insight magazine

GEN NEXT: Five Lessons From My Journey to Entrepreneurship

Our career paths are not always a straight line: Sometimes we have to take a detour to find the work that fulfills us. By Alex Corral, CPA | Winter 2021

gen next 310x388Like many CPAs, I kicked off my career at a Big Four accounting firm, convinced I would be an audit partner in 12-15 years. I had interned at the firm for the previous two summers and felt incredibly proud and grateful to join a prestigious firm. Then the first and second busy seasons came and went … along with my enthusiasm for the audit work that I was doing. After that second busy season, a previous manager approached me about a role at Groupon—an exciting opportunity as the company had just gone public. Although I was very nervous about leaving such a great firm and my first real job, I ultimately knew that audit was not my calling.

I made the leap into corporate accounting, again convinced that I would climb the corporate ladder to controller within 10 years. At Groupon, I learned what a quality accounting process looked like, and the importance of accurate accounting information in all aspects of business, while working with some amazing mentors. After a few years, I craved a new challenge to continue broadening my skill set and, coincidentally, was approached by another Big Four accounting firm for an M&A advisory role. 

Again, I joined the new firm convinced that I would become a partner in the practice in the years ahead; third time’s the charm, right? While the environment was fast-paced and challenging, all the experiences in my previous roles contributed to my success at the firm and, ultimately, I was promoted to director. I was incredibly excited … but soon felt the familiar itch to try something new.

Entrepreneurship always seemed like a romantic venture to me, but I never thought that a conservative accountant like myself could make the leap. However, with the confidence from previous mentors and my wife (also a CPA), I launched The Accountrepreneur, an outsourced controller and CFO services firm specifically geared toward emerging consumer packaged goods businesses. When I look back on this adventure so far, here are my five key takeaways:

1. Just start: I don’t want to generalize, but we CPAs tend to be a bit risk-averse and very analytical. Whether it be an entrepreneurial journey or a new role at an exciting business, it can be easy to get caught in the paralysis by analysis cycle. I promise, once you jump into any situation with both feet, you’ll learn to handle the challenges, discomfort, and obstacles as you face them.

2. Take pride in your work: I firmly believe that if you take care of the work, the work will take care of you. Above all else, whatever role you’re in, make sure you give it 100 percent and deliver work that you’re proud of each and every day. I promise this will take you far.

3. Be nimble and open to new experiences: My journey has been vastly different than what I expected because I embraced change, challenges, and new skills. Always be open to learning and working on new projects, whether that be in your current role or by making the leap to another.

4. Your network is your net worth: In each role I’ve had, there have been amazing people to learn from. Make the effort to seek out and maintain those relationships—they’ll benefit you more than you can imagine.

5. Stay scared: If an opportunity doesn’t scare you a little bit, then you’re not going big enough!

Your career is a series of experiences, obstacles, people, and pivots. Take time to enjoy all the lessons along your journey and forge your own path toward work that fulfills you. As CPAs, we may all start out on similar paths, but it’s up to you where you end up.

Alex Corral, CPA is the founder and principal of The Accountrepreneur LLC.

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