Larry Kessler: It’s Not What You Make...
It’s What You Keep
Larry Kessler Financial Services is an example of how to create an accounting firm built on friendships, trust, and fair dealings.
“I don’t advertise,” he says. “I focus on giving each client a better job than they have ever seen, combined with the best service I can give. I now handle second and third-generation clients, the children and grandchildren of clients I have had from my early days.”
His tax partner of choice is Drake Software.
“I started with Drake in 2009 because a colleague was using the software and absolutely raved about the customer support,” said Kessler. “I had other software but was helping him out with some of his returns on his Drake software and I was hooked. And now, I’m the one telling other tax professionals how great Drake Software is.”
Kessler didn’t set out to become an accountant. In fact, two years into a pre-medicine curriculum at Brooklyn College, he realized that he wouldn’t have the financial resources to attend medical school.
He switched his major to accounting and completed all the courses in his final two years of college. The real education came at the suggestion of his professor of federal tax law, who suggested that if the class wanted to really understand tax law they should work as a seasonal tax preparer. Kessler walked across the street and accepted a job with H&R Block.
“I started doing tax returns for friends and relatives, and eventually became their accountant,” he says. “Back in 1978, there were few computer programs, or computers for that matter, and all the tax returns were done by hand. I learned more by actually doing tax returns than I think I ever could have learned just by reading about how to do them.”
“By 1982 I was working full time for an accounting firm, and also serving my own set of clients. I had a lot of respect for the senior partner of that firm, so when my practice started getting busy I was open and honest with him and we agreed to a part time working relationship. When it was time for me to completely break out on my own, instead of quitting and letting any of his clients come to me, I approached him and told him that these clients would prefer to stay with me, but that I would prefer to purchase them from him and not just take them away.”
“To this day, I still have some of those clients, and because I did the right thing, I have maintained a friendship with the senior partner in that firm.”
Working from his offices on Long Island and midtown Manhattan, Kessler is an enrolled agent, privileged to represent clients before the IRS. He provides over 100 business clients and 300-400 individual clients with accounting, tax, financial planning, and wealth management services.
Kessler grew up on the streets of Brooklyn, was co-captain of the swimming and wrestling teams at Sheepshead Bay High School, and earned his accounting degree at Brooklyn College. He is still an avid swimmer and Master Scuba Diver Trainer and has made multiple dives to the wreck of the Andrea Doria off the coast of Massachusetts. Active in his Temple and community, he also frequents late night blues clubs in the New York City area. He is so well known in the blues clubs as the accountant for many famous musicians and is often considered part of the band without having to actually play an instrument.
“For a very long time, my main office was a room in my home, whether it was the second bedroom in my Brooklyn apartment, or the massive construction project that added a real office to the back of my Lido Beach home,” he says. “But in the past three or four years, I have added on a new part of the practice with partners in a midtown Manhattan office where we specialize in financial planning and investment management.”
“As business grows, you have to find better and more efficient ways of handling things while maintaining the expected level of excellence that is your trademark. I don’t really want to be a ‘tax mill’ and do 3,000 tax returns. I have become a boutique type operation where every number placed on a tax return is carefully considered and analyzed for accuracy. Final diagnostics are done on every tax return to make sure that they are accurate and make sense,” he adds.
Kessler says that there is no such thing as a typical day. During tax season, his days can be 20 hours long and seven days per week. When it is not tax season, he schedules meetings with clients in NYC spaced strategically enough to get in up to 8 miles of walking in a day. He makes sure to schedule lunch or dinner plans with clients, to keep in touch and make sure that all their needs are met. Every client, he asserts, is unique and deserves the time.
“The numbers in the boxes all look the same on a tax return,” he says, “but behind those numbers are people running businesses. That’s why you never sacrifice quality for quantity. I don’t rush through tax returns just to get them done, as it is always better to do it right, than to do it right now. On the back of my business card is printed ‘The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of a low price is forgotten.’ Someone else will always do the job for less, but quality rises to the top.”
“Our goal is to do the best for our clients’ portfolios with an eye towards the tax implications of everything that they do. We like to say, ‘It’s not what you make, it’s what you keep.’ At the end of the day, getting a client in the highest tax brackets a better rate on his investments in something with no risk that is completely safe and protected is very satisfying for us as tax professionals.”
“Drake has helped to streamline my tax return preparation and there are still many aspects of Drake’s software products that I haven’t even taken full advantage of. They provide excellent support, and the support professionals have become both friends and business partners. I recommend Drake Software often. I am a big fan and not shy about voicing my opinion.”