Episode 15 Transcript: CPA Nikki Hinske Shares Her Tips for Long-Term Financial Success

Brett Fellows Welcome Nikki Hinske to The Retiring Entrepreneur Podcast. I am very excited to have you here today, my friend.

Nikki Hinske It’s good to be with you.

Brett Fellows Absolutely. Why I wanted to have you on is I’m so appreciative of what it is that you do. You are co-owner of Hinske & Clarey CPA firm. You have been a CPA for many, many years, which we’ll talk about. But my experience over the last 20 years with clients is that too often CPAs are—I use the analogy of a car—they’re looking out the rearview mirror, making sure everybody’s compliant with the IRS and cleaning everything up so they could file the tax return.

Brett Fellows But you are one of the ones that I would say are in the front seat looking out forward. You are actually interested and pique interest about to see where business owners are going. You actually like to plan, so we can avoid stuff, not just looking backwards. Does that make sense?

Nikki Hinske Yes, I always say I would much rather have shock in December than tears in April. It is just not the way I roll. I don’t like giving bad news. So it’s really important to me to look ahead. And plus, that gives us a chance to actually do something about it in April. There’s very little, we have more options in December than we do in April to sort of change the bottom line.

Brett Fellows Yeah. How did you get started, Nikki? Tell us that. What’s your journey to where you are today?

Nikki Hinske Gosh, it feels like a million years ago. So in college, I had a little job with a little business owner. Just a one-man shop as an accountant. And I really didn’t know what I was doing. But you know, I was in college and doing the best I could and probably did fine.

Nikki Hinske But I, you know, I think I was real dumb at the time. You know, you always think the worst. And so anyway, we went to go meet with his CPA one day. He brought me along, and it was this woman named Victoria Oakley. And she was a one-man, sole proprietor, CPA firm. And she kind of looked at me and said, hey, I know you’re working for Rob, but would you have some additional time? I’m looking for a college intern. And I said, sure.

Nikki Hinske Fast forward two years, I graduated from college, went to a larger firm in Charleston and hated it. They put me in auditing immediately. I hated it so much. And she, I sort of approached her and said, hey, could you turn this into a full-time job? I really enjoyed working with you. And she said yes.

Nikki Hinske And we grew it from there, and five years after that, or so, six or seven years after that, I bought her out. And then I was the co-owner. She was at retirement age, so she was happy to have somebody to succeed her.

Brett Fellows Yeah, that’s great. And where are you today? I know you have a partner, Katie Clarey. What does that look like today?

Nikki Hinske Well, when I came on, it was a sole proprietorship. I, when I took over, I hired Katie right away. So it was a two-man shop for a long time. And we literally opened the mail and paid the bills. We e-filed returns and all the things that our sort of administrative department does now.

Nikki Hinske So and then, fast forward to today, and we have three other full-time CPAs and an administrative person. And we usually bring in another helper during tax season. When I say full-time, I mean they’re a full-time mom worker. So meaning, nobody works 40 hours a week when it’s not tax season. But they typically tend to work 30 hours a week and that, we’re all mothers. We’re all working mothers, and that works for us.

Brett Fellows What I also find unique about you is that your husband is also a CPA. He has his own firm. We do not work together.

Nikki Hinske Correct. That grew out of the same way that I bought out Vicki. He had an opportunity at some point to become a partner in a different firm, and we just ended up on different paths. Sometimes we talked or we flirted with the idea of combining things.

Nikki Hinske But you know, now that I look back on it, I’m really glad we didn’t. Our marriage is more important than what anybody thinks or you know, anything like that. So it’s, it helps that we don’t work together I think. And then we have each other as a resource, which is great. That’s been a real plus to both of our firms.

Brett Fellows So going back to when you bought your firm, were you guys married at that point? Did you have children then?

Nikki Hinske We were. I had just had a baby. So I had a three month old when I became a partner with Vicki, and we had a transition year. And then he, so he was a year and three months when I opened this business, essentially. It was a lot.

Brett Fellows I mean, that timeframe alone, just to start your own business. I mean, one of my questions is usually how scary was it? But to have a baby at the same time. I mean, yeah, much more pressure.

