Taxfyle Pros


Pro Spotlight: Robert Cole on Becoming a CPA, Transitions in his Career, Taxfyle's Network

10 minute read

Pro Spotlight: Robert Cole on Becoming a CPA, Transitions in his Career, Taxfyle's Network



Pro Spotlight: Robert Cole on Becoming a CPA, Transitions in his Career, Taxfyle’s Network

In this Pro Spotlight episode, we talk to Robert Cole, a Pro from Indianapolis. Robert's journey starts from an initial inclination toward medicine to his eventual career path of accounting, driven by a natural affinity for numbers and problem-solving.

Robert brings a wealth of expertise to the discussion with a solid educational foundation from Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis and years of experience spanning public and private sectors. He shares insights into how he seamlessly blends his knowledge with a flexible work environment using Taxfyle’s network.

Q: Robert, how are you doing? 

Robert: I'm good, Christian. Thanks for having me on. Looking forward to our conversation.

Q: Where did your background in accounting come from? 

Robert: Yeah. That's a great question. So I guess I chose a career in accounting for a few reasons. I've always strongly liked numbers and problem-solving related to financial data. So I naturally gravitated towards a field that would allow me to use those skills. Secondly, accounting is a fundamental function in almost every organization, whether it's a small business or a multinational corporation. In the field of accounting, There's a ton of potential for career growth and advancement right now while also offering a good amount of flexibility. So those are probably the main drivers that got me to choose a career in accounting. 

Q: When did you decide that accounting would be the right career for you? 

Robert: Yeah. So I I decided that Would have been the 2nd semester of my freshman year of college. I actually wanted to go be a doctor originally. Quickly realized that I didn't like, biology and chemistry all that much. I had a few friends that were business majors and and sitting down with them and looking at, you know, Their classes, their assignments, their homework, kind of naturally drew me to the field of of business and accounting.

Q: Where did you go to college?

Robert: I went to IUPY (Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis).

Q: And when you're sitting down looking at, you know, the coursework that comes from biology, can you dive into a little bit more specifics about what turned you away from that and how it is that you discovered accounting as something that would really fit your lifestyle and what you wanted to pursue as a career?

Robert: Yeah. So I think, for me, one of the main drivers was that I've always enjoyed math and the problem-solving aspect of accounting, whereas maybe more in biology and chemistry, there can be multiple right answers. In accounting, there's really only one right answer. So the idea of treating an accounting question as a puzzle, was really incentivizing and enticing to me to make that that career change.

Q: When looking at Accounting from the perspective of problem-solving and a puzzle, how would you explain that to somebody unfamiliar with the industry? 

Robert: Yeah. Another good question. So I think it's it's one of those where you have few pieces of the puzzle that are known. Right? And our job as accountants is to try to not necessarily find the unknown, but find a way for all the pieces to fit.

So whether you're trying to balance a balance sheet or create an income statement or a statement of cash flows, it's kind of like a historical view of, “Now this is what these are the transactions that occurred in the company.” Now how do you tell that story of if that company was profitable? And to me, taking the pieces and using those pieces to help tell that story, I think, is what's always drawn me into accounting.

Q: When you're in college, How did you picture the accounting industry? 

Robert: Yeah. So I guess I always imagine the accounting industry as, you know, guys and girls showing up early to the office, you know, wearing suits and ties and, you know, sitting behind a desk all day.

So instead of, you know, being at a desk, crunching numbers, being siloed off. There's a lot of collaboration that goes into the field of accounting, whether you're working with outside business partners, maybe some business partners that are inside your own firm or own company, whether it's your audit department or your tax department, compliance or consulting department. It really takes a whole team to be successful in the career of accounting. 

Q: How did you start off working?

Robert: Yeah. Great question. So I've been, a CPA for about 4 years now. I spent the first three years of my career at a more regional CPA firm in Indianapolis. And so at that CPA firm, I worked mainly in the tax department with multifamily real estate developers, which is a really interesting field. But then after about three years, I decided to pivot and work for a more private company in the accounting accounting and finance department.

