Episode 167: Burnout To Billions: Jeff Badu’s Global Rise

Dreams of global entrepreneurial success can feel vast and distant. Fear not, aspiring moguls! In this episode, Brett Gilliland interviews Jeff Badu, founder and CEO of Badu Enterprises, LLC, about his journey from burnout to global entrepreneurial success. From humble beginnings in Ghana to establishing thriving ventures in the US, Jeff’s narrative is one of resilience, determination, and strategic growth. Reflecting on his experiences at PWC and the pivotal moment when he decided to pursue entrepreneurship full-time, Jeff emphasizes the importance of having a clear vision, effective systems, and a supportive team. Ready to take control of your financial future? Tune in!

What the podcast will teach you:

  • Overcoming burnout and prioritizing well-being.
  • Learning the critical role of systems and teams in scaling a business.
  • Identifying the core values.
  • Seeking guidance from mentors and coaches.
  • Utilizing agencies for talent acquisition.


Resources:

Watch the episode here

 

Listen to the podcast here

 

Personal Background And Career Journey

Welcome, everyone, to this episode of the show. As we have every week, we have another accomplished business owner here who will share some of his lessons learned as he has grown his business. He is Jeff Badu with Badu Tax Services. He’s based in Chicago and has clients all over the US and other parts of the world.

I will have Jeff share some of the stories about his company, but before I do, we had him as a guest on our Seven Figure Journey show. While interviewing him there, we thought, “This would be a good thing to bring to our Elite Entrepreneurs show.” We’re thankful to have Jeff here with us. Welcome, Jeff.

Thank you for having me. It is my honor.

We love having you. We love having entrepreneurs like you who are out there creating value, who’ve come from different backgrounds, have accomplished great things in life, and are set to do even more with their businesses. Tell us a little about your business, how you started, and what you guys are up to.

I was born and raised in Ghana. For those who don’t know, it’s on the West side of Africa. I came to the US when I was eight years old. Fast forward, I attended the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign where I received my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting, as well as my Master’s degree in Accounting. When I was there, I was doing a few things, including interning at PricewaterhouseCoopers or PwC, which is one of the Big 4 public accounting firms in the world. Everything was good. I was doing internships and eventually became full-time.

While I was in college, I was also working on my own business plan. In September 2016, I decided to turn in my two weeks’ notice at PwC in exchange for a full-time entrepreneurship ticket. Fast forward to now, we run a CPA firm or tax firm called Badu Tax Services, LLC, which does tax preparation, tax planning, and tax representation services for individuals and businesses across all 50 states in the US. We also have clients that are based in over 25 countries at the moment.

That company eventually morphed into other companies, including our real estate investment company, Badu Investments, LLC, which owns and acquires rental properties and apartment buildings in Chicago and also Northwest Indiana. We have the Badu Foundation that teaches financial literacy to the communities. Lastly, my purpose in life is to inspire and support the super-hungry to take hold of infinite resources to create an abundant lifestyle.

It’s impressive not just what you’ve done but who you are and the way that you tackle life. I like the super hungry reference there. That’s fantastic. I have a little bit of a different question for you than I have for most guests, and it has to do with your experience at PwC. I know PwC is one of the Big 4 accounting firms. It’s a huge company that has a global reach. I wonder if your involvement there helped you see a bigger possibility for your business. You’re already serving a global clientele fairly early on in the growth of your business. I wonder how much in PwC and what you saw there influenced the way you think about running your business.

PwC is a multinational and multi-dimensional firm where they say, “Show me your environment and I’ll show you where you’re probably going to go.” When you’re in an environment filled with such elite players and such elite people, then all of a sudden, it makes you want to be like them, or it makes you want to maintain that status.

Elite Entrepreneurs Podcast | Jeff Badu | Global Entrepreneurial Success

Global Entrepreneurial Success: When you’re in an environment filled with elite people, it makes you want to be like them or makes you want to maintain that status.

