Young Professional 2017: Nathaniel Burt
Nathaniel Burt, President and shareholder at Burt Tax and Accounting Inc.
Describe the company: Burt Tax and Accounting Inc. is a traditional CPA firm with a modern twist. We provide tax and accounting services typically provided by CPA firms but we have a flat fee structure (instead of hourly) and we leverage technology for efficiency (digital files, digital workflow, etc.)
How long have you lived in the Tri-Cities? I grew up in the Tri-Cities, moved away in 2005 and moved back in December 2014.
Do you have any family? Pets? I met my spouse in middle school in Kennewick. We have a daughter who is like a pet.
Tell us about your business and how you got started in it: I started off college in political science and went on a church mission to Mississippi. I switched to accounting, drawn to the politics of taxation, then applied to law school. I got accepted but changed my mind to teach seventh-grade language arts through Teach For America. Middle schoolers made me decide accounting wasn’t so bad. I went back for a master’s, worked for CLA in Boise, and then bought out my dad in January 2016.
Tell us about your business philosophy: To try to be a genuinely good person. To me that means do everything in my power to deliver great value to clients, to create a great work atmosphere and help employees attain personal and professional goals, and of course to be honest and technically capable. Ultimately, I want to live in such a way that if somebody spoke poorly of me no one would believe it. Everything else will fall in line.
How do you stay competitive in your job/industry? My field is rapidly changing with increased automation in the financial sector. Instead of closing the books at year end, now you can essentially have real time access to your profit and loss. Instead of dropping off a banker’s box of documents, you can upload relevant documents to a client portal throughout the year as you receive them. If we can stay up to date with technology along side technical accounting skills, we’ll do well.
What are your future career goals? Our business has nearly doubled in the last three years. I think we can continue to this growth trajectory and go from a staff of six to 15 to 20. My hope is that we can achieve one of the more enjoyable workplace cultures and environments in the Tri-Cities while maintaining a superior value offering. I think this goal is both attainable and realizable in the next five to 10 years.
Who are your mentors and what did they teach you? It has been a genuine treat to work with my father. He is the most easy-going person and consequently gave me a lot of freedom in the beginning to take calculated risks and learn from them whether they resulted in success or failure.
I also have a mentor in Boise who I met while working and going to school in that area. He introduced me to what I think is the best book on small business, “The E-Myth,” and then advised me on how to implement it.
What was the toughest career decision you had to make or obstacle you had to over overcome? How to allocate time is a constant balance (especially deciding more at work or more at home). Also, as a service business, our main assets are our human capital. It’s always a challenge to find and maintain the best combination of human capital for any company, but especially in a smaller business in a smaller sized population area. Choosing when to hire, who to hire, and who to hold on to makes for tough choices.
What do you like most about what you do? People say accounting is the language of business, and so I can provide this valuable translation for people, but in addition to helping them understand it also saves them money and stress. People generally view me as beneficial to have in their corner, and that’s a good feeling. I also really appreciate having ownership in a business so I can play a role in the human resources, marketing, strategic planning and operations of an enterprise.
What do you dislike most about your job? Working with ornery IRS agents. It’s hit and miss; sometimes agents are great to work with and other times it can be a real headache. We are fortunate to have a very reasonable IRS revenue agent based out of the Richland office.
What was your first job and what did you learn there? I grew up taking naps under the desk down the hall in my current office. Since I napped on the job, I don’t think I’d count that as my first job even though I did shred papers, take out trash and file papers. My first real job was mowing lawns when I was 15. I ended up buying a small lawn maintenance company from a friend when I was 16 and selling it to a middle aged man at age 17. I learned then there is value in having a flexible job and being in control of your own success.
If you weren’t in your current field, what would be your dream job? My dream job would be to work for a philanthropic organization like The Gates Foundation to determine how best to spend charitable funds. There are so many ways to make a difference in the world through charitable giving, but certainly the dollar goes farther with some endeavors more than others.
Tell us about your community involvement/community service: Currently I volunteer regularly as a member of the Trios Health’s Finance and Audit Committee, and the Trios Foundation Planned Giving Committee. I also volunteer with a local Scout troop and with church activities. I participate in events with the Historic Downtown Kennewick Association and with Teach For America.
What word best describes you? Modest
What is your biggest flaw? Small attention span. I do have the ability to focus on projects long enough to thoroughly complete them, but my default mode of operation is definitely to switch tasks every few minutes. It takes real effort to avoid getting distracted … anyways I forgot what I was saying…
What is your biggest pet peeve? When drivers come to a stop upon entering a clear round-about.
What do you do to relieve stress? Get outside and take my phone and watch off. The Pacific Northwest has some of the most beautiful scenery in the country and I love exploring our region. Sometimes though just walking around the neighborhood saying hi to friends does the trick.
Dream vacation? Zermatt, Switzerland
Favorite book? “The Jungle”
Favorite movie? “About Love”
Favorite band? Raffi (thanks to my 2-year-old)
Favorite gadget? Garmin running watch
Favorite website? ESPN.com
Favorite thing to do in the Tri-Cities? Tennis, soccer, running and cycling (both road and mountain bike)
What would people be most surprised to learn about you? I can’t resist donuts, every time I have them I regret them.
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