Carrie, now 41, who was then a general manager at Barclaycard, and Dave, now 43, an associate director at the Bank of Scotland, decided the timing was right to start a business that would close the gap in the marketplace. “We'd been saying for years ...
Elaine Pofeldt , Contributor Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Working in busy banking careers in London, Carrie and Dave McKeegan bumped up against a frustrating situation: As American expats, they couldn’t find anyone to do their taxes. And they knew that making mistakes could be costly.
Carrie, now 41, who was then a general manager at Barclaycard, and Dave, now 43, an associate director at the Bank of Scotland, decided the timing was right to start a business that would close the gap in the marketplace. “We’d been saying for years, ‘How come no one can do this?’” says Carrie. Eager to start a family, they were also looking for a more flexible lifestyle and the freedom to live wherever they wanted. “It was very important for us to have a business where it didn’t matter where we were or where the team was,” recalls Carrie.
Although the McKeengans both had MBAs from IESE Business School in Spain, neither was an accountant, so Dave took a course and the standardized exams needed to become an enrolled agent. By 2009, they had started Greenback Expat Tax Services, which does taxes for expats living abroad. “Let’s do this for a year and try to make it work,” they told themselves as they left their corporate careers behind. Dave left his job in 2009, while Carrie left Barclaycard in 2011.
Greenback Expat Tax Services
Dave and Carrie McKeegan left busy banking careers to start a tax preparation business and raise their family in Bali.
The couple initially marketed their services to fellow expats via a magazine that catered to their tight-knit community, as well as via websites and mailing lists that targeted this audience—and soon found many takers.
Not long after starting the business, the couple moved to Bali, drawn by Indonesia’s natural beauty. Then they tried living in Argentina—which seemed more practical at the time—but moved back to Bali. “We missed the Bali lifestyle,” says Carrie, speaking to me by Skype from her scenic community there.
Today they expect the business, profitable from the start, to bring in $4 million in annual revenue. They’ve grown it while starting a family that now includes three young sons, now ages three, six and eight. How did they pull it off? Here are their strategies for success.
Tap expert freelancers. Without a huge war chest to fund the business, the McKeegans had to be resourceful. The first accountant they hired was a freelance CPA. “She was a military spouse who traveled around doing expat tax returns,” says Carrie. “She helped us understand what people were needing and asking for.”
The McKeegans found that a number of accountants who knew how to do expats’ tax returns preferred working as freelancers. Gradually, they expanded their team of accountants to 30 contractors, located around the world—which has enabled them to serve customers in virtually every country.
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