Bryan Kerrigan worked as the National Directory Assistance Product Manager for MCI. He spent a few years running a successful retail store. Currently, he is succeeding in sales and running his own profitable website.
Bryan, tell us about your site, http://www.easy-tax-information.com/.
The reason for my site is to make what I would consider basic information about taxes, easily accessible to the average Joe or Joanie. In other words, after looking for basic tax information myself many times in the past and having to wade my way through a lot of stuff to find what I needed, I decided to simply aggregate a bunch of basic information about taxes and then assemble that information in to a directory of sorts where people -easily – find what they needed and grab it as they wish to.
My future goals include continuing to add additional tax subjects to the tax website and then build a similar (content-based) website about attractions and things to do in a major U.S. City.
Your background is not in taxes. Why is your tax site so successful?
At one time, (late 90′s to early 00s) I was the National Directory Assistance Product Manager for MCI Telecommunications – where we assembled the largest National Directory Assistance database in the U.S. (160 Million Records). That database was not only used for MCI Operator & Directory Assistance Services (where we handled 12 Million calls per month), but we then turned around and sold the database to quite a few other Telecom carriers and data aggregators so they could use it and sell it too. The point is that as a result, I have a natural tendency to think about how various, sometimes disconnected data could be brought together and presented more easily for the folks.
If you could set the tax policy in this country what would you do?
If I could set the tax laws in the U.S., I’d scrap the current tax code completely and institute a basic flat tax, across the board.
Were you working with MCI when it went bust? What was that like?
I sure was. I was with MCI from 1989 to 2004 and unfortunately, at the time of the MCI crash, we all lost most of our retirement in stock options as a result. It was truly very sad for all of the legacy MCI employees involved. MCI was made up of a very special breed of people who worked really hard but also played hard. It was great fun working there and we didn’t mind working hard because we were handsomely rewarded, not only financially, but there was significant mutual respect between management and the workforce. People were widely recognized for their accomplishments and achievements. When it was time for awards, we had huge parties and people felt special, like the company really cared about their spirit! Those in lower and middle management positions at MCI were allowed to make important decisions that benefited their own groups and MCI as a whole. Across the company, we were a fairly young group of professionals who took great pride in our ability to make things happen because we wanted the company to do well.
You know what, I read your own bio on your site and my life is not too dissimilar to yours. What I know a lot about is starting over. You see, I’m 52 now and I’ve also done a lot of things in my life and I’ve had lots of successes and lots of failures, but even after each failure, I continue to get up and try again. My experiences include a few years in the Air Force – guarding “Priority A Resources” (nuclear weapons), tons of fun flying around and seeing the world as a flight attendant, a terrific 16 year corporate career, and starting, succeeding and then failing in business – and starting over again.
When did you find out something was wrong at MCI? In hindsight, was there anything weird going on before you found out?
Yes, there were very strange things going on leading up the collapse of the company. About a year before everything crashed, they had started eliminating basic services, such as watering the plants; they started an adopt a plant program where they wanted employees to care for and water the plants. They also stopped paying for coffee and water that was previously made available at no charge in the break rooms.
Then we heard that the “President” of the Consumer Markets division was no longer allowed to approve the spending of over – $5,000- (yes, just five thousand dollars) with out the approval and signature of Bernie Ebbers himself. Prior to that, the same guy could sign off on multi-million dollar projects with a stroke of a pen. Lastly, about three weeks before the story broke in the media, I was in a meeting where a MCI Senior Vice President told us that there was $3 BILLION of MCI money that Worldcom could not account for. He literally started choking up in tears after telling us that, probably because like a lot of us in that room, he was at the company a long time and had a lot of pride in our company and helped build it to what it was up until then with a lot of personal sweat equity . When I heard that and saw him get so emotional, I knew the end of MCI was near. At the time, Worldcom bought MCI, MCI was known as the “cash cow” that Worldcom was sucking money out of for other ventures.
After MCI, how did you pick yourself back up?
Actually, I got up and then stumbled again – hard. A few years before, in 2001, I had formed a corporation and started an e-commerce web business (on the side) that sold cultural, decorative, functional and wearable masks from around the world. The web site was called “AnyMask.com, The Any Kind Of Mask Store” and it was becoming a very successful venture.
In 2004, I left MCI and as an extension of the initial mask business, which by this time was going very well, my wife and I decided to open a retail Halloween and year round Party Supply store. At first, things were moving along nicely and we had a good location on a fairly busy, 2 lane road and the store had a very good stream of customers. Along with the store, we kept the mask business running and also added a Moon Bounce (Inflatables) business. We even landed the Inflatables contract for a very popular summer concert series in the area – 2 years in a row.
As we were new to the retail world, we were somewhat naive – because before we jumped in with both feet, it never occurred to us to check the county plans for roadway changes that might affect our store location. What ended up happening was during our first year in business there, we found out the county was building a major interchange on a roadway that was parallel to the road we were located on and that ultimately, to make way for an exit ramp from the parallel roadway, our road would be closed where it had always intersected with the major thoroughfare through the County. Previously, we always had significant traffic coming down our road, which provided great exposure to our store.
Once the major interchange was completed and our road was closed at the major thoroughfare, our entire shopping center was suddenly cut off from a significant amount of traffic as many people were now using the newer, 4 lane roadway. To make a long story short, due to the significant loss of customers over a long period of time and after numerous desperate measures, we ended up having to close our store as we could no longer meet our expenses. Without going into great detail, the business failure forced us to close our store. Then over the following 12 months, five other stores in our shopping center also followed us out of business. At the time, my wife and I had two small children (7 and 4) so trust me when I say that that experience wasn’t much fun at all and it was extremely humiliating for us. As I’m sure you know, you find out who your real friends are very quickly when the chips are down. It turns out we had many, as our friends and our families came to our aid and helped us get through that very trying time – in many different ways. We will always be very grateful to all of them.
But you know what, as the quote goes, “It’s not how many times you fall that matters, it’s how many times you get back up.” I, like you, am building my life back up again. I also have the greatest, most supporting wife in the world; she’s been there with me, at my side through all kinds of ups and downs and she has put up with a lot. I’m very grateful for my wife and I love her very much! One of the things she always says is that “God didn’t take us this far to drop us now,” and that has always, always been true for us. :->)
After the business failure, I was fortunate to get another well-paying job at another Telecom company working with a former executive and superior from my MCI days. That enabled our family to be able to rent a home for a few years. I then switched gears entirely and went to work for an old friend, selling technology to local, state and federal agencies, which is a position I find very interesting. As my wife was working again also since then, we were recently fortunate to have saved up enough for a down payment to purchase a modest house. Now, in addition to our primary jobs, I’m building my little “internet empire,” which will “help” pay for our kids college, when they get there in a few more years. :->)
You said you make $1000s of dollars from your website. How is that done exactly?
My tax website makes money from advertising in the form of ads that are placed on my site. There are various types of advertising and affiliate programs out there being used by thousands of publishers (people like me who publish content-based websites on all sorts of subjects), where the publishers can use HTML programming code to place ads on their sites that are related to the website content. When visitors to these websites click on a given advertisement, they are then redirected to the advertisers website where the visitor may have the opportunity to make a purchase from the company who placed the ad. The publishing site (my site) is then paid a commission for every referral, and even more when there is a purchase. I then receive a check from each program at the end of each month for the previous month’s earnings. What’s great is that once the site is built, you still make money in this manner from the site when you’re taking a break from adding content to the site when you’re on vacation.