 

Being at PwC, which is such a global brand, I said, “This is possible. If they can do it, why can’t I do it? They have a lot more resources than I do, but I have a network.” PwC is an extension of our own firm, Badu Tax Services. We can be in partnership. We have a very similar partnership where sometimes PwC will refer clients to our firm that they view as maybe too small or they can’t service that client. Being in that environment allowed me to see a bigger picture of what business could look like. I believe that being at PwC, such a global brand, inspired me to turn our firm into a global brand as well. Being in a digital virtual world helped us tremendously as well.

I can’t help but think of images in my mind when people share their stories. The image that’s coming to me this time is one of perspective. It’s like when you get to the top of the mountain, a hill, or whatever. When you get to a higher ground, you can see a bigger picture. I’m not telling you why your life is the way it is, but I feel like that experience was formative anyway. It influenced the way that you saw things because it was such a broad perspective. You surrounded yourself with amazing, talented people who are super smart and super hungry. I know that those places are full of go-getters. You’re around go-getters and smart people. You’re seeing a broad perspective. What a gift for you as you went in to go launch your own thing. That’s a cool way to start.

Amen to that. That is very true.

Lessons Learned

Let’s get into some of the lessons that you’ve learned as you’ve gone from the somewhat superhuman founder person that we all are when we start. We’re going to do it all. We hustle and grind, and then it’s like, “Now, we’re growing to the place where I have people in other parts of the country and other parts of the world. We’re doing all these things. I can’t keep my arms around all of it myself.”

There’s a transition from this founder thing to this capable business-building CEO. I’d like to pick 1, 2, or maybe even 3 of the key lessons that you’ve learned as you’ve gone from that million-dollar entrepreneur to that $10-million CEO. What are some of the key leadership lessons and key business-building lessons you’ve learned? Maybe we can unpack some of those.

In business, true success comes down to two things. It is systems and teams. Without those two things, you can’t achieve the dream as much as you want. When I started, I wanted to be a solo shop. I was like, “It’s me.” I wanted 150 clients who are paying me. I wanted to make $150,000 a year for the rest of my life. Small thinking, small picture, and no fault of my own. It was how I thought. It was the world that I saw.

In business, success comes down to two things: systems and a team. Without those two things, you can’t achieve your dreams as much as you want. Share on X

Going through different experiences, reading books like Rich Dad Poor Dad, The 4-Hour Workweek, and all of these other resources, and knowing all these elite players, I’m like, “Why do I have to limit myself to such small thinking when I can expand?” Robert Kiyosaki said, “There’s a left side and the right side of the cashflow quadrant. If you’re on the left side, you pay a lot of taxes and do most of the work. If you’re on the right side, you pay less taxes and do less of the work.” I’m like, “I can make more money and pay less taxes, a topic that I’m very familiar with. Why in the world would I want to be on the left side when I could be on the right side?” That inspired me to fuel me to hire a business coach.

One lesson I would tell anybody if you’re in business but especially if you’re starting is to get a coach. Get somebody who’s more experienced than you are. Get someone who knows more than you do about the field, someone who has been there, done that, and will help you prevent making mistakes that you would’ve made twenty years from now. I made a lot of those mistakes in the beginning because I did not have a coach. I did not have somebody experienced enough to say, “Instead of you doing the work, why not teach somebody else to do the work on your behalf, maybe 80% as good as you can, and then they’ll make up to 20% eventually?” That’s how you grow and scale.

When I started, I was doing a 16-hour work day and 80-hour work weeks. Fast forward to this point, my average work is 21 hours a week. I shifted from 80 hours a week to 21 hours a week. I was working 80 hours a week at PwC. I started my home business still working 80 hours a week, thinking I was going to get out of the burnout environment, but I got into even more burnout.

In 2018, I almost gave up my business because I was burnt out. That’s when my business coach came to me and taught me the 12 practices of life and 12 practices of business. The two critical things that I learned were systems and teams. Without a system, you won’t be able to create something scalable that somebody can duplicate, replicate, and implement.

