When Mac Reed decided to get his Master’s degree in accounting, he didn’t realize how much there was to learn — or how useful that information would be to friends and fellow business owners. Turns out, Mac’s advice was good. Good enough that he made it his job. In 2011 Mac started Mac Reed & Associates, a Houston-based company that helps small businesses with operations, taxes and expansion.
When he started, Mac Reed & Associates was just Mac (and a one-room office). Seven years later, he has more than five employees and offices in two states. See how Mac went from accidentally finding Thumbtack, to learning the ropes, and everything he’s discovered along the way.
How did you get started with Thumbtack?
From 2011 to 2015, all of our growth was from word of mouth. When we decided to update our marketing efforts, we realized we needed help with a new website. My wife found Thumbtack and used it to contact a few people. The person we hired was great — and when he suggested that I try using Thumbtack for my business I decided to join. Now it’s between 20 and 30 percent of my business.
What advice would you give a pro who is new on Thumbtack?
When listing your services, know what you’re really offering — otherwise it can be a lot of trial and error. You’ll probably find yourself adjusting your service over time as you figure out who your clients are. Also, make sure the location you enter in your settings is accurate. Houston is so big that if you don’t specify a five, ten or fifteen mile radius, you can get clients on the other side of the city requesting quotes. And in Houston, you can spend an hour or two getting to the other side of the city.
What’s the most critical element to succeeding on Thumbtack as a Top Pro?
I can only speak for myself, but I would say make sure your quotes and pricing are clear and descriptive, and the services you perform are exactly what you offer. In my industry specifically, you have to be very descriptive. If you’re just doing a tax return, make sure you explain that you’re only doing the tax return and not also the bookkeeping.
How do you ask for reviews?
At the end of the day, when people are paying for a tax return, you’re competing with a $75 software package or some guy down the street. So I try to let them know that they’re paying for my professional knowledge and give them a bit extra to make sure they understand that what they’re paying is more than what they can get down the street or online.
If the client came through Thumbtack and everything is going well, I might say, “Hey, would you mind giving us a review just so that other customers or potential clients can see that you are saving money and had a great experience with us?”
What advice do you have on creating a great profile?
This is where (as a financial professional) it gets a little hard. I was actually having this conversation with a client who’s grown his business using Thumbtack from $4,000 to almost a million dollars in a little over a year. I asked for his advice — I do this a lot when I see my clients succeeding at something I know less about. He told me some of things he’s done like adding videos and pictures to his profile. I told him, “Yeah, that’s kind of tough for a financial professional. I can’t take a picture of someone’s tax return.”
Instead, I try to share any success stories from my work with clients. To do that, you have to get their explicit permission. In the financial services profession, you don’t want to break any privacy laws.
The other big thing is sharing knowledge. if you know of anything you can share with the public about taxes, do that. For instance, there’s going to be a pretty big opportunity with the new tax laws for 2018, so if there are new strategies you’ve come up with that are legal and can be proven to work, a lot of people will want to hear about it.
What goes into a great headshot and business name?
I branded my company ‘Mac Reed and Associates’ because I wanted people to understand that I’m the licensed official in this industry. I review all of the tax work that comes out of this office and my signature is on all of the forms — so for me, the personalization is key. People want to see Mac Reed. They’re not here to see Billy or Joe. As far as the actual photo, just make sure it’s presentable and high resolution.
What kinds of clients do you work with on Thumbtack?
Most of the clients that come through Thumbtack are either bookkeeping clients or tax clients, but they come from a really wide range of industries. I’ve had plumbers, electricians, renovation companies and construction companies. One client was from a huge company that was doing $20 million dollars a year. I also worked with an NFL coach who found us on Thumbtack — I was pretty shocked about that one.
What was one of your most memorable and rewarding jobs on Thumbtack?
I have a partner in Mississippi and we both worked with the USDA and as consultants at a small business college in town. I created a series of eight or nine modules for small business owners going to the college’s business development center to receive entrepreneurship training.
We mentored there for quite a few years, and through the USDA that university was able to secure close to $5 million in grant money. Also, all of those small business owners, at least the ones I’m still keeping track of, are having success. The ones that were part-time are now full-time. A few of them have expanded operations to two or three different states. Some of them have actually come on as full-time clients of ours because they’ve grown so much and hired employees they have to now support.
I remember when they all started — regular people just looking to start a business. Some of them had a business, but didn’t have a clue how to run it. Some of them were in business, but were in financial trouble and needed help to get out of it. We provided the training and materials to help them make things work.