Nikki Hinske It was a lot. Looking back, I’m like, how did I do that. But it helped that I bought an existing company. And we had a transition period, and it was a smaller company at that point, and everything was a smaller scale. So therefore, I had the time in my life to still give to my family, which was growing and in infant stages, literally. And that was perfect.

Nikki Hinske And the balance has sort of shifted over the years. You know, as my kids have gotten older, I’ve had more time to dedicate to my company, which has worked out pretty well.

[10:33] How Nikki Hinske purchased her initial accounting business and subsequently grew it to the business it is today.

Brett Fellows How did you agree on the purchase price for the accounting firm? Do you remember how?

Nikki Hinske Oh, God. Yes, it was a factor of sales. And that was, that’s sort of an industry standard for accounting firms. We’re unique in the sense that we provide a service. So we have a goodwill piece of our, you know, business, like the name, the concept. But we also have a recurring client list. So that is a very valuable asset in our firm, as opposed to like an attorney that, you know, maybe you go to see them once, and then it’s done.

Nikki Hinske So ours, we see, you know, we see our clients every year, and so there’s a real value to that. But yeah, it was a factor of like 1.3 or something like that of sales. And it was a buyout over seven, 10. I can’t remember now. Seven or 10 years, something of that nature.

Brett Fellows And did it work out well enough, when you actually started that first year or two? Was the cashflow strong enough, even getting Katie and starting to build it? Were you still able to pay the note you had, but also pay yourself?

Nikki Hinske Yeah, I’ve always been really conservative with the money in the business. So I think I just was, you know, I always say to myself, I pay myself twice a month, just like I do my employees. And that is a really good habit for new business owners. Set a number that is easy to attain. And then anything you get above and beyond that—well set a number that is easy to attain as far as cash flow is concerned.

Nikki Hinske But also keep in mind taxes. You know, keep your taxes aside for when it’s time to pay those. But then anything above and beyond that, you know, take out or leave in to serve the savings Gods for your business for when there is growth. And then when there is enough in there, you can take it out.

Nikki Hinske So I have a nice little, Katie and I have a nice little nest egg in there now. So the point, to go back to your question. Was it hard? It was tough, but I was always, I always took out less than I could take out. So that helped a lot.

[12:50] What Nikki Hinske says her biggest mistake was as a new business owner.

Brett Fellows Cool. And looking back, what maybe was your biggest mistake as a business owner? And what did you learn from it?

Nikki Hinske Yeah, um, I think I just didn’t set my own terms early enough. Meaning I didn’t know my own value early enough. I have found over the course of the 20 plus years that I have been basically running this business, that the more, I hate to be negative, but the more problem clients I fired. And they truly had to be problems. Problem clients I fired, the more I raised my rates, the more I really valued my own time, the more money I have made, the more successful I’ve been.

Nikki Hinske And I was afraid of that for a really long time. I was fearful that if I raised my rates, that I would lose a bunch of clients and/or my clients would not tolerate it. And that has just been the exact opposite. It’s just absolutely not true. And I just think it has to do with really providing a really valuable service and really caring for the quality of the service.

Nikki Hinske Then you can charge what you feel that care is worth, and you’re really providing value for your clients. So it’s okay, and they know that. And as long as they know that they’re happy. Then they’re willing to pay you and happy to pay you for the services they receive.

Brett Fellows Yeah, I truly believe in any service business there’s this element of imposter syndrome we all seem to have. And we’re afraid to charge what we think we are worth. But I’m sure for you that didn’t happen over time. It took time for you to get to that point where you realized that. But it’s great that you realized that. So, what does a typical day look like for Nikki Hinske now?

Nikki Hinske Well, now is an operative word because after COVID, since COVID, I renovated my home office. And now I work the majority of the time from my home office, which is typically looks like four out of the five days of the week. One day a week, I go to my home office, which is on James Island.

Nikki Hinske So on a regular day, I get up and go grab my coffee and reply to emails almost immediately. It’s almost one of the very first things you know, I brush my teeth, and that’s about it. And then come do that. Then I can, you know, take a break when I’ve kind of gotten done with that and go take a shower.

Nikki Hinske I mean, it’s kind of an interesting day. But I love the way I break up. I still get my normal hours in, and I sort of like the sort of natural breaks that happen during a day. And, to also answer your question, a tax season day looks different than a regular day. A tax season day looks like get up and frantically get as much as you can do. And if you don’t get a shower in, oh well, that’s fine. You’ll get one in eventually.

