Pittsburgh Business Times - by Tim Schooley
BookSmarts Tax & Accounting Services, a Cranberry-based franchise looking to bring CPA-level accounting into neighborhood shopping centers, is ready to make a move into Florida.
The company has reached a development agreement with Bill Barthlow, the former COO of North Pittsburgh Systems Inc., a company that later became Consolidated Communications. Barthlow plans to open the first out-of-state BookSmarts franchise location in West Palm Beach, Fla., in January, in time for tax season.
The development deal calls for Barthlow, who is moving to Florida, to open a location in Rockledge near West Palm Beach and then be an area developer to recruit 14 locations along the eastern coast of Florida in the next three to five years.
"It’s a real big feather in our cap because it recognizes that we have some smart people getting involved with us,” said Ron Sofranko, a partner in the BookSmarts business and its CEO.
BookSmarts was founded by certified public accountant Larry Jackley in February 2008, when he converted a tax preparation business he owned called TaxTech Inc. Jackley serves as president of BookSmarts. Partners include the principals of his former firm, Wexford-based R.C. Holsinger and Associates PC.
With locations in Bridgeville, Brentwood, McCandless and Morgantown, BookSmarts also plans a franchise in Imperial, near Robinson, and one in Butler that’s scheduled to open in January, Sofranko said.
Sofranko said BookSmarts can provide bookkeeping at half the price of a certified public accounting firm, offering services such as payroll and others along with tax preparation. He sees a huge middle market for BookSmarts to serve, providing a level of service above tax preparation firms such as H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt.
John Tubridy, president of FranNet of Western Pennsylvania, a franchise consulting firm, said while such businesses have low overhead, they typically need multiple locations to make considerable money.
“There’s a lot of nice features to it and there certainly is a market for it,” he said of BookSmarts and the market in which it seeks to grow. “Is it underserved? Maybe a little bit. But there certainly is competition.”
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