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Conversations with Timothy Tillett

Today we’d like to introduce you to Timothy Tillett.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
My story to owning my tax and accounting firm started back in 2007. I was hired by an extended warranty company as a customer service representative. I always knew I wanted to do more and be more as an individual, so while that company I would always asked to do more. I worked in several different departments by “doing more.” These departments included the mailroom, the administrative department, the claims department as well as the accounting department. I enjoyed accounting so much and ended up migrating over to that department.

In accounting, I started out as an accounting clerk but I still kept my “do more” attitude, which lead me to work in accounts receivable, as the lead accounts payable specialist, a staff accountant, auditing, fixed asset managing and also as a tax accountant. This was over a 12-year span, so during that time, I acquired a tremendous amount of knowledge to go along with my Bachelors of Accounting degree.

The story of my obtaining my tax license and eventually combining that knowledge with my accounting knowledge and experience is an interesting one. Evidentially, when you tell someone that you are an accountant, they automatically assume that you know how to do taxes. That is not the case. Taxes is a specific form of accounting and one that I needed to master. It would drive me nuts when I would tell someone that I was an accountant, but I was not a tax specialist, and they would look at me and tell me, “well, you’re not a real accountant”-funny, right.

With that motivation, I decided to learn how to do both individual taxes and business taxes. I attended the training courses that H&R Blocked offered and after graduating through their course and updating my license with the IRS and the state, I became a licensed tax professional. I then worked for H&R Block for two years and learned a lot about taxes. The biggest thing I took away from that was how passionate I was about learning the different tax rules and regulations and helping people. I spend almost everyday reading or attending tax training courses because I truly enjoy everything about it, I like to refer to myself as a tax nerd.

Back to the story of owning my firm, about five years ago, I came to a crossroad, I had outgrown the extended warranty company and I needed to make my next move in life. I was set on finding another company that offered more of an opportunity to grow. I wanted to grow, but I also wanted a consistent income to provide for my family. Then one day, A close friend of mine took me out to lunch, and we had a conversation that changed everything. He said, you are so smart and so good at accounting and taxes. Why don’t you just start your own practice. He suggested using my accounting experience and knowledge and my tax experience and knowledge and opening a full-service accounting firm. In college, I would tell my classmates that I am only here to get my degree so I can one day open my own practice. That day was right in front of me, and boy was it scary. The first thought was, no way, I need a steady paycheck to provide for my wife and kids. Then my friend, who is well known in the construction industry, said, don’t worry about it, start your own firm, if it doesn’t work out, I will get you some hours with the company I work for.

That was all I needed. After lunch, I worked the phones like crazy, calling different tax software companies and getting price quotes on the software I’d need, purchasing the accounting software I’d need, getting my business license and everything else needed to run your own practice. The next day I opened my firm and haven’t looked back since.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey has been a fairly smooth road?
Has owning my own firm been a smooth road? If any business owner tells you that their startup has been smooth, then they are telling you a fib or as my 5 and 7 years old would say, that CAP! I have faced many struggles in owning my practice, but my life experiences have prepared me for almost everything that I have faced.

The greatest asset that I turn to in times of struggle is my support system. At the top has to be my mother. I made the mistake of not mentioning her in an article that I participated in, and she let me hear about it, so I will not make that mistake again. My mom is my biggest supporter in everything that I do. She is also that one I can all at 9 pm or 10 pm after a long day at the office and vent to. I appreciate her very much. My wife who makes sure the kids are taken care of and hold down the home front when I am not there. Of course my kids, They are my motivation when things get tough. I always want them to be proud of their dad and be proud of what I do for a living. My close friends support me and are my most important clients. I would be remised if I needed to mention my four brothers who always make me laugh, who always hypes me up and let me know that they are proud of me.

So now that you know, my support system, let’s dig into some struggles. The business struggle when starting my own firm was believing in myself. Not stressing about a thing I couldn’t control. Meaning, I knew I was good at accounting and taxes, but when you are the owner, there are a lot of responsibilities and liabilities that go with that, which can be intimidating. Things I couldn’t control, how will this client view me when they meet me, what if I don’t meet their expectations? Things like that.

