“With R500 and a good idea,” is how Russia Beeby started The Tax Solution Company. When he left permanent employment at the chartered accountants company where he had worked for 12 years as a tax specialist, Beeby didn’t have one client. Today, he has 500 individual taxpayers on his books and about 80 close corporations.
What’s even more impressive is that Beeby has no formal qualification. While this might not prove too much of a hindrance in other fields, tax is an area where specifics and expert knowledge are the name of the game.
Well aware of this, Beeby set about ensuring he learnt everything there was to know about tax. He applied for a position at a firm of chartered accountants as a trainee tax compliance clerk. “I realised I could do what they were paying me to do in a couple of months of the year, so I had a lot of free time,” he remembers.
Determined to put this time to good use, Beeby took books home to teach himself about tax. Impressed by the young man’s eagerness to learn, one of the firm’s partners set about teaching
Beeby all he knew, sending him on many tax courses and guiding his development. The leap of faith paid off – the firm partner developed enough confidence in Beeby’s abilities over the years to eventually give him the responsibility of running the company’s entire tax department.
In some respects, Beeby’s story is a typical one. He inched his way up the corporate ladder, learning everything he needed to know on the job. What’s different about him, however, is that unlike most people in that position, he wasn’t content after his long, hard climb to sit at the top and look at the view.
The 12 years of continually striving to be better had left their mark. “When I realised there were no longer any opportunities for growth in the company I decided to leave and go on my own,” he recalls.
With no pension from his previous company, Beeby used R500 from his final salary cheque to set up The Tax Solution Company. The challenge was how to attract clients in a private tax consultant market in which he was virtually unknown.
Digging deep to find something to differentiate his business, Beeby approached Nedbank, offering to be a “roving tax consultant” for its employees. The bank jumped at the idea and The Tax Solution Company was a going concern. “I was lucky that Nedbank had an HR intranet at the time and the one thing missing from its service was a tax consultant solution for employees.
They would log onto the intranet to make an appointment with me and I would travel round to different Nedbank offices, doing their tax,” remembers Beeby. It was a win-win situation, allowing the bank to offer a service to its employees that did not cost the company anything, and giving Beeby access to a base he desperately needed.
Within a year he had 120 clients. One of his biggest challenges has been managing the workload that comes with the July tax filing season. “I change all our clients’ postal addresses so that their tax return forms come directly to me.
The minute they come in, we apply for a deadline extension. From there, we log all the returns on our system and deal with them on a first come, first served basis.” In spite of expanding The Tax Solution Company’s service offering to include registration of close corporations, business plan advice, insurance and accounting services, income tax returns still make up the core business.
“People pay me to take away their tax return headache,” explains Beeby, “and I take that position of responsibility very seriously. We’ve managed to retain clients and grow the business from referrals because we are pedantic about ensuring they can rely on the advice we give them.”
That guidance stems from what Beeby has learned in a long and successful tax career, and is something he’s not willing to compromise on: “When it comes to tax, play by the rules and pay your dues.”