It takes good systems. You have to have great systems in place that are well written out, well thought-out, and well tested out. There will be trial and error naturally, but you have to have great systems. You also have to have great people. For me, when I started, it was me. Now, we have a team of 25 people. They’re well-trained, well-educated, and super-hungry individuals.

There are a lot of things in what I said, but if I could say the most important thing, it is to get a business coach. It is someone who has done it before you and someone who has done it better than you who can teach you lessons and things that you need to know to be successful in business so that you don’t get birthed out like I was the first few years of the business.

Getting A Coach

I love what you shared, the systems, the team, and the critical aspects of being able to scale a business. I want to dig in a little bit more on this idea of getting a coach. I’ve talked to lots of business owners. In my business, we do training on a scaling method and coaching. Full transparency, that’s the place I come from. How did you go from thinking, “I’m going to do this myself,” to being open to, “Somebody else might help me do this a better way, maybe faster, and maybe less expensive in the long-term.”

A lot of business owners get shortsighted around that investment. They’re like, “I’m going to pay how much per month to get some good help? I don’t know where that’s going to come from, first of all. If I did have the funds, I don’t know if I’d spend that much to get a coach.” How did you get through that wrestle with yourself to invest in yourself to get a coach?

I have always been listening to audiobooks and podcasts of Rich Dad Poor Dad, The 4-Hour Workweek, and all those books, which are great because they help open my mind, but you do need a coach to succeed in business. The books are great. They’re relevant and practical, but they may not be relevant and practical to your specific situation. That coach is the person who holds your hand and walks you through every step of the way. They know your situation. They know how much money you make. They know what your next growth point is or your next trajectory.

For me, it was the burnout effect, honestly. That’s what made me jump into getting the coach. I was getting burnt out. I was like, “I don’t want to go back to doing a job.” It’s not for me. Once you’ve tasted that freedom of entrepreneurship, you don’t want to go back unless you are doing everything yourself. For me, it was the burnout. It was getting burnt out. I’m like, “I love doing taxes and the business, but why am I working 80 hours a week? Something’s got to give. Something’s got to change.” That light bulb shined and said, “It is better to get a coach.”

Ironically, it was that day or something like that that God blessed me with somebody in my inbox. One of the coach’s liaison or team members reached out and said, “It’s tax season. We chatted last year.” I had turned him down initially, and then he came back through persistence and follow-up. Follow-up is everything. We had a conversation and I still turned him down.

Long story short, I got cursed out by the coach and I was like, “Something’s got to give.” You’ll be paying money, this, and that, but, at the end of the day, it’s a return on investment. Everything is value-based in life. You shouldn’t just look at the cost. The cost would be the last thing you look at. You always start with value first. What is the value of this thing that I’m about to do and I’m about to get? Will this return be greater than what I’m paying for? If the answer to that is a resounding yes, you should do it all the time no matter what.

Would it be too personal to have you share, even if it was a range, what it costs to invest in a coach for a year, roughly?

I don’t want to scare anybody away, but I invest over $100,000 a year in coaching, training, development, and leadership. That’s me personally.

When you started, did you go right to that?

No. When I started it was something on the lower end. I don’t have the exact number, but I believe it was something to the tune of $500 a month.

Something simple you started with, right?

Exactly. It was $500 a month.

That’s $6,000 a year. Whether it’s $500 a month or $2,000 a month, somewhere in this $6,000 to $20,000 a year range, because you’re talking about it from a value standpoint, what kind of return do you think you could attribute to that kind of investment?

Realistically, it is infinite because it saves you time, energy, and money. ROI conservatively, it is 5x. How I calculate that is based on how much our revenue is. Our revenue was doubling every year for five years or so.

There you go. Your revenue’s doubling. You went from 80 hours a week to 20 hours or 21. You’re getting more time back and the revenue is growing. If you hadn’t invested in that coaching, could you have gotten there? You’re a smart guy. Maybe with enough time and enough runway, maybe ten years later, you could have gotten there, but you got there faster with a coach. Your revenue grew. Your time back grew.

