Where it All Began
Dorothy “Dot” Reep of Dorothy M Reep CPA PA sits behind a desk decorated with postcards and affirmations neatly arranged beneath a glass table top cover, business cards from clients stacked in rows, and—most importantly—photographs of her grandchild and great grandchild, keeping her attentive gaze trained on the Drake Software interview team.
As cameras capture individual moments with a crisp snap, Dot discusses her time using Drake Tax: chiefly, the fact that she was Phil Drake’s very first customer when he began selling tax preparation software in 1977. “Phil and his brother Warren used to always tell me that I was the first customer, and I agreed with them,” Dot says with a grin.
When reminiscing about her first conversation with Phil, Dot jokes, “I was on the school board here in Statesville when I first talked to him on the phone, and after we hung up, I said ‘anybody who taught math and was on the school board can’t be all bad.’” Soon after, she called him to place an order, leading to Phil and his two brothers, Warren and the late Tom Drake, coming by her office to install the computer and software.
“In some ways I dreaded switching to a tax preparation program, but we were doing so many by hand that I knew we needed to make the change,” Dot says. “But we’ve always tried to take advantage of technology, to be ahead of the curve.”
“The original computer was as big as my desk,” she says, “and it would calculate all night long before being able to print the next day—and it cost around $20,000 plus!” Embracing technology meant that Dot would buy a personal computer in 1980 and choose to e-file returns as soon as the IRS formally began the program in 1986.
Today, Dot’s business, Dorothy M Reep CPA PA, is still located in Statesville, NC, where she has been providing year-round client-write-up, payroll, and estate and financial planning services, as well as preparing income tax returns for small businesses, corporations, and individuals, for half a century. “We stay really busy with in- and out-of-state clients, and we handle a wide range of corporate clients: C corps, S corps, partnerships, and fiduciaries.”
Occasionally, Dot glances past a row of three metal filing cabinets toward the door leading to her office when people drop in to say hello, foreshadowing what she says is the most important part of her life: family.
“My husband, Hassill, and I were married for 58 years before he passed away last year,” Dot says while smiling wistfully at his picture. “It’s hard, you know? He always supported me, and I couldn’t have stayed in business after buying that $20,000 IBM computer without his help. Every day, he’d come by the office and ask if I needed him to carry anything to the house to work on after hours, and he would do a wide variety of other tasks. He supported me in whatever I wanted to do.” Another picture we pass is of her late son: "He died at 24 from bone cancer. That sort of thing just stops your future."
After setting Hassill's picture down on a nearby table, Dot’s face brightens—she’s pointing to pictures of her grand- and great grandkids. “You’ve got to get a picture of my grandbabies: they’re the pride of my life,” she says, making sure the interviewer organizes the frames in a neat row. Pointing to the photograph of a little girl in a blue dress, Dot says, “This one comes by here every afternoon; it’s her nursery!”
Even after 50 years in the tax preparation business, Dot shows no signs of slowing down. “I’m not ready to retire. I reckon I’ll go to the house when I can’t provide the level of service that my clients are accustomed to.”
When asked if she has any advice for would-be tax professionals, Dot’s answer is philosophical: “If you don’t laugh in this business, you won’t make it.”