceives to have more authority over you, then it’s almost like we hand that over.
It comes from the subconscious mind that the need to be loved and liked comes from the realization that we all want to be validated. For a lot of us, it’s validation that starts as early as our childhood. It’s a validation of Mom and Dad or someone validating our worth. We’re always seeking that out. When our parents don’t validate us, then ultimately, we turn to others to validate us.If someone is perceived to have more authority over you, it's almost like we hand that over and it comes from the subconscious mind that the need to be loved and liked comes from the realization that we all want to be validated. Click To Tweet
When we start our businesses, we bring that into the business. I like to teach this in my class. I like to say our companies are like our babies. I happen to be a father of three, to be specific. I have three different companies. We end up bringing that into the child. As our parents do to us, they bring their trauma and give us their trauma. For me, the biggest moment is the realization that I was doing out of everything because I needed to be loved and liked. That was a huge thing.
As you said, “I wish I would’ve known you earlier,” as an example. The truth of the matter is that my money trauma was thick. Lord knows I’ve been traumatized money-wise many times over in my life. You helped me to see the value in what I was about to accomplish. I took a leap of faith. That’s what it takes, doesn’t it? It takes a leap of faith into something that is unknown so that we can accomplish the goals that we want to accomplish. I ask this question all the time, “When is the last time that you failed?” The truth of the matter is none of us have ever failed because every single decision we have ever made in our lives was meant to be so that we are here in this moment right here right now.
When you took that leap of faith, what were you nervous about before considering investing in the 8-Week Mastery Sales Training back then considering that you had all the money trauma and it was thick? Back then, when you were making that consideration, what were you nervous about? What was that fear inside?
There were a lot of fears. One of the biggest fears was, “Will I make my money back?” As accountants, that’s who we are. We’re very analytical thinkers. We’re always thinking, “What’s the return on my investment?” What you teach and several coaches I have since hired as a result have all taught me that the results are not always immediate. Some are but not always. In tax planning, overnight, the results happen. What you taught me was to stand in my power, have my red rope policy, set my boundaries, set up systems, set up checks and balances, and rehearse the types of things.
More importantly, it took me a lot of time to do what you were teaching us, which is to calm the mind to slow us down and listen to what the client is telling us. For someone like me who is a very loquacious or talkative person who loves to speak, it’s hard to shut up sometimes. Yet, in the sales process, being quiet is probably the gold. You were trying to stress that to me because you know I’m loquacious. That was one of the things. It was like, “Calm down. Listen to what they have to say.” You’re so right. Over time, I picked up on all the common fears and pain points.Calm down, listen to what they have to say. Click To Tweet
I remember when you were teaching us and you were going through this whole process of figuring out what it is that they suffer from. I’m like, “I don’t know.” As time went on, I started listening. Sure enough, the Sad, Sappy Stories started becoming the same. I did it myself. I’m afraid. What you’re teaching us and what I later learned, and this is how I make my money, is to look to a client and say, “I’m simply looking at myself in the mirror.” Like you, I’ve done the same thing. It has helped me to close a lot on my sales, to be honest with you.
One of my fears was if I raise my prices, will the clients go away? The truth is yes. The majority of them went away but let me tell you. As of 2023, for the 2022 tax season, I’ve only processed less than 50 tax returns. Yet, on an annual basis, I had $250,000 I’ve made by maintaining my clients on an annual basis and providing them extra value other than preparing a tax return or picking up the phone and asking me a question.
Over the last few years though, they went away because you wanted them to go away. When we up-leveled, we also will track a higher level of clientele. For people that say, “I want higher quality clients,” you have to change yourself first. That’s what you did. You took the leap of faith. You set aside the fears even though you were nervous like, “Am I going to make my money back? If I raised my prices, will my clients go away?”
What was the thing that had you get past that point to make the investment in yourself and enroll in the 8-Week Sales Mastery program even though those fears were right there in front of you? I know you’re very glad you did it but when you’re in that moment, and for those that are reading, that’s probably the biggest one we hear. It’s like, “It’s a hefty investment. You want to make a change. You’re here because you have a problem.” What was it for you that got you over the hurdle?
First of all, it was your persistence, which is an actual sales technique. It’s the constant following up with the person. You and I would talk back and forth because we were part of a mutual organization. We would chitchat and things like that. You saw something in me that you knew I needed and I didn’t necessarily see it.
