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If You Want to Start Your Own Practice, You’ll Want to Get on This Boat

Last week Thriveal’s Deeper Weekend was held in South Carolina.

The event is hosted by Jason Blumer and his Thriveal crew. The conference is for CPAs to get together and talk about their feelings, act like creatives, and watch Greg Kyte say funny stuff.

Just kidding (although some of that stuff does happen), Deeper Weekend is actually about exploring new ideas for CPA entrepreneurs trying to start or run their own practice.

The thought is probably out in left field for many of you, but don’t cast judgement too quickly.

Between you, me, and everyone on the Internet reading this, I thought the entire scene was beneath me. Bookkeepers and small CPAs, that’s a mom & pop game. I was a Big 4 auditor damnit, I worked on publicly traded clients helping to keep our financial markets in order. I’m doing the lord’s work!

But then I left, and I started a “virtual firm” with a friend. It was a happy accident really. We were in no way qualified, made a ton of mistakes, but survived the first year and even had some offers from top 100 firms to purchase our newly formed business.

None of that mattered though, what mattered is that we created our own business. We were delivering the type of service we thought our clients deserved, and could instantly see the material effect we were making on their businesses and their lives. We used a lot of tech, value priced our services, and continually experimented with our approach. It wasn’t to follow trends (at the time we didn’t even know they were trends), it was because the data showed it was a better way to do business. We weren’t just solving accounting issues anymore, we were solving business issues, and that was a lot of fun.

My story is not all that dissimilar from Jason’s. He took over his father’s firm and had done things the “traditional” way. Perhaps it was a wild hair, but something propelled him to do things differently at some point – if I know Jason at all, his inspiration probably came one simple statement: “There has to be a better way.” And so the experimentation began, Jason ditched his suit for more casual attire and funny-looking glasses and tried to find the answer where no one else was looking.

If Thriveal is any indication, he’s been doing a pretty good job. Not only is Jason one of the most genuine nice dudes you’ll ever meet, but Jason has been working his butt off teaching the new age of “digital CPAs” or “cloud accountants” whatever title you prefer, lessons learned from his mistakes.

Thriveal is perhaps the lone support group out there for these types of people. The rebels starting down their own path, building their own firms, using the newest and best tools while most are stuck in the old version of Engagement because their IT group moves slower than molasses. They’re not doing this because it’s cool, they're doing it because it’s better. These new firms are delivering better client service than ever before.

The ironic part is most of these people are like you and I. They started their careers in Big 4 or a regional firm and just felt there had to be something else out there.

I’m approached at least twice a month by an accountant from a large or regional firm looking for advice on starting their own firm. No matter what I have going on, I drop everything and spend all the time they need telling them about the mistakes I made and the lessons I learned. I do this because one of these people will surely turn into the next Edwin Waterhouse or Elijah Watts Sells. And they’ll have a new way of doing business, ushering in the next group of advancements for our industry at large.

That, to me, is really exciting. It’s the reason I support Jason and his organization. While the naysayers stand on the sidelines collecting mediocre paychecks, there’s a minority group of rebels in South Carolina inventing the firm of the future.

They may be the minority now but in 5, 10, or even 20 years, it will be the stale, billable hour types who will not be the norm. Until then, let them collect their bum paychecks.