Nikki Hinske And then outside of tax season, it’s much more calm. You know, I can run errands and be here when my kids get home from school. And that’s pretty much it.

Brett Fellows And how many clients does Hinske & Clarey have now?

Nikki Hinske I should know that. I want to say, like 800 entities. Meaning now, an entity is a business or an individual or even a kid’s return. So that’s not, that’s overstating the reality of, you know, sort of groups of clients. But I want to say we do 800 returns of some shape or form.

[16:41] Why Nikki Hinske and her team transitioned to a mostly virtual firm pre-Covid and plan to stay that way post-pandemic.

Brett Fellows Yeah. With the home office that you’re talking about, I know you’ve done a little bit. How did, I guess ultimately, I’m curious about technology in your space. But did COVID kick that off? Was it just an excuse to maybe even have the home office and go to that schedule that much more? And how do you work remotely? How does that whole system work for your whole team?

Nikki Hinske Well, there’s a lot of ways that CPAs can do this. But for us, we pay more from our software providers, Thomson Reuters. I mean, they do tons of software for various professional service companies, but they offer a sort of in the cloud software service. So every software that we use to do our job is in the cloud.

Nikki Hinske So we really can pretty much work from anywhere. The only problem is, we have scanners and printers and things that we really do have to use a good bit. And that kind of keeps us a little bit tethered. But besides that, we truly can work from anywhere now, which is such a such a blessing.

Brett Fellows How about clients, meeting with clients? Are they kind of been positioned to that, meeting virtually? Or are they still wanting to meet face to face? I realize this client dependent.

Nikki Hinske It is client dependent, and I do find, well, some people have very strong opinions about it. And most people are very, very flexible. And I don’t know what this year is gonna look like because we’re now starting, you know, everyone was willing to do Zoom last year. But this coming year, I don’t know.

Nikki Hinske But I feel like hey, if you’ve done it once, and I decide I’m going to Belize in the month of November, and you want to meet with me in Belize, we’ll get on zoom. If you don’t, then you’re going to have to wait till December. It’s just, I like setting my terms now. It’s really important to me. And if you don’t like it, you can go find someone else.

[18:45] How Nikki Hinske approaches retirement planning with her business owner clients.

Brett Fellows What I’d love to do now is maybe switch a little bit and talk about some of the things that you see with your clients, business owner clients. And I think your insight would be fantastic. But I’d like to start, I thought I saw this and it made me think of you so I printed it out. I’m gonna read you four statistics.

Brett Fellows There are 10 million business owners that plan to sell or close over the next decade, and their total values were 7.4 billion. Eighty percent of those plan to fund retirement by selling their business; 90% of them are family-owned companies. And 98% of them do not know what their business is worth. Does that ring a bell to you?

Nikki Hinske Yes, and it is so hard to value a business. I mean, you really don’t know what it’s worth until you have a willing buyer. So, sort of start backwards from that list that you just mentioned. What is your business worth? I mean, there are professional business valuators out there who are so necessary when people get to that step, to sort of know.

Nikki Hinske But before that point, valuations are expensive. You don’t have a willing buyer. So valuations are only worth somebody’s opinion. It is very hard to know what your business is worth. And I, it makes me cringe to think that people, that is their only nest egg for retirement. It’s a lot.

Brett Fellows Do you see that a lot with your clients?

Nikki Hinske Yeah, I have been through some clients who have retired and thought they would be able to sell their business, and it was a nightmare. And they had to step back in, and you know. All of the things that you think could go wrong did go wrong, and they didn’t get what they needed to get for it.

Nikki Hinske And, yeah, so part of our big strategy with tax planning at the end of the year is to truly talk our clients into retirement plans of various types. I don’t get into the global financial picture of individuals, really. That’s really your job. But I do try to encourage folks to put money away.

Nikki Hinske And obviously there’s some tax benefits to that as well. But that’s a very important element of retirement planning. Not just the value of your business, which is so undeterminable at certain points.

[21:24] Nikki’s advice for anyone entering a business partnership agreement.

