Be A Ravenous Reader
Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Be A Ravenous Reader
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
Get New Episodes
Get 2 brand-new podcast episodes sent to you every week!
ai generated transcription
i think uh i think being a ravenous reader um is great i think that you know i've learned a lot from books um on on how to build a business culture and and and whatnot so i think really really reading a lot especially about a particular you know startup or if you're starting up you know just from um you know people that that were in you that that are in your industry um is important and then you know the same part is you know really putting yourself out there to reach out to people that are in your industry or or you know get a mentor [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with an another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups and seven and eight figure businesses as well as a founder and ceo of miller ip law we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks if you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us to chat and we're always here to help now today we have another great guest on the podcast vicenzio villamina and i'm going to say that's as close as i'm going to get to pronounce got it you're good all right so as a quick introduction so uh he grew up in on the streets of new york uh in his own words entrepreneur in high school sold chocolates i believe uh went to university of michigan uh met current business partner when i was or why i was in michigan but went back to new york got a private equity job for a period of time i didn't like the main boss of the private equity firm and decided to leave moved down to argentina wanted to change a pace initially planned to be there for a couple months but then came back and then come back but decided to stay down there or stay down there for a while i've had a lot of people asking about taxes in the us and uh started a business and built a website did some google adwords and got that business going and it's been doing it ever since and building it out and now has i think 24 people and brought the friend down from michigan so with that much as an introduction welcome on to the podcast kevin thank you for having me that is a good introduction absolutely so now i've just taken a much longer journey and condensed it into 30 or 45 seconds whatever it was but let's unpack that a bit so tell us a little bit about how your journey started in new york and being an entrepreneur entrepreneur in high school selling chocolates yeah you know what i always sort of had this entrepreneur spirit you know i don't know like how you you know if it was same for you or your other guest but i always just kind of had this you know attraction to you know yeah just the entrepreneurial worlds right you know i was selling chocolates when i was uh in high school just you know you saw people selling it for their school teams and then i you know figured well i could just go to like costco down the street and uh buy all the same chocolates but sell them a little bit cheaper and like you know offer some different varieties and flavors that other kids didn't have and uh you know just selling them right and um you know i think that's kind of where it started and then it you know even went into you know university of michigan and would uh you know do random side businesses etc and then uh yeah and then when i moved back to new york also started doing taxes on the side so it's always been sort of part of the journey no i think that you know it is interesting i think it goes both ways you know the question of whether or not you're born an entrepreneur or whether or not you just you know found the opportunity or fell into it i think everybody has a bit of a different journey some people you're just wired that way sometimes you're just saying hey i don't have any alternative i have to find a job or have to get employment this is my best option so it takes all sorts and it's always interesting to see how people kind of whether they are when they got started and how they got started into it so do that in high school then you go off to university of michigan earn the degree and you're coming out and you know you meet your future business partner but you're coming out of university of michigan and moved back to new york and did private equity is that right yeah so i mean at first i started at actually at uh price white house cooper's right so i was doing the accounting thing um you know that was great for a few years and and and then you know i always wanted to work in finance right that was always sort of like the ultimate goal and like specifically on the you know quote unquote buy side where you're like you know buying companies and doing deals and you know it was super sexy at the time to to do that and a lot of you know my colleagues at pwc because we were sort of in like doing a lot of mergers and acquisition stuff we're going into banking and private equity so um it was a you know transition if you will to do that but really the the dream job um and for a while it was uh it was really cool right i mean i love pwc bfc is a great place to work i have a lot of fond memories there and i work with like really smart people a lot of you know much of them actually you know end up becoming partner and all that but you know again it was sort of not on my path to do the uh the the the big corporate world right and so you know here i had this opportunity to work in this sort of like slick lean private equity company you know again they were also sort of you know they had money but they were fundraising and it was sort of like a you know a place to get on the ground floor at a private equity shop great and i work with some really good people there some people you know some of them i still keep in touch with that have done really well and gotten their own exits but um you know the owner the main guy uh yeah he was not a pleasant man and um you know that's where you know after some time after a year or two and getting you know not a bonus paid out and just things happening um you know it wasn't all that it was built up to be and that i wanted it to be and i think that was the the problem and then also it was like during the 2008-2009 crisis so things were also just like you know teetering et cetera but um but yeah that that was my my my career path so now you say okay love the people there good experience you know for a lot of people that's where they want to end up and at the end you're saying it's just not for me and it's not going to you know