This is simple: never give up. The risk is worth it because an entrepreneur believes what he/she is about to create will take on a meaning bigger than itself.
Ghada Burton is a seasoned tax professional with exceptional experience in taxation and finance. She has demonstrated leadership as a Global Director of Tax and a Vice President of Tax at certain Hi-Tech and financial services enterprises in San Francisco. Today, as the Founder of Finance & Tax Consulting services in the Bay Area, she guides her clients through their tax planning processes to drive positive outcomes. She is a master in identifying and implementing tax strategies to optimize the company’s effective tax rates worldwide. Ghada’s experience extends beyond taxation and finance. She exhibits high talent, energy and upbeat attitude with collaborative mentality that adds exponential value to the company’s goals and long-term vision.
Ghada Burton commenced her career as a CPA at PWC in New York and subsequently transitioned to Salomon Brothers (later Citigroup) where she was promoted to Supervisor in less than 6 months. She enhanced her knowledge in the Federal International tax area as she assumed the position of Tax Advisor at Mobil Oil (later, ExxonMobil) serving the company’s Marketing & Refining divisions in Europe, Australia and the Exploration & Producing in Nigeria. An Out-of-the-Box thinker, she applied her acquired knowledge from Salomon Brothers at ExxonMobil to propose financial strategies of utilizing certain derivatives and certain hybrid instruments in effecting certain tax objectives. Consequently, she was promoted to Executive level and supervised a staff of five.
An entrepreneur by nature, today she advises her clients in the Bay Area on how to apply the tax laws to help CFOs develop an optimum international tax structure in foreign jurisdictions or to meet the company’s tax compliance filing obligations on a timely basis.
Ghada Burton has earned a Bachelor’s in Business Administration (BBA) in Finance from the University of Texas at Austin. She further earned a CPA and two MBA’s from Bryant University, RI, and George Washington University, Washington, D.C. with high honors and distinction respectively. She also enrolled in a post-graduate non-degree program at New York University Stern School of Business to further develop her knowledge of U.S. and International tax law. Additionally, she practiced as a Registered Investment Advisor until 2005 advising clients on financial and retirement planning.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
I am an entrepreneur by nature. After building my experience and knowledge in taxation and finance, I knew it is not a matter of “if” but “when” I would ultimately branch out on my own. I wanted a lifestyle that supports work-life balance. I also wanted to be the master of my own destiny because I believe I am more creative when not bound by conventional limitations in managing my professional aspirations. I think I tend to be a “risk-taker” in general and fearless when exploring new frontiers such as building your own practice.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
My day is typical and no different than any other person reporting to “duty”, so to speak, daily. But I do acknowledge that the client has high expectations of me and therefore I always try to be a step ahead; so, I spend some of my evenings preparing for the next day especially if I am putting together a presentation on a specific topic, or assisting the CFO deliver tax specific matters to a Board meeting. No two days are the same. Each day brings its own challenges which means I am “up on my toes” and ready for what’s ahead.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I truly believe that strategic ideas only come to fruition when you earn maximum trust from the client in your own ability. I am also aware that ideas should be in perfect alignment with a company’s goals and objectives. It does require a certain level of skills and mastery of the technical issues. It also requires collaboration from members of the finance organization and the foreign affiliates, if applicable. To do so, it is important to identify the issues, and propose viable solutions in a clear and concise manner and quantify the outcome for management. It is important to remember that clients would prefer simplicity, however possible when setting up multiple structures.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Trends come in various forms, but we hear more and more today about artificial intelligence and how it will shape our future. It certainly is making its way in the field of education and that is exciting. Many schools today offer students iPads as additional tools for efficient learning. But more importantly many companies have developed proprietary machine learning algorithms to create customized and interactive study guides with every textbook, interactive practice questions or in-text links to further reading. Additionally, Learning Analytics (like consumer analytics used by social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter), are now being applied to students as they interact with online technology. The goal is to help educators predict student behaviors and build learning interventions. So, the application of AI in the field of education is versatile and limitless with high utility.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Great organizational skills and interpersonal approach to building a book of business are paramount. It is important to set up certain processes to ensure that all relevant client details are well documented in my practice. Keeping an active calendar to ensure that all business development matters are current. As to projects, it is important to understand the client’s tax calendar and ensure that compliance filing obligations are met timely. I also ensure that I am kept abreast of their business deadlines which often drive the tax planning strategies and their implementation.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Well, I recently came across the book “101 Secrets for Your Twenties” by Paul Angone. It is written for our millennials, but I wish there was a version of this book for my twenties. It is written with levity and offers today’s youths some valuable advice on how to approach problems, failures, fear or issues relating to self-confidence. Everyone agrees that we experience failures in our twenties, the key is to learn from them and to grow. So, I like his secret #12:”Your twenties will produce more failure than you’ll choose to remember. The key is: when you fail, don’t begin to call yourself a failure”.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
