Glenn Milus, CPA
A FRIEND AND I STARTED MINDLAB ia financial management company, about four years ago, though for the first two years I also kept my day job at Honeywell Inc. Our clients include five football players who’ve been drafted into the NFL, and we expect to sign five more. Many young athletes come from poor and single-parent families, so we try to give them some financial literacy. NFL contracts are not guaranteed and the average career is only 3.5 years. Players make a lot of money in a short window of time, but they also have to pay their agents and pay taxes in every state in which they play. We offer bill payment, revenue and expense monitoring and collection, risk assessment, tax planning and preparation, financial planning and business development services. We help our clients start businesses and write business plans, solicit investors and set up marketing companies for their endorsements.
WE GREW OUR BUSINESS BY AGGRESSIVE NETWORKING. We went to a lot of entertainment functions and passed out cards and beat the pavement. We still go to the college games and hang out in the tunnels and hotel lobbies and stop young athletes and introduce ourselves to them and their parents, and send them literature about how we can add value to their financial lives.
I PLAY ON THE PITTSBURGH PIRATES SCOUTING TEAM IN HIGH SCHOOL. I wanted to be a professional baseball player, but after my son was born I wanted a profession that was more stable. I had a mentor, a CPA named Troy Thrower, who encouraged me to go into public accounting and to get my CPA certification. He told me there’s great value in having those letters beside my name.
I WENT TO LOYOLA MARYMOUNT COLLEGE IN L.A., where I was involved in the accounting society and also started the Black Student Business Association. To be honest, you just don’t see very many African-American CPAs. I do think it’s a great profession, though. There’s a particular need and an opportunity for young black CPAs to work with athletes and entertainers, where there is a large client base of African-Americans.
TWO OF THE BIG 5 FIRMS OFFERED ME POSITIONS , but I went to Moss Adams because its partners were coaches of their children’s soccer teams and understood the need for a work/life balance. I was the only African-American when I started there, but they went out of their way to make me feel comfortable. I worked in audit and tax, and came to really understand how companies should operate.
I HAD INTENDED TO GET AN MBA DEGREE , so I took a job as a senior financial analyst at Honeywell, which offered a tuition reimbursement program. But shortly after I got there they cut back on that benefit. It was a great experience, though, being in charge of the financial reporting of a $1.5 billion division of a Fortune 500 company.
I’M MAKING AS MUCH MONEY AT MINDLAB AS I MADE AT HONEYWELL. Our entertainment-industry clients generally pay us 5% of their revenue year-round. Then we have the NFL players on monthly retainers for the 17 weeks of football season, from August to December, which leads us right up to tax season.
IN THIS BUSINESS THERE’S LITERALLY SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY. This morning I convinced a football player not to buy a Bentley. He has three cars already and is entering the last year of his contract. So instead of the Bentley, I recommended he get an insurance policy so that if he gets hurt and no team picks him up, he’ll still be provided for. Then I worked on a charity event that Gabrielle Union is coming to host, and Access Hollywood and Entertainment Tonight will be there. I’m on the boards of three charities, and I go back to my college once a year to talk about what a great profession accounting is.
—As told to Cheryl Rosen