Mike Steele

Founder of Ultimate Tax Service

Michael Steele is the Founder, CEO of Ultimate Tax Service, dba UltimateTax and ProClient.

He is a self-made entrepreneur and dedicated professional, and has been self-employed since 1998. He kickstarted his career with a successful venture into the check-cashing business, spanning multiple locations. A proud alumnus of Northern Iowa, Michael utilized his degree in accounting to identify and fill a significant gap in the market. He noticed the high demand among small businesses for affordable, supportive tax software, a realization stemming from his personal experience as a small business owner.

Understanding the fluctuating highs and lows that come with running a business, Michael founded UltimateTax and Proclient, among other businesses. His diverse portfolio also extends into real estate, testifying to his versatility and innovative mindset.

Despite his professional commitments, Michael always ensures to carve out time for his family and his passion for travel. Balancing his entrepreneurial endeavors with his personal life, he exemplifies the spirit of a modern-day business leader.

What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?

My typical day starts around 7:30 am. Start my day doing some “accounting stuff.” I spend time with my team on the daily challenges and what direction the companies need to go and focus on. I am a process person. I like to find ways to make things better for the customers and for our teams. I approach challenges in a way that needs to be a win for our customers and for our teams.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I like to talk with my teams for each company. I like to process problems or new ideas. Then the accounting side of me takes over. I try to make sure the right people are involved. Next, I will create a process and then let the right employees take control. I am a micro-manager in the beginning. I like to know what is going on and what we can do to make little wins.

I have to remind myself that I don’t have to do everything. I need to give my direction and share my vision and what I am looking for in the future of the company.

I am an office guy. I have that old-school mentality that I must be there first and leave last.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I get excited when I see my team using the processes that have been created. I get even more excited when I see them start improving on what we created. It’s one thing to say you care about customers but when you see your team actually doing it, that is good stuff.

What is one habit that helps you be productive?

When running multiple businesses, it’s hard to stay focused. When you feel responsible for always moving the company forward, distractions happen.

I have tried so many different ways to stay focused, whether it is a task list, a reminder, or a sticky note. Sometimes, you just need to do what works for you and allow for distractions as they tend to lead to thinking differently.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I did learn this. Not to get too frustrated with other people not doing what you hoped for. You can guide, train and motivate employees, but people will do what they will do. Set the expectations and hold people accountable.

Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you.

I like to think that I am right most of the time. Employees don’t like to confront me. But I see it from my family (keeps me humble). I like to think that everything that I say is right but also realize that I am not always right.

What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?

Show up and work. Hustle, if you don’t focus on an item it will not get done. I focus on the little things. If you don’t focus on little things, they turn into big things and then you have big issues.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

This does happen. In those cases, I will find something else to work on. Normally I will get out of the setting I am in and maybe just visit with employees. Get my mind off what I was working on or what frustrated me, then after a visit or chit-chat, I will get back to it. I am not a fan of leaving things as I feel the burden of items hanging over my head.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?

Not sure if it is a strategy but I continue to question the process. Is there something better? I try not to get too comfortable in my setting as one thing consistent in business is that it always changing. So I constantly evaluate the strategy we have.

What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?

Well, there are probably many. Most people only see the successes. In my first business, it was a family business, my father started it. When he passed away, the partners/owners in the business gave me a hard time about everything. Eventually, some of them sued me. What it taught me was that I really had to trust my vision and be very careful who I brought in. It took some time but it was a great lesson.

What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Not sure if this is a business idea. But there are so many ways to make money if that is one of your goals in running a business. There are just a few things that make you successful. Persistence. Hustle. Problem Solve. Care about your Product and Customer.

What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

I like to use paper for my task list. Use Reminders to track things when I am mobile so I don’t forget.

Teams is great for communicating.

What is the best $100 you recently spent?

I like leadership/business books. I like to think differently and also make sure I am on the right path.

ChatAI — at $20 a month has been helpful in giving me ideas when I need to write something.

Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which you’ve received much value?

Books, about any that talk about leadership and business success. I don’t get caught up in books that are going to make things easier. There is no easy way to success. I have been listening to Brad Lea Dropping Bombs.

What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?

“Succession.” I don’t live a billionaire lifestyle but seeing the struggles of a fictional family makes you think.

Key learnings:

  • Set goals.
  • Expect a lot from yourself. There is no easy way.
  • Do the things no one else wants to do.