Though Shakespeare – through the mouth of that star-crossed lover, Juliet – may have reflected that a name means very little to a rose, a name holds real significance to the team at Tembo CPAs. So if you were to, say, ask owner Ben Platt, “What’s in a name?” he would begin to tell you of a highly impactful safari trip in Africa that he took with his family. You see, “tembo” in Swahili means “elephant,” which Ben sees as a perfect representation of what they do at his firm.
“Just like an elephant,” says Ben, “Tembo has big ears for listening to clients, high-placed eyes to see above the horizon, padded feet for treading softly through difficult situations with grace and precision, tusks for getting right to the point, thick skin to deal with tricky challenges, a trunk which is nature’s most versatile tool and can be used for innovative solutions, a great memory to recall and focus on clients’ goals and gentle, soulful personalities.”
Ben Platt offered 20+ years of experience as a Certified Public Accountant when he opened Tembo, and the team has decades of experience working with many different clients in many different industries. In everything from real estate to e-commerce, insurance to professional services, offshore, project management, hospitality, wholesale trading, creative agencies, estate and trust, marketing, and financial services (just to name a few!), the Tembo team has made it their mission to learn what each client’s goals are in order to leverage their resources and expertise so that they can help them achieve those goals.
But Tembo isn’t your average CPA firm. Yes, they are proactive in their tax planning. They handle all of their clients’ tax compliance matters, and they do accounting and bookkeeping. They help clients understand their financial reporting systems, and do budgeting, financial modeling and financial analysis. They help clients understand valuation, cash flow, and capital structures.
What really makes Tembo stand out, though, is their heart for entrepreneurs and their entrepreneurial experience. At his core, Ben has always been an entrepreneur and has taken on innovative, leadership roles in 34 businesses to date. “We know what it’s like to walk in your shoes,” says Ben. “Tembo was built by entrepreneurs, for entrepreneurs, so we understand the struggles and how to creatively overcome them.”
Tembo also stands out because of their personalized way of defining success. Success is different for each client, so Tembo helps them define success for themselves and their business. The team often refers to international business consultant Tony Jeary’s strategic acceleration outline as a guideline for their client relationships. The outline rests on clarity, focus, and execution.
“First we help our clients clearly define what a successful business means to them and why they want to do it,” says Ben. “Next we focus on determining what it will take to drive success and execute on those action items. Through this process our clients are able to build a path to success while we assist them in navigating that path with business mentoring and strategic planning.”
Tembo has a large number of client success stories to back up their approach to business – across dozens of industries and in dozens of areas – but one in particular came to Ben’s mind when he was asked to share a story that’s important to him.
A little bit of informational background first – in business, some are making a profit while some are generating tax losses. Generating tax losses isn’t the end of the world if the business and its owners have basis to deduct those losses. Having basis means that it’s your money that funded the tax loss, as opposed to the bank’s money or another third party lender’s capital.
Tembo has a client who was experiencing both taxable profits and taxable losses in different businesses he owned, so the team had to get creative to help him. The client owns a transportation company that consists of several entities, and the entity that owned the trucks was generating huge tax losses due to depreciation rules. Other entities in the business were generating significant operating and taxable income. After careful analysis, the team restructured terms in the trucking agreement to shift income from entities making lots of taxable income to entities that had a big tax loss.
By doing this, Tembo saved their client $1 million dollars in tax over the last six years.
“The business was still making the same amount of money across each entity,” says Ben, “but they were now saving significantly more on taxes each year due to a simple restructure in terms and good documentation of the economics between the companies. Our Tembo team becomes successful when our clients are successful.”
Tembo makes a huge impact in our city and beyond for clients both big and small. By helping entrepreneurs build and sustain their businesses, they help the growth of St. Augustine, and by supporting social businesses and charities, they make a positive impact globally.
“Besides helping entrepreneurs reach success,” says Ben, “we have a huge passion for leaving this world in a better place than when we found it. By supporting social businesses and being one ourselves, we are able to not only work with entrepreneurs who are passionate about what they’re doing but also have a greater impact on the world.”
Learn more about the work of Tembo CPAs at www.tembocpas.com. Photography by Danielle Bleau, TwigPics Photography.