John Hewitt: Founder of Jackson Hewitt Tax Service

On episode #228 of The Author Factor Podcast, I am having a conversation with John Hewitt. John is a legendary entrepreneur, having founded Jackson Hewitt and Liberty Tax, two of the largest tax preparation companies in the United States.

Jackson Hewitt went public in 1994 and was sold for $483 million in 1997 and by 2012, Liberty Tax Service operated over 4,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada.

John Hewitt and Mike Capuzzi

With over 55 years of experience, John has built multibillion-dollar companies and continues to revolutionize the franchise industry with his current venture, Loyalty Brands.

In his bestselling book, iCompete: How My Extraordinary Strategy for Winning Can Be Yours, John shares the philosophies and strategies that propelled him to success. One big reason listeners will find John's book interesting is his candid recounting of both triumphs and mistakes, offering practical lessons and inspiration for aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs.

Unlocking the Author Factor: This Episode's Big Takeaway

The key author factor from this episode is is the profound impact of perseverance and setting high goals in achieving extraordinary success. John Hewitt emphasizes that setting ambitious targets ("big hairy audacious goals") and having the determination to overcome setbacks and adversity are crucial to building successful businesses. His journey illustrates that these principles not only lead to remarkable business achievements but can also positively influence and improve lives.

John Hewitt shares his Author Factor...

Learn more about John Hewitt by visiting:


Mike Capuzzi: Have you ever wondered what it takes to build not just one, but two of the largest tax preparation companies in the United States? John Hewitt, the entrepreneurial powerhouse behind Jackson Hewitt and Liberty tax, revolutionized the industry with his innovative strategies and relentless drive. Now with his latest venture, loyalty brands, he's proving once again that his extraordinary strategy for winning knows no bounds. John's bestselling book, iCompete: How My Extraordinary Strategy for Winning Can Be Yours, offers a no-nonsense guide to achieving success in any business. John, welcome to the show.


John Hewitt: Thank you for having me, Mike.


Mike Capuzzi: Well, I appreciate it. As I mentioned to you as soon as I saw your message come into us and that you were the co-founder of Jackson Hewitt. Instantly recognized it. I remember those tv commercials back when I was younger and all that. So, yeah, it's a pleasure and an honor to meet you. So John, I read your bio. I've gone through some information online, tremendous background. You've done a lot.


Mike Capuzzi: You're still doing a lot. Can you share a little bit more of your journey and what you've done and what you're doing today?


John Hewitt: I started when I was at the University of Buffalo. I took a tax course at H&R Block and loved it. Started working there part time. Twelve years later, I was running 250 H&R Block locations. And my dad was the CFO of a public company, and he liked the little Apple he bought by mail better than the mainframe that was running his public company. So he convinced me that. And we both quit our jobs in 1981 to build the first tax software for an Apple computer. Way ahead of its time.


John Hewitt: No one wanted it. We were blessed and found a company in Virginia beach called Mel Jackson Tax Service. Mel had died. We bought six offices from his widow. The biggest blessing is the weather in Virginia Beach. A lot better than Buffalo. So in August of 82 moved my family down. We merged the computer company and Mel Jackson.


John Hewitt: We changed the name to Jackson Hewitt and 15 years later sold it for $483 million. Today, Jackson Hewitts, a billion-dollar company, 23rd largest retail franchise chain in the country. I had to not compete for three years, but it didn’t cover Canada because Jackson knew its never gone to Canada. And having grown up in Buffalo, I knew how successful H&R Block was in Canada and I knew how to do Canadian tax returns. So we opened Liberty tax in Canada and within three years became one of the top 100 retail chains in Canada. In 2000, when my non-compete I came back to the United States. Now I had to compete against my own name, my own software, my own people, my own system, and yet not only did we grow faster than them, we grew faster than them and H&R Block combined. We opened almost an office a day for twelve years.


John Hewitt: We opened 4000 offices and top ten, fastest growing franchisor ever. My second public company that was worth $500 million. And so now I started Loyalty Brands and we have eight different brands under one umbrella. They're all franchisors, so they say third time's a charm. So I'm the only one that's brought in two of the top or founded two of the top 100 largest retail chains in the country. Looks like number three is on the horizon.


