Twenty years ago, I had a vision. I saw clearly the way in which I wanted to service clients and educate people about sales tax – with a personal touch while providing the best information available to all I met. This vision became the cornerstone of YETTER and the Sales Tax Institute. Since then, we’ve seen all sorts of ups and downs known to any small business. We’ve grown and shrunk, changed our logos, altered brand names, but during all the change we’ve never lost our mission – to provide personalized, high quality consulting and education to clients that respect us as much as we respect them.
I find it hard to believe that it has been 20 years since I made the decision to strike out on my own. So much has changed since 1996 – not just in the world and how we do things – but also in the sales tax world. Do you know that in 1996, AOL was the biggest web site and only about 20 million people had access to the Internet? I remember – this web site was one of the first that dealt with sales tax!
Online research that didn’t cost anything? Not existent! My original subscription research service was Lexis Nexis because no one else had an online tool that included state information. I even had a travel agent because booking all my travel wasn’t possible online! When I started the business, I worked from my home – which was not at all common. In fact, I had to get the condo bylaws changed at my building because they wouldn’t sign off on my Chicago Business License application.
In 1996, the average combined sales tax rate was around 8.25% and sales tax represented about 33% of tax collections by the states. Today, sales taxes represent about 47.5% of tax collections by the state and the average combined rate is around 9%. How a company determines whether it has nexus has also drastically changed. In 1996, Quill was fairly new and we looked at substantial physical presence. Today we have click-through, affiliate, economic and marketplace nexus to consider.
And tax base – that is where the biggest changes have happened. Tangible personal property was easy to define and fewer services were taxed. Today, there isn’t even a clear definition of tangible – does it include electronically delivered software? What is software as a service? It is even hard to know who the seller is today.
Tax technology – what was that? Vertex and Taxware were the only providers and their functionality was pretty basic. And it was all on-premise installation. The Cloud? Not even in anyone’s mind. No web filings for tax returns. Excel (or was it still Lotus 123 was a tax person’s best friend!). No Streamlined. No Bitcoin. No VOIP. A simpler time – maybe? But it has definitely been a fun ride seeing how the world has changed and how sales tax has attempted to keep up with it.
I’ve been privileged to be in the sales tax field and to have the career that I have. I decided we needed to celebrate the journey and look to the future. So a few weeks ago, that is exactly what we did. It was something I will never forget.
Gratitude, Humility, and Inspiration were the emotions that came over me as we celebrated the 20th anniversary of YETTER and Sales Tax Institute. I was honored to have so many people that have helped shape the company come together to help us celebrate.
Gratitude – Family, friends, employees long gone, clients, partners, and advisors came from near and far to be with us. I’m so thankful to have so many wonderful people in my life that wanted to share this celebration with us. I was touched to have people that represented all different aspects of what we do join us.
I’m so thankful for my current team (left to right below): Tim Morrison, John Londay, Hannah Bannister and Tatisa Joiner. They provide so much support to keep everything going.
Humility –Many of you (those that were able to come as well as those who couldn’t) shared your memories and thoughts of your experience with us. I was truly humbled to hear and see the impact I’ve had on so many over the years.
I asked Brad Farris, my longtime advisor, to welcome everyone. He humbled me with his words. “Some of us know Diane as a Sales Tax Expert and consultant. Others know her as a speaker and trainer. A few of us know her as a business leader and mentor and the luckiest among us also know her as a friend. In the almost 9 years that we’ve worked together I’ve seen Diane scale her business up, sell parts of it off, take some of those parts back, and continually re-invent her business to match the changes in the market. This party celebrates her strength and courage to forge through those changes — but it also celebrates the terrific community that has supported her.” A few others shared some toasts and as you might guess (especially for those of you that know me well), there were tears.
It isn’t always easy to see yourself and hear and appreciate compliments. I will treasure everything you all said and shared with me.
Inspiration – 20 years is something to celebrate and I’m very proud of the road we’ve traveled to get here. For the party, I pulled together some of the memorabilia from over the years. What a trip down memory lane.
I’ve been inspired by our clients, our students (As of September 2016, we’ve held over 150 training sessions and have taught almost 4,000 students though our live classes and webinars over the last 20 years!) and our partners. Each and every one of you has pushed us to grow, change and get better every day. We promise to not stand still and will continue to develop our skills and our offerings to meet your needs.
Thank you all for helping us celebrate this major milestone. Each of you have had a special role in not only the company but in my life. You are family, friends, employees, clients, students, peers, advisors and partners. But you are all definitely part of the YETTER & Sales Tax Institute family. Here’s to many more years and much more fun in the sales tax field!
This blog post is also published on Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/20-years-counting-diane-yetter