Michelle Tucker took some time away from her busy schedule to talk to Living808’s John Veneri about Sterling and Tucker being in business for 30 years and what it was like for women business owners 3 decades ago.
“My law school classmate (Judith Sterling) and I decided to form a partnership in 1990. It made sense because we were both CPAs and Attorneys and we had common interests.
In the professions, women were the exception. Success was less of a sure thing. We felt some pressure to be exceptional, to work harder at making it a success.
We did get attention and free publicity because we were women. It was novel for two women to start a law firm and a CPA firm. We were the first ever to start both and doing that was somewhat of a taboo because one business might feed business to the other, but we did not work it that way.
We wanted to know everything there was to know to help the client. All clients benefited by us having both tax and estate planning expertise, whether they needed us as CPAs or as lawyers. There is overlap between the two. Very often, a CPA will refer you to a lawyer and vice versa, because if you are knowledgeable in only one of the two areas, you cannot answer all the questions completely.”
While navigating a male dominant field, Sterling and Tucker persevered. “From the beginning, we made a commitment to clients that our firm would survive even if Judy and I did not, because the services that we provide are needed by clients for the rest of their lives.”
“What brings me satisfaction is that we are a place for people to work, where employees can get satisfaction from their work, where employees can feel job security, and the ability to earn to help raise their families. Like most people in Hawaii, supporting a family is still a struggle, but Hawaii needs small businesses like ours, and it is very satisfying to think our business is one of them.”