Jaimie Eck is the owner of Green Taxes Inc. in Vancouver. Eck answered some questions from the VBJ about herself and her business for this Women in Business special edition.
VBJ: Green Taxes Inc. is nearing 10 years in business. How has the company changed in that time? How have you grown as a business owner?
Eck: I originally started my business as Green Accounting and Tax, and it was really just a side gig for extra income because I didn’t want to be super busy during tax season. I did the whole working for a CPA firm and working tax season hours for seven years in the early 2000s, and I left it to work for private companies so that I could have more of a normal schedule.
I was the CFO at a boy’s private Catholic school when I started my “little” tax prep side biz. After the birth of my daughter, I got laid off with about 20 other people when the school was having financial troubles – their troubles started decades before I ever got there – poor planning and old crumbling buildings will do that. When my daughter was about 3 years old, I decided to try to build my business up more and then once it really started to take off I decided to just concentrate on taxes so I renamed my business Go Green Taxes. But then I realized someone else had a similar named tax business in Portland, and clients were getting confused with us both, so I dropped the ‘Go’ in my biz name last year and now it’s just Green Taxes. It’s simple and makes sense. My maiden name was Green, which is why I named my business Green Taxes. My dad is also a CPA and he has his own tax business in Utah, which is where I’m originally from.
VBJ: Finance is still a male-dominated industry, though we have some excellent women-owned finance companies in Southwest Washington. Do you consider yourself a trailblazer?
Eck: I do consider myself a trailblazer. I’ve always tried to get my employers (all men by the way) to allow me to work from home at least part of the time but no one ever allowed me to do it. A lot of CPA firms are still doing things the old fashioned way, the same way I was taught back in the 90s when I started working for that first CPA firm out of college. So, since I couldn’t do things my way when I worked for others (men), now I am doing things my way in my own business. My business is run almost entirely remotely with almost all of my clients and I’m working from home 95% of the time. I do have a shared office space with a conference room that I can use to meet clients when needed but I meet the majority of my clients in my home office.
I’ve always been a fan of change and improving processes, so I’m always looking for ways to do everything better, faster and easier. Every tax season I improve my processes just a little bit more. Also, when I worked for other CPA firms, I just sat in an office working on tax returns all day every day. I had very little interaction with clients. Now my favorite part of my business is working one on one with my clients. I like to educate my clients on every aspect of their business, accounting and taxes so I go into detail with them about the results of their tax returns to help them understand it all better. I help them plan for the next year and I include year round assistance as part of their tax return fee. I welcome them emailing or calling during the year to double check that they are paying enough in estimated taxes or to ask questions about tax write offs.
VBJ: How has your business grown?
Eck: I have tripled my clients every year since I stopped thinking of it as a “little side biz” a few years ago. I have always been able to handle a heavier workload than most people so I still haven’t hired employees even last year when I said I needed to! I have two part-time independent contractors helping me a little bit this year. But next year I definitely need to hire employees! I just can’t seem to turn away new potential clients. I concentrate on small businesses and I especially love working with women owned businesses.
I know that there are a lot of tax preparers out there who are not really helping their clients or else they are overcharging their clients and there are some out there who are actually hurting their clients because they just don’t know what they are doing. I have so much experience and knowledge to share and I feel like I have to help as many people as I can. I’ve come to think of it as one of my life’s purposes, actually.
VBJ: Women are disproportionately affected by autoimmune conditions. You are open about having Alopecia Universalis. Do you consider yourself a warrior or a survivor? Does it inform the way you run your business?
Eck: In regards to my Alopecia, I got it when I was 16 years old, and by the time I was 18 I had lost all of the hair all over my body. I spent most of my life as a survivor, just trying to get by. I wore wigs and tried to hide it. Now, over the past few years I’ve transitioned into more of a warrior. I got a head tattoo several years ago and that made all the difference. I’ve been going out in public without a wig more and more and sharing my story in social media more and more. This is another of my life’s purposes.
VBJ: What advice would you give women breaking into the finance business on their own?
Eck: First of all believe in yourself, and second of all just get out there and do it! The opportunities are endless. Read as much as you can – business books, motivational books, everything. And join networking groups; there are some really great networking groups for women here. Networking groups will inspire you and motivate you and cheer you on. I joined the Mom Owned Business (MOB) networking group several years ago and I credit that group with getting me to where I am today. The women in that group are like sisters to me. We all help and support each other with everything in life, not just business. Because being in business for yourself, especially as a woman and a mom, is both rewarding and challenging and you need all the support you can get!
Jaimie Eck, CPA
Owner, Green Taxes Inc.