“I can do better than this,” Carol Sanderson told herself when for years she worked for large firms, helping other businesses with their processes, finances, and taxes. She firmly believed she could provide a better customer experience with her own business. Now the owner of “Classic Tax and Accounting” in the heart of Marion, Iowa, her business has earned a reputation for its friendly, personal service.

My Successes: 

CLASSIC TAX (MARION, IOWA)

"TAKING THE TIME TO DO IT RIGHT."

“I can do better than this,” Carol Sanderson told herself when for years she worked for large firms, helping other businesses with their processes, finances, and taxes. She firmly believed she could provide a better customer experience with her own business. Now the owner of “Classic Tax and Accounting” in the heart of Marion, Iowa, her business has earned a reputation for its friendly, personal service.

It took almost 10 years to build her courage—and her experience. Working for years with business people who achieved stunning successes and with those that encountered failure, she used these case studies to improve her process.

But achieving excellent year-over-year growth requires more. “It takes courage, determination, careful planning, and a drive to do it right,” says Carol. She also was smart enough to seek help from business counseling experts at SCORE® and the Kirkwood Small Business Development Center.

Backstory

A native of Sumner, Iowa, Carol boasts a varied career. After graduating Iowa State University, Carol first worked in industrial engineering at John Deere at the time when “just-in-time” production processes were becoming popular. She helped John Deere move correctly into this area and that experience taught her life lessons that would help her later—like how to manage processes and handle people. She went on to earn a graduate degree from UNI.

Carol has always been ambitious. She remembers the time when, at age 22, a human resource person at Deere asked about her career aspirations. “When I told him I wanted to be a CEO, his mouth fell open,” Carol laughs.

The story tells a lot about Carol’s secret to success. Knowing taxes is important to her success, but knowing people and setting clear goals may be even more important.

Get ready, Get Set, Go

Overcoming “startup fear” in Carol's case was accomplished by embracing a structure to help her begin her business with minimum risk. Like the majority of other entrepreneurs, Carol did her homework.

Her first step was to attend a seminar sponsored by SCORE East Central Iowa and the Kirkwood Small Business Development Center entitled “Business Start Up Basics.” Held about four times a year, this class is an affordable three-night series for people who want to start a business correctly. Step two for Carol was to seek out assistance from the Women's Business Center in Cedar Rapids.

And, she took her time, a step that often distinguishes successful businesses. Carol spent more than six months on planning. Besides taking classes, she also sought free advice from a SCORE East Central Iowa Mentor, a step Carol advises for all aspiring business owners.

With the help of a SCORE East Central Iowa Mentor with finance, accounting, tax, and general business experience, Carol was able to formulate a clear business plan.

“I never expected to get the specialized experience of a guy like that,” Carol says. “My Mentor went over my ideas, dreams, and objectives. He knew my business.” He then helped Carol pick a location. Together they evaluated traffic flow, rent vs. buy decisions, and advertising strategies. “My SCORE Mentor was absolutely the best help a person could have,” Carol recalls. “Finally, we selected an office in a high traffic area in Marion and we were off.”

Making the First Years Work

One of the things Carol learned in her “Business Start Up Basics” seminar was the fact that choosing a self explanatory title for your business helps to attract clientèle quickly. She went with “Classic Tax” because “I liked that it conveyed both what I wanted to do and the style I wanted to employ.”

Carol attributes much of her success to customer service.

“It was that simple,” she says. “I really talked to people and returned their phone calls.” In Carol's first year, she learned about hiring employees and setting up an office. In year two, she focused on growth and tracking the results of various growth strategies. In year three, she focused on people to support the growth. As her business grew to include all aspects of accounting, her customer base evolved from individual clients to businesses. Classic Tax has become a full service accounting firm. As importantly, it retains its comfortable, personal nature.

LESSONS LEARNED? Use Your Head

What advice does Carol have for those who dream of owning their own business?

  1. Do your homework first. Take six months, minimum, to think and plan.
  2. Take the SCORE seminar and focus on what your strengths are.
  3. Seek advice from SCORE Mentors with broad experience and wisdom.
  4. Strive to identify the benefits your business will provide customers that distinguish you from your competitors.
  5. Expect to spend time earning the confidence and respect of your customers. “I counsel them and help them grow,” says Carol.
  6. Know the competition; and don't be afraid to collaborate with them on larger industry and educational issues.
  7. Don’t quit your day job—you’ll need another source of income while you get your business up and running.

Carol's biggest surprise? “How easy it was,” she says. Easy—if you’re willing to do the work. Classic Tax is a perfect example of using your head to follow your heart. We can all learn from it.

Trying Classic Tax out ...

Have a small business needing some money management? In need of someone to help you with taxes, to organize a small business, handle payroll or small business acounting? Feel free to stop by Carol's place or visit her on the web at:
http://www.classictax.net/

(319) 447-4429 Carol Sanderson