A Productivity in Practice Feature
From the Sept. 2011 Issue
A small business is most productive when its owners are doing what they love. Whether a mechanic, baker, landscaper, restaurateur, childcare provider or a merchant, small business owners usually like what they do. That’s what led them to their profession in the first place, along with their own drive, determination and the goal of working for themselves. Aside from accountants and financial professionals, however, few business entrepreneurs went into business so they could manage books, taxes, payroll and compliance.
Joe Madden knows this as well as anybody, which is why he’s shaped his own small business around helping others succeed. Joe is the owner and founder of Joseph E. Madden, CPA (www.josephmadden.com) in Denison, a practice that focuses on what he considers the real backbone of our economy: the smallest businesses where the owners get their hands dirty along with their workers … if there even are any other employees.
Productivity in Practice
“Denison has plenty of larger corporations and other entities, but we try to help the small guys,” said Joe. “The shade tree mechanic, the plumber and other blue collar workers. They’re the ones who would rather be doing real work instead of trying to figure out their finances, and that means they also need the help most of all.” He says that the key is finding out what each individual client wants to know, especially in helping them really understand their cash flow.
Joe started his firm in 2003, but was already well-known in the business community. He had worked for one of the largest firms in north Texas, where he mostly handled audits for nonprofits and governmental entities. He also partnered with another area accountant for a few years, and has since built the firm around tax preparation and compliance, accounting/write-up, payroll and business consulting.
He’s been especially successful at developing his payroll services, which the firm handles in its entirety, including impounding and full EFT management. While most of his payroll clients are also small, there are exceptions, including a glass manufacturer and a large church and school just across the Red River in Oklahoma. The firm processed more than 12,000 checks and deposits last year, with total combined payrolls of nearly $900,000. His model has even attracted the attention of large firms across the country who would like to duplicate his success.
Joe has also developed a less common specialty, but one that he’s found professionally and personally rewarding. He manages the income tax returns for approximately 20 pastors, some who’ve even moved out of state but continue to rely on his expert advice when it comes to clergy members, from special housing allowances, self-employment taxes and other issues. He occasionally even holds seminars for this niche audience, where he “evangelizes” good tax planning and preparation.
As many of his peers have done, Joe has taken advantage of best practices in the areas of going paperless, which his firm has been from nearly the beginning, as well as integrating optimized workflows. The three-person practice is made up of Joe, payroll manager Jill Wood, and Joe’s mom Pamela, who serves as the client coordinator. “My mom used to be a ballroom dancer, so she is expertly qualified to dance around the numbers all day long.” Bella, a 120-pound Great Dane, is also a common sight at the office.
The firm has multiple monitors at each workstation, and they use a fully integrated suite that includes their tax, accounting, payroll and practice management programs. With the help of a technology-focused client, the firm has also been proactive with its online marketing and search engine optimization, resulting in first-page listings on Google and other search engines. They earned a score of 390 on CPA Practice Advisor’s Productivity Survey (www.CPAPracticeAdvisor.com/Productivity), a free web-based tool that helps firms assess their workflow and technology usage, and provides benchmarking against similarly sized practices.
Another somewhat peculiar specialty, but one that Joe thinks will become more common in the near future, is his work with small governments. He currently serves as a bookkeeper for the Texas cities of Van Alstyne and Southmayd, working in their offices a couple of times per week, consulting and assisting their city secretaries on finances. For Southmayd, he also reports on city finances to their council. He notes that new audit pronouncements are driving small towns and cities to use CPAs, since they rarely have a qualified accounting professional on staff, which can result in unwanted findings reflected on their audits.
Joe’s small business work; discounted rates for active duty military, police and firefighters; his specialties with pastors and small local governments; as well as his involvement on the city of Denison’s Historic Preservation Board have earned his practice the title of “Best Accountant” in the Denison Herald Democrat’s annual “Best of Texoma” reader voting.
Joe and his wife Tracy moved to Texas from Oklahoma, where he’d attended Southeastern Oklahoma State University. Tracy attended the University of Oklahoma’s Health Sciences Center, and is now the facilities administrator at the Davita Dialysis center in Denison. Prior to college, Joe served in the U.S. Navy aboard the frigate USS Ouellet.
Joe and Tracy have also found an alternative use for the firm’s office after hours. “Tracy and I like to play poker, and our office is a great location to host occasional tournaments. The building is more than 100 years old and has huge wide open spaces.” The most recent tournament had nearly 30 players. They also participate in some charity games and attend other tournaments, though he readily admits that Tracy is the better player.
The couple has two daughters (10 and 14), and when not attending their events, such as cheerleading, the family loves to get out for extended road trips. “We like to just take our time, meander a little and stay a few days in some places with no real schedule or set plans.”
Last year, they drove to Chicago via Kansas City and St. Louis, with a uniquely inspired theme. “It was kind of like reliving the TV show, “Man v. Food,” since we went to several of the restaurants featured on the show.” They visited about six or seven such restaurants during that trip, but Joe notes that he didn’t try any of the eating challenges for which the show is famous. They’re already starting to plan their next road trip — destination Florida. The family attends Sherman Bible Church (www.shermanbible.com).