Brett Fellows I’m curious, in our area here of the Southeast, the clients that you have seen, what were those exit paths? Were they selling to a third party? Or were they trying to sell internally?

Nikki Hinske I’ve had some sell internally. And that’s always, that seems to be the better way, especially if there’s a partnership agreement involved that already maps it out. Anybody who gets into business with another individual or group of individuals should absolutely have a prenup. That’s what I call it because you are getting married to someone else.

Nikki Hinske And it is, all the things that can happen in a marriage can very well happen to you in a business. So you need to have a plan for being disabled, for being, for dying. Obviously for wanting to get out for retirement. And you can always tweak your retirement plan and your partnership agreement every, you know, 10, 15, 20 years. I recommend that too. But you got to start with one. You have to, you just do.

Brett Fellows I think it’s great. Yeah, I believe the exact same thing in terms of, you need to start with the protection side first. Safeguarding. Whether that’s the buy-sell agreement, whether that’s if you become disabled or die, as unfortunate, we don’t want to talk about that. Those are the nuts and bolts that you have to start with.

[22:52] Some of the common cash flow mistakes Nikki Hinske has seen her business owner clients make—especially after a strong financial year.

Brett Fellows And then maybe we can move into some of the value drivers. As you said, you’ve had experience with and purchasing your own business, it’s based off of revenue or cash flow. What are some of the mistakes you see business owners use with their cash flow?

Nikki Hinske Oh, yeah. So what I try to battle, and especially when I take on a new business that’s already been in business for a long time. One of the first things I do is look at their balance sheet, which is not a financial statement that people want to look at. In general, they get profit and loss, that makes sense to them. But balance sheets are in some ways, much more important than P&L.

Nikki Hinske And the reason is, because that is the health of your business, and it is a long-term accumulation of what you’ve done over the years. So to answer your question, the mistakes that I see people making are over-leveraging. Often because they had a good year, and it’s the first year where they’re gonna have to pay a ton of tax. So they run out and buy something they don’t need.

Nikki Hinske And it doesn’t really make sense for their business, and they do it on debt. So then they start to hurt the health of the business by over-leveraging. Because then you got to pay it off, and then that hurts cash flow. And I see that mistake over and over and over again. It’s often tax driven, as opposed to planning well in advance and knowing what you’re going to have to bring to the table on the tax return, not overreacting to that number.

Nikki Hinske You’re going to have, you know, you’re going to have plenty of money leftover after you pay your taxes if you listen to me. But if you run out and buy stuff, at some point, 10, 15, 20 years from now, it’s going to be painful. Because you’re going to have a lot of debt that you’re servicing and nothing, your cash flow diminishes from there. So that’s a, it’s a really common mistake to run out and buy things just to not pay a tax dollar, which is just not smart in a lot of cases.

Brett Fellows Yeah. Do you see, or do you have a hard time explaining to business owners how the cash flow of their business can almost literally fund their retirement? Whether it’s through an actual qualified retirement plan, I don’t know if you do any deferred comp recommendations, but do they believe that the cash flow they have now can actually help them later?

Nikki Hinske So, I mean, if these are folks who are nearing or getting closer to retirement, I did that. Those are the people that we talk about it a lot. And we will use traditional retirement plans, we can do deferred comp, there’s a ton of ways to make that happen. But at that point in their life cycle, they have the funds to do that.

Nikki Hinske When you’re younger, and you have small kids at home, and you’re paying for daycare and nannies and then they’re a little older and you’re paying for their car and college, it’s really hard to take $100,000 and plow that into a retirement plan. So I certainly understand it. But it’s something that you, I always challenge clients to put it as part of their expenses. And get to the point where you can, you are funding retirement as you go, just like you’re paying the light bill.

Nikki Hinske I mean, it’s just, set it and forget it is one of my favorite terms. Set something up that you draft money out monthly, and then forget about it. Let somebody else manage it for you. And that’s a really great way to plan for retirement. Playing the stock market, playing with cryptocurrency, all these things can be fun. But that is not how you create a long-lasting, long-term retirement plan for yourself. It is definitely the tortoise and the hare, and the tortoise wins.

Brett Fellows Yeah.

Nikki Hinske So I hope that answered that question.

[27:17] Why C-Corps often present a taxation issue for their owners, and why now may be an opportune time to distribute dividends.

