Member Profile: TSC Enterprise
To be an entrepreneur, Salome Tinker said, you have to “set your goals and relentlessly do what it takes to achieve them.”
She should know. Her accounting firm, TSC Enterprise of Suitland, MD, was established more than 20 years ago, and there were many goals to be set before, during, and still.
First, of course, came education. Accounting wasn’t her first choice. “I was serving overseas in the U.S. Army. I had turned down acceptance into Iowa State in [its] chemical engineering program. I fell into accounting by default, as overseas degree choices were limited.”
Even so, she stayed the course and the goals of the military veteran’s personal mission became clearer after she and her husband, Chris, graduated from Howard University in 1996. “He went to work in tax, and I started in audit,” she said. “We started the firm as predominately a tax practice” while both held other jobs. “He went all in in 2001 and I remained working in corporate America for continuity of income to support our family,” she recalled.
Her decision brought years of supervisory and management experience in all branches of accounting, including policy, government contracting, and regulatory reporting with agencies such as Fannie Mae, the Federal Reserve Board, and AICPA, the accounting profession’s largest member association.
Besides an accounting degree, there was something else that opened these doors for Tinker: Her CPA. “If you are going to major in accounting, you must get the CPA,” she counseled. “My business goal was to enter into government contracting. My CPA designation would become my entrance card.”
In 2015, Tinker homed in on her next goal, expanding TSC, and began taking steps to achieve it.
“I aggressively studied the government contracting profession. I secured all available minority designations,” making TSC a service-disabled veteran-owned, women-owned and 8(a) business. “I attended seminars and conferences to learn the industry and meet people who were already doing what I hoped to accomplish,” she said. “I responded to market research inquiries and solicitations at both the federal and state level. I sought out mentors to guide me.”
Through it all, there was something else she did that helped. “I tuned out naysayers and negative distractions,” Tinker said.
The work paid off. TSC won its first contract with Homeland Security, after Tinker teamed with one of her mentors, Dorothy Proctor of Bert Smith. “I’m forever grateful to her for giving me the time and mentorship,” Tinker said.
But that success was fleeting. “Unfortunately, Homeland Security rescinded the contract the same day,” Tinker said. “However, the loss gave me enough confidence to know that I could win.”
The next month, TSC won a small NASA contract.
That was a pivotal moment for Tinker, who was then a senior manager over banking. “The AICPA got word of my intentions and I was forced to decide if I was all-in. I quit.”
That was in 2017. Now full time with TSC, her goal was to expand the firm into government contracting, and she was counting on the contacts she’d made throughout her corporate years. “I thought I could leverage the relationships I had developed with CPAs at the highest level in their careers,” Tinker said. “That was not the case. I found out quickly that my contacts respected the position and not the person.”
Still, she persisted. “In spite of this, all of the contracts we have won in the federal space were prime contracts. I quadrupled our firm’s income in three years.”
Government contracting is one of three divisions of TSC today, the others being tax and small business consulting.
“Our business philosophy,” Tinker said, “is simply ‘We Solve Problems.’ People come to us for advice and we give it based on our past experiences. Our clients are individuals, small businesses and nonprofits. We also have a contract with the Metropolitan Airport Authority as we grow our commercial arm.”
Other past and current clients include the Federal Aviation Administration, the Small Business Administration, the National Science Foundation, the Bureau of Fiscal Services, and the Corporation for National Community Service, she said.
Tinker said the growth has mostly come through word of mouth. “We provide our clients with good service, so they make the referral.” TSC’s long-term goal, she said, is to continue growing and expanding product offerings.
To anyone considering becoming an accounting entrepreneur, she offered caution and encouragement. “The accounting profession is in transition. Unless you are competing for audit work, any company can compete for our accounting and tax-related work. The lack of minority CPA firm mentorship, regulations, and size puts CPA firms at a disadvantage. Artificial intelligence, data analytics and information technology will be a driving force in molding the future of our profession. Those who adapt will reap rewards. …So stay relevant.”