suit or be what i want to do long term and so you're saying okay i'm looking to make a change or want to make a change as you're doing all of that then you know what you know how did you go from that to i'm going to go and leave fleeting i was going to say flee the country but not really plea they could go to another country start over do something completely different at least for a couple months and then a couple months down to a much longer period of time but what may kind of i guess let me i asked a question but let me back up what did what was the final this reason or motivation or saying okay i'm done i'm gonna quit was it you know a clear-cut decision was over a period of time and then how did you go from that to leaving the country going somewhere else you know like the short term answer is that two of my bosses had quit so there was sort of some writing on the wall there and and and and you know the like from a from a career-wise perspective you're like wonder okay well two people quit they were you know and i had to deal with the the owner so there was just some tension and like i said it was very pleasant so you know that's the one side of it but then the other side of it is well okay fine like you know why quit you know in the middle of a financial crisis you know and and what are you doing and then and then my answer that is that i didn't really know what i was doing but i just knew that uh you know sometimes when you when you when you quit something you know you just want to like go all in on it right i mean meaning you know if i'm going to leave my job i mean i have nothing holding me to new york then you know why not really take a leap of faith and and and and do something like move to argentina and part of that was i had a friend that like lived in argentina at the time a good friend from from michigan and i you know he he he had a he had an open room and i said you know what i mean what what else do i have to do and really what do i have to lose you know because i could always go back to you know getting an accounting job or getting a a finance job in new york and and going on that career path but what do i have to lose by you know going abroad learning a language and and yeah just seeing what happens and i had you know funny enough i had some some other ideas and opportunities at the time like i was uh i actually funny enough met with the the ceo and founder of of uh jackson hewitt and uh liberty tax right his name was john hewitt and i was long story i was in touch with a a franchisor from from liberty tax and i go to the franchise meeting but i was late i missed it because i was actually working late you know with the private equity firm fine i go there and i i run into uh the the franchisor and you know he's like oh well you missed the meeting but you know what a few of us are going out to eat dinner with with john hewitt the ceo i was like well that's you know cool like thank you for the invite so they invite me out and uh you know i'm at dinner with all these franchisors uh franchisees actually sorry you know if these liberty attacks uh um uh company and uh and mr hewitt and you know we talked about it i was telling him my sort of idea and that well i want to get into taxes you know full-time but um you know what i've sort of been doing is like a side business while i'm working and most of my clients uh they don't meet with me right uh you know they're all they're all sort of like 20 30 something people um you know just they're they're not you know it's new york people are busy you know some people obviously meet with me if they want to but a lot of people just they they just send me their documents or whatever and and i do like that and so i i kind of said hey you know mr do it like i was thinking about doing something like an online tax practice you know and he was like that's preposterous people want you know their accountant they they they you know the the accountant's uh client's relationship is you know a sacred one and people want to sit down with somebody et cetera you know i just sort of lightly disagreed i'm not that you know i was invited obviously as a guest so sort of just you know took that feedback to myself um and so you know at the end i i just again said hey let me go down to buenos aires argentina um you know and i'm down there again learning spanish just sort of you know living this expat life which i loved um it was you know really a dream and so you know then after a few months it was like well what am i going to do you know and i still had these sort of thoughts of of maybe starting a franchise or a tax office you know again like face to face in like a spanish neighborhood in new york city i'd actually you know had been in negotiations with the lease before i left and so on and so forth um and basically you know i was in argentina i said hey you know what why you know why go back and get yourself into like a lease you know why not just do this thing online and yeah at the same time you know people ask me to ask questions and um you know i said all right let me just build a website uh let me do some google adwords you know i have a few clients some you know people down here need some tax services and uh it just all came together i mean it was this sort of eureka moment especially with the google adwords where it was like okay you know i have these people locally that need some help but when i started getting leads you know and i'll always remember my first lead it was some guy in spain you know and i was just so dumbfounded that this guy you know paid me to do his taxes that he found me completely online and i was like wow this you know this could really work and uh you know just kept on putting more money into google adwords and getting more clients it was this sort of just eureka moment where uh where yeah this this actually could work and people will actually find their tax prayer online so now you so no i think that's interesting that you know you're not even in spain and yet that's where the first uh you know the first client came from but it kind of identifies that there's a need or you know a market out there people trying to figure out how to do this and it's not always you don't just go to the local tax person because they're not going to be aware of it so exactly now as you get that growing you know so you have the idea you say you know what people are telling me it's not going to work i'm not going to listen to them i'm going to do it anyway because i think i can figure this out and i think there's a market for it so you get the website up and going you start to do a bit of google