Mike Capuzzi: And John, even though this is, we're going to focus on your book and your author journey. I've got as an entrepreneur, I have to ask you a couple questions. Obviously, we don't have the format for the, probably the realistic answers, but I'd like to try to at least get a taste. Building two successful companies to that level of success and that level of growth, that's not just about luck and timing. There's more to it. I deal with so many small business owners and medium sized business owners here you've done something extraordinary twice. Is there anything you can share in a short amount of time to encourage someone to envision that kind of growth and what's possible, I guess if I.


John Hewitt: Had to give some succinct tips on number one is set high goals. There's a book about big hairy audacious goals. When we bought six officers from Mel Jackson's widow we set our sights on H&R Block. We had 9000 so we were going to grow from six to 9000. We only made it to 6000 but it still became a billion dollar company. So number one is set big hairy audacious goal. If I had set a goal of 100 and got to 100, who cares? But I got to 6000 and same with all my brands. We said very audacious, high goals and then we plan on how to get there and we suffer setbacks.


John Hewitt: So the most, one of the most important things is set high goals. Secondly is perseverance. The most important attribute to success of any kind in anything is perseverance. God doesn't put anyone on earth just to skate through without adversity. We're all going to face adversity and the winners always get up, always get up and keep going. In fact, in my life they got to kill me to stop me. I'm unstoppable. I always get up, I always keep going, never give up.


John Hewitt: So perseverance is extremely key to massive success.


Mike Capuzzi: Trey, what's also worth noting is the growth and what you built. We're talking decades ago. We're talking before the Internet, even before PCs and personal computers really became sort of the common way. So you've built this thing the old school way, which, again, is just testimony to what you just shared. The second question I want to ask John, before we jump into your author journey, you said you've been doing this for 55 years. Obviously, you've built a lot. Obviously, you've helped a lot of people. Obviously, you made some money.


Mike Capuzzi: What keeps you going? Why aren't you on a golf course or on a beach right now?


John Hewitt: Yeah. Our mission statement is, I love, love our mission statement. It's having fun, improving lives. And I saw, I think this says it all. I saw on Facebook a couple months ago, Denzel Washington. And he said the most surprising thing. He said, you know, the most selfish people are those that give and help others. And I said, what? What? That's, I mean, that's what you're supposed to do.


John Hewitt: And he said, because there's the happiest people on the planet. He said, it's so, it's so great helping other people and there's nothing more rewarding. When I was a kid, I thought I knew, I was just so self confident that I was going to be rich. And even though I was poor, I was going to be rich. And I thought, I very naively said, well, I'll get rich and make a few million dollars and retire. And then I realized the journey is the joy that check you get when you sell your company for half a billion dollars. That's just anticlimactic. You got to enjoy the journey.


John Hewitt: And so the journey is the joy. Every day I get up and I can't imagine Mike wasting my life sitting on a beach when I'm so knowledgeable and so experienced and so able to help. I help dozens of people a day, so, and change their lives, improve their lives. I don't know what would be as much fun as that.


Mike Capuzzi: That's an awesome way to describe it. And obviously, one of the channels you use to help people is your first book. And I know there's a new book coming out. We'll touch on that in a little bit. But I want to touch on your first book, John, because I believe it was written almost ten years ago, like 2016. I compete. Tell me a bit more about that. Because why the book? Why then?


John Hewitt: Yeah, I have, I came up in my life with about two dozen kind of novel philosophies, and that I hadn't read anywhere else, and I'm a voracious reader and love to read and learn, and I'm committed to improvement. You have to be to improve. You gotta learn. So I love getting tips from others, and I just said, well, there's a lot of people now and forever that could benefit from my experiences. And most of all, the mistakes that I made. They say the people that are the most successful have made the most mistakes. And so I take the reader through many, many mistakes that I made and how I solve them. But more importantly, if you see the mistakes I've made, maybe you can avoid the same similar mistake.


John Hewitt: So it's just another way to meet our mission statement of improving lives.


Mike Capuzzi: I believe I saw you. Did you self publish that first book, John?


John Hewitt: We did.


Mike Capuzzi: That's interesting, because obviously I've partnered with my own books. We publish books for our clients. But why'd you go the self publishing route? Just out of curiosity. Not that there's anything wrong with it, but I'm interested to know why you didn't go with a big time publisher to share your story, etcetera.


John Hewitt: I didn't have time to do all the, I mean that you need to do that. And we looked at that a little bit. You need to get an agent. Back then 10, 12, 14 years ago, you needed to get an agent, you needed to go market it to the firms. You need to give samples. And I just didn't, I'm an entrepreneur. I didn't want to take all that time. I didn't have time to waste doing that.


