Lind Mizar specializes in helping clients problem-solve around cash management
By Liz Gold
Cannabis businesses aren’t getting the justice they deserve as it relates to their financial needs.
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“We need to educate more accountants,” says Lind Mizar, MBA and founder of Genius Accountant in Tualatin, Oregon. “There are a lot of firms out there that say they help but they don’t.”
Specializing in cannabis accounting and tax, Genius Accountant started back in 2013, when Mizar wanted to provide accounting services for unusual businesses and those industries that don’t get a lot of attention. For a while she worked with nonprofits helping them through compliance issues and then cannabis came around in 2015 and her focus changed.
“I was so excited, I did a whole year’s worth of research,” she says of the industry. “I have an amazing team who has basically been my support getting this whole thing going. It’s very complicated and customized to each client, so it’s impossible for me to do this by myself. I found a supportive team – likeminded people who know where my mind is going into a particular situation.”
Aside from herself, Mizar has four team members – two full time with the other two part-time. During that first year, recreational use was legal, Mizar advertised her accounting and tax services for cannabis.
“Word of mouth spread so quickly it was scary,” she says. “When people knew I did full service including business consultation, they were very attracted to that because it was all in one office.”
Not a CPA by choice, Mizar provides a variety of services to her clients and wants to be their go-to business resource.
“I don’t take on just any client, they have to fit a specific requirement,” Mizar says. “They have to either just be starting out and need a lot of guidance to get going correctly or they need to have a year or two worth of issues where they need to rebuild their books and reorganize their company.”
Every client is required to schedule an initial consultation to discuss their business overview and review their entity. Mizar helps with everything from starting a company, getting all the government ID numbers in place, filling out the forms to referring them out to attorneys – which she highly recommends for new cannabusinesses in the process of forming.
“They do partnership agreements on their own, which is the biggest mistake they can do when you have multiple partners,” she says. “I call myself the best resource in the state of Oregon when it comes to running a business because I know who you should go to for what.”
She also tells her clients – who include grows, dispensaries and processors – that her tax planning can be enhanced if she does both the business and personal return.
“Most of the time if they have multiple businesses, they don’t want to change accountants,” Mizar says. “I tell them, ‘If you want me to be your cannabis accountant, it would be much better if I do all of it because I can tell you how it impacts you personally.’”
She added that she’s pretty blunt with her clients.
“Don’t expect me to give you the answers you want if you don’t provide me with the information I need,” she says. “So, I say you have a choice: You can have me do your personal return, so we can do it all together, or you can keep it over there, but that accountant has to be responsible to give you the best advice for your personal life. There are instances where the client wants to do that, and I have no problem with it.”
She specializes in helping her clients problem-solve around cash management – especially those cannabusinesses that don’t have bank accounts. In order for a new cannabusiness to get an account, it has to have its financials and any supporting documentation in order, according to Mizar. Not surprisingly, many don’t have what is required. As a result, she’s built a reputation with MAPS, the only credit union in Oregon that works with cannabis companies, as she’s helped her clients walk through the bank account process.
“We had to make sure when any clients call us, that they know everything they need to do for the state of Oregon is in their head,” she says. “(Many accountants) don’t tell them these things.”
Her focus is educating her clients as well as helping them run a business effectively, rather than just successfully.
“You can’t be successful without considering the compliance side,” she says. “If you don’t follow compliance for the state, for the federal, you are at risk. When I say effectively, it means you’re not just making money, you are safe from any sort of shutdown.”
Working with each client takes a good amount of time and requires getting to know them very well. As a result, she strongly encourages her clients to call before they make a big decision – which she says her clients appreciate.
In Oregon in particular, grows are going through a phase because of the price drop of flower over the last year. They are very dependent on their plants so consistent clients tend to be dispensaries and processors. Grows in Oregon, she says, are getting bought out by bigger companies – with a strong focus on selling, expanding and branding.
“I have told my cannabis clients, if you start a cannabis business, start thinking about vertically integrating because 280E will be more beneficial,” Mizar says “Own a grow, a processor and a dispensary selling your brand name. That’s the best way to go right now.”
Mizar also says that business valuations have become increasingly important in Oregon. The state’s market is on year four and as a result, those companies that have the best operational management and internal controls in place with strong leaders are survivors. Those that haven’t closed yet, but that don’t have a good system in place are ticking bombs, according to Mizar.
“A lot of people want to sell because they are feeling the burn financially or mentally because it is such a mentally involved job,” she says. “You just don’t get to take a break.”
All in all, Mizar is keeping very busy and thriving from the challenges that come from being an accountant in the cannabis industry.
“It’s difficult to explain how awesome it is going to work and enjoying every minute of it,” she says. “It’s not just a job, it’s a career passion. A client will call and say, ‘Will you help me?’ and we have to drop everything and help the guy. But it’s so exciting and I like that.”