TFYW#079: 7 Lies I Told Myself

Mar 15, 2024

This week contains a few rapid-fire ideas that I hope will get you thinking today and in the future.

My Perception

Ok – the title might have been a little click-baity, but I wanted to emphasize a few things that ran through my head while I operated my firm.

They weren’t necessarily lies, but they were things that were not true and significantly impacted how I operated my firm.

I had ideas of how things should work which weren’t actually correct.

I didn’t have these thoughts because I was delusional; instead, I had no other frame of reference to construct my perception.


If you don’t remember anything else from this newsletter, remember this:


Analyzing different perspectives is the fastest way to positively impact your perception.



Lie #1: My Happiness Wasn’t Important

Shortly after starting my career at a Big 4, I dived into my CPA education and exams, launched a side hustle, and became a dad to a newborn baby girl. I didn’t have time to stop and wonder if I was happy. It was a crazy time.

To a certain degree, I acclimatized to the grind our profession sometimes puts us through and carried that into my firm.

A certain amount of grind is required to do something meaningful.

But there comes a point when your energy to grind will die, and you need another source of motivation.

I’ve found that optimizing for what you’re good at and what makes you happy can significantly increase your motivation, efficiency, and profitability.

But you need to step back and give yourself room to breathe to make that determination.

Happiness and profits can co-exist, but it requires a path and action.


Lie #2: My Hard Skills Were The Only Money-Makers

Hard skills will get you started, but soft skills will get you past a one-person slog fest.

Each level of growth in your firm requires different skills.

Unfortunately, the bigger you get, the softer the skills you need.

Fortunately, these skills can be learned, and there are tools to assist you.

I’ve sat with coaching clients who were seasoned CPA firm owners who thought that they needed to do advanced taxes to make more money.

As a firm owner, advanced tax training is not how to grow your firm. It may give you high-value skills but will not unlock the firm growth you think it will.

Don’t think your firm growth is entirely dependent on what you do.

Rather, it depends on how you orchestrate the things that need to be done.


Lie #3: My Clients Understood My Value

Most small business owners are not financially inclined.

Most started their business because of their technical skill and/or an opportunity.

They need someone to guide them through the process of understanding the financial foundation of their business.

You can bet that if they don’t understand how to build that foundation, they won’t understand how valuable your work is.

You are only perceived as good as you communicate. So, be vocal about what you do.

Don’t downplay the value you bring.

Don’t let the ‘bean counter tucked in the back room’ be the description your clients use of you.


Lie #4: As A Professional, I Didn’t Need To Sell

I’ve learned that marketing and selling are very similar to advising clients. It is the practice of understanding the client’s problem and creating a plan to get them to the solution.

We call it selling with prospects.

And we call it advising with clients.

Honestly, the only difference is whether the engagement letter has been signed.

Selling and advising are foundational to getting out of the compliance grind.

You will become a better advisor as you refine your selling skills.


Lie #5: You Need To Offer Compliance To Be In Demand

This may be true on a short-term basis. However, many in-demand firms don’t offer a single compliance service.

I was stuck because the clients I was working with and attracting couldn’t afford my higher-value services. It seemed that to be in-demand I had to go the compliance route.

In many cases, your client selection is jamming up your mindset around what’s in demand.

It isn’t that small businesses won’t pay for advisory; it’s that your current prospects won’t.


Lie #6: Employees Will Never Care Like You

This is true to the extent that you can’t expect someone to care more about your asset than their own ass.

However, if you can find goals that align your firm’s priorities with the employees’ desires, you can get them to care about a common goal.

You have to find something they care about in a way that you care about your business.

And their desires go beyond higher wages and more PTO – (I’m not saying these aren’t important…)

Talent sees working for you as an investment. They want to ensure that what they do for you today will benefit them in the future.


Lie #7: Revenue Is The Best Measure Of Growth

An idea that keeps popping up in recent conversations with firm owners is that of growth.

For many, the growth achieved to date impairs future growth or makes it nearly impossible.

Some have reached a point where they must back up and readjust to enable future growth.

While revenue is easy to measure and is what we talk about in public, potentially better measures of growth are:

    • Growth in revenue per full-time equivalent team member
    • Growth in profit per full-time equivalent team member
    • Reduction of billable hours of firm leadership (the less, the better)
    • Reduction of hours spent in the office for partners

These are all better measures of sustainable growth.

At the end of the day, these are just glimpses into my perspective.

I hope they can benefit you.

Build the firm you want.


P.S. Email with something that you want me to talk about. I’ll add it to the list. 

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