Ghada Burton is a seasoned tax professional with extensive experience in all areas of taxation and finance. She served as Global Tax Director for many multinational corporations where she took a leadership role in building a functional tax department and partnered with colleagues within the company’s finance organization as well as outside service providers to ensure that the company is fully compliant with its tax filing obligations and international corporate restructuring transactions.
She commenced her career as a CPA working for PWC in New York, thereafter she took tax supervisory role with the investment banking firm, Salomon Brothers (later Citigroup) and transitioned further to a tax advisory role at ExxonMobil where she developed her knowledge in international taxation and served the company’s Marketing & Refining divisions in Europe, Australia and Exploration & Producing in Nigeria. At ExxonMobil, she applied her acquired knowledge at Salomon Brothers and her overall experience in finance to propose financial strategies of utilizing certain financial derivatives and other exotic instruments in effecting certain tax objectives.
Subsequently, she became a Registered Investment Advisor in California where she assisted clients achieve their long-term financial goals through careful financial planning and disciplined retirement growth strategies.
Additionally, Ms. Burton served in a variety of leadership roles in corporate tax departments with progressively increasing responsibilities including Director of Tax & Treasury at mature start-ups as well as Vice President at Schwab. Her entrepreneurial spirit took over when she decided to follow her passion of building her own tax and finance practice where she could contribute in a meaningful way to her client’s needs in the tax and treasury area. She strives always to listen to her client’s goals and constantly applies her innovative Out-of-the Box strategies while guiding her clients through the process.
She is highly talented, with a record of identifying quantifiable reductions in corporate worldwide tax liabilities and drives positive outcomes in a company’s planning processes to achieve business goals. She has high-energy and up-beat attitude, with collaborative mentality, “Out-of-the-box”, big-picture and strategic thinker that adds exponential value to company’s goals and long-term vision.
She has demonstrated an in-depth knowledge of corporate finance and the application of hybrid financial instruments to hedge corporate assets. She carries a strong sense of organization, ownership, and initiative to carry tasks to conclusion with minimal prompting.
Ghada Burton has earned a bachelor’s degree in Finance from the University of Texas at Austin, with high honors. She further earned a CPA and two MBA’s from Bryant University, Rhode Island and George Washington University, Washing D.C with high honors and distinction respectively.
Ghada Burton’s talent extends to her music. She is an accomplished pianist as she has been playing classical piano compositions by major composers since the age of 12. She acquired her earlier education in Ghana, Lebanon and France where her family reside today. She is trilingual and has traveled extensively throughout the globe where she acquired special appreciation for various cultures, languages, art and traditions.
How did you get started in this business? What inspired you to start this business?
I am born an entrepreneur, and I knew that one day I will be building my own practice. The time appropriately came in 2010 as I felt I was ready to take on this challenge. I believe that a certain level of creativity, self-confidence and proper focus and direction would be required to ensure growing the practice.
I had the confidence for success, and all the ingredients of knowledge, experience and attentive listening to clients’ needs that bake into the recipe for success. My clients are earned through referrals, since I do not advertise. Rather, I let my success with one client eventually lead me to the next.
How do you make money?
My practice adopts a simple business model; one client at a time. I do not recruit multiple clients concurrently because I am more interested in best-in-class practices in delivering the best outcome for my clients. I know that once this goal is accomplished, the next client will follow. By focusing personally on what the client needs are, I can perform my research, and advise my client of the tax conclusions. I am driven by my high standards of ethics and strive to deliver quality results in an efficient environment. I do not require a minimum time commitment from the client, but I often find that as my original commitment period is about to expire, my client often extends my engagement for additional time. The world of tax is complex and varied, and it is constantly changing, so my clients always encounter certain tax issues that require attention from an expert.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
I didn’t really doubt once my ability to succeed. I have always had confidence in my ability to deliver best-in-class practices and always produce optimum results and offer viable business solutions. I also believe that building a business network and using referrals are two important ways to grow a practice. Additionally, keeping up with the latest changes in the tax laws and regulations impacting corporations and individuals help expand my circle of clientele and add some diversity to my practice.
How did you get your first customer?
