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International CPA turns Fort Myers into her global business hub

Marie Grasmeier didn't fret about starting an international tax accounting firm.

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  • | 5:00 a.m. August 25, 2023
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Marie Grasmeier, Fort Myers CPA.
Marie Grasmeier, Fort Myers CPA.
Courtesy photo
  • Charlotte–Lee–Collier
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Marie Grasmeier's path to a Southwest Florida international accounting and consulting firm went through three continents before landing at Fort Myers.

Since she became an American and international accountant, Grasmeier has seen change not just in her career course, but in the course of her U.S. and international tax clients, something that delights her.

"I love it when my clients are growing," says Grasmeier, 48. "It's amazing how some businesses start as a 'mom-and-pop,' and they're growing and expanding internationally."

It's that last part that is tricky. International businesses need to follow the various tax rules of the United States and the other nations, and that's where Grasmeier comes in. Her accounting practice, Fort Myers-based Grasmeier Business Consulting, goes beyond numbers and advises international business clients on other issues, including recommending legal services.

Grasmeier herself had to get familiar with the United States as a 19-year-old student. Grasmeier was born in South Korea and adopted by a Swedish couple. Her father was an accountant, so when she headed to Florida Atlantic University as a foreign student, she decided to pick a career quite unlike that of her father: medicine. She studied pre-med for a while — but it was not quite catching.

Taking advice, with people noting accounting majors are highly sought after, she switched to that field. Her grades were great. And, as with most successful accounting majors, she was recruited even before she came into the job market in 1999.

"(Accounting majors) were heavily recruited on campus," says Grasmeier. "I got several job offers."

Having fallen in love with a New Yorker she met in Florida, Grasmeier decided to stay in the Sunshine State, settling on the Gulf Coast, where she would later earn a master's degree in accounting and taxation. Despite her advanced degree and her familiarity with Europe, Grasmeier never entertained serious notions of becoming a tax accountant in London, Stockholm or some other part of the world.

"I love this country," says Grasmeier.

Thus Grasmeier began working at a firm that had many clients doing taxes from outside the United States. Florida was growing, and investors from Australia, Malaysia Singapore, Canada and Europe wanted in. But investment here meant taxes, and foreign investors needed help. 

As her book of business grew Grasmeier began to ponder more change: maybe she would start her own business. 

But was the timing correct? By 2009, the nation was in a deep recession. Grasmeier was a new mother, having given birth in 2007. It didn't seem like a good time to start her own business. But that's exactly what she decided to do — to change when change seemed against the odds.

Looking back, Grasmeier seems surprised she wasn't swayed by the challenges of a poor economy or the recent advent of motherhood. But Grasmeier felt she could offer clients a better service. With less overhead, she was also able to offer lower prices, and that had the effect of drawing new customers, even during the downturn. 

"It was a leap of faith, and it worked out well," says Grasmeier, who exercises and runs regularly, and has run in the New York City Marathon.

From the start, Grasmeier tried to change and innovate how her accounting-focused business worked. She declined to use paper until the final product was ready, preferring to use digital tools such as PDFs. She also began advising clients outside accounting, helping them establish U.S.-based LLCs and getting important tax ID numbers.

Even property management has drawn requests to Grasmeier, which she easily could have eschewed, even as a tiny part of consulting. She instead embraced it, and gets her clients the managers they need.

"So it's a little bit of business consulting," says Grasmeier.

Much of the multiple needs come from the fact that Grasmeier's clients do so much real estate investment in the United States (mostly Florida, she says). It brings up the needs for taxes, LLC creations and property management. It also brings up the differing priorities nations have.

Grasmeier says the United States and foreign nations will often have different tax goals and incentives. It's just one reason why Grasmeier has expanded her network to CPAs in other nations — to talk and consult on various issues that will come up.

One example Grasmeier gives as to incentives is the drying up of margins in Australia, given taxation and regulation. In response, she says, many Australians invest in Florida, where they can expand their margins. Australians make up about 10% of her 1,500 clients. There are lots of Canadians too, she says, as they also find their margins shrinking back home.

Demand for Grasmeier's services are growing, too: In 2021, she grossed $492,600; in 2022, that grew to $712,000, a 44% jump. In 2023, she is projecting a $1 million gross, which would be another jump of more than 40%. She has three employees, but that fluctuates given the tax season.

It's a long way from where she started in 2009, partially on a blind dream. "I never thought of all the things that could go wrong," says Grasmeier. "I do believe in God and believe everything happens for a reason."


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