‘It is not as scary as it seems …’
Founding a firm: Initially, I did not want my own firm due to the unpredictable nature and liability of ownership. I was working at Kentucky Eagle [a beverage distributor], where we participated in an annual benchmarking study with peers. When the benchmarking study came up for a bid, I established Peer House so I could do the project. I thought it would be something I could do on the side, but it evolved into additional projects. I served as the temporary CFO for distributorships that lost theirs for one reason or another. I realized there may be a niche here to explore. If it did not work out, I could always go back to being an employee. I learned that it is not as scary as it seems to have your own business. You do not have to do or know everything — find your niche and do it well. Refer clients to other experts for services you do not want to specialize in.
Providing outsourced CFO and controllership services: A lot of businesses do not have the resources to cross-train their employees. When coupled with the surge in new entrepreneurs, the need for accounting outsourcing services is high right now. The key to providing good service is to genuinely care about the best interests of your clients. Set clear boundaries and be honest about what services you can provide. Have a great network of peers for referrals. I connect with retired accountants and CFOs who are open to working 10 or 20 hours a week. I am then able to draw upon their expertise and connect them to clients.
Effects of the pandemic on client needs: We were in high demand throughout the pandemic. People were wondering how to cut costs and what their cash flow options were. When the Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Paycheck Protection Program came about, clients had to have their financials in good shape to apply. We were learning on the fly, and things were constantly changing. I hired more staff accountants. My collaboration increased with friends who are specialized in this area. During the pandemic some people realized they love working from home and want to become entrepreneurs. We have several new small businesses coming our way for outsourced accounting.
Being a successful CPA: Successful CPAs are those who are continuously learning. At the same time, they practice self-care. Your knowledge and expertise are the services that you are offering. Do not allow yourself to get burned out. Take time for mental health breaks and spend time with your loved ones. Specialize in an area that you are passionate about and be OK with referring clients to other field experts. Continue networking with peers and use their strengths to leverage work. Have a great IT support team and invest in software and solutions to make your job easier. I really believe in staying in contact with peers because they may have the answers to your questions already. Invest in your team's education and well-being. Most importantly, enjoy yourself. Life is too short not to.
Favorite movies: Schindler's List and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Favorite book: The Alchemist.
Favorite technology: iPhone.
Favorite apps: YouTube and Netflix.
Favorite item to travel with or keep on your desk: A notepad and pen.
— As told to Lea Hart, a freelance writer based in Virginia. To comment on this article or to suggest an idea for another article, contact Ken Tysiac, the JofA's editorial director, at Kenneth.Tysiac@aicpa-cima.com.