Sharing Your Blessings
The Story of Phil S. Willis, Principal Owner and CEO, Willis and Jurasek, P.C.,
Small Business Person of the Year for Michigan
Power Homebiz Guides
of a truly successful man is his self-less giving of his talents,
time and riches to his community. Phil Willis has demonstrated in
his brilliant entrepreneurial career that sharing your blessings
to others is much more rewarding than all the accolades and awards
S. Willis, CPA, has given much to Jackson County, Michigan, both
through his business activities and through community service.
The principal owner and CEO of the accounting firm, Willis and
Jurasek, P.C., CPAs/Consultants,
Mr. Willis has found success in consulting as well as in the
more traditional tax and audit business. After graduating from
Albion College in Michigan, he worked in an accounting firm for
five years, gained his CPA qualifications, and purchased a
"very small" CPA practice.
accounting firm he organized in 1967 has since expanded to offer
financial and estate planning services and consulting. In 1999,
revenues stood at US$2.5 million. Willis & Jurasek has grown
in manpower as well, and now stands at twenty-six employees.
Flexibility in the Face of Adversities
however, was not always easy for Mr. Willis. In the 1990s, he
was faced with what he calls a major challenge: the technology
market was stealing his business! Demand for accounting services
waned because of the proliferation of accounting software. The
PCs could now do the work that people used to ask accountants to
solution he found exemplifies the flexibility for which small
businesses are known as they set the pace of innovation in
today’s fast-paced environment.
Instead of watching his business shrink, he started a new
company, Willis Information TechNologies, Inc. (WIN), to help
people meet their computer needs. WIN provides
"recommendations for the best hardware and software, along
with installation, training, and most important of all,
continued support and service."
The new company helped businesses with complete
automation services, including hardware, software, installation,
networks and service, making sure that they had "the right
of Mr. Willis' optimism and fortitude, the PC problem turned out
to be a blessing in disguise.
Willis has parlayed his entrepreneurial and consulting skills
into community service. After "thousands of hours and ten
years of forecasted financial statements," Mr. Willis won a
license from the State of Michigan Strategic Fund to start a
Business Industrial Development Company (BIDCO), which helped
provide an increased tax base and increased employment
opportunities in Jackson, Michigan. BIDCO has now "assisted
forty Michigan companies in providing small mezzanine and equity
capital for growth of their businesses." The greatest
accomplishment for Mr. Willis, though, comes from helping others
fulfill their business aspirations. "We are able to help
many people achieve their lifetime dream," he said.
Willis, however, was not content with the assistance his BIDCO
provided the Jackson community. Jackson hit a deep recession in
the eighties, Mr. Willis said, and he grew frustrated with the
oppressive stagnancy. "I saw three of Jackson's major
businesses close," he said. "We needed more investment
capital in the community." Mr. Willis, determined to meet
this need and revive his community, founded and organized the
non-profit Jackson Venture Capital Forum and served as its
president for four years. This new organization provided a forum
for investors and entrepreneurs to meet and develop strategy.
"We teamed up with four other venture capital forums around
the state. We had over one hundred members and were able to help
start twenty five businesses." Among his biggest success
stories was transforming Universal Phone Books, Inc. from a
small company without the capital needed to publish enough phone
books for the Jackson area into a nationally known and
award-winning company hauling in over $7 million in sales. As
chief architect of the project, Mr. Willis reinvented the
company. "We were losing money at first because it was
expensive to publish such high quality books," he
explained. Mr. Willis also corrected the company's poor
management, faced lawsuits over labor problems, and was able to
fix a "horrendous problem with accounts receivable
collections, bad debts, and poor cash flows." In the end,
however, Mr. Willis was vindicated by overwhelming success.
"Persistency paid off as problems were resolved and sales
continued to grow."
all his business dealings, Mr. Willis is guided by a sense of
trust and goodwill towards others. "My philosophy," he
explained, "is to trust all people until they give me a
specific reason to lose that trust." Mr. Willis once
helped a Korean-born janitor and house cleaner buy a beauty
academy. "I got to know her through several meetings and
looked at the business opportunity. I decided to advance her
money for the purchase." The venture proved successful and
the lady, Kyung Sheridan, was able to pay off Mr. Willis' loan.
The financial reward for Mr. Willis, however, was "only a
small part. Helping people, whether friends, business
associates, or clients be successful in achieving their goals is
the most rewarding part of my life."
Willis' other guiding principle is a "down-to-earth
approach to people." Mr. Willis spent his childhood on the
family dairy farm. His background helps him relate to all
different types of people, no doubt helping him in his business
life. Mr. Willis proves that this personal touch should not be
underestimated in the business world. The success of his
TrustCare Services, under the umbrella of Willis & Jurasek,
is undoubtedly due at least in part to his penchant for helping
others. TrustCare, Mr. Willis summarizes, "is a service
designed to provide assurance to family members that care goals
are achieved for family members no longer able to be totally
independent." TrustCare's mission is three pronged:
"provide assessment and planning assistance; provide
assistance, consultation, advocacy, and educational services for
individuals, families, organizations, and businesses; coordinate
services and assistance." Attitude, personality, and
character matter perhaps more than anything to the success of
such a personal service.
theme of personal service also applies to Mr. Willis marketing
techniques. He estimates that referrals generate 75% of his new
business. "We focus on about an hour drive, or 150 mile
radius for most of our business. Our goal is to provide the best
services in this area." Providing good services even to a
small base of people, Mr. Willis believes, is more important
than massive marketing campaigns. "Too many people in
business," he said, "worry about marketing to the
world rather than helping their own customers."
Willis also heavily relies on his family for support. In fact,
he credits his wife with much of his success in business.
"I work very closely with her. She's doesn't stand behind
me in my business life, but beside me," he pointed out. Mr.
Willis also has made a commitment that is probably equally
pleasing to his wife and family as it is radical to many small
business owners: He decided to take a week off every month.
"It is extremely important to spend time away from the
office," he said. But the reasons, surprisingly, are not
simply confined to spending quality time with his family,
although that is a major consideration. "Its a good
business practice," Mr. Willis explained. It forces your
employers to function when you're not there." Indeed, Mr.
Willis places great emphasis on the development of his
employees. Preferring to manage "more from a
distance," he allows his employees freedom and independence
to make decisions. "If they can't survive without you, your
business will never grow," he said. The time off also
allows Mr. Willis to replenish his creative reserves and regain
his energy. "It's a hard step for many entrepreneurs to do,
but you can't grow without it. In the long run, it creates
Copyright©2006 PowerHomebiz.com, LLC