Mike Nickoli, the Founder and President of Spero Partners, Inc. is used to being evaluated based upon performance. Mike attended Birmingham Southern College on both academic and athletic scholarships and excelled on the baseball field, garnering armfuls of accolades. All-Conference, All-Region, All-Academic, and Male Athlete of the Year honors stacked up culminating in being named an All-American in 2001 and pitching in and winning the National Championship Game. Less than a week later, Mike was drafted in the 4th round to play professionally for the Anaheim Angels (now the Los Angeles Angels). The vast majority of games Mike played in up to 30 professional scouts were in attendance with literally millions of dollars hanging in the balance. The pressure and scrutiny were real and he’s thrived in that environment ever since.
After Mike’s baseball career came to close after suffering a career ending injury, the transition to working under high scrutiny in a performance base industry came quite easily. Mike went on to launch a successful financial services and wealth management practice. It was during his time working in wealth management that he noticed that as his clients businesses grew and incomes increased they were outgrowing traditional solutions offered by their tax preparers and their tax burdens were growing. Mike began looking for answers for his clients and for himself and his wife that owns a very successful business in her own right. This quest and the solutions developed mandated the formation of Spero Partners, Inc. Through a collective of experienced and vetted professionals consisting of financial advisors, certified public accountants, real estate experts, enrolled agents, and tax attorneys, Mike navigates the complicated and tedious process of lowering clients’ tax liabilities and then builds strategies to ensure each tax dollar protected or harvested is placed purposefully into the most tax efficient environments available. Mike quips, “My clients work so hard to make the money, then I work hard to keep the money, why would we want to expose it to tax ever again.” Tax law is complicated, knowing who to trust is perilous, and the stakes are so high. Mike revels in the pressure and delivers with performance.
Where did the idea for Spero Partners come from?
I work exclusively with high earning closely-held business owners. They have unique challenges and high demands on their earnings and their time. They highly value solid advice from vetted, credentialed professionals but often do not know who to turn to to coordinated comprehensive and complex financial decisions. Much like myself I work with clients who are high drive and have worked their asses off to be in the position they are in, they want someone they trust to partner with them in navigating through tough decisions with large financial ramifications. When clients get to a certain level of income and are paying excessive amounts in tax they have 2 questions: What can I do to lower my tax liability and who can I trust to bring me sound strategy and navigate the process? Spero Partners was built to answer those questions.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
As a dad of 6 kids and the husband to a high-drive business owner we have busy days. The algorithm that runs our calendar is absurd, our fall kids calendar alone included 226 sporting events, practices, dance classes etc. I have to live in efficiency – be it at home with the family, attending multiple sporting events in an evening, or in the office working through complex planning for my clients.
Efficiencies are generated by being selective up front with a potential client, managing expectations constantly, thorough documentation through discovery, and fantastic communication throughout the day with client and partners. Doing it right the first time saves a tremendous amount of time and energy.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I don’t know that I have many “ideas,” I really simply work to solve problems. My starting point for my clients’ challenges is always, “there is a solution, I will find it.” Then I work like hell to find the answer, vette the strategy, understand it fully, and then implement it for my client. That solution then gets systematized to deliver on efficiencies, so that client B benefits from a problem that client A brought to me that I solved. I love when clients ask me to “figure it out.”
What’s one trend that excites you?
I would reference the “on-line” meeting. Be it Zoom or Teams the on-line meeting taking off in the post COVID world is fascinating. Years ago I would have cringed at the idea of running a virtual meeting, as I much prefer to meet with a client over a cup of coffee or a beer, but in today’s environment I jump on a Zoom meeting with a client in Scottsdale or Chicago or Charlotte without a second thought. It is allowing my business nationwide reach as prospective clients are much more receptive to introduction meetings in a less traditional way.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I think immediate follow through is very helpful habit. Handlin an action item for a client immediately not only builds trust, but getting tasks off my plate quickly frees me up to be the most productive with my time.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Say “No” more often. Be fiercely protective of your time. Know that sometimes you have to say no to good ideas, or good projects, or good relationships to pursue excellent ones.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
A baseball game that ends 1-0 or 2-1 is much more entertaining to watch than a high scoring game with multiple homeruns. Only purists or former pitchers would agree.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Harshly critique my interactions with my clients, I am constantly evaluating my conversations with clients: Was I clear? Did I truly listen? Does my client feel understood? Did I simplify a complex discussion well enough? Do I really understand what a client wants? I want to be fully self-aware so I can be keenly in tune with what my clients want and need from me. I would challenge entrepreneurs to regardless of industry or sector to be hyper aware and attentive of their clients or customers.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Deliver. My business growth relies strictly on performance. The growth that I experience is contigent on and directly correlated to the results I deliver for my clients. When that happens consistently they want to provide their inner circles access to Spero Partners and in turn my business grows when I deliver for those referred to me. There is no cold calling, magic language, or silver bullet strategy.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Several years ago I had a business partner that oversaw all of our wealth management for clients. Brilliant guy, very smart, highly analytical, purpose driven, high integrity and it just didn’t work out and we ended up going our separate ways. We could not get on the same page with the way we wanted to approach the business and allowed disagreements to derail our vision. I’ll always consider that a failure, so I’m not certain I “overcame” it as much as I learned from it. I learned to approach business relationships in a more thorough and humble way that need to be tended to and nurtured and conflict addressed sooner and more directly, not making the mistake of assuming everyone is on the same page.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
IRC 280A(g) allows for tax free rental income of dwelling units up to 14 times a year, of course please consult with a tax professional before considering any tax strategy.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Probably getting the yard cut and backyard cleaned up and leaves handled with our yard service. It’s great to roll up to the house on a Friday after a long work week and the yard looks great and my Saturday morning is freed up for family time, kids’ sports, etc.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Nible.com is a CRM that allows me to keep up with my clients on multiple social media platforms, track every aspect of a deal I am working on for a client, and interface quickly and efficiently with business partners.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
The Speed of Trust by Stephen Covey. When you work with your clients or customers in a climate of trust work gets done far more collaboratively, more productively, and at a lower cost for all parties involved. It’s a great read focused on principals not catchy salesperson talk.
What is your favorite quote?
“It is a fine thing to be honest, but it is also very important to be right.” – Winston Churchill
- Work hard
- Be patient
- Give some time