As a seasoned professional in taxation I have access to multiple professional sources such as business seminars, various tax associations, law firms I have collaborated with through my previous positions, as well as CFO’s or Controllers in my immediate circle of friends. I am fortunate to have had such connections to jump-start my practice, and the rest is history.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
As I mentioned, in general I don’t advertise except by “word-of-mouth” as they say. But I do leverage my contacts in the industry, professional associations and various colleagues in business including law firms and big accounting firms to build my client base. It is no secret that professional accounting firms offer a wide range of tax services but at exponentially high rates. Further, they generally attend to the immediate issues at hand as they don’t have the resources to dedicate to “hand-holding” the client, especially smaller pre-IPO’s who have not built a tax department and meet every tax matter that comes up. My business model tends to fill the gap in this area by serving as the internal liaison with outside service providers while ensuring that the company’s routine tax deadlines and compliance matters are handled internally timely and accurately.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
It is the desire to succeed. We all have this within us. It is the ability to leverage my wide circle of professional contacts but at the same time build my “brand” to uniquely offer innovative solutions and add value to the client’s tax practice and its finance organization as a whole. I believe also my high-energy, strong sense of organization, ownership, and initiative to carry tasks to conclusion with minimal prompting are appealing to my clients. I also believe effective communication with upper management of serious tax matters or changes in the tax law that could impact their business are appreciated and encouraged. It is this level of personalized solutions dedicated uniquely to each client that differentiate between service providers and win the ultimate attention of management in the long run.
In the end, it is my up-beat attitude, collaborative mentality, “Out-of-the-box”, big-picture and strategic thinker in me that ultimately add exponential value to the company’s goals and long-term vision.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
There have been several as a matter of fact. I am results-oriented, I focus on delivering positive outcomes that are aligned with the company’s overall business goals and long-term vision. These outcomes could be intangible such as process improvements, or early filings of tax returns, or leading the tax team in formulating efficient ways of delivering the final product. They could also be substantive and quantifiable such as automating a sale and use tax filings process by procuring the proper software and training targeted staff to ultimately eliminate the exposure of late filing and save several hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest and late filing penalties. One of the most satisfying projects, which lasted over 22 months, involved setting up European headquarters for a mature start-up which was growing in Europe to ensure that the final structure is tax efficient and optimizes tax savings worldwide. I was successful in applying for a ruling at the foreign country’s Revenue Department (the equivalent of the IRS) which ultimately resulted in reducing the foreign tax rate from 25% to 9.25%. It took extensive research, collaboration from US and foreign law firm in the local country to achieve this result, but in the end, it was satisfying.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
I believe that being consistent in delivering quality is paramount to my practice and my brand. I am now exploring expanding my practice beyond the Bay Area and focusing on a different level of clients. I have seen a surge in demand for services in the tax field especially after the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was passed in December 2017.
The new tax law has impacted individual and corporate taxpayers alike. It is no exaggeration to say that the new International tax provisions are very complex and call for “rethinking” and “reformulating” essentially the way we used to apply these rules to international enterprises. This has left the doors wide open to explore, research, consult, advise and comply. And as tax practitioners, this is our role right now; to aid corporate clients in their understanding and application of these new rules and regulations.
What business books have inspired you?
When I read, I choose subject matters faraway and unrelated to tax or finance. So, I am fond of reading history books, some non-fiction and some are stories based on historical facts or true events. I am always inspired by stories of courage, adventure and searching for new frontiers. These stories speak to me, as I am a first-generation immigrant, who has chosen to earn my education in the United States, and later evolved into specializing in the U.S. tax law, of all things.
Of course, I take reading financial daily periodicals as a “must-do” just to keep abreast of the financial and economic stories that sweep our lives daily.
What is a recent purchase you have made that’s helped with your business?
I can easily say computers, and software. But fortunately, my practice is not capital intensive since my clients prefer that I be physically present in their offices with direct access to their network and secure drives. This requires relying on their technology and technical search engines in the tax area for purposes of performing my research and analysis.
How do you relax?
In my early days, I could easily say it was hard for me to “relax”. There was always something going on in my job. I put in long hours and at times that was hard. Succeeding as a woman in the business place was both challenging and demanding as I was rising in the corporate world. But in the end, it all paid off. Today, I enjoy being physically active, I am an avid runner, and this activity relaxes me immensely. I also enjoy classical music (actually, I like all types of music) and playing the piano. I favor many of the compositions of iconic composers such as Mozart, Beethoven etc… some are tough to play, but the activity itself is relaxing and greatly satisfying.