In 2012, Ford Baker, a certified public accountant and the founder of accounting software firm BaCo Tech, had a eureka moment. Baker, weighing in at nearly 400 pounds and storing an air mattress in his office, realized his personal life was out of balance.
The routine of eating, sleeping, and breathing work might seem extreme, but the lifestyle is all-too-common among employees who work at one of the 43,000 CPA firms in the United States.
And, according to Baker, burn-out is just another part of the job—especially during an accountant’s 60-day busy season.
“The unique problem with CPAs is that they have a small window of time, from February 15 to April 15, when they’re going to have 100 percent of the work,” Baker told Dallas Innovates. “I just couldn’t understand why we couldn’t expand that window—which is essentially what our technology fixed.”
Determined to establish boundaries around what he does for a living, Baker began to improve both his fitness and BaCo’s productivity. In 2012, he completed a 21-day cleanse, which his wife and son ended up joining in solidarity. Then, he began walking the family dog every day, just for 15 minutes at first, but going a little further or a little longer each time.
By 2014, he bicycled from Canada to Mexico down the Pacific Coast Highway and was down half his weight.
During that time, Baker also began restructuring his Dallas-based CPA tax and consulting firm by letting go of clients and staff. In 2015, BaCo Group accumulated more annual revenue, even though the business was down 40 percent of its customers and half of its faculty.
One team member at BaCo who withheld staying power is Ford Baker’s son, BaCo marketing director Will Baker. Will Baker experienced his father’s transformation manifested throughout the company first-hand. While working with family members might appear to blur the line between professional and personal that Ford Baker worked so hard to establish, Will Baker attests that balance is possible.
“As I’ve gotten older, I’ve seen that open dialogue about boundaries is really important,” Will Baker says. “Since my dad’s lifestyle changes, there are benefits to working with him. Like yesterday, my dad told me, ‘bring your bike to work and clock out early so we can go for a bike ride.'”
Subsequent to improving his health exponentially, Ford Baker set out to evolve the accounting world in the same trajectory. He worked to develop an in-house technology that mass gathers clients’ financial information, allowing him to look at multiple entities’ financial statements and work on tax returns in real-time.
It was this marriage of tech and finance that spawned a patent-pending innovation.
How it works: Behind the tech in BaCo Tech
BaCo’s technology, which harnesses proactive reporting, is designed to eliminate waste and costly financial errors to optimize bottom lines. At the same time, it allows CPAs to live holistically.
Sporting the tagline “We speak accounting,” Ford Baker says BaCo Tech’s difference to other software on the market lies in its revolutionary perspective of the entire service package.
With the technology, balanced-based reports are no longer needed—just instantaneous raw data via transactional workflow.
On a daily basis, the company automatically receives clients’ new financial information in one format on its website. From there, the company makes tax and accounting adjustments to the data and automates for future adjustments. This allows customers to see the current tax implications of their economic choices.
Ford Baker says the company centers itself on simplifying tax returns. BaCo Tech serves as an accounting software that eliminates busy season in favor of a consistently manageable workflow. The technology works to replace the current infrequency in data-gathering to create a real-time anticipatory service.
BaCo Tech streamlines the fiscal process to cultivate a rare and symbiotic relationship for CPAs and clients, says Ford Baker, which will give accountants their spring season back as they produce better work.
Reforming industry norms
Ford Baker started his career at Deloitte, one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, but later transitioned to a company that works with small businesses. It is this experience that makes him intimately familiar with the range of hardships experienced by financial analysts.
Combined, BaCo Tech and BaCo Firm are comprised of 18 team members who were drawn to the company’s commitment to encouraging workers to have a life while employed in this industry.
“The heart of BaCo Tech is to finally give CPAs work-life balance, via consistent workflow,” Ford Baker says. “What sets BaCo Tech apart is that we are a cure, not just a Band-Aid in this industry.”
Chief Communications Officer Kaitlyn Kirkhart describes the company’s culture as one that allows her to travel and focus on her personal needs, which is a stark contrast to her previous job in tech recruiting.
“I didn’t really understand the purpose of work-life balance until I didn’t have it,” she says. “It was a welcome surprise when, in my interview, Ford said, ‘just clock in your 40 hours and you’re good to go.'”
The past job dissatisfaction is a common thread in those seeking refuge and balance at BaCo, according to Tax Director Joe Abesamis.
“My journey has been reactionary towards the abuse that I’ve seen in the public accounting world, which drives me to seek redemption of what is broken in our industry and how we can fix it,” Abesamis says. “Care, trust, and honesty are the three values here that I never saw at my other firms.”
Social distancing guidelines have presented emotional difficulties, Ford Baker says—and he is far from alone.
Having most employees work from home has made the 9 to 5 workday obsolete. Without the hour parameters, some professionals report feeling like they always have to professionally engage.
COVID-19 has exacerbated a 75 percent job burn-out rate, according to a study from TechRepublic. That makes BaCo’s technology more important than ever.
Even in the midst of the COVID-19-induced economic strain, BaCo is set to reach 140 percent realization, which Ford Baker attributes to the technology in which he invests.
The BaCo Tech side of the company recently closed on a Series A round of financing, and the BaCo Firm extends the entire business’s overall revenue.
Despite obstacles, Ford Baker says he’s managed to keep the balance that he attained less than a decade ago.
“Burn-out is common in COVID-19 because there’s no black and white separation but I like that separation,” Ford Baker says. “It was depressing and I regained weight, which I call my ‘COVID-19.’ We follow the guidelines and are at half-staff, but I was ready to get back into the office.”
Still, the founder remains optimistic. This month, the firm released its beta program to the public to onboard new clients.
“We hope to be embraced by the major accounting platforms and have a very productive tax season,” he says. “The firm will finish most of their tax returns by February 2021, which has never happened before.”
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