adwords and get the name out there and what's that day hey once you started getting that client work or just you know a rocket shipped at the top it was a hockey stick and you just had more clients you know how to service or was it kind of a bumpy start and go and kind of find clients and it was you know they're having to pivot navigate to figure out where those clients are how to approach them or kind of as you started things out and started to get clients on how did that go and how is that right i think it was it was uh it was a hockey stick in that it was you know the clients and this has actually always been candidly the case for us the clients getting clients has never been an issue right you know there's a real everyone needs to do their taxes everyone needs a good accountant and you know the niche of international taxes offshore structures and just and just you know the the the depth of knowledge required and the niche that that is you know there's always been a real need right um i think that you know were there bumps in the road yes um you know the bumps in the road happen to do with things like you know building a team um have to do with uh you know the the back end right you know like literally building out the website and then the the software development side right not really software but the back end development side right like the client portal and um you know just the drip campaigns email marketing you know and and and you know when you're trained as an accountant and a finance professional and you know then all of a sudden you become an entrepreneur you have to sort of have your hands in a lot of pots and i'm pretty good at juggling that actually um you know but it started after you know a couple years of just like a solo person you know really um again the client work was piling up and it really became a uh just insurmountable right and you know that's where there was sort of the second you know eureka or or or you know miraculous moment in this you know path which was when um my business partner my mouth business partner who you know as you mentioned was a friend at uh university of michigan you know came down he came down to just visit me right it was my it was my 30th birthday you know i had a bunch of people come in and um and he came to just visit me in colombia right just hey come down and that's when you know he saw what i was doing he saw what was happening and uh you know things really changed no that's awesome and that's that's you know you have the that's always great when you start a business and you there you you know getting the work is not the issue now it doesn't mean there aren't other issues with the business and making sure it's a good customer client experience making sure the work our work is done right and bringing on new employees and not bringing on other people all those required but at least you're saying hey there's a demand people want to pay for it we are able to find those individuals and we're able to have that cash flow come into the business is a great place to start it out so that brings us a bit to where you're at today with you know you've grown the business you as i mentioned in the intro you've brought on quite a few different employees you brought on the business partner that you've met in or while you're in michigan and going to school now kind of looking a bit into the future you know the next six to 12 months where do you see things headed and kind of what's what's the future look like for you guys um you know we're continuing to expand and and grow i mean you know basically when my business partner john came down it was sort of like that pivotal point where um you know we we started growing the team together and you know he sort of we balance each other out really well um meaning you know he does the task that that that i'm not good at i do the test he's not good at and we you know really really uh do a balance and that's sort of where we've you know grown to 24 plus people and um you know sort of the next uh you know 12 months or so we're going to continue to grow um in particular um offering more services to some of our clients right meaning you know we we handle a lot of you know incorporations offshore structures and then of course all the tax return preparation and compliance um but now we've expanded to do bookkeeping uh we've expanded to do you know financial advisory and really helping people get their financial house in order um we you know do payroll um you know and and really uh yeah expanding on those core competencies and and and help really be sort of like a one-stop shop to a lot of people's needs when it comes to uh tax and accounting um like you know continuing to expand the business bring on additional clients bring here offering additional services and continuing to uh to grow and to uh service more people into and provide them assistance they're needing which is a great place to be well as we start to and now as we've went through your you know both your journey a little bit looking into the future it's a great place to transition to the two questions i always ask at the end of each podcast so the first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made what'd you learn from it um i would say the biggest mistake um i made was um [Music] i'll put two in there i mean one was actually um i hired an employee that ended up not working out well for us and i didn't check his references and you know i think when you hire people and we now we have a really good interview process but you know it's all about checking references it's all about um really really drilling down to who they are as a person if they're good fit culturally and also not just being qualified for a good fit culturally and really really try to do your homework on somebody especially with a small organization um when you're building something up because you really want to make sure that the person is a good fit and doing uh and doing references is a big thing and i'll even add that a big game changer for us was uh called the a guide to hiring by jeff smart that's a great interview book um that stresses the importance of references etc and how to do them so i think that was a big one the the other thing that i think we we learned was i learned and it was a mistake i did was you know at first i always wanted to build out the client port everything customized and you know then later we ended up doing everything on box and with the crm and there's there's one thing about you know if you want to integrate things and customize the crm that's one thing and we've done that that's great but you know starting