Q: How was your first experience at that firm? 

Robert: So my first experience was awesome. So I started off as an intern during the winter busy season. And I think the concept of just working with a lot of really smart people was always really enticing to me, kind of picking their brains and and truly getting to learn something new every day was awesome.

Q: How do you learn while having the responsibilities of taking care of other people's finances? 

Robert: Yeah. No. I think the best way to learn on the job is to ask as many questions as possible and try to be a sponge and soak everything in. You know, I think, obviously, when you first start your career out, it's known that you're not gonna have all the answers, but it's important that you can show that agility to think on your feet and that being able to ask the right questions. 

Q: And are these qualities that you've always had, or is that something that you've adapted to as you gain more experience in the industry?

Robert: Yeah. A little bit of both. You know, I think if you ask my mom, she would Say, you know, “Robbie would never shut up.” And I always kept asking why growing up.So I've kind of always had that natural curiosity about me. But also, you know, the more that I learned, the more that I know, I started to ask more focused questions to help me get to that answer quicker. 

Q: Why did you decide to transition out of that firm and into something different? 

Robert: Yeah. So I was looking for you know, as I start to transition into starting a family, wanna look more into, better work balance. 

Q: So how did you first hear about Taxfyle?

Robert: So after I left the CPA firm, I still wanted to maintain my tax knowledge and tax credentials, and so, you know, stay sharp in that field of expertise. And actually came across Taxfyle through a quick Google search and did some due diligence, I had a few interviews, and everything seemed to align for me and ended up being a a great choice that I made. 

Q: Why did you think it was important to still keep those skills sharp? 

Robert: Yeah. So I think being in the field of tax, it's kind of an esoteric skill where it's not widely known, but super important to have a a knowledgeable tax pro for any company no matter the size. And so for me, it kinda just helped keep my the door open if I ever wanted to make that pivot back into a career of tax or if I wanted to maybe start my own book of business, I might always have that that skill set sharp. 

Q: How does Taxfyle fit into your current life's goals? 

Robert: So right now, I'd say more than anything, Taxfyle is something to continue to maintain that technical accounting tax knowledge base that I that I've been looking for. But at the same time, the flexibility has also allowed me to, you know, be able to set my own hours, my own guidelines if it does get a little bit busy, while also providing, you know, a pretty nice stream of income on the side. 

Q: We hear a lot about flexibility from our pros and how that's an ideal part of being on the platform. What does flexibility mean for you? 

Robert: Yeah. So flexibility to me means that I can work anytime and anywhere. So for me, you know, I could be on a beach down Florida or back at my home in Indianapolis and still be able to log on and still answer any questions a client may have. There's not any deadlines that I'm tied down to or any meetings that I'm tied down to. So I could I could pop up online at 10 PM at 9 or 10 AM in the morning and still provide, that same level of customer service and professionality that's required.

Q: And how has Taxfyle helped with your financial go goals?

Robert: Yeah. It's helped out a lot. Actually, when I first started, one of the first reasons I wanted to work with Taxfyle was to help pay off my, or help afford it, an engagement ring for my fiance. And so I I started this past fall, quickly met that goal and then realized how great of a company Taxfyle is and how well I fit into into the system. So it's been I mean, it's been great having that that side stream of income. 

Q: What were your initial expectations when you were in the process of joining the platform?

Robert: Yeah. So to be to be honest, my expectations weren't super high. Coming from a a CPA firm, I kind of had, baked-in expectations of, No. Well, this probably won't be as great as what I'm used to, but let's give it a shot and see what happens. And so far, Taxfyle has exceeded all of my expectations. I mean, it's been almost similar to what I experienced at the CPA firm. 

Q: How do you still find balance, uh, during tax season with Taxfyle and your other job? 

