insight magazine

GEN NEXT: Brewing Your Own Business

Whether your passion is for craft beer or tech startups, creating your own CPA firm gives you the freedom to choose your career path. By Joshua Lance, CPA, CGMA | Spring 2018

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Like most accountants starting out in the profession, I began my career at a public accounting firm with my eyes on eventually becoming a partner. But after seven years in audit, and most of that time on the road, I decided to step away from public accounting and transition into private industry — also a common path for CPAs. However, this is where my path diverges from most. My employer decided to move its headquarters from Chicago to San Francisco. With all my family in the Midwest, including a newborn son, relocating wasn’t an option. But there were options.

I’ve always been a bit of an entrepreneur. As most kids do, I set up a lemonade stand outside of my house selling lemonade — and fruit punch — to passersby on warm summer days. Not content to wait for thirsty travelers to come to me, I took my lemonade stand on the road, selling door-to-door and at nearby parks. Later, during college (pre-Uber), I created a local airport shuttle service for students.

In looking back and realizing that creating a business from the ground up always left me feeling energized, it only made sense that my next career move would be starting a CPA firm from scratch. It’s not a common path for most accountants, but it’s a path that offers the freedom to create a unique CPA firm, one that operates best for you and your clients.

Starting my own firm enabled me to build a business that took what I liked from my early days in public accounting and experiences in private industry (and avoid what I didn’t like). Here’s what I mean: I loved that the firm I started my career with was highly niched in the banking industry. That meant I got to serve our clients better by becoming an expert in that industry. My least favorite experience in public accounting was tracking time. So, when I started my firm, I decided we would serve a distinct niche in startups, drawing on my private industry experience, and craft breweries, an industry I have a passion for. I also decided we would implement value pricing instead of tracking time.

I was also able to structure the firm to best fit with the rest of my life. My wife and I now have two young children, and I wanted the ability to see my family throughout the day. While my firm is technically based in Chicago, my employees are all stay-at-home parents, working remotely and on flextime. Thanks to today’s technologies, whether it be a coffee roastery in Hawaii, a brewery in Washington D.C., or a tech startup in Barcelona, we have the tools to serve our clients well and be a global CPA firm — all from our kitchen tables.

From landing the first client, to hiring employees, to building a virtual CPA firm that serves clients globally, creating and growing Lance CPA Group has been an amazing journey. Not only have I grown my business, I have grown as a CPA, and I have learned more about the profession than I ever would have if I stayed on a common CPA career path. I’m excited to keep growing my firm, and the CPA profession, in the years ahead. What about you?

Illinois CPA Society member Joshua Lance, CPA, CGMA is the founder and managing director of Lance CPA Group.