Millions of U.S. small businesses are sweating it out right now trying to find inexpensive 1099 services. Unbeknownst to many who are accustomed to buying a box of forms, the most cost effective solution requires no travel or paper. WageFiling.com, an online service that I found while snowbound during the NYC blizzard that went bust was the silver lining to my problem.
This very small, family-run business in Michigan does something very simple in a field that one might argue is mundane—taxes—but is particularly relevant right now for the millions of U.S. small businesses that need to get 1099s and W-2s out by week’s end. What is interesting is how they created their success by embracing their fellow competitors, fostering fruitful partnerships that led to benefit for all.
WageFiling was founded by Scott Zubrickas, son of parents who worked for two local employers in Grand Rapids Michigan–Union House and a golf course—and who paved the way for him to join either of their respective companies. A job at Greatland, a company that printed tax forms and was owned by his girlfriend’s father and later mentor to Scott, forever changed that path. In 1999, testing the power of this new development called the Internet, Scott asked his employer if they would be interested in a reseller contract over the web in a business that Scott was starting called DiscountTaxForms. Practically overnight, they had 400 clients and his new efiling business was born.
Building on his belief in partnerships, Scott approached the Michigan Society of CPAs which represented 14,000 accountants and asked if they would offer his service to their customers and revenue share in the upside. They said yes and 15 years later the business is going strong supporting the livelihood of six people.
One of Scott’s largest customers was 1099 Express, an accounting software provider to companies like Geico and Coca-Cola. Scott suggested that they partner in a new business –WageFiling.com –which would enable small businesses that needed only a handful of 1099s to execute them online and without the cost and waste of buying bulk forms.
Practically overnight, they had thousands of users. Enviously, the media caught wind of their success and soon they had press from Entrepreneur and Morningstar.
Today, the company is family run and while operational throughout the year, their work is largely confined to the two months leading up to the January 31st deadline for employer filing.
Reflecting on how he did it, Scott said that he focused on partnerships that served the same customers and offered a win/win solution for all.
This week as millions of small business owners burn the midnight oil getting their tax forms together, WageFiling will become one of the top 50,000 sites in the world according to Alexa.com.
They do this with almost no advertising, the help of nine very dedicated employees (including Scott’s wife who provides impressive customer service) and a Midwestern sensibility about the customer.
Partnering is an exhausted term to describe the DNA of today’s successful startups. Wagefiling.com is a great example of a firm that got there without the forced social biology of LinkedIn groups, Facebook likes, Twitter followers, or a cat signing a tax form. It just came down to honest-to-goodness selling.