There’s a perception that the tax world is static: that’s it’s a bunch of stodgy old accountants hunched over ledger books, crunching numbers. In reality, the tax world is constantly moving, driven not only by an ever-changing Tax Code but by technology. You may not notice it at tax time, but advances in technology are making the tax world faster, more secure and more accurate.
Jessica Mah’s inDinero.com aspires to be part of the next chapter meshing tax and technology. Her company, which offers unlimited, flat-fee accounting/tax/payroll services as software, aims to change the role/definition of the CPA and accounting professions. inDinero.com aspires to take business operations, including financial statements, invoicing, bill pay, expense reports – and yes, tax – out of the office so that business owners can focus less on tax and accounting and more on getting business done.
I recently chatted with Mah, CEO of the San Francisco-based company, about her company and what it means for the future of tax and accounting related businesses. Here’s what she had to say.
Erb: How would you describe what you do in terms of value-added to a prospective new customer?
Mah: inDinero’s biggest value add for startup and small business customers is two-fold; giving them the confidence that their accounting is strategic, not just compliant while at the same time they can focus on growing their business’ core product, sales, and marketing programs, they can focus on themselves. inDinero also grows with a growing company. inDinero can take a garage startup all the way to 100+ employees, so there’s never a need to break-up with inDinero to transition from a CPA to an accounting firm to hiring in-house staff; inDinero provides an army of accountants to do any and everything from day one.
Erb: What’s the #1 thing that sets InDinero apart from its competitors?
Mah: We’re the one-stop-shop hub for the entire back office. Historically a business owner needs to choose a software platform, find a bookkeeper, and a separate CPA for their taxes. inDinero eliminates this friction and allows entrepreneurs to easily manage their finances from a single hub.
Erb: You don’t exactly come from a heavy tax/accounting background. What gave you the idea for the company and how did you ensure that you got it right in the beginning?
Mah: My background is in computer science, and I’ve started several businesses before but always felt like this was a huge problem that needed to be solved and wasn’t being addressed. To make sure that our solution was right, we’ve always listened to our customers; what exactly do they need? Time and time again we were hearing from startup and small business CEOs that they just don’t want to have to deal with accounting at all, it’s a pain and very distracting, and so we solve the entire issue for them.
I actually first thought about this back when I was 14 – I ran a business that was short on cash, and we didn’t plan our cash flow very well. I wasn’t getting what I needed from a bookkeeper or from a tax advisor. I needed actual business strategy help, and I knew that all stemmed from the numbers and quality of our accounting. If only there existed a business and software solution that did what inDinero does back when I needed it!
The biggest thing I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is that I can’t rely on myself to do everything – I need to surround myself with others who know more and can do more. We’ve built an army of over 100 accountants and CPAs and tax experts who have thousands of years of combined experience. That’s how we’re getting this right from the beginning.
Erb: With data security as a huge concern these days, what is InDinero doing to make taxpayers feel like their financial information is safe?
Mah: We take security very seriously, everyone in the company gets trained on security, and we use 2-factor authentication, session idling along with innovative safety permissions that restrict access to sensitive information. We also use the highest level of SSL encryption, and we are proactive performing regular security audits on our product and company. We’ve created a culture of security at inDinero, and we even advise customers on best practices.
Erb: Do you find it challenging to keep up with a constantly changing Tax Code? What about on the local level with payroll changes?
Mah: Absolutely, the Tax Code is a living thing, but that’s our bread and butter, and we take great pride in staying on top of tax changes. We’re not satisfied however with just knowing the facts, we make sure we’re able to strategically counsel our clients on how best to work with a tax code change. How does it impact their short and long term, should they consider other business impacts because of the change? That’s the level of service customers choose us for, and we’re always trying to go above and beyond because we have an army of accountants on staff. As for payroll, there are a number of payroll experts that have already cracked that nut so well that we make sure customers work with those payroll partnership experts.
Erb: How do you see the company – and your role – evolving in the future?
Mah: I’ve always felt like the company’s growth has been based on my personal evolution as a leader and as a CEO. We’re both growing together. When I first started the business, I did everything. I wrote the code, I talked to the customers, and I did the errands. Today, I’m focused on hiring the best people and spend most of my time doing data gathering. I’m talking to clients to figure out where and how we can improve. I’m talking to team members to figure out what’s holding them back from making progress even faster.
I also think a lot more now about where inDinero can be in 10, 20, or even 30 years from now. I’m tired of the short-term Silicon Valley thinking of just getting liquidity in a few years. What happened to long-term vision? We want to provide the value of a CFO and COO to every small business in the world, and all of that starts with doing accounting and taxes. This is our Trojan horse for being able to offer other value-added services to businesses.
Culturally, I see us doubling down on the Entreocracy manifesto that I’ve talked about in the past. I want inDinero to be a role model for entrepreneurship, or in other words, entrepreneurship and leadership at even the bottom level of the organization. Coming up with new ideas for how to create a more interesting place to work is half the fun of being CEO!