[quote style=”boxed”]Understand your business model inside and out and what I mean by that is to take the time to know your metrics. The better you understand what the numbers are telling you, the better the decisions you will be able to make.[/quote]
Zach Olson is the Founder and CEO of TaxAlli.com, the nation’s leading provider of online tax and accounting services for small business owners. By capitalizing on the convenience and power of the web Tax Alli is able to better assist business owners with routine accounting needs – without the time or expense of a traditional accountant. TaxAlli.com is the first to fully offer a unique Web-based accountant experience.
Where did the idea for TaxAlli.com come from?
I think the idea for Tax Alli came to me after I started to notice a surge in the market with a bunch of awesome “do it yourself” business accounting apps, but where a lot of them where missing the mark was the fact that no one in their right mind starts a business to try and become an accountant.
Don’t get me wrong, today’s business owners are increasingly tech savvy and understand what technology can do to simplify their life. I just wanted to make it easier for small business owners to leverage technology while at the same time not having to become a full time accountant. So with Tax Alli we have been able to create a hybrid, basically taking the best of the tech world and putting awesome real life accountants behind them.
What does your typical day look like?
Most of my day involves planning out the next steps for our company; really keeping one step ahead of our growth is crucial. A big part of that process is spending part of my day interacting with clients and our team members to figure out where our weak spots are and how to reinforce them. I’m also known to take sales calls from time to time ultimately being on the front line of the company helps me keep a good pulse on where we are at in the market.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Two words: Mind Mapping. There is just something about the creative process that works for my brain and once my thoughts are out on paper it becomes more of a tangible product that I can start to create action steps around.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Startups and entrepreneurship in general – The sheer amount of startups popping up all over the country is awesome. There is nothing more exciting than watching an idea from concept to execution.
There is also a snowball affect, as new companies come to the market it creates new opportunities for more innovation and disruption. As an entrepreneur this forces you to get better at what you do everyday.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I don’t know if it is necessarily a good habit, but I would self diagnose myself as a workaholic. Once I get focused on something I just have a crazy drive to hammer out that particular project. It is a dangerous habit though because it can lead to burn out pretty quickly. I really have to thank my wife for helping me keep a better balance with this.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job was actually the second job I ever had and it was a telemarketing surveyor. Basically we were hired by companies to make a bunch of cold calls and get their opinions on a bunch of random issues.
There is nothing worse than calling people who don’t want to get called and this was way back prior to the do not call registry so who knows where they got their lists from.
Needless to say there was a crazy turnover rate – I think I lasted about two weeks.
In hindsight what I really learned from this job was the power of information and what it can do for a company.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
Take more time vetting team members before they are hired. On the surface hiring and firing doesn’t seem like a big issue; however, when you start to really calculate your true cost of hiring the wrong person it will make you want to take your time.
I think part of this is to really take the time and make sure you have a well thought out interview process and don’t be afraid to think outside of the box.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Understand your business model inside and out and what I mean by that is to take the time to know your metrics. The better you understand what the numbers are telling you, the better the decisions you will be able to make.
Some entrepreneurs are swept off their feet by the romantic side of starting a business and it causes them to not want to what the numbers are telling them, good or bad.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.
Learning how to manage growth and be more methodical before making decisions. It is so easy to get caught up in the excitement behind building a company, which I think causes a lot of companies to make bad decisions or put themselves in a bad spot financially or otherwise.
In my last company we experienced a crazy J curve growth right out of the gates. Our knee jerk reaction at the time was to expand our office to help facilitate our endless J curve. What we ended up with was a huge unneeded office space that ended up taking several years to fill up.
So the strategy here is to have a vetting process behind your decisions before you make them.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I used to collect baseball and basketball cards when I was a kid and I was thinking the other day that they should make cards for extreme sports. What kid (or adult) wouldn’t want a card with their favorite skateboarder or snowboarder?
“Hey bro, I’ll trade you my Tony Hawk for your Alva!”
Tell us something about you that very few people know?
I hate the feeling of picking up cotton swabs; I refuse to touch them. I wouldn’t go as far as saying I have Sidonglobophobia but more I just don’t like the feeling of a cotton swab between my fingers.
What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?
We have been a loyal user of Zendesk.com – it has been an awesome platform for us to manage our client communications and support issues from day one. In a service-oriented business this is a must if you ever want a chance at retaining the clients you work hard to obtain.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
That is a tough question – I don’t know if I could say just one book you have to read there are way too many good books to put out a holy grail.
Here are five of my recent reads:
1. Give and Take by Adam M. Grant
2. Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
3. How did I get here: The Ascent of an Unlikely CEO by Tony Hawk and Pat Hawk
4. Think Twice by Michael J. Mauboussin
5. The Ultimate Question 2.0 by Red Reichheld and Rob Markey
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
I would say Tony Hsieh of Zappos.com has been an influence on my thinking in business – I would suggest to anyone to check out his book, Delivering Happiness.