I don’t usually spend a lot of time on this, but you hit it so hard that I was like, “Let’s unpack this.” I know there are a lot of business owners who wrestle with this like, “People tell me I should get a coach, but is it worth it? Where does that money come from at first?” If you don’t make the investment, you keep making the same mistakes, and/or you don’t have the breakthroughs that will get you to the growth that you’re after. I’m getting a little passionate about this. Thank you for unleashing me on that.

No problem. To answer your question, would I have gotten there? Maybe at some point, but keep in mind that I was at a point where I was burnt out and I was ready to give up on the business, so probably not. I wouldn’t have gotten there. I would still be working at PwC on a partner route, working 80 hours a week. No offense to PwC. I love the place and love what they do for people, but for me as an employee or as someone who’s working there, it’s like, “Do I burn out with my own business or do I burn out with another place?” Maybe I would’ve gone somewhere else. Maybe I would’ve gone to a local accounting firm, tax firm, or something like that.

At the end of the day, I wouldn’t have gotten here certainly not in the time that I got here had I not had that business coach. Always remember. It has to be the right coach, the right fit for you. You always go with your gut. You always make sure you get references and things of that nature. It has to be the right coach. It has to be the right fit for you. Honestly, at least start somewhere. At least start with somebody. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It doesn’t have to be an excellent, phenomenal relationship. Start somewhere, and at least have somebody next to you who, at a bare minimum, can be your accountability partner. That’s very important.

I love that point of view of an accountability partner, especially when you’re going at it by yourself or even with a relatively small team. You’re the business owner. You may have a hard time having accountability conversations with your team, but you’re not having them with you. Your spouse or significant other isn’t serving that purpose. Maybe you put together a board of advisors, but if you don’t have somebody who’s dedicated to your success in that coach role, nobody’s going to push you on the accountability front the way that they could be. I love it. Thank you.

Building The Team

The great systems and the great team are both key. I lean towards people and organization development stuff. I’d like to spend the rest of our time probably digging in on a key lesson around building the team. You created your own job. You replaced your PwC job with your own job, and then you started to build a team. You have 25 people. They can’t all report to you. You’ll probably go crazy. What have you learned about hiring, or what have you learned about building the right kind of leadership structure to be able to handle a growing team? I don’t want to steer it too much. Talk to us about lessons learned around building a team.

It takes the team to achieve the dream. Without the team, you would never achieve the dream. Trust me. I learned that lesson the hard way as I was getting burnt out and trying to do it on my own. That is one lesson in itself. To get more specific, have core values. Core values are the most important things to you. For example, one of our core values is super hungry.

Somebody may ask, “What’s your hiring criteria?” I give them a one-page sheet that has our 12 core values in it, and there goes our criteria. If you check the boxes, then you’re good to go. If you don’t, unfortunately, it’s a no. It doesn’t matter who it is. It could be a family member I’m close to or the most talented human being on the planet, Elon Musk. It could be anybody, but if they don’t meet the core values, they can’t work with our firm.

The reason why is that your core values are the core. Those are the most critical things to you. As great as somebody is, if they don’t align with your core values, you won’t be able to work together successfully in the long run. Maybe 1, 2, or 3 years, but 5 or 10, absolutely not because people will show their true selves over time.

Elite Entrepreneurs Podcast | Jeff Badu | Global Entrepreneurial Success

Global Entrepreneurial Success: Your core values are the most critical thing to you. As great as somebody is, if they don’t align with your core values, you won’t be able to work together successfully in the long run.

 

For us, when we hire somebody, our criteria are the core values. That’s how we check them off. That’s going to be our criteria. Hire people that are in alignment with your core values. If there’s even one red flag that you notice where they may be, for example, lazy and they sound lazy where they sound so defeated and unmotivated, that’s not going to fit well with our core values because super hungry is at the top of the list. Partner with those that align with the core values.

