Wasseem Dirani was born and raised in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. After graduating from Westmount Secondary High School, he went on to Western University in London, Ontario, completing two years of study before being offered a job at Prudential Securities. He earned his insurance and securities license and performed ably for a few years before being given the opportunity to own his own business in the video rental and sales industry. Despite not knowing anything about the business, he was a fast learner and was able to open four more video stores within a couple years and franchise two more afterwards. Dirani stayed in the business for six years until the opportunity to work in the securities and financial industry returned and he worked for a large financial company before going out on his own. He opened his own business, Taxes to Save, to serve as a financial and tax consultant for individuals starting their own businesses and has been successfully doing that ever since.
Where did the idea for Taxes to Save come from?
I had the flexibility to do what I wanted while employed under larger firms, but the industry itself was changing a lot and I wanted to be able to move in my own direction. I was able to sell my book of business and shift towards the area of business I am in now, tax and finance consulting.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I have a list of things that I have to do during the day which include meetings and telephone calls with clients or new business. Then a big chunk of my day goes toward doing the work that needs to be done for a particular client. I do that until I feel like I’d accomplished something that day. It depends on if I have a deadline for a specific client or project that I’m working on, but I will work at it until it’s completed. I start pretty early in the morning and go until 4 or 5 o’clock, sometimes 6 o’clock.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I do a lot of research on whatever ideas I’m thinking about. I will test the idea with my clientele to see whether or not it would work with them and get their input on the feasibility before I implement the actual idea in a live manner. A lot of my day might consist of research into something I haven’t done. Once I’ve done most of that research, I will start working with it and if I find it’s working, I’ll implement it in my day-to-day.
What’s one trend that excites you?
More people are becoming self-employed, and especially with COVID. It has become a more prevalent space that people are exploring. Most of my clients are either self-employed or own their own businesses. They’re involved with small community businesses or they want to get started but don’t know how to begin. This trend has led to a lot more of this type of business, and I’m usually there from the get-go for my clients so I can show them how to start a business. That includes creating a business plan, searching for funding if needed, and exploring their options on what all that would look like. I also give them an idea as to what other industries are doing and what challenges they might face in terms of getting into that type of business.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Time management is key for me. I know specifically where I’ll be from the moment I wake up to the end of my day, and I allocate a lot of my time to make sure that I know what I’m doing, where I’m doing it, and how much time it takes. Having the ability to manage the time in my day gives me the ability to be more productive.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Always stick to the idea of self-employment. Don’t ever work for anyone else, mainly because I know how long I can work, how well I can work, how hard I can work, and how much energy I bring to the table, and I’m not constrained to an office environment or day-to-day mundane type of work life.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Gold is a fool’s money. I’ve been in the securities industry for over twenty years, and gold is like paper money in the sense that by itself it can’t be used for trading or day-to-day operations. Mostly people use it to either sway their cash earnings one way or the other, but because it’s a commodity it can never be measured against anything. You can only measure it based on how many people buy it. Like Gamestop, you see a lot of people buying that stock recently, jumping the price up, but it doesn’t reflect the actual company itself, and over time it will always go back to what it is really worth.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Asking for referrals is the biggest thing for me. Over the last ten years, I’ve built my business on referrals. I don’t need to do advertising or solicit business other than the clients that I already have. I really lean on the clients that I already have who have experienced the work I’ve done for them, and they refer other people to me. For me, that is one of the biggest things to do to scale a business.
Once I understood the power of referrals, I was very much motivated. It’s easier to get business from someone who has heard of your good work from others, than going out and spending time and resources to get the business of someone who knows nothing about me. People who like your work have no issue in referring you. I realized that very quickly.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
If you’re doing your job and satisfying your clients, there’s no excuse to not build up your referrals. I haven’t advertised in over ten years, because I haven’t needed to. My clients do it for me. Plus, time management is the biggest thing for the day-to-day success of your business. If you don’t manage your time properly, it doesn’t really matter how good your business is, it will perform poorly.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
Early on, I took on some risks that were too high in order to expand my business quickly while taking on debt. That was a huge failure for me. I should have waited a little longer to build a solid financial base before taking on debt. After I realized I was perpetuating this mistake, I slowed things down considerably and became a lot more patient with expansion.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I would start an Amazon business. It’s probably one of the easiest ones to set up. There is very little money for overhead, and you can get started right away. So many markets have gone online, and most people buy through online business, which is booming. They’re buying things every day. A few of my clients who I helped a few years ago have made millions in terms of Amazon sales. You need to find the right product, buy at the right time, and sell things that people will buy over and over again. With a little bit of a markup, you can do really well.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
I bought a new pair of running shoes. I found a really great pair that helped me improve my running greatly.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Adobe is the one I use the most, as most of my clients use it to send documents to me. I do a lot of converting in Adobe to send files out to clients. And because I require a lot of signatures, I use the Adobe digital signature feature and it’s a huge help in signing a lot of documents with authentic signatures.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
From Good to Great by Jim Collins. It’s a great read from any perspective of life because it helps you understand yourself and how you can become not just good at what you do, but great.
What is your favorite quote?
“As iron burns iron, so one person sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17. I picked that quote because it reminds me that one person helping another helps society run better.
• Time management is critical in organizing your business life.
• Referrals are the key to growing your business.
• Don’t fear going out on your own in business.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.