Alexis Portugal’s dedication to not only the first class accounting services she provides, but to her charitable outreach in the community of 60010 is an inspiration for philanthropists and business owners alike.
Portugal’s charitable works can be seen with her involvement as a Barrington Area United Way
Board Member, the Treasurer of Hope's In
Board of Directors, and Barrington Noon Rotary
Club's past president and member.
Outreach to the youth of 60010 is a huge part of Portugal's life. What began for her some years ago as a personal mission to expand the worldview of her, at that time 7th grade son, has since evolved into a personal mission to help foster and create a more global perspective for high school students in the greater Barrington area. During much of her son's childhood and beyond she served as Noon Rotary’s Youth Exchange Officer, personally sponsoring and hosting five foreign exchange students. Throughout all that time Portugal played an active role in organizing and sending Barrington students on exchange trips to different places all over the world.
After years of a successful career in corporate accounting Alexis Portugal
bought Cheryl Saunder’s accounting practice in 2003. Since then, Portugal has taken her years of industry experience and put them to use doing everything from personal tax returns to bookkeeping, for people and businesses all around town.
Running a small business herself Portugal understands firsthand the struggles and hardships that all small business owners face. It is for this reason that she is able to offer a wide range of personalized services that cater to those specific needs.
Saunders Portugal & Associates mission statement reads:
“Above and beyond dedication to client service is our highest priority!”
Saunders Portugal & Associates satisfied customers readily validate the statement.
Living60010 had the opportunity to stop by and talk further with Alexis Portugal
about her personal background and business practices.
You are active in charity. Can you tell us about what you’re involved with and what you enjoy about your involvement?
It’s interesting because that’s how I got to know Chrissie (Living60010 Founder). I am involved in three things: the Barrington Noon Rotary
, Barrington Area United Way
, and Hope's In
. Rotary got me started in giving back to the community, and I love Rotary because it gives you an opportunity to be involved in all aspects of the charity work that goes on this area. My focus happens to be working with students. Barrington Noon Rotary
also gave me the ability to become involved in a few things more internationally, as a result of one of our members having a passion for the crisis’s that are impacting Africa. Rotary gives back to the community in so many other ways, and that was one of the main reasons I fell in love with Rotary. My focus with students encompasses three primary aspects. I am involved with the youth organizations like the interact club through the high school, an exchange program that brings a lot of foreign students too our area, and scholarships for the youth as well.
Barrington Area United Way
is a great way to give back to the community. We raise funds to help out other local organizations here in town, who provide important services to the community.
is a very student run organization. I’m on the board with some other adults to assist and offer guidance where it is necessary. We’re currently in the middle of applying for a 501c3 charity status with the IRS. We’ve been to Guatemala now four or five years running.
Aside from your business in 60010, we learned that you recently moved your home here as well. Can you tell me what made you decide to move here personally?
My son went to Hersey High School and was a volleyball player. He graduated in 2011, and it has honestly just taken me until now to move. My personal life has always really been invested here in Barrington, so I wanted to move here. I also had a single-family home in Arlington Heights that required all kinds of regular maintenance, and with my son moved out of the house I didn't want to be the one to do it anymore. I’ve moved out to Lake Barrington Shores and have a condo now.
It says in your mission statement, “above and beyond dedication to client service is our highest priority.” Can you tell me more about the origins of that philosophy, and how it affects the way you do business?
We’re focused on what our clients need. People who are business owners walk into our office, and not everyone is business minded, but they still run their own business. Whether you’re a hair stylist in town, own a paint store, or operate a dog groomers you may be good at whatever respective service you provide, but you may not have all the accounting savvy to effectively run your own business. So we accommodate whatever those needs are. We have clients who come in with a shoe box and say we need you to do this because we don’t understand it at all. I have some clients who are very business minded and bring me very tight clean financial statements, and need me to double check them to make sure everything is right, or handle payroll for them, and cover tax returns. We don’t have a set one size fits all approach to doing business that we make our clients conform to. Wherever you need us, and in whatever capacity we will always find a way to first understand our clients needs, and then service them in the best way possible.
I know you offer a wide range of professional services. Can you tell me about some of those, and walk me through the primary ones you provide?
We provide tax preparation, business, and personal. Everybody needs a personal tax return done. I’ve never quite understood why people do their own tax returns. Its quite time consuming, and it doesn’t really cost that much for me to do it. I know what to look for, and I know what questions to ask you.
I actually love doing personal tax returns, and I love working for the over 400 individual clients that we do personal tax returns for.
In your professional opinion what does the future tax climate look like for Illinois residents and small businesses in the future?
Illinois is in such a tough place right now. They lowered the state tax rate from 5% to 3.75% a number of years ago, and I can remember saying to my clients the year it went down that they shouldn’t count on the tax rate staying at those levels because the state of Illinois wouldn't be a be able to afford it. It’s still at those levels, and look at the trouble we’re seeing down state. I really can’t imagine the personal income tax rate not going back up to 5%. However, we also have in Barrington one of the highest real estate tax rates, and overall tax rates in the country. Are state sales tax is extremely high. It is nearly 10% in certain places once local taxes are also factored in. We don’t know as a State how to manage our budget, and it has created a climate that is driving particularly larger businesses out of our State. The politics surrounding our budget require some major reform. I’m not a pessimist, but unfortunately I don’t foresee any positive change happening soon.
