Here at CenturyLink, we think small is big. Small businesses and nonprofits make a real difference in our communities. To celebrate them, we invited small businesses throughout the United States to participate in a sweepstakes with a chance to win one of five $1,000 gift cards. Now, it’s time to meet our winners and hear all about the important work they’re doing in their communities. Next up, let’s meet Evelyn Garcia of Garcia and Carlson CPA.

Evelyn Garcia of Garcia and Carlson CPA

Introducing Evelyn Garcia of Garcia and Carlson CPA

Evelyn Garcia is the co-owner and co-founder of boutique public accounting firm, Garcia and Carlson CPA. The firm specializes in tax, estate planning, advisory and bookkeeping services in the Naples, Florida community. “We want to know everything about you so that we can help you have the best future,” Evelyn explains.

A CPA with 25 years of experience, Evelyn first started her career working for a large firm where she managed and met her future business partner, Stacy Carlson. “It’s just a different lifestyle,” Evelyn explained about larger accounting firms. She also said the business goals were different. “It’s not as personal. You’re dealing with more businesses. They’re just one of many clients, you know?”

When she left the firm, Evelyn knew that Stacy wasn’t happy. “I approached her to tell her that I wanted to go out on my own and that’s how it started.” Garcia and Carlson CPA first launched in 2016. In the beginning, the company was small, made up of just four people. But since then, Garcia and Carlson CPA has grown significantly, doubling in size up to nine people.

Evelyn’s road to Garcia and Carlson CPA

Evelyn did work with small business clients in her role at the previous accounting firm. “Before, when I worked for a large firm, we had small business clients, but I couldn’t relate,” she said. That all changed when she started her own small business.

Now when Evelyn consults with small business clients, she’s able create personal relationships based on personal experience. That means Evelyn doesn’t just help them with their accounting needs, but she can also talk shop about the unique challenges small business owners face. “It’s brought me a lot of knowledge that I wouldn’t have had otherwise to share with clients,” Evelyn explained.

Embracing entrepreneurship

Evelyn loves being a small business owner. “It’s fun,” she says with a laugh. “You don’t know what every day will bring. It’s a wonderful experience. I recommend for my kids to be entrepreneurs themselves and to do their own thing.”

It’s also flexible. “You call your own shots, you make your own schedule,” Evelyn said. “You make all the decisions, even silly little things like decorating.” However, sometimes that can be a challenge. “You wear many hats. Sometimes I’m IT, HR, or the office administrator,” Evelyn said. “It just depends. People have to take vacations and so we kind of have to all pitch in wherever is needed.” Fortunately, the team is willing to cover for each other and help each other out. That makes it so they can attend sports tournaments for their children and run other errands.

The power of woman-owned businesses

As a female business owner, Evelyn can uniquely serve her clients. “In Florida, Naples, we get a lot of older and retired clients that do well or did well and continue to do well,” Evelyn said. Since the firm helps with estate planning, many of their clients bring in their wives as well. “They want their wives to be comfortable with the CPA,” she said. “When they’re not around, they want their wife to be able to feel like, ‘Okay, you’re going to take care of me,’” she concluded.

Evelyn Garcia: CenturyLink's Small Business Spotlight winner

Being a woman-owned business is also a key part of getting referrals at Garcia and Carlson CPA. “I get a lot of referrals from wealth advisors and bankers. A lot of them are women,” Evelyn said. “It’s because they feel like, ‘Oh, I know you’ll take good care of them.’”

Growth after the pandemic

Before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Garcia and Carlson CPA had a lot of growth, about 20% per year. COVID slowed things down, and the only gains that the firm made were making up for the typical attrition. To get through this flat period, the team had to be resilient. “There is no stopping. That’s not in my makeup or anybody’s makeup in this office. We just continue. We just keep powering through and persevere,” Evelyn said.

But since the initial slowdown, growth has returned and even accelerated. “The phones don’t stop,” Evelyn said. “The referrals have been nonstop.” In some part, it’s thanks to the people moving to Naples. Since they don’t advertise, Garcia and Carlson CPA attribute the growth to word-of-mouth referrals.

Creating trust and building community

To create that referral network, Evelyn believes building trust is important not only for her business, but the community as a whole.

“There is a sense of community here,” Evelyn said. “I think when you say sense of community, there’s two different ones, right? There’s the personal family and home community.” She describes that community as friends, neighbors, and all of their social circles. “You get to know everybody. Then there’s the business side, which is like the attorneys, the bankers, the advisors. Once they know you and they see you and that you’re not leaving and you’re sticking around and you’ve been around, they trust you. They will refer to you, they will call you with questions. Once you have that trust, I think, it’s everything.”

The role of technology

Like many small businesses, the pandemic sped up adoption of technology for the firm. “We do more Zoom meetings,” Evelyn said. “Our clients are more apt to send us things electronically where before they were more traditional where they would come in and drop off paperwork.”

These changes speed things up for the business. Before, they would have to wait for documents to come through the mail and delivered returns in person. Now, they’re able to do everything electronically. “Everything is computerized, and it’s just helped tremendously. I mean, you could do so much more than what you could do before,” Evelyn said.

Evelyn doesn’t see things going back the way things were before. “I think technology is going to continue moving and keep making us more efficient. I don’t see us going back to paper,” she said with a laugh.

For all those digital file transfers, Garcia and Carlson CPA rely heavily on their internet connection. They recently upgraded to CenturyLink Small Business Fiber Internet. “We used to be with another carrier,” Evelyn explained, “But then we moved to our new space. We wanted to go with fiber. So, we contracted with CenturyLink and this season was amazing. The speed was great. The uploads and downloads, it was phenomenal. We do our phones with CenturyLink as well, and it’s been awesome. I can’t complain. There’s not one negative thing to say,” she said.

What’s next for Garcia and Carlson CPA

As winners of the CenturyLink Small Business sweepstakes, Evelyn and Garcia and Carlson CPA used their winnings to buy gifts and toys for Immokalee area in Naples. The firm also included family and friends in their efforts to give back to their community.

As they move forward, Evelyn said the firm wants to continue to grow. “We have thought about different avenues, like maybe introducing audit, but I think we’re going to stick to what we know, growing our tax planning and consulting business, hiring more people.”

Mostly, Evelyn just wants potential clients to know that Garcia and Carlson CPA is a boutique firm. Because they work with multiple industries, the firm has a wide knowledge base. Then, they apply that knowledge to each client uniquely. They get to know their clients’ families, estate plans, and help create individual plans. “We give personal attention to every client,” Evelyn said.

Last words

The CenturyLink Small Business team would like to extend a warm and hearty congratulations to Evelyn and Garcia and Carlson CPA. Thank you for entering the sweepstakes, and we can’t wait to see how your firm grows. For more small business resources, please visit the Small Business Hub for articles like:

*Not a paid endorsement. Garcia & Carlson is not a CenturyLink customer but is a 2021 Small Business MTU Survey Sweepstakes Winner.

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