everything from stress scratch when we're not like an app or software i think was was something that was a costly mistake early on no i think you know it is one of those i think especially as you get into a business you're always wanting it to be customized and done just the way and in an ideal world you would be able to build everything customized and work exactly how you wanted and yeah you know i think that you as you mature in the business you're growing saying yeah we could do everything custom we could spend a lot of money we could bring on developers we could do it just how we want and yet there's a return there and does it really have that value and does it really have that you know worthwhile to pursue that or should we say hey let's get as good as we can with what's already out there drink it or customize it if we need to on that you know the to fill in the cracks and then otherwise accept that and say it may not be exactly how we want but it does the job and now we can focus on the other things that are worthwhile to the business so i think that definitely it's one that a lot of times people get into that that trapping is one they have to often learn and it's a worthwhile lesson and one you always have to balance sometimes you go customized because it just isn't out there and then you have a great tool that makes you unique so i think that's always an interesting dichotomy and balance yeah totally now as i jump to the second question which is if you're talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or a small business what be the one piece of advice you give them um i'll give two try again you know one i think i think uh i think being a ravenous reader um is great i think that you know i've learned a lot from books um on on how to build a business culture and and whatnot so i think really really reading a lot especially about a particular you know startup or if you're starting up you know just from um you know people that that were in you that that are in your industry um is important and then you know the same part is you know really putting yourself out there to reach out to people that are in your industry or or you know and get a mentor essentially or get a few mentors or you know offer to take somebody for lunch or go to lunch or get a coffee and and really pick people's brains and really um build relationships and you know get out there and network and hustle and whatever you need to do to to you know either help your startup or at least help yourself learn something you know and it's not about approaching somebody like oh you know i want to tell you this or that but really more from like an informational standpoint you know and understanding what their experience is and uh and whatnot and i do the same thing i mean people approach me about stuff and i always give somebody the time of day uh you know if they're trying to learn about that by industry or whatnot because i know that i was there at one point i was asking people for help and there was a lot of people that helped me you know and i think that's a great uh takeaway and a great piece of advice i mean i put this to i think learning from best practice in the industry what others are doing continually uh accumulating knowledge in other ways implementing it definitely gives you you know a leg up i would also add to that it's also great to expand outside your industry because a lot of times your industry gets stuck on doing it a certain way or thinking about a problem a certain error you know certainly taking a certain approach sometimes it's the best way and if they made all the hard mistakes and you don't need to recreate the will but other times it's also like if i take the legal industry sometimes the answers to why are you doing it this way is well we've been doing it this way forever and that's the way that i was trained on it and that's the way i'm comfortable and yet there's a lot of ways to improve and so one of the things i haven't found was you know for instance i love to listen to i love to listen to podcasts in general but a lot of times i get into marketing and sales and other business related ones one of the ones i'd love to listen to is on real estate real estate has little to do with intellectual property the legal but they are great sales people they have to there's a lot of competition they have to cut through the clutter and it's you know that's one example of they have to look taking some of the ideas as to how they approach finding their customer service cutting to the you know the noise reaching new clients it's a great way to in their get additional knowledge so i think it's that always being willing to learn to figure out what is great in your industry what's great and others that you can afford in and definitely implement that and it's a great to take away the piece of advice yeah no as people as we wrap up if people want to reach out to you their foreign base or their us base but they need help with you know their taxes or money or anything else and they want to they want to be a customer they want to be in client they want to be an employee they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you contact you or find out more yeah so uh you can go to our website onlinetaxman.com um you know we we have consultations again anyone who has any sort of uh question you know related taxes i mean we we handle everyone you know domestic and foreign uh obviously most of it is is related to you know people that are either living abroad investing abroad foreigners that want to invest in the united states set up companies you know anything under the sun um if you have a question you could go to onlinetaxman.com and uh yeah and reach out awesome well i definitely encourage people to reach out connect and find out more as it's definitely a service that would be helpful to a lot of people out there well thank you again for uh fingenzo for coming on the podcast it's been fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell or you have your own or would like to be a guest on the podcast definitely would love to have you and you can just go to inventiveguest.com apply to be on the show a couple more things make sure to click subscribe make click sure to click share because we want to make sure everybody finds out about these awesome episodes and these great journeys and last but not least if you ever need help with your patents your trademarks or anything else just go to strategymeeting.com and find some or grab some time with us to chat thank you again vicenzo and wish the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you devon [Music]