Business development by the numbers

Jan Stockton has had plenty of success since founding her accounting firm in 1989. But the continual stress of running a business taught her some hard lessons.

“When you’re a business owner you wear a lot of hats,” she said. “I learned a lot of stuff the hard way and the wrong way. Not everybody should learn that way.”

Like many new business owners, Stockton was shy about charging fair rates for her work. She saw the business as an extension of herself rather than a separate entity, and she didn’t quite grasp its potential for growth.

Stockton has seen other new business owners get into trouble by failing to develop a business plan and skimping on legal and financial services.

“People who do that burn themselves out,” she said. “They get over-extended. They end up owing tons of tax money because they haven’t taken care of the details.”

Now, to help other businesses avoid that struggle, Stockton offers business development services at her Vancouver firm, along with tax services.

“If you have any money to use for outside experts, you’re going to be way ahead of the game,” she said.

The firm has been profitable from its first year. It has grown not through marketing, but through referrals, Stockton said.

Stockton didn’t share the business’ revenue, but said the firm is on track to grow  30 percent this year, and she expects to double revenue in five years.

Stockton works with five employees, two of which are full-time. As the owner of the firm’s 1940s home-turned-office, she leases space to an attorney and certified public accountant. They share a receptionist and conference room and often refer clients to each other.

The firm has 450 clients and handles 250 tax returns a year. About 80 percent of its work is on taxes for individuals, businesses and estates. Many of those clients are return customers, but only need services once a year. So five years ago, to help fill the gaps, Stockton began pursuing clients to receive monthly or quarterly development services.

Now, Stockton’s 15 development accounts have fixed-price agreements for consultation in bookkeeping, payroll, tax planning, sales tracking and business strategy. Clients pay monthly from $300 to $2,500.

“I realize $2,500 a month is a huge investment,” but employing a full-time controller with benefits can cost even more, Stockton said.

Most clients requesting the service have been in business five to 10 years and want to get serious about future planning. Stockton said she aims for them to eventually do the work on their own.

She recommends new business owners develop a plan, attend small business workshops, secure an attorney and set a clear budget from the start.

“Run your business instead of letting it run you,” Stockton said.

Jan Stockton, P.C.

Jan Stockton, principal

1605 “F” St., Suite 101, Vancouver

www.stocktonpc.com

360-695-6511

Charity Thompson can be reached at cthompson@vbjusa.com.

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