Honestly, some of it is luck in terms of who you find. Our COO, for example, is somebody who’s in an organization I’m a part of called the National Association of Black Accountants. He was going through a tough time. He drove all the way down to my office on Christmas 2017. I’ll never forget it. He said, “I want to work with you.”

To drive from the south suburbs of Chicago, it is about an hour and a half drive to get to where I’m at, and in the snow too. That alone demonstrates super hungry. He’s still with us seven years later. All of a sudden, he’s somebody who I trust. He’s my right-hand man because he demonstrated the core values from the jump. I wrote a book about him. It’s called The Super Hungry. That is a book about him, but it’s also a part of my purpose.

Hire those who align with your core values. Hire slow and fire fast. I truly didn’t understand what that meant until I had team members who had left or we had to let go. We’ve had more team members leave the firm than we hired or than we have. Part of the reason for that though is we didn’t hire slow and fire fast enough.

Don’t rush the hiring process. There are times when you need people, but if they’re not the right fit, they’re not the right fit. It’s better you burn yourself out a little bit than hiring the wrong person who can cost you some real money. We’re still feeling the pain of some people that we hired who not only were they not fitting with the core values, but also didn’t have the level of knowledge and expertise that we needed them to. Hire people that align with the core values. Hire slow and fire fast.

The last point is to make sure these folks know what they’re doing. Hire experienced people. The number one thing that has cost me money in both my tax business and my real estate business is the lack of experience from those who I’ve hired. Make sure that you have criteria. For example, someone who joins a firm has to have five years of tax preparation experience.

Have they made it through five tax seasons? It takes willpower to make it through five tax seasons. Do they have credentials, like CPA or enrolled agent? Have criteria and non-negotiables, not only have the core values but also have experience requirements. As long as you have those two things, you’ll set yourself up for success in terms of hiring the right person.

Let me throw a last bonus point. This one is new. Hire through agencies. I’m a fan of hiring through agencies because the agencies do a lot of the hard work that you should be doing, like background checks and experience verifications. They also take some liability in case the team member doesn’t go too well.

For us, our best talent is coming through incredible agencies. Our sales team comes through an agency. Our tax review preparation team comes through an agency. Hire through agencies people who are trusted, verified, legitimate, and credible sources. That would be the bonus point that I have in terms of team and hiring.

You gave a mini-sermon on building a team, and it was amazing. Amen to that. I want to call out a couple of things because that’s what I do as a host. You were very specific earlier when you said, “I used to work 80 hours a week. Now, I work 21 hours a week on average.” Only an accountant would say, at that precise, “21 hours a week on average.”

I don’t know when this episode is going to get published. We have a process and have several episodes already queued up. By the time people tune in to this, they will not fully appreciate what I’m about to share with them. You are here with me on April 5th, 2024. You have a tax accounting firm. It is April 5th, 2024. I know many accountants and tax guys, and they’re not talking to me on April 5th because they’re too stuck in the business. Their hair is on fire. You have created a team. This is not all fluff. What you shared is real based on the fact alone that you’re sitting here with me on April 5th. That’s a weird thing to call out on an episode but I’m like, “This is a tax guy talking to me 10 or 11 days before the day. This is crazy.”

If it was April 15th, 2024, I would still be here.

You would because you’ve created a business built on systems and people that allow you to be where you need to be and where you want to be. That’s super impressive. My hat’s off to you for doing that.

I appreciate that. We have a very big client. This was on April 14th, 2023. He made a comment at the beginning of the meeting. He was like, “For an accountant, you seem very calm during the most chaotic time of the year.” I told him, “It’s simple. Team and systems.” That was my answer to him for that.

You’re living it. You’re breathing it. Thank you for that. I can’t help but draw another thing here that I’ll try to let you go back to April 15 land. It’s the point that you made about core values. Coming from somebody who has to be so grounded in facts, structure, and truth, I don’t usually meet accountants who applaud core values. Their core values tend to be a little fuzzy.

