5 Reasons CPAs Make Great Entrepreneurs

CPA entrepeneur

Written by: Brad Hughes & Josh Tarica, co-founders of RocketGrad

This article comes from the founders of RocketGrad, a premier network for Accounting and Information Systems students to land jobs and internships with leading firms. Check out their blog for actionable content to turn your career aspirations into a reality.

Does an accounting background really benefit the aspiring entrepreneur?  

Well, 18 months ago, we had no idea.  But then we left our Big 4 jobs and came to the realization that, YES, accounting is an amazing background for anyone wanting to start their own business one day.

So, based on our experience, here are 5 reasons we wouldn’t be surprised if the next Steve Jobs is going to be a CPA:

1.)     Ability to self-fund your startup

You know what’s cool?  Raising a million dollars for your startup.  You know what’s even cooler?  Self-funding your start-up and keeping your equity.

This is where an accounting background comes in handy.

There are more accounting jobs out there than accountants to fill them up, but as an entrepreneur, you probably can’t juggle a full-time job AND run a successful start-up.

But as you will soon discover, there’s always a loophole…

You will have the unique opportunity to set up a consulting business and to get paid hourly (or on a project-by-project basis).

Unlike a lot of professions which don’t scale from one company to the next, a CPA is valuable to a wide range of companies across many different industries.

Spend one week on a consulting project followed by the next week on your startup.  Or consult for a CPA firm during the spring busy season, and then take the whole summer off attending a popular incubator program.

Point being your skills are in high demand, giving you the ability to call your own shots, set your own hours, and keep income coming in while you grow your self-funded startup.

That’s what we did, and that’s what we would recommend any accountant with entrepreneurial aspirations do as well.

2.)    Living in an industry with tons of opportunity for innovation

You ever heard those ‘accounting’ jokes characterizing CPAs as riverboat gamblers always looking for the next risk to take?  Yeah… we haven’t either.  This will benefit the entrepreneurial accountant big time.

First of all, the accounting industry is a huge one, and it’s one that doesn’t always embrace change.  With an entrepreneurial mind, you can look at more innovative industries and apply concepts to accounting that have already been successful elsewhere.

Secondly, spending the first part of your career in public accounting will allow you to get an in-depth glimpse into several different companies and industries.  With adequate espresso intake, you’ll identify everything your clients are doing that could be streamlined by a third party provider, and then you can start scheming to one day become that provider.

And remember, the path of least resistance generally isn’t doing what everyone else is doing.  You’ve probably heard ‘Want to do a startup?  Go to engineering school’.  Consider doing the opposite.  Instead of competing with all of other aspiring entrepreneurs, set yourself apart by studying accounting.  You’ll come to understand why many refer to it as the language of business.

3.)    Instant credibility as a CPA

There aren’t many certifications out there that carry as much prestige as the CPA.  Is it deserved?  Maybe, maybe not… but who cares.  We’ll take it baybeeee.

Let’s say you just developed a prototype for a tear-away Tuxedo (feel free to steal this idea, just remember us if you become a millionaire).  You’re going to have to set up sales meetings with national retailers to pitch them your new product.  A CPA is going to have way more credibility, and a greater chance of getting face time with a decision maker than a Certified Master Chef.

So sign off an email to Nike with CPA following your name…oh yeah, they’re listening.

Bottom line is, with a CPA after your name, you don’t have to be Tommy Boy to sell a half a million brake pads.

4.)    Accounting skills are super useful as a small business owner

You know what every business needs?  Accounting.

You know what your business already has by default?  An accountant.

This one pretty much speaks for itself, but here are just a few of the activities that, as accountants, we performed in our sleep:

  • IRS paperwork.  We set up one company as an LLC and one company as an S Corp.  We were never tax accountants, but we remembered enough of our tax accounting class from grad school to get ‘er done.
  • Bookkeeping, cash reconciliations, budgeting, etc.  Yawnnnn, so easy.
  • Payroll.  We don’t have payroll ourselves yet, but we did help a friend set up Zen Payroll for his business.  If the day arises that we start paying our employees in anything other than hearty pats on the back, we won’t have any problems getting it done.
  • Taxes.  Again, we weren’t tax accountants, but we do know enough to navigate around TurboTax without dropping big bucks on a professional.

I can’t tell you how many entrepreneurs we’ve talked to that waste valuable time and resources trying to figure out these accounting tasks.  Instead of focusing on product development or customer integration, they find themselves punching the Quickbooks bookmark on their laptops.

You shouldn’t ever have this problem.

5.)    There’s no greater fall-back plan

Being an entrepreneur is akin to jumping out of an airplane.  It’s exhilarating, fast-paced and completely rewarding if you’re an adrenaline junkie.

But man oh man can it be frightening.

So when skydivers take the plunge and free fall back to Earth, what do they do?  They pack a parachute, and an extra one just in case.

Think of your accounting background as that second parachute.  You already have the skills, the drive and the ideas to get you on that figurative airplane.  But it’s that second parachute that gives you the confidence to take the entrepreneurial leap.

What if my company fails?

Well, you will always have a fall back plan as a CPA.  There will always be a full-time place for you in the industry if things don’t work out.  After all, that’s the beauty of starting your career in a complex, high-demand field.

Starting your own company is freakin’ awesome.  It’s been the most exciting time of our lives…even more so than college!  But we honestly wouldn’t be in the position we are in today without our backgrounds in accounting.  So if you picture yourself being your own boss one day, consider investing your time and efforts to become an accountant.

About Brad Hughes & Josh Tarica

Brad and Josh both started their careers in public accounting at PricewaterhouseCoopers.  18 months ago, they quit PwC, and started RocketGrad.  They also created a boutique accounting advisory firm, Beech Valley Solutions, which specializes in the new revenue accounting standard, SOX implementation and staff augmentation.