I see that in every person that I get on the phone with. There is a smaller percentage that will go over the other edge. If you and I were on the phone and you didn’t go and set your fears aside and take that leap of faith, I can’t do that for you. I can only bring you close. Ultimately, you have to make that decision to make a change. There was something inside you that said, “Here’s someone that sees something greater than me that I don’t see.” What was it inside of you that said, “I’m going to do this. I’m terrified. I pray I get my money back and have a return on my investment. I hope I don’t lose all my clients?”
At the time, you only had $100,000 and were working 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM during the tax season and 8 hours a day not in the tax season. You were working like a dog and never saw the fruits of labor. It was like you could keep going down that path or I’m saying, “I see something better for you. I know I can help you. I’m 1,000% certain,” which I gave you the certainty that I could, “But you have to make that decision.”
What was it for you that maybe could support someone else reading that might also have that same fear? They went through another brutal tax season and don’t want to do it again. They are feeling burnt out and are like, “I might want to go get a job.” For those that are still in a job reading, you’re like, “I don’t think having a firm is my thing.”
For me, it comes back to having faith. I’ve always been the type of person also that is willing to take a risk. With risk comes great rewards. It was a leap of faith. It was taking a leap. Your personality is the type of personality that I also felt I could trust. You remind me of the teacher that was very stern and was like, “We got business to do. We got to move.” Those teachers, I had a lot of faith in them because they had a rigid sense of like, “We got to do this. I’ve got you.” That is what helped me also to build up that faith to say, “Let’s go do it.”With risk comes great rewards. Click To Tweet
From a tax perspective, we’re all tax professionals. At the end of the day, I understood that if this went south anyways, which it did not but if it did, then I’d still have a tax deduction and at least I would still be supplemented via the tax reduction in profit. That was a little bit of that. Mainly, it was about faith and saying, “Let’s do it.” What I walked out of your program was an actual physical document that was tangible. That was pretty awesome.
Thanks to you, I was able to develop my ideal client. Her name is Tiffany Diamonds. That’s her name. I know who she is and what she’s all about. As a result and as you heard early when I introduced myself, I was able to define who it is that I work with. That came by working with you. The other thing you taught me was to set up those boundaries. Not everyone needs to come up in here into my business. They have to earn that right. We’re so often seen as tissue, strong and durable, and yet, disposable.
I love that analogy. For most firm owners, that’s what you typically struggle with. Not only are you a tissue but it goes in the trash one after the next. You’re the most important person that anyone could have in their corner, be it an individual taxpayer or a business taxpayer. You should be as important as an ER surgeon saving someone’s life because that’s what you do on a financial side.
I’m not in the business to have one-night stands. That’s what I call someone who wants to come in here, get their taxes done, and walk out the door. Girlfriend doesn’t play like that anymore. You got to take me out, dine me, and wine me, or better yet, you better put a ring on it and create a long-term year-after-year relationship with me. That’s what I do by offering the packages to my clients.
Those are the clients that are paying $30,000 a year for all year-round services with you.
I only work with less than fifteen of those a year.
What was the revenue for you in 2022? You started at $100,000 before we met. I don’t remember exactly after the 2 or 3 months you were working with me where your revenue was at but if you want to share that.
It went up a little bit because I was still very nervous about increasing my prices. In 2020, the pandemic came around and gave us all a gift called online interaction. It also propelled me into the space of being an expert in what I do. For all of us, part of it comes down to being the expert in what we do and demonstrating that. It comes from having a platform. I am on YouTube and Instagram. You can follow me in all those places. It was all about that as well. It was an accumulation of all of those things I was working on.
In 2020, I decided to listen in and tune into what you were saying. I said, “I am going to go ahead and go for the gut. I’ll go for the punch and lay down my value and my worth.” Where I got it from a tax perspective, my value, and this goes to the credit for Dominique, another woman that we both know, is I quickly realized that every time I open my mouth and say, “Where’s your mileage log? Where’s this or that,” I am putting money in their pockets. What I learned, and you may use this as well, is to speak the art of vagueness when dealing with a sales conversation with a client.
You want to share enough information to have the client intrigued but you can’t give them all of the goods until you’re paid. It’s a way to articulate if you call it the art of vagueness or you can give them the high level without, “If I would’ve told you exactly how to do everything, why would you need to hire me? You would go try it and then you’d fail multiple times attempting it.” It’s not any different than having a book on your shelf and saying, “I’m going to implement all these things.”