John Hewitt: And most of the books, I give the books out by the thousands every year for free. So any of your listeners can, they'll send me an email, I'll be glad to give them a free copy of my book. My book isn't generated for me to make extra money. I have plenty of money. My book is generated to change lives and help people improve theirs.


Mike Capuzzi: And I want to talk about that because that's one of the things we, we always are trying to bring out. I mean, many of the listeners of this podcast are people who have yet to write that first book, and we're trying to encourage them because they do have a story to share. They have information to share. But before we do that, are you self publishing the second book, John?


John Hewitt: We haven't decided yet, but almost certainly.


Mike Capuzzi: Listen, in this day and age, like you said, there's a lot of benefits to self publishing. Oftentimes people who are going to more of a traditional publisher, it's more about trying to either get that New York Times USA Today best seller status, something like that. But there's a lot of headache involved with it, too. So I totally get where you're coming from. You mentioned the importance of helping people in using a book. I'd love to hear, John, your experience now for the last seven, eight years of using the book. You know, what have you seen the book do for others?


John Hewitt: Well, I had one amazing event. I mean, most of it is people, most of the time that people get back to me about my book, they talk about how they enjoyed the fact that I admitted making mistakes and that I talked about ways to recover from mistakes, and it gave them, it gave them insight into how to do that and some of the novel philosophies I have in life. And they really understood me better. And so they saw that we were, oftentimes people say we're kind of kindred spirits because of x, y, or z. But I had one amazing situation, only one out of, in the last ten years that one of my ex franchisees called me up and he said, you know, he said, my son, and this is about seven years ago, he said, my son, one of my favorite franchisees, very Christian, most Christian franchisee I ever had at liberty tax. And his son was 16 years old and his son was suicidal. And he said, I was struggling. We were in counseling.


John Hewitt: I said, finally, I said, Tim, I'll give you $50 if you read this book. And he handed him my book. And to his surprise, his son went and he read the book very quickly, and he came back within a few days and said, dad, I'm curious. I don't need to go to the counselor anymore. And he said, his father said, yeah, right. So they went to the counselor, and then he told the story in front of his dad. And the counselor asked his dad to step outside the room, and he stepped outside the room, came back in. Counselor said, he's cured.


John Hewitt: And that was seven years ago. And, and he's been, he went and joined the, yeah, one, he joined the, the Marines and got out after four years and had a great life ever since. Never another word about suicide or depression or so. I mean, I have one crazy. I mean, it's a business book. Right, right. I mean, who would have ever dreamed that, that? And so about after he told me on the phone about a year later, they came and stayed with me at my house. And his son had a lot of questions for me.


John Hewitt: And his son was very appreciative and, you know, great kid. And turned out he's probably 25, 37 now. He turned out to be a great kid.


Mike Capuzzi: That's amazing. That's amazing. And you touch on one of the things I say kind of ad nauseam. You never know as a book author, you never know whose life you'll impact with your book. I mean, oftentimes, out of a thousand people, you might get the one story they share with you like that when others are being positively impacted. But that's why we always try to encourage people, try to get out of your own way. If you know you want to write a book, if you have a great story, if you have a great strategy to share, get out of your own way and write it because there's people out there that will benefit from your book. Matter of fact, quick side story, John.


Mike Capuzzi: I don't know, you probably don't do this, but I published a bunch of books and I told you I was just on vacation. So I happened to jump on Amazon to buy some books and check out my book to see my latest reviews. And there was a long review that someone just posted, a woman just posted, and she said for 40 years, she's got 40 years of experience. She has yet to write a book. And my book, within the first couple pages supposedly encouraged her. She gave her some ideas, right, to write this book. I don't know this woman. I'd like to meet her because it was a very nice review.


Mike Capuzzi: But that is the power of why those listeners who are listening, who have yet to write that first book, they should get that book out. John, you touched on, I mean, I compete is a business book. Obviously, this other gentleman wasn't a business owner yet, but can you share a little bit more who, you know, who should read your book? You know, you were saying about kindred spirit and all that. Why should someone, you know, go buy your book or get a free copy after this interview?


John Hewitt: Yeah. Well, let me give you an example that's, I used something I've used in business, but I had learned in person and it helped me with my children, right? So I had, my son was very slight. He was about five foot ten and skinny. He only weighed 125 pounds. And he was going into freshman in high school and he wanted to play football. And so his mother and I were concerned that he would, I mean, some of these guys are 250 pounds. I mean, in 10th grade, right, that he was going to get crushed. And so he's cocky, but he had and didn't really ever settle down and get the kind of grades he could have.