I understand that you have hosted exchange students from foreign countries before. What prompted you to do that?
I could talk about this for hours. It’s a real passion of mine. I got started hosting foreign exchange students when my son was in 7th grade. I’m a single mom and his dad lived in Lake In The Hills at the time. I got started because I didn’t feel like my son had a worldview that was diverse enough. We lived in a very homogeneous culture. I wanted him to have exposure to different cultures beyond the area that we lived in. So I got involved through Rotary with the youth exchange program. Personally our club sponsored five students while I was the Youth Exchange Officer of the club. We had two boys from Ecuador, a boy from Germany, a boy from France, and a boy from Brazil. I now have these five incredible friends who live in different places all over the world. I just skyped with my student from Germany two weekends ago. He was 17 when he came to America as an exchange student, and he is now 23. Both of my Ecuadorian students are now married, and one has a child. The Brazilian student was just visiting here last week, and I’m in the process of trying to schedule a visit down there.
So I originally got involved because of wanting to expand my son’s worldview, but it evolved into something so much more than just that. I also became for Rotary the outbound coordinator for the Rotary District, and sent about eighty kids abroad.
You spent eight years working in corporate accounting before Saunders Portugal and Associates. What inspired you to make that transition from the corporate world to starting owning your own firm?
I’ve been an accountant forever. My undergraduate was in Finance, and out of college I worked in banking and investments for a number of years, but never really found the niche that I thought would be my career. I had just gotten married at that point and my ex husband was tired of hearing me complain about my job. And he told me if I really wanted to go back to school I should go back to school. So I went back to school and did my masters degree of accounting in a year at DePaul University
. I was able to do it on a condensed timeline because I worked as a grad assistant during the day, and then went to school at night five nights a week for a year. I graduated from there in 1988, and worked for Coopers & Lybrand
, which is now PriceWaterhouseCoopers
I worked in public accounting for 3 plus years, and then went into corporate accounting when my son was born. It was when he was around ten that the company I was working for had me traveling all the time, and it was very hard to be a single parent and still feel like I was involved in my son’s life, being away from home so much. I felt like I was missing so much of what was really important in life, which is time spent with your kids.
The opportunity to originally buy this practice presented itself through a mutual friend of Cheryl Saunders
and myself when Cheryl was retiring and moving to Florida. When I first considered the possibility of owning this place I thought it was crazy. The idea that as a single mother I would be able to operate my own business just seemed absurd, so I initially walked away. But when the opportunity came up to buy the business for a second time I thought about all the things I was missing in my life as a result of working my job at the time and reconsidered the possibility. I bought the business in 2003, and now going on fourteen years later it is one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I work with two of my best friends, and we work like crazy and have fun all day long. Having a local business has made me invested in this community. Owning Portugal Saunders & Associates has given me all the wonderful things that allow me to have that balanced life I didn’t have before.
Alexis’ dog you may have the opportunity to see in her office:
What is your relationship with Barrington Bank and Trust?
I love Barrington Bank and Trust. They are my number one referral out for banking. They are my bank for everything from my business to personal accounts, and Burke Groom and I are close friends through Rotary.
What I like so much about them is that they are there for the small businesses in town, and small businesses these days can have a tough time with larger banking institutions securing loans in today’s lending market.
The mortgage crisis a few years ago really tightened how banks lend money, and that really put the screws on the small business. Barrington Bank and Trust has really stepped up and met that need for the small business. They have a very personal relationship with their clients. I can name off the top of my head six people that work there.
What advice would you have for young people who are thinking about pursuing a career in accounting or finance?
I just read an article recently that said fewer kids were pursuing a career in accounting, and that really shocked me because to me a degree in accounting is a job forever. You will always have a job because people will always need accountants.
I didn’t think I would end up being a tax accountant when I came out of school. I thought I would be going into the audit world, which is very different. After starting in the audit field of accounting I transitioned to corporate accounting, and from there I ended up here working with taxes.
So I would recommend that young people pursuing a career in finance keep their options open. Especially if you’re going into accounting I would recommend doing your five years, so that you can get your CPA certification. Grades also matter a lot. It’s interesting that even now at 56 years old people will notice that I worked for Coopers and Lyberium, and got a good GPA coming out of DePaul.
I think accounting is a great career path for those who are interested in working in Finance. I particularly like what I do now because I get to help and work with small businesses so that they can thrive, and that to me is a very rewarding experience.
Where should I go to get news and updates about Saunders Portugal and Associates?
The website is a great resource. We work very hard to keep the website active and up to date, and there’s a newsletter you can sign up for.
Learn more about Saunders Portugal here
Barrington Bank & Trust
is the 60010 ‘hometown bank’. A hometown bank is really about friendly service and great products. Banking the way it ought to be. Decisions are made locally and bank staff live in the community. Being a locally controlled and managed bank, they have the unique ability to make decisions more quickly and provide more customized services and products that truly benefit residents of the area. They can pass the savings on to our customers because we don't have the big overhead of other banks.
Learn more about Barrington Bank & Trust here