Education & Workforce Development

PROFILE TINA MOE: Persistence paid off for local business owner Tenacious accountant shares with clients valuable lessons she learned from the school of hard knocks

July 9, 2007

Moe's path to opening Indianapolisbased ACT Services Inc., her accounting, tax and consulting firm, was fraught with roadblocks. In 1998 she graduated from the Indiana University Kelley School of Business in Indianapolis with a degree in accounting. That same year she divorced.

Moe has had her share of breakups. While still an undergraduate, the Greenwood native worked for a year as a business partner with a certified public accountant at Accounting Store LLC in Speedway. The partnership continued for five years before things began to sour.

"When my business partner and I split up, it wasn't under the best circumstances," Moe said. "We disagreed on business-management styles. We parted ways abruptly, and ... I had to quickly scramble and set up a new company."

Moe subleased space from a friend who also owned a business, but after two years she learned that his business was failing. She again found herself forced to move-this time with only a week's notice. As she scrambled to pack and find a new location, her mother died from breast cancer. Moe set up shop in her home for eight weeks before moving to her present office on the west side.

The challenges made her tougher, she said. "I stay the course, and I'm the eternal optimist-something I got from my mother. Everyone has adversity, but after losing my mom to breast cancer, when challenges come up at work I remind myself that no one is dying, it's not lifeor-death."

It also helps that she has two older brothers, who "weren't going to raise some sissy little sister," Moe said, with a laugh.

Finding balance challenging

A month before opening ACT Services in 2002, Moe remarried. She found herself not only with a new husband, Keith, but also with three daughters who at the time were ages 5, 10 and 12.

"It's been a challenge to balance my personal and professional life," Moe said. "My husband is a hockey coach in addition to his career, and I've felt the pull of not wanting to leave the kids sitting at home for hours."

Moe said her mother's death at age 56 was a wake-up call to not take life for granted.

"I was missing out on life," she said. "I made a conscious decision not to put in 12-or 13-hour days anymore." Moe's father also cautioned her to "stop and enjoy life."

"I was going to work hard and enjoy the fruits of my labor later, but Dad said, 'What makes you think there's a guarantee that you will be old? You need to enjoy life now.' That really struck a chord."

Giving clients more than numbers

When Moe talks to new business owners, she offers more than accounting and tax advice.

"I'm not the kind of accountant that sees clients once a year at tax time," she said. "I see my clients monthly or quarterly and we develop an informal partnership, if you will." That partnership includes discussing choices owners are facing in their businesses.

"That's where the consulting part of ACT comes in," Moe said. "I'm a smallbusiness owner who has encountered a lot of challenges in running a business. I try to impart some of that experience to new business owners to help them avoid some of the hurdles."

That's what long-time client Bill Ellison likes about Moe. The owner of Greenfield-based Ellison Electric said that, prior to hiring Moe, he had two other accountants-"one who tapped his finger on a calculator the entire time he was here and drove us nuts."

"Tina comes to my office," he said. "She's proactive. She doesn't sit back and wait for me to ask questions."

Moe also shares her financial know-how through an annual three-part financial-education seminar founded by Indianapolis attorney Jennifer Ruby. "Finances 101 for Young Professionals" instructs people on budgeting, taxes and financial planning.

Ruby said she met Moe through another financial-planning professional. The women are preparing for the third series, scheduled for Sept. 11, 18 and 25 at the Columbia Club. They're looking for sponsors to help defray costs.

"A lot of young people get themselves into financial trouble in this age of high credit card debt and personal bankruptcies," Moe said. "People just aren't that well-educated about their money." She admits that the title could be "Finances 101 for the Young at Heart" because she often counsels people in their 40s and 50s who aren't money-wise.

Lessons learned the hard way

Moe, who turns 37 on July 25, learned this year that "having too many irons in the fire is not always a good thing."

"I started a new business, Tax Pro LLC, this year and it was a mistake," she said of the rapid-refund tax company she recently dissolved. "It was a learning experience-an expensive one," she added with a laugh. The outcome helped her appreciate her core business even more.

"When Tax Pro didn't take off, it was a wake-up call for me to focus just on the meat and potatoes of what I do," she said. "I learned to rein myself in and focus on the task at hand."

Within three years Moe hopes to purchase a multi-tenant building downtown where she can move her business. She and her husband also want to live downtown.

While there was a time when Moe wanted to grow her business and bring in more staff, she is rethinking that goal.

"I've had some turnover this year that's made me reconsider," Moe said. "My goal is to keep the business at a manageable level and be able to travel with my husband. I'm trying to find balance between the business and living my life, but it's a challenge."
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