I would offset that by thinking about my support system, have self-affirmation moments and treating the client that was in front of me as the only person in the world that matters. As I’ve grown and matured, my mindset now is. I know that my work is amazing, I know that my service is top-notch so I don’t stress or about things like that. I have never had any “work-related issues” with any of my clients, and I think the biggest reason for that I because I am extremely transparent with every situation and work with each client to help them out as best as I can.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
I was born in San Diego, CA. When I was two years old, I moved to Belize to live with my dad and my three older brothers. My mom stayed in San Diego, where she worked and would send money down to my dad in Belize. When I was ten, my mom and dad decided it was time for my dad and my now four brothers to move back to San Diego. I attended middle and high school in the La Mesa area and graduated from college in San Diego. In my personal life, I am married to my love, Mary. I have the greatest daughter in their world, Mia, and I also have the two most amazing boys in the world, Max and Cole.

A few months after graduating high school, my Mia was born. Before birth, I had no idea what was going on or how I would take care of a child. The moment the Dr. handed her to me and I locked eyes with her, I knew that everything would work out. I didn’t know how they would work out, but I just knew they would. I share a very special bond with my daughter because I often say she grew up with each other. She went from a teenage kid or an adult raising a daughter really fast. She was always on the same page with me, though. From learning to hold her own bottle, to sleeping through the night, to talking to walking. It seemed like she learned all that stuff earlier than the books suggested she would, which was great because I need her to help me help her. Being given the task of raising a child on my own at a young age test you in ways, I can’t even explain because it is an uphill battle but Mia was the perfect teammate and together me were able to adapt and overcome and hopefully tell a success story that she is proud of.

I hold all my adversity and obstacles close to me, and I keep them with me to motivate me in business and keep me grounded at all times. In my professional life, bring motivated to do more, but at the same time, knowing that you’ve overcome so much inspired me to always set big goals and to always keep going forward. “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

Any advice for finding a mentor or networking in general?
My biggest mentors are my parents, but I want to focus on “my guy,” my dad, who passed away last year. When I was a kid growing up in Crooked Tree, Belize, it was always my dad and I, it seemed. He wouldn’t say much, but I knew what his expectations were for me. The bond that I shared with my dad and the love he showed me every day from the time I was a kid is something I can’t describe. That bond and love drove me to do more than I even knew I could because I just always wanted him to be proud of me. When my parents migrated to the states full time, I watched my dad work 12 to 16 hours a day as a security guard at the homeless shelter. The dedication he showed and how much he cared about his job is something that I hold on to an emulate every day. Every Sunday evening I remember my day watching Sunday night football and polishing his boots to get ready for the workweek. His workweek wasn’t M-F 8-5 pm though, it seems like it was Sun to Sun 12 am to 12 pm. But he showed up to work with a smile and did his thing.

When my dad was tough on me, it wasn’t because he was angry or emotional, it was out of love, so I never held anything he said or did against him. I remember one time I got a speeding ticket, my first one ever. I drove straight to his job, sobbing. He looked at me and said, don’t worry about it we will take care of it. He was so casual about it that I wasn’t really worked about it. A few weeks later, I got a second speeding ticket. This time he wasn’t so nice. He forced me to go out and find a job to pay for my ticket. I was so upset because I knew if I got a job, I wouldn’t be able to play basketball anymore or hang out with my friends as much. But I was all dressed to find a job; I was wearing a hoodie, some basketball shorts and flip-flops. My dad yanked me by my hoodie and demanded that I go back in my room and come out dressed more professionally. He said to have some class and respect for yourself. To this day, those words stick with me. When I am at the office, I always dress professionally.

About six months before my dad passed, I bought my first home. The day I took my dad by, my hero, my mentor, my guy, he just grabbed me and held me and said, “Timbo, we made it.” I have so much more to accomplish both personally and professionally, and I don’t like to gloat or pat myself on the back, so I never thought about whether I made it or not, but to hear my dad say that is something that I will cherish forever.

So when finding a mentor, I suggest finding someone that inspires you, someone that believes in you, someone that motivates you, someone that relates to you and someone that challenges you. Success leaves clues, its your job to find those clues and follow the instructions. No need to make things harder than they need to be. Read! Read! Read! and continue to grow every day. When it comes to networking, I suggest having class and self-respect and be confident and listen. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and stay in contact as often as possible.

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Image Credits

Glory Rose Photography

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