Brett Fellows No, definitely. Have you seen, we recently had a client, you may be shocked to know, was a C-Corporation. And they’re goal is to sell. So one of our first discussions was about double taxation. Have you ever come across that? What would you say to that person?

Nikki Hinske Yeah, in fact, I had a conversation with one of my C-corps yesterday. And I have like three out of those 800 and whatever returns. They’re pretty rare. But there’s reasons, a lot of times there’s reasons why they’re still in them that are also pretty rare.

Nikki Hinske So for those of you who don’t know how c-corporations work, you as an owner, when you get a return on your investment, it’s a dividend. Just like if you owned Coca Cola stock and you got dividends But inside Coca Cola and their P&L, they are not deducting that dividend. So they’re paying tax on their profits. Then that’s going to equity, and then they pay out their equity.

Nikki Hinske And when they pay out their equity, that’s taxable income to you as the stockholder. So in a small company how that looks is people either hoard their money because they don’t want to take it out and pay tax on it twice. Again, paying tax at the corporate level and then again on the personal level. Or they jam it through wages, which can be problematic and costly. Because you still have to pay all those pesky Social Security, Medicare tax on that, you know.

Nikki Hinske Or they pay out the dividend, and I have been encouraging people more and more lately, especially, to pay out dividends. Because you’re paying it, you’re paying tax right now at very low corporate rates, historically low corporate rates, and then you’re paying tax on a dividend that’s also historically low, qualified dividend rates.

Nikki Hinske So it actually is a win. Now’s a great time to scoop out some of that equity and not shoot yourself in the foot by over salary, bonusing to yourself. It’s hard to convince people to do that. But now’s the time.

Brett Fellows What about converting to an S-Corp?

Nikki Hinske Well, the problem with converting to an S is the equity that’s inside the C-Corp still stays there and has to be taxed at C-Corp rates. Meaning it’s already been taxed at C-Corp rates. But when you take it out, you still have to pay dividends on that pile of money that you earned when you receive it.

Nikki Hinske Now, that’s true for the first, pardon me, it’s either five or seven years now. It’s been a while since I’ve looked at C converting to S. But if you can sit there and not touch it for a while, then there’s a period of time where you can kind of get out from under some of those built-in gains if you convert to S. But it doesn’t wipe everything clean. It’s not, but the earlier you can get an S, the better it is. I love an S Corp.

Brett Fellows That’s neat. It’s so hard. There’s so many different things to think about as a business owner. It’s so difficult. Back to the importance of having someone like you, who likes to plan, think through these things. You’ve used the word plan five times already. You know, just that, there’s a lot to think about.

Nikki Hinske Yes, planning is just the key. Six times now. It is just the key, it really is. And long-term planning, short-term planning. It’s just, it is a relief, too. You know, I find that my business owners just have less anxiety about taxes because they understand them. And they get an understanding of them well in advance of paying them. And that’s really important.

Brett Fellows So back to you, my friend. What, how much time do you get to plan for yourself? So do you get to work on your business? Are you always working in your business?

Nikki Hinske Oh, what a good question. That is my biggest challenge as a business owner. It is the cobblers, what is it? The cobbler’s kids have no shoes, or whatever it is. I mean, I file my tax return on October 15 every single year. We definitely do a lot of planning, but less so financial planning in my business.

Nikki Hinske We were planning on being more efficient and hiring and all of those things. Oh, I probably get a C in that department. I mean, there’s a lot of things I would give myself an A on, but that’s sort of a C. It’s hard. I mean, when you’re in it day to day, and you’re stressed out already, and you already have this whole other job you have to do. Then accounting, and accounting is what I do for a living. But the accounting and the financial aspect is secondary, it always is.

Nikki Hinske And that’s why it’s just important to make an appointment with your financial advisor or your CPA annually, just do it. And then you have to focus on it once a year in advance of the tax season, which is the secondary appointment. But I mean, really meeting with them in November, December of the current year you’re in is just invaluable. And it’s going to make you look at the financial health and, you know, planning ahead and all of those things. So key.

Brett Fellows So if it was 10 years from today, and you’re looking back over the last 10 years, what has to have happened for you to feel happy with the progress of Hinske & Clarey? What does it look like in 10 years?

