6 Nov, 2020
It takes guts to launch your own accountancy firm in the middle of a pandemic, but that’s exactly what Tom Gabbert and Melissa Stout did back in June 2020 when they launched Milestone Accounting Inc.
We recently joined a Zoom call with Tom and Melissa, to hear about why they made the leap, why they built a new tech stack from scratch, how they add value, and what their number one tip is if you’re thinking about starting your own firm.
Tom founded mAccounting over 10 years ago and Melissa joined him there soon afterwards. In early 2019 they sold the business to another firm on the West Coast of the United States, and stayed on in corporate roles. However, after a year or so, both Tom and Melissa realised they missed the buzz of a smaller firm, as well as working directly with clients, so in June they took the plunge and founded Milestone.
Previously Melissa had led the operational excellence role, focusing on tech integration, strategy and systems. “Having set all that up, I thought it would be fun to start over again – and a little bit crazy – and build up our own systems,” she says.
Tom adds “we asked ourselves ‘given everything we’ve learned over the last ten years, what tools do we really want to use, and what processes shall we follow?’” They were also able to bring several clients with them, which meant they had to not only design new service lines and processes, but do it while exceeding those founding clients expectations. “I call it building the airplane in the air,” says Tom.
The chance to rethink everything
Part of the freedom of launching your own firm is that you get to call the shots, and choose which apps and products you want in your tech stack. When Tom and Melissa started out they questioned everything, and each tool or process had to earn the right to be there. Not only that, everything is subject to constant review and challenge, and so we were thrilled they chose to keep using Fathom, which they’d first implemented at mAccounting. Their tech stack starts with Quickbooks Online, to which they add Fathom for reporting and forecasting, as well as Bill.com, Receipt Bank and sometimes Tally if the user case fits.
Workflows and change processes
As Melissa says in the video, continuous improvement is the goal. You need to regularly review and adapt your processes and workflows to keep them optimised and efficient. However that isn’t a ‘top down’ task, and at Milestone any team member can suggest new ways of working and doing things differently. “All we do ask is that they at least try the original process a few times to truly understand it,” says Melissa.
Building the perfect tech stack for your accounting firm
If you’re looking to make the leap and start your own firm centred on advisory, we’ve some great resources to help you do just that. Our Advisable Guide to Technology details how to choose a tech stack that’s right for your region and client base. Don’t forget to check out the five other Advisable guides on key subjects such as Pricing, Process, Service, Marketing and Education.
The journey continues
We’ll be checking in with Milestone over the coming months as they grow their firm, forecast the future and plan for 2021 so stay tuned to our social channels and subscribe to our monthly blog email to get every story in one handy email.
Written by Andrew Webb
Andrew is Fathom’s Content Strategist based in the UK. He has a background in journalism and has worked for companies like the BBC and HuffPost, as well as start ups in education and technology. Andrew has also published 5 food books and makes a great pie.