This is a famous question often posed by Peter Thiel, a venture capitalist, who was one of the early investors in Facebook. Actually, one should be a contrarian to see clearly this dichotomy. I can say that hindsight is 20/20. People who discern this dichotomy often are onto something big. I can site Steve Jobs as a perfect example. He was an entrepreneur who had deep convictions in where the computing world is going and was determined to bring it to every household by creating the personal computer, then the iPhone and other products followed. He defied conventional wisdom and did so at great odds with his business partners and financial supporters, but he prevailed. As to me, to divulge this now means it is no longer private or protected.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
This is simple: never give up. Entrepreneurs or the “self-employed” clearly face unique challenges not generally encountered by people who have sought stable employment. The risk is worth it because an entrepreneur believes what he/she is about to create will take on a meaning bigger than itself. The rewards whether financial or otherwise are the reasons to stay focused and stay on message. I never lose sight due to the little nuances, as they are just distractions. And failure is not an option, so you keep re-inventing the way you do things until you reach intended result. It requires self-discipline, and if you are an entrepreneur without discipline, try to acquire it!
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Flexibility in offerings. It is the ability to customize to the client’s needs or circumstances. I realized that no two projects are the same. They often require different levels of complexity, expertise, or length of commitment. I also believe in a good marketing strategy. I realized that personal connections are important, but it is equally important to tap into the professional networks available online.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I don’t call it a failure, rather I always try to see the positive side of everything. Early on, as an entrepreneur I was fixed on my business model and what would be an acceptable pricing for certain consulting assignments. At times, this resulted in losing a prospective client who felt my experience was more than their immediate needs. So, I learned to build some flexibility in my offerings and deliverables, so the client could see added value to the final deliverable. I was enlightened by the experience; it gave me the proper attitude and better understanding that not all things work out so smoothly after all and it is up to me to formulate better solutions.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Well there’s never been a better time to be in the work force, either as an employee or an entrepreneur. That’s because we are currently experiencing a very strong economy. Recently, the Labor Department suggested that there are about 7.5 million job openings in the economy but only 6.5 million people are looking. So, this is a market where employees can negotiate better salaries or raises. It also means that you can follow your passion and start that business you always dreamed about. With proper planning, good marketing plan and customer service, you will succeed. I personally think that in this economy opening a Franchise, that is consumer oriented, could be appealing because of the strength of the economy. Whether you are an accountant, tech-geek, an aspiring chef, or anywhere in between, there is a franchise out there that is suitable to your goals.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I remember when I first embarked on my business venture, I went online and personally designed my business cards with a nice logo for substantially less than a $100, it was the best thing I ever did because it launched my marketing campaign and helped build my client base.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Quicken or QuickBooks for the entrepreneurs is a software designed to help small business keep their books and records in check. It is user friendly, cost effective and offers contemporaneous recordkeeping and a feature to tag certain expenses as tax-related for more accurate tax filings.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I personally enjoy history books. I recently read the book “America’s Greatest 20th Century Presidents” by Charles River Editors. I highly recommend it to those who enjoy history and delving into the events that shaped the 20th Century. To me, growing up in foreign countries, American history was only covered from a world perspective, so at UT-Austin, I supplemented my knowledge with college level courses for non-history majors. The book covers in detail the lives of Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, Truman, Eisenhower and more recent Presidents such as Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton, so you can imagine, it was a great read for me.
What is your favorite quote?
Steve Jobs is inspiring to many. I am in awe of his perseverance and how he changed our lives. He had many quotes that I like, but one of them seems relevant to my practice:” Simple can be harder than complex; you have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple.”
- Communication is enterprising
- Be prepared and genuine
- Be able to share or offer valid advice if asked
- Have a good time