Robert: Yeah. That's a great question. So I'm I'm big on, making a calendar and maintaining that throughout the weeks or months. Just keeping a good gauge on, you know, my current my current 9 to 5 schedule, what, you know, what projects I may have coming up, and what availability I do have to help out, on the Taxfyle sides. I think just keeping a good balance of the two and just being honest with the clients and the jobs that come in, over serving myself, but also, you know, keeping a steady workload at the same time.

Q: How did your first season with Taxfyle compare to this year's tax season?

Robert: I would say this past tax season with Taxfyle was a little bit better just because I had more of an expectation in mind and knew the procedures. Knew what to expect. It kind of put me in a better place to hit the ground running opposed to my first my first tax season with Taxfyle where I was still kind of unsure of the processes, wasn't quite familiar with all of the client software and login interactions. So I think this most recent busy season Taxfyle was pretty seamless, honestly, and it was a great experience for me.

Q: And how does the Pro Support team help you out when you reach situations that can need a little bit of troubleshooting? 

Robert: I mean, they've been extremely professional, whether it's answering my questions late at night or early in the morning or, you know, just being quick to help me get you know if I lose access to certain software, they're able to hop in right away and help me out, or if I have some kind of tax question that maybe I haven't come across before, it's reaching out to other Tax Pros, and they're always quick to respond and help me out.

Q: So AJ, pointed out that you prefer handling business returns. Why is it that you find that to be your ideal niche?

Robert: So back at the CPA firm that I worked at, I worked primarily on partnership and s corp returns. And I've always enjoyed being able to go through a client's GL and see their activity and kinda help tell that story of, Hey, here are the transactions. And on the surface level, when you can say they made or, you know, they bought x, y, z, or they've spent x, y, z amount of money, I've been able to tie that all together to tell the story of, hey, you know, is this company profitable? You know, what expenditures are they are they seeing? Being able to, I guess, look at a business and be able to, like, piece together the entire story and help tell that story through prepping their tax return, something I've always enjoyed doing.

Q: How can a platform like Taxfyle’s help other CPAs like yourself that didn't wanna continue in the public accounting sphere, but still want to keep their skills sharp?

Robert: Definitely. So I would say working with Taxfyle, it's not nearly as demanding as what a normal CPA firm would require. However, it gives you enough of a chance to still sharpen those skills by picking up as many returns, as your schedule will allow for. So you're still maintaining those skills and that technical expertise, while also you're you're avoiding the burnout part that I think pushes a lot of people out from or away from CPA firms.

Q: Besides filing taxes, what is it that you like to do during your free time? 

Robert: So outside of filing taxes, I really enjoy playing golf. Not very good, but it's one of those I'm hoping to get better as I keep playing. But it's it's been a great hobby. It not only helps me disconnect from my phone or computer, but it kinda gives me a new challenge to tackle outside of work. I also really enjoy the competitive nature and the strategy that goes into playing golf.

Q: How long have you been playing? 

Robert: So I've been playing for almost four years now, give or take. So my dad played in college a bit. And so for whatever reason, he never passed those skills down to me, which looking back on it, I wish he would've. So I'm kind of a newbie to the game of golf.

Q: What's your handicap right now?

Robert: My handicap right now is, like, 11.4, 11.5, somewhere in that range. It's yeah. I'm I'm getting better. I play a lot of easy courses, and then when I go to the hard courses, that's where I really get my butt kicked. 

Q: So, obviously, you have your dad that played it competitively in college, but what is it that decided you to pick up the sticks and just head out there and try hitting that ball? 

Robert: Yeah. So growing up, I, You know, was always playing some kind of some kind of sport, whether it's football, basketball, baseball. I mean, you name it, I played it. And then so once I graduated high school, I didn't play any sports in college or anything, and I really missed that competitive nature, that competitive edge. So for me, getting a little bit older, I really didn't wanna start playing basketball and, you know, tear my ACL or anything like that. So I figured I'd get some friends together, go play golf, and compete a little bit, and, kinda get the the blood flowing by. So being competitive. But, yeah, being able to get outside and touch grass was a win-win for me. 

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October 2, 2023





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