John Hewitt: So he was a BC student. And so I came up with a model that I use. Learn how to say, always try to say yes. Just say yes, even when you mean no. So give them a way that they make the decision themselves. And I've used this with employees and franchisees and other sites, but when I went to him and I said, son, could you get an honor roll if you wanted to? And he said, oh, easy, easy. Course, I mean, no problem. I said, okay, well, your mom and I are concerned you're going to get hurt at football, but if you get honorable, we will let you play football.


John Hewitt: So I said yes, but knowing almost certainly that he wasn't going to do it. And sure enough, it worked out perfect because you have to think months in advance because football starts in summer. So you got to be thinking in April, May, this time of year, May. You got to be thinking about my grades right now in order to get into football. So it worked out perfectly. He never got to play football. Now, he eventually, in his, he was good at every sport. And by the time he was a junior in high school, he picked up volleyball and he made all city Virginia beach volleyball both his junior and senior year.


John Hewitt: So he's a great volleyball player. That became his number one go to sport. But our last principal, we have principals, ten principles. Our last principle is just say yes. So I, and I see, I, that plays out in business too, but that can help you with your, with your children, it can help you with yourself. It can help you, for example, with a franchisee, let's say a franchisee wants to, we had a special that they, you could have half price if you expanded by September 30 of a year and someone came in, said they wanted to. Well, and the lower-level employees said no, it only applies to one. I said no, let's tell him that in order to do two, you need money and people.


John Hewitt: If you show us the money in people that it's yes, show us x amount of dollars in x amount of people and we'll let you do too. So just say yes. So there are rules that cross over between business and personal. I can name numerous examples of them.


Mike Capuzzi: So, John, as we get ready to wrap up here, just a couple more questions. Are you able to share or do you want to share any information about your forthcoming book, what it's about, why people should stay tuned.


John Hewitt: I travel all over the country. I travel more than I've ever traveled, and I brought in 5200 franchisees in my career. And there's a Jackson Hewitt or a liberty in every town of more than 25,000 people in this country. There were 10,000. They peaked at 10,000 locations. And so there's, whenever I go anywhere, I meet ex franchisees, potential franchisees, and many of them have become my friends. And I came up with a philosophy, and the book is being ghost written by my marketing director, who's been with me for 35 years. And I said to her, you know, what about this idea? I'll take all the most, not all, but I'll take the most influential people in my life and then write how their life has changed with went.


John Hewitt: So I've seen for the time I met them until now. And then what I learned from them, the example I learned from them. And so it's going to be turned out to be over 100 people. So we're doing 100 interviews, and with each person, it's going to be a lesson that you can use in business or your. I mean, it's a business lesson on what I learned from that experience with this individual person.


Mike Capuzzi: When can. What's the timeline?


John Hewitt: I know it's six to nine months, so I would say worst case, by Valentine's Day, 2025. Easy day to remember. Valentine's Day.


Mike Capuzzi: Very good. All right, we'll keep our eye out for that, John. And one last question. I'd love to hear, with all that you've done, all that you've built, all the people you've interacted, and I know you're a philanthropist, there's so much that you've got going on. But I'd love to hear, John, what it has meant to you or to even your readers, the fact that you are a book author.


John Hewitt: I can only impact people while I'm alive. Right. And people that, while I'm communicating today. So someone can pick up the book that I've never met. Someone is picking up the book that I've never met today and is learning from me, and I'll never get a chance to meet him in person. And you may not ever. Probably never meet that lady in person that you describe, and then it will go on forever. 50 years from now, 100 years from now, people will be picking up the book and still learning.


John Hewitt: So I help people that I couldn't dream of touching without a book.


Mike Capuzzi: Well, John, I do appreciate your time. You mentioned about possibly getting a free copy of your book, but where can our listeners learn more about you? Where can they learn more about loyalty brands and get your book?


John Hewitt: Yeah, I do a webinar every week on mentoring businesses, so. And you can find me or the book on just if you send me a note,, I'll send you your free book.


Mike Capuzzi: Very nice. Well, it's a great offer. And John, I really do appreciate it. Again, I was looking forward to this and truly, you know, want to thank you for sharing your story. So thank you very much, Mike.


John Hewitt: It's been my pleasure. Thank you.

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