Author: Calli Murray, BSU student
This past week I go the pleasure to connect with Mary Hirtle on her business, Meridian Financial Services, that she co-owns with her husband Marc Hirtle. Together they make the perfect team to help their clients with any financial planning, accounting, consulting, or tax preparation needs.
Mary started off working in corporate America until she had children. Both of her kids have severe allergies and when she was at work one day, her youngest went into anaphylactic shock at day care. Mary and Marc decided that it would be best for her to stay home with the kids, so she quit her corporate America job. As much as she loved staying at home with her kids, after a while she missed going to work every day so she went back to school, got her master’s degree, and started studying for the CPA exam. Once she got her degree and passed the CPA exam, Mary still wanted to do something else rather than being a stay-at-home Mom. Mary explained a conversation between her and Marc that essentially created the idea of Meridian Financial Services.
“I said to Marc well I really just want to be a consultant for startups in Boston and help them with their accounting and he said okay. I went to work the next day and he was working at a large financial services company at the time and he ended up having a company that I could connect with, so it was literally the next day which was awesome! Within 30 days I had two more clients just from word of mouth because there was a real need for startup accounting consulting.”
A couple years later Marc decided that he too wanted to join Mary and quit his job. On the day of our interview, Mary said that it was this day six years ago that Marc left his job to come work with her. Marc did not see eye to eye with the way his previous employer was treating their customers and wanted to work independently instead because independent shops must be held to a higher fiduciary standard. This shows the people you are working with if you go to Meridian Financial Services, they make sure that their clients are taken care of and find the most suitable financial path for them specifically. Mary explained that Marc has no regrets leaving his corporate job, mostly because he now has more time to spend with his boys and coach their baseball teams.
From that point 6 years ago to today, Meridian Financial Services has grown significantly. As a small business owner, Mary has gotten to a point where she finds herself having to turn down business. Mary has a broad knowledge in accounting that is very desirable to her corporate clients, which is what she feels sets her business apart from other businesses.
“We have a wide knowledge base; we know pretty much soup to nuts out right and not only that we're very well versed so our clients can rely on us to almost act even like an attorney… We are invaluable to people. When we roll off a client, they have to replace us with a two to three people.”
Marc and Mary work very hard to provide every client with their wide knowledge base, so I asked Mary how she handles the large workload. Her reply was that she does not even have time to think and stress about the amount of work she must do in a day. Her corporate clients rely on her daily, even if she has her team work on their reports at the end of the day, they want to talk to her. Her clients know she will be there to help them, even on a Sunday afternoon. Obviously, that is a lot of responsibility to have, however she says that she would never step down from her role as an owner of the business.
Surprisingly, Mary did not, and still does not rely on technology to find her customer base. The majority of her customers found her by word of mouth. She said that their story, and skills are better off told though others, rather than through advertising. The skills and knowledge that you will get if you go to Meridian Financial Services and clearly rare. With that said, Mary’s biggest challenge right now is asking her clients for the same pay as one would pay elsewhere. She said one of her goals is to start pricing her services to match her competitors. I thought this was a very interesting, and relevant answer. A lot of small businesses deal with the same challenge as Mary just explained. They may provide the same, if not a better service than a larger company would, however gaining the trust of a client and at the same time asking for the same price as their larger competitor is challenging. Mary said that this is also a huge reason why she loves having her client base be from word of mouth because these people come to her already trusting her capabilities.
Finally, I asked Mary if she has any advice to give as she has been so successful in her career.
“I would give advice to any entrepreneur, and I tell my children the same thing, that if you love what you do, you're going to be successful at it. I know someone who loves to knit sweaters and you know what? She has a wait list and makes over $100,000 a year knitting sweaters because they're that good. I think if you're really good at no matter what you do, and you love it- you will be successful.”
Mary and Marc truly do make the perfect financial service team. If you get the opportunity to work with them, you will see how valuable their knowledge really is.