insight magazine

IN PLAY: Joshua Lance, CPA, CGMA

In October 2023, the accounting profession lost an innovative, impactful leader—but the leadership lessons he leaves behind set a benchmark other firms can build a legacy on. By Amy Sanchez | Spring 2024

Trailblazer. Innovative. Courageous. Vulnerable. Genuine. Generous. Patient. Funny. Selfless. These are all words colleagues and friends used to describe Joshua Lance, CPA, CGMA, founder and owner of Lance CPA Group, and member of the Illinois CPA Society’s (ICPAS’) Board of Directors, who passed away in October 2023 following a battle with cancer. Lance was only 40 years young, but the innovation and wisdom he leaves behind will have a lasting impact on both the accounting profession and the people that lead within it.

Here are three leadership lessons from Lance’s short but successful and impactful career.


Like many certified public accountants (CPAs), Lance began his career in public accounting with the goal of eventually becoming a partner—until he quickly found that working 80 hours per week and traveling weren’t conducive to having a growing family at home. Instead, Lance quickly pivoted his career plans by leaning into his lifelong entrepreneurial spirit—as a young child he sold lemonade door to door, and in college (pre-Uber), he ran a local airport shuttle service for students.

From the basement of his home, in February 2015, Lance launched his own virtual accounting firm, with the goal of pursuing niche clients that fit his personal passions. As a home beer brewer (and winemaker), Lance saw how he could market himself to those in the craft beer industry. Additionally, as the head of accounting at Ignition, a provider of practice management software, Lance’s firm serves digital agencies and tech-centric startups.

In a spring 2018 Insight article, Lance explained his excitement surrounding his decision to pivot in his career path: “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).”

Beyond following his dreams of owning his own business, Lance also saw entrepreneurship as a pathway to pursue his ultimate passion (one he prioritized above all else)—his family. Ultimately, starting his own practice allowed Lance to see his wife and two young children throughout his workday. According to his close colleague, Samantha Aycock, director of strategy and growth at Lance CPA Group, Lance’s children were his pride and joy—and always top of mind. So top of mind, in fact, that she recalls a specific moment where Lance gave an entire forecasting presentation to the Iowa Craft Brewers Guild in the theme of the Disney film, “Moana.” “I tried talking him out of it, but he insisted—and the crowd ended up loving it,” Aycock laughs.


In many ways, Lance built a traditional business in a nontraditional way, a model that served him well for innovating new ideas and solutions to existing problems.

“When Josh saw gaps in things, he created solutions for them,” Aycock explains. “For example, clients would often reach out to check on the status of their tax return, so he created software that was like the Domino’s pizza tracker, allowing clients to see where things were at in the process.”

Additionally, Lance always moved to meet the needs of his craft brewery clients. “There was a bit of a ‘Me Too’ movement in the brewery industry several years ago, where the owners and employees of breweries were being called out for disrespectful conduct toward women,” Aycock says. “As a result, Josh created an outsourced HR firm specifically for breweries.”

Beyond these innovative solutions for his clients, Lance also saw a dire need to fill in the gaps related to employee retention—an issue that has plagued the profession for some time. According to colleagues and friends, Lance didn’t seem to have a hard time keeping people, citing his virtual practice model and culture as leading factors.

On the Employer Blueprint Podcast with Kyle Gorman, Lance expressed that a lot less people were becoming CPAs because of the lifestyle that traditional CPA firms embody: “I saw that there were really talented people out there who just weren’t fitting well into this traditional model.”

These talented people, of course, being parents of young children. Lance strategically attracted family-focused CPAs to his firm, often referring to his employees as “stay-at-home parents.” Notably, in a staff blog post about Lance after his passing, staff member Lindsay Pastorino said, “He was understanding when it came to working mothers and allowing them flexibility in their jobs so they could put their kids first.”


Most importantly, Lance was known for giving to others in abundance without the expectation of reciprocity. According to Aycock, Lance’s ethos was “people over profit,” putting everyone’s needs before his own.

“We had an employee fall on hard times more than once. Josh offered cash loans to this person, with no need for them to pay interest or pay back, it was just, ‘let me help you.’” Notably, these generous offerings weren’t uncommon for Lance. During the pandemic, for example, Lance went above and beyond to care for his team, giving up part of his pay to make sure his team was covered.

Overall, maintaining a strong firm culture was important to Lance, especially with an entirely virtual team. To prioritize this, Lance required his staff to attend an annual two-day, in-person retreat.

“This was a big sticking point to Josh—he really valued time with his team and wanted to make sure everyone could attend,” Aycock says.

Of course, Aycock stresses that Lance was sensitive to the personal obligations at home for each of his team members: “He worked with me to ensure the retreat dates wouldn’t conflict with staff birthdays, graduations, etc.”

Lance’s generosity toward people extended beyond the firm’s walls. Lance was the co-founder of Socially Beneficial Investments LLC, a nonprofit that raises funds to purchase multiunit properties with the goal of establishing stronger families and communities through the power of homeownership. Lance was also a dedicated mentor and champion for aspiring student entrepreneurs. He served as an adjunct faculty member at Northwestern University, and as an instructor for the University of Vermont’s Business of Craft Beer program.

Lance was also never a gatekeeper of his expertise. Notably, he was an active ICPAS member, volunteering as a speaker at various meetings and serving on numerous committees, who was also passionate about the next generation of CPAs. In recognition of his efforts, influence, and contributions, ICPAS renamed its Young Professionals Leadership Award in 2024 to the Joshua D. Lance Young Professionals Leadership Award.

As made clear by his friends and colleagues, there’s not one perfect word that can fully describe the leader that Lance was. Though, what is clear, is that Lance is leaving behind a plethora of ideas and strategies other CPAs can move forward with. In a memorial video tribute put together by Lance’s family, perhaps one friend and colleague said it best: “Josh created a firm that was the benchmark for what other firms should be doing.”

Related Content:

IN PLAY: William K. Flowers, CPA: The Illinois CPA Society’s 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award winner has built a legacy by creating harmony between his passions and his profession.

The Power of Purpose: How an Accounting Career Can Support Your Passions: Workers today, especially among younger generations, are prioritizing roles that provide a deeper sense of meaning and purpose. Six CPAs share—and prove—how a career in accounting can offer just that.

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