Most of the time, you’ll do part of it but you might get some of it wrong. That’s about more information where what you’re providing for your clients is more transformational results. You’re helping them get through all of it together. To do that, you’ve gotten good at the art of vagueness. That’s great. You’re not giving away everything for free. If you say, “Where’s your mileage log,” and you give them all these pertinent things they need to provide you, they’re going, “What did I not do that for?”
They’re getting to some answers without you being paid. It is a huge shift. It’s a massive one. You increased your prices. I’m happy to hear that. Let’s talk quickly about where you’re at, where’s your revenue at, and how many hours are you working so we can see how the full circle came or 180 of where we are on the other side of the rainbow.
In 2022, I closed out grossing $25,000. Interestingly enough, I had a net profit loss at the end of October 2022 because of some bad decisions I had made in the business sector. As a result, I had to let go of my employees. I had to shrink and downsize. When that happened to me, what it did is it allowed me to re-evaluate what I was doing. More importantly, it was the realization of the wish that I had made, which is to only work with a very select few clients at a high-end level because my time is only limited. It solidified that for me.
In November 2022, I closed four deals. I made $160,000 in 4 hours after having 4 sales calls. I had a negative loss, and then I had what we call a profit problem on the books. As a result of that, I was able to then think more about what I wanted to do. I have a team that is based in different areas of the country. Thanks again for being everything online.
I’m relaunching my book, The ABCs. I’m focusing on a live masterclass. My goal is to enrich, elevate, and guide the clients and my students through the foundation of business ownership from the profit mindset to how to separate themselves, pick the right entity, take advantage of tax deductions, and ultimately, how to protect themselves in the event of an audit.
Something that I’ve learned is that it’s about being proactive and not reactionary. Most people come to us in a reactionary state. When they come to us in that reactionary state, that is their emergency. It is because of our lack of understanding and our boundaries. We’ll get pulled into it. In 2023 alone, I’ve had at least 15 to 20 inquiries, “I got to get my taxes done.” I’m like, “Go file an extension. Come back after April 20th, 2023 and we’ll deal with you then.” Part of that is also realizing that I am standing up for myself. It’s about Jonathan loving Jonathan. That allows me to love you and others out there.
The actual work that I’m doing is accounting and tax work because I’m in the midst of a shift but even then, I’m putting in maybe 2 to 3 hours a day doing that actual work. The rest of the time that I have is developing the course, speaking, and social media. It is the stuff that I love to do, which I didn’t think I would at the beginning of being a firm owner but it turns out I love marketing, advertising, and speaking. That’s where I get to focus most of my attention.
Being a part of The Abundant Accountant family, how does that make you feel?
I am forever grateful that I was introduced to you and we ran into each other. The truth of the matter is this. This is what I say to others and I share this with you. You may share it too. When people come up to me and they say, “I’ve been meaning to meet you. You’re so fabulous,” I always say, “What is the wish that you made that we would cross paths?”
I know for a fact that you were brought here to bring happiness to the world and relieve the suffering of others, Michelle. You were brought for us, the accountants who don’t value themselves, who don’t see their worth, who undercharges, who don’t believe that they can charge more and still get higher in clients, or who don’t believe that if they change their prices, they can have the life they have always wanted. You were sent here for that reason.
I subsequently was brought to you to help me to fulfill my dreams. I am forever grateful to be part of The Abundant Accountant community. In the drag community, we’d say, “I’m so forever grateful to have met my mother Michelle.” You transformed my life. For the readers out there and you, the accountant, that’s sitting there going, “I don’t know if I want to do this,” I am telling you that I have spent over $200,000 on different coaches but Michelle is by far the best investment I have ever made. I will take that to the grave with me.
Thank you for sharing that. That means a lot. I’m so proud of where you’ve come, that you put your trust in me and my team, you did the work, and that you’re on this journey. The other Jonathan, the previous one.
He was so lost. He was a little boy.
He was Negative Nancy.
I have Positive Patty.
I love Positive Patty because Jonathan was Negative Nancy before. I’m so proud of where you’ve come and the courage that it took you to make those decisions. I couldn’t do it for you but I’m glad you made that choice too. It’s an honor to know that you’ve invested so much in yourself and this is still the most valuable thing you’ve done.
I want to make this point even clearer. What you’re talking about is so true. You can only lead us to the water and then we have a decision to make. This happens in our tax lives too. I had a client I met in 2019. She wanted to work with me. She didn’t have the time. She had a lot of moving parts in her business. 2 years later, she calls me that she has a $175,000 tax problem. The IRS was going to come and take her money.