Nikki Hinske It looks like I have been partially bought out by a potential new partner. And that is because we’ve hired a few more professionals underneath that potential partner. I’m not ready to get out, and even 10 years from now, I don’t see myself as being out. I just would like to be less busy. I would just like to put you know, slowly get 10% away and another 10% and sort of sell over time.

Brett Fellows As a business owner, you are another example of someone who plans to sell and extract equity from your business over time.

Nikki Hinske Absolutely. And, and there’s real value there. But I don’t overvalue that value. I still have, I fully fund, I have a SIMPLE IRA, which is simple. And it doesn’t have the same, you know, a 401k is probably more robust. But I try to do things outside of retirement plans and things like that to save for the future. But one of the things is creating an income stream to sell my ownership in the business over time. If any of my clients are listening, it’s not going to be tomorrow. It’s fine.

Brett Fellows Would you continue to work with, do you enjoy doing it? Could you see yourself doing this for a long time? Or is there something else Nikki would like to do with her talented life?

Nikki Hinske No, I am good at what I do, and I enjoy it. There’s elements of it that I would love to manage a little better, specifically how much I work during tax season. We’ve now had two tax seasons in a row that would have been elongated, extended. And I didn’t have to work a single midnight, not even once on either tax season, and I’m really getting used to that.

Nikki Hinske And next tax season, I’m going to have to work some midnights again, and I don’t know if I have the energy to do it. I’m gonna have to, but I just like the idea of not killing myself for a month out of the year. And it really is only a month that’s super-duper intense. It’s just, it’s like a luxury. I would love to just not. I’d like to have a nine to fiver, like most people.

Brett Fellows And with your husband as a CPA as well. Do you even see one another? Do you just cross paths?

Nikki Hinske I have really, yes. When the kids were little, we would you know, I had Mondays and Wednesdays, he had Tuesdays and Thursdays. And, you know, we would really just try to be even handed to one another and really plan out when we were going to work. Eventually we had to get a nanny to handle some of those nights, and it was pretty intense.

Nikki Hinske But that part at least is getting easier because my kids are 15 and 17. I’m pretty self-sufficient. If I tell them they have to make dinner, they figure it out. You know, one of them, my oldest is driving. It makes life a lot easier. So tax season is more bearable than it has ever been. But I’m just getting older, I just, I’m tired. And I don’t want to work until midnight anymore. So, we’ll get there.

[26:32] What Nikki Hinkse says her number one challenge is right now when it comes to growing her business.  

Brett Fellows And what, I would imagine creating your team has got to be one of the most difficult, people, having team players on your team is one of the most difficult in any business. How do you find, or have you found the secret to find A players up for the practice?

Nikki Hinske I am laughing because that is absolutely my number, our number one issue right now. And I think a lot of people listening to this feel the same way. There was a real staffing shortage in almost every industry across the board. And I don’t, I don’t think in our particular case, it’s not COVID related. It’s that accounting isn’t sexy.

Nikki Hinske And kids in college don’t go, I want to be an accountant. It’s just, we have a real PR problem in our industry. And we’re getting less and less, you know, people that are coming out of college with accounting degrees. So it makes our hiring that much more difficult because it’s just simple supply and demand.

Nikki Hinske And not only that, there are still, you know, supply and demand. But then even if there’s supply, are they really skilled supply? And it’s extremely skilled and very, it takes a very special brain to be an accountant, and there are not that many brains out there. That doesn’t mean there’s not other fantastic brains. There’s wonderful brains everywhere. But in accounting, there’s a real lack of good accounting, you know, professionals.

Nikki Hinske So it is our number one biggest challenge right now. We would love, and in fact, if anyone is listening, if you know any CPAs are not happy where they are or even just accountants who are not CPAs and don’t tend to be CPAs, or you know bookkeepers who would like to just make a change. We are hiring. Every accounting firm in the world is hiring. But I will say ours is different because we’re very flexible. And we are a lot of working moms, and we’re very team oriented. And yeah, you can basically name your schedule, and you’ll get it.

Brett Fellows Do you think that, in your view of your industry, do you think that the solo CPA, and I’ll throw you guys in that market just, you know, a handful of CPAs in one place, there’s still, there will always be a market for that? Or like dentists, you know, they’re getting bought up by these mid-size types of firms. Do you get approached on that sort of thing?

