4 Ways to Turn Yourself Into an Entrepreneur by Leveraging Your Accounting Job

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The great thing about being a finance and accounting recruiter for so many years is that I have watched people undergo some remarkable career transformations. Perhaps one of the most inspiring things to observe is when a typically risk averse finance careerist decides to embrace entrepreneurship. While it’s not exactly throwing caution to the wind, it is a leap of faith and it is truly inspiring to behold.

So, are there similar behaviours in individuals who have been accountants and then transition into small business ownership? How do they prepare to make the shift? Is there something unique about an individual who feels he/she can make it work as an entrepreneur? I can say, without reservation, that there does seem to be pattern, both in personality and processes. Almost without exception (and notice that I said ‘almost’), newly minted entrepreneurs share the same four elements.

I can say, without reservation, that there does seem to be pattern, both in personality and processes.

1. They are prepared to take a gamble with their finances and reputation: If you want to leave your accounting job to become an entrepreneur, you must be ready to gamble with your finances and your reputation. In the corporate world you have a steady job and a steady income. As an entrepreneur you have none of that, and you have to be willing to deal with the possibility of failure. Ask yourself if you’re ready to take the risk to earn the reward. If so, then perhaps entrepreneurship is for you.

If you want to leave your accounting job to become an entrepreneur, you must be ready to gamble with your finances and your reputation.

2. Entrepreneurs recognize that the buck stops with them: People who run successful businesses, understand that at the end of the day, they are responsible for driving growth and building the bottom line. Mahmood Malik CGA, whom I write about in an upcoming article in our “Stories” section reflected on how much broader his world became when he became a partner in the ownership of a Halal grocery store, “As a CGA and an accountant I spent my time crunching numbers. Now that I have a business, I am out in the front selling and trying to make the company grow.” A true entrepreneur accepts the fact that owning a business is not always glorious. There are times when you must do grunt work and do it well, when you are so tired that you don’t want to look at one more e-mail or return one more phone call. In the end, a successful small business owner sees every adversity as an opportunity, invests in additional training if that is what is needed, and focuses on the goal at hand – growing the business.

A true entrepreneur accepts the fact that owning a business is not always glorious. There are times when you must do grunt work and do it well, when you are so tired that you don’t want to look at one more e-mail or return one more phone call.

3. Entrepreneurs name their fears and then they plan: If you feel reluctance to move forward, remind yourself that many people have done this before you and that you can always go back to a finance and accounting job. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” If you are ok with the answer then start putting the pieces in place to make your dream happen. Ultimately, you have the safety net of having your accounting background to fallback on. This is more than most entrepreneurs ever have. Let go of your fear and take a chance.

Ultimately, you have the safety net of having you accounting background to fallback on. This is more than most entrepreneurs ever have.

4. Smart entrepreneurs surround themselves with people they trust: Part of your planning process must be to share your ideas with people you trust. These people cannot be ‘yes’ people, that has no value. Share your ideas with an individual or individuals that will tell you the truth – ideally people with some business experience (your mom and dad do not count – unless they own a business). Once you decide to continue planning and implementation, start building your team. Select people who have complementary skill sets. Always ask yourself “What skills do I lack?” Hire someone to fill that skill gap. If you can’t afford to hire someone, ask yourself if there is a way to barter for the skill or thing you need. Let go of your pride and ask for help. You’ll be amazed at how many people will step forward to offer assistance.

Always ask yourself “What skills do I lack?”…Let go of your pride and ask for help. You’ll be amazed at how many people will step forward to offer assistance.

I was going to end the post here, but it occurred to me that there are a couple of myths about being an entrepreneur that may prevent you from moving forward. I will dispel these myths and show you how your accounting background and your mindset can actually be an entrepreneurial advantage.

Myth #1 – An entrepreneur is a reckless risk taker: It’s all about calculated risks. Successful entrepreneurs have clarity of focus and an ability to relentlessly pursue their goals. This does not mean that they are reckless risk takers, but rather weigh the pros and cons in any decision, and then systematically execute to achieve their vision. As an accountant, you have been taught to be somewhat risk adverse and it is this very same skill that can work in your favour if you channel it in the right direction – away from fear and towards possibility.

It’s all about calculated risks. Successful entrepreneurs have clarity of focus and an ability to relentlessly pursue their goals.

Myth #2 – Successful entrepreneurs always have a revolutionary idea: This is not always the case. Most successful entrepreneurs that I run into have taken an idea and improved on it. They have taken the time to research their market, define their differentiators and understand their brand. They position themselves based on their research and planning and they execute better on their vision than their competition. The accountants I have worked with already have a formidable planning and analysis skill set. Their training and work experience enables them to evaluate a process or product and identify their niche. Their ability to remain objective, while analyzing the data allows them to maintain perspective and make calculated decisions, all the while aggressively driving bottom line results.

Most successful entrepreneurs that I run into have taken an idea and improved on it. They have taken the time to research their market, define their differentiators and understand their brand.

Who do you want to be? I often ask myself this question when I am contemplating doing something I perceive as risky. As a small business owner I have taken the time to surround myself with quality people, who will unflinchingly give me their feedback (you could be a little nicer sometimes guys). I have learned where my niche is and positioned myself. The accountants I know who have successfully transitioned into entrepreneurship have done the same things and they’ve done them well. As Mahmood Malik told me, “I just never want to say ‘what if’.” That makes sense to me.