I hear companies talk about purpose, mission, vision, values, and stuff like that, but I’m like, “Is that for real?” For you to come on here as a tax accountant in a CPA firm and say, “It starts with values. The only way to get the team right is to get values right,” is powerful for me. I want to call that out for everybody. This is somebody who lives in numbers, structure, finance, and what is real. Jeff’s the one telling you, “You got to start with the values if you want to get the team right.” I couldn’t agree more. I wanted to call that out a little bit.

I appreciate that.

For Aspiring Entrepreneurs

You’re an exceptional business owner and an exceptional human being. I appreciate you being on the show. People, if you take nothing out of this but these few lessons. Get a coach. Figure out what the systems and team are for your business to achieve what you want to achieve. On the people’s side, get clear on your values, and then hire, lead, and fire for those values. He said, “Hire slow, fire fast.” Hire, lead, and fire for those values. Make sure you’re getting great people. That’s huge. If you do that, you can build the business you want. Jeff, do you have any parting words for all of these great seven-figure business owners who are trying to do the thing out there?

I would say to keep at it. Keep the spirit going. Keep the entrepreneurship spirit. The world needs more entrepreneurs. The world needs more leaders. Understand to never go it alone. PwC taught me that. Never go it alone. Always reach out. Always have a support system. Always have help, whether it is from mentors, coaches, or entrepreneurs.

Keep the entrepreneurial spirit going. The world needs more entrepreneurs and more leaders. Share on X

Keep the spirit going. Keep the spirit alive. Whatever dream you’re looking to achieve, you will achieve it as long as you have good systems and a good team. Please, if you don’t have a business coach, make an effort to get one. If you need any recommendations and you want to talk to me directly, feel free to reach out to me. I’ll be more than happy.

Let’s do that. How do people learn more about Badu Tax Services or connect with you?

The first thing is feel free to call our office, which is (773) 819-5675. My website is JeffBadu.com. It has a ton of educational materials on taxes, finances, and wealth, and also a chance to get to know me better and better understand me and my story as well. Our tax firm website is BaduTaxServices.com. We’re always here and always willing to help anybody who needs help. Remember, our purpose is solely to inspire and support the super-hungry to take hold of infinite resources to create an abundant lifestyle.

It has been an absolute pleasure having you here. You do have a great story, which we didn’t get into a ton here. You have a great story, coming here from another place, getting a great education, and getting super hungry. You’ve made it happen. It’s inspiring. You’ve learned some great lessons that you’ve shared some of. Thank you so much for your time and sharing your lessons.

Thank you, Brett. Thank you, everybody, for tuning in.

Thank you. To all of you who are tuning in, please share this episode, like and review. Do all that stuff so that we can get it in front of as many seven-figure business owners as possible so they can learn from people like Jeff and other great business owners who share their lessons learned on this show every time we have an episode. We’ll see you next time.

 

Important Links

 

About Jeff Badu

Elite Entrepreneurs Podcast | Jeff Badu | Global Entrepreneurial SuccessJeff Badu is a parallel entrepreneur and a wealth multiplier. He is a Licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and the founder and CEO of Badu Enterprises, LLC, which is a multinational conglomerate that owns several key companies. His marquee company is Badu Tax Services, LLC, which is a CPA firm that specializes in tax preparation, tax planning, and tax representation for individuals and businesses. Another key company is Badu Investments, LLC, which is a real estate investment company that acquires residential and commercial rental real estate properties in areas such as the South Side of Chicago in efforts to restore traditionally underserved areas. What sparked his interest in launching these companies is his passion for helping people minimize their tax liability and ultimately multiplying their money by investing it and building multi-generational wealth.

His purpose in life is to inspire and support the super hungry to take hold of infinite resources in order to create an abundant lifestyle. He is extremely passionate about financial literacy and currently hosts various financial literacy workshops throughout the country. He’s a public speaker and his overall mission in life is very simple: to make a lasting positive impact in as many lives as possible, especially when it comes to their finances.


Want to listen to more?  View all episodes here >