Before you know it, she’s hiring me to represent her. We got it down to $110,000. That is still a win. That is $65,000 in savings. She paid me $20,000 to make that happen but that’s still a win. The truth of the matter is if she would’ve said yes to my masterclass in 2019, all of those problems would’ve been avoided. She was your classic like, “Let me do it myself. Let me fear it out and stubble along the way.” It cost her more money on a missed opportunity than had she had the faith to take the risk to say yes.
I see that in every client I’ve ever worked with, including you. I always hear, “I wish I would’ve done it sooner.” There’s always a cost to waiting. Ultimately, I can bring you to the water but you have to take the sip. Thank you so much for sharing your story, being here, being a part of The Abundant Accountant family, and inspiring another accounting firm owner to make a change and take that leap. You can have a better life. You can enjoy your firm. You can be excited to go to work every single day and not dread it. It’s possible.
You can finally live the dream you’ve always wanted. This is what I teach my clients. You can live the life that you’ve always dreamt about having. I’m so bougie. That’s my new word. I’m bougie. I go on my Marketers Cruise once a year and you got to come join me. I’m going on an after-tax cruise, meaning I paid from my money for a cruise coming up in another month. I’m doing all the things that I wanted to do. I finally have gotten to the space of, “It costs how much? That doesn’t bother me. It doesn’t faze me. It’sot a problem. I’ve got the money. Here you go.”
It’s possible for each firm owner to do that. You don’t have to go, “I have to check my budget. I have to budget for this.” If you’re having a budget conversation, you have financial challenges.
I like that comment. That’s a good one.
Thank you again for being here, Jonathan. It was an honor to have you. I am looking forward to seeing what happens in the next months for you.
I’m looking forward to continuing to have our relationship. I’m continuing to offer support in however I can in your community. The truth of the matter is that you have a mission. Your mission is to take us that are living in the darkness of ignorance and shine the light on what is financially possible.
Thank you again. It was an honor to have you.
Thank you, Michelle.
What an amazing episode with Jonathan. For each of you who are reading, every single one of your clients is going to come to you with some sort of version of a Sad, Sappy Story, his three S’s. This is when you cave in, “We give a discount. We do something for free.” We say, “I’ll do the work now and I’ll invoice them later,” and then you don’t even remember to invoice them. You put them back into the donation bank.
What I want you to remember is that every single client is going to come with you with their Sad, Sappy Story or some variation of it. I believe it is fine to listen to it but is not okay to give in to it. Your job as a firm owner is to help solve these problems for your clients. They’re coming to you with a problem and they get to pay to fix it.
As Jonathan shared with his one client, it cost her $20,000 and $160,000 in IRS fees, or $110,000. I can’t remember the exact number. If she would’ve let Jonathan work with her from the beginning, she wouldn’t have had any of those issues. The do-it-yourself crowd or, “I can’t afford you now. I’m going to try it on my own,” they’re going to come to you with a three-S story. It’s guaranteed but it’s not your job to give into it. It’s not your obligation to give them a discount. You don’t have to. It’s time to stand up for who you are and what you’re worth. I know that each of you can. We have to change our money mindset.
If you’re having a challenge with your money mindset or you’re feeling overworked or run over by your clients, then make sure to head on over to TheAbundantCall.com and book your call with us. If you’re ready to make this change and start creating the firm you’ve dreamt of as Jonathan has, book that call with me and my team. We look forward to connecting with some of you. You must have owned a firm for at least a year. If you’re in a job and have a firm on the side, you must be committed to quitting your job. If that’s you, head on over to TheAbundantCall.com. We look forward to speaking to you. Have a beautiful day.
- Jonathan Bengel
- The ABCs of Deductions: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Tax Write-Offs
- Naked Tax Talk – YouTube
- Small Business Financial Happiness Blueprint
- Instagram – Jonathan Bengel, EA, M.Ed
About Jonathan Bengel
Jonathan Bengel, Business Intuitive, Tax Accountant, Tax Mitigation Expert, IRS Enrolled Agent, #1 Best Selling Author, Public Speaker, featured on over a dozen podcasts and stages across America and Canada, Business Owner, and founder of The Small Business Start-Up Foundation Program. He loves to empower, elevate, and enrich the lives of heart-centered women, and a few good men, speakers, coaches, and small business owners to fulfill their life’s purpose of living their true authentic self, while making a whole lot of money, honey, and paying just a fraction in taxes, legally.