Nikki Hinske Ah, you know, I have known some people have been approached, and we certainly get like letters in the mail and stuff. But I, we’re such a little boutique firm. To use a term that, you know, I don’t know if people understand what an accounting, a boutique accounting firm looks like. But it’s very different.

Nikki Hinske We’re not your stereotypical, you know, mostly older men who were the partners, and you know, and everybody has to work really hard. And there’s quotas and stuff like that. We don’t, we’re not anything like that. So it’d be very hard for us to get bought up and be in your typical dental industry, for example.

Nikki Hinske I mean, we wouldn’t fit in any sort of mold, I don’t know. And the reason is, and it’s very important to us that we maintain quality and our brand of quality. And that’s also what our clients have come to expect from us. So I don’t know that we would ever be, that would really be a path for us. If that was what you’re asking, you know,

Brett Fellows I find it fascinating how it works. And it’s very similar to our industry, kind of a barbell. There’s the mom and pop on one side, and then there’s the big firms on the other side, there’s not a lot in the middle.

Nikki Hinske Yeah, I agree. There are not a lot in the middle. I don’t know. We’ll see.

Brett Fellows Okay, two questions. The last two questions, I promise. Who are three people, Nikki, who’ve been most influential to you?

Nikki Hinske I read this question that you sent me in advance, and I was like, oh, God, I hate this question. First of all, I’m a math girl. I speak, I talk for a living, but I don’t talk about like, my feelings. Do you know what I mean? So I really had to think about this one.

Nikki Hinske I would say one of them is definitely my husband. He is, he’s six years older than me. So he started this path before I did. And I, even though I became an entrepreneur before him, he had enough experience in the CPA world that I got a lot of beneficial advice, and, you know, collaboration with him to start my practice and run my practice the way I do. So he has been a big influence, and I get to live with him every day, which is a treat.

Nikki Hinske The second one is probably my predecessor, Vicki. I mean, it’s easy to be like, the one that taught me is the one who shaped me, but it is absolutely true. She was always really big on quality. It was the most important thing. There was no just churning out returns, it all had to be perfect. And back then it could be. I mean, and we still try very hard to get it perfect, but not at the expense of, you know, charging too much for something. We try to find a balance for creating value. And she taught me that, and I live by that creed today.

Nikki Hinske And the other one is just a personal, my best friend Carrie. She also runs a business and she really taught me the value of true friendship and what a good, what a real friend looks like. And because she’s also self-employed, it’s, you know, we can really battle through some of these things together. She has had a major influence on me because of that.

Brett Fellows Oh, that’s great. Well, thank you for sharing that. There’s proof, right there, that all CPAs aren’t you know, debits have to equal credits. You do have feelings and things you can talk about.

Nikki Hinske Yes, I have feelings. Yes. It’s just, it’s not my go to.

Brett Fellows Well, I’m happy to have put you on the spot. So, last question, Nikki. This podcast is about entrepreneurs, and they’ve been successful, and ultimately, they’d like to retire. But what I found is that success means different things to different people. So I’m curious, what would be your definition of success?

Nikki Hinske Oh, life-work balance is my definition of success. And, by that I mean setting limits. So maybe you’re not going to make as much money as you would have by constantly growing and constantly changing and constantly. But at some point, you have to just let all that go and say, where do I really want to spend my time?

Nikki Hinske And, you know, now that my son’s about to graduate from high school and go to college, I think it is. Just looking back, I’m just so very glad that I had enough work-life balance to really be there for him and be a mom and live all those wonderful moments and terrible moments that us and others go through. And I mean, fathers have the same thing. So work, work-life balance is the most important thing you can attain and maintain as a business. As an entrepreneur. It’s just so important.

Brett Fellows Love it. Love it. Yeah. That’s great. Well, thank you for sharing that, Nikki Hinske. I am so grateful. And it’s been fantastic. Thank you for your time today on The Retiring Entrepreneur Podcast.

Nikki Hinske Thank you so much for having me. It was really fun. And I’m just honored that you would even ask, and it’s been a pleasure. It’s really fun.

Brett Fellows Great. Thanks so much.

Nikki Hinske Thanks. Have a good one.

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