Is It Time for You to Go It Alone?
If you’ve lost your spark as a CPA, it’s time for you to start acting like an entrepreneur—or just become one.
Tim Jipping, CPA, CGMA
Owner, Journey Advisors & CPAs
Do you ever feel stuck? Or bored? Or restless? Or maybe none of those specifically, but a
feeling altogether similar? It’s not that you’re dissatisfied with your career or what you’re
doing, but you’re not completely satisfied either. You’d love to try something new, but
you’re not sure what and if it would end up being better or worse than what you have now.
Perhaps you’ve lost a bit of the spark over the years, from the days that seemed filled with
more excitement, challenge, optimism, growth, and hope. Nothing is wrong per se, but
you just feel… lukewarm.
Ironically, lukewarm seems to be what most of us are chasing—a state of comfort. Not too
hot, not too cold—Goldilocks. But even something lukewarm gets cold after a while, and
it’s natural to long for experiences that make you feel more alive and passionate for your
work, days when you’re on fire, forging a new path. But those feelings tend to come in the
early days of any experience, whether it be in launching your career, figuring out how to
be a new manager, or in opening your own office.
The early days are the best (in hindsight). I would argue the reason for that in the
professional realm stems largely from the fact that during those early days you’re flexing
more entrepreneurial muscles as you’re building or mastering something, from a new role
to a new service line. While not every early day is great—and you don’t appreciate them in
the moment like you should—you certainly feel alive and energized.
There’s nothing better than feeling alive. (It’s certainly better than the opposite.) And if you’re
a tad lukewarm with your work now, there are two things I suggest you consider: Act more
like an entrepreneur or become one.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO ACT LIKE AN ENTREPRENEUR?
Entrepreneurial individuals embrace discomfort, knowing it’s the only way to experience
growth, both individually and professionally. They’re continually looking for new
opportunities and ways to improve. They thrive during challenges and have an ability to
remain hopefully optimistic through them, which creates an exciting atmosphere often
contagious to those with whom they work.
Entrepreneur does not mean inventor, but there is a required level of curiosity fueled by a
desire for continuous improvement. Someone who has an entrepreneurial approach to life
and business is one who rarely gets bored since they are always striving to acquire
knowledge through action. They intentionally perceive problems and situations as
opportunities, challenge convention, and enjoy the creation and evolution processes.
Anyone can act like an entrepreneur. In fact, we all do at various stages of our lives whether
we like it or not. When you were seeking that first job, you figured out how to acquire
the relevant training, obtain a degree, assess the landscape, perform research, craft a resume, seek advice, rehearse, interview, etc. Not all steps were
enjoyable, but the process was new and served as an exciting and
optimistic time in life.
So, how can you act like an entrepreneur in the workplace?
We tend to work until we’re good at something
(comfortable) but stop short of mastery. Pick any portion of your
work and commit to mastering it. I’m not talking about
memorizing the entire U.S. tax code; this could be as simple as
tackling an internal workflow process. The goal is to develop a
habit of flexing your creative muscles.
2. Ideation and iteration:
Rather than complaining about any
“problems” that exist or may arise, vow to use them as
opportunities to brainstorm ideas for a new solution. That “aha”
solution may not show up immediately (or ever), but acting like
an entrepreneur means seeking out areas that can be improved.
Generating many ideas and iterating along the way produces an
exciting environment of progress.
Heating up your lukewarm state requires healthy doses of
risk. Akin to the alertness that accompanies placing a bet at a
casino, there are times when you must push some chips to
the center of the table. Ask to tackle a nagging challenge,
propose a new service line, or implement an unconventional
solution. Believe me, attaching some risk to your endeavors
turns tasks into adventures. But if you find yourself in a situation
or organization that stifles innovation and progress…
BECOME AN ENTREPRENEUR!
If you want to feel alive and enjoy the early days experience more
regularly, join an entrepreneurial-minded firm or create your own. I
personally strongly encourage you to consider starting your own
firm. Obviously, count the cost, but do not neglect the gain.
Yes, I know there are many reasons (fears) we use to convince
ourselves this would be “irresponsible”—loss of salary and health
insurance, risk of failure, lack of experience, starting from scratch,
The list goes on, but I submit there are more realistic positives that
outweigh the unlikely negatives. You’ll likely feel a constant sense
of excitement and freedom and wake up every day energized to
tackle anything that comes your way. You’re more likely to succeed
than fail due to the demand for our services and the fact that small
firms are disappearing fast. Our profession is also ripe for disruption
and fresh approaches, and with technology lowering the barrier to
entry, the financial upside of your practice is limited only by your
imagination and effort.
But the real kicker is that if all of this still doesn’t go the way you would
have hoped, you can always go back to doing what you’re doing
now. As a CPA, you’ll always be in demand in some form or fashion.
When I was struggling through the decision to hang my own
shingle, there were many fears that prevented me from clearing
that psychological hurdle for a long time. I seemed to be a prisoner
in a cell of my own design. I had the key in my hand that would set
me free, yet I was reluctant to try to unlock the gate out of fear that
it may not open. But it was riskier for me to stay put than give it a
shot. I’m glad I took the leap. It’s good to be alive.
If you’d like additional thoughts and ideas about how to relight your
fire and become an entrepreneur in your workplace, or some
practical advice on starting your own practice, please feel free to