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My Road to B2B CFO® | How I Got Here-Part 4

As promised, there’s not going to be a 2+ year wait for Part 4 of my tale.  In fact, this is the start of me posting regularly, and once my tale is told, you will see posts that either I write myself, or articles on topics I believe may be of interest to you.

At the end of part 3, I had joined forces with another CPA to form Bruce & Gottesman, CPAs.  For me, this was a mixed bag time.  While I was able to get rid of my reliance on just a couple of major clients, I was back to doing work that, for the most part, wasn’t the most satisfying to me.  I knew I wanted to do CFO level work, and our company URL even has CFO in it.  Fairly early on into our partnership, the man who had introduced me to my business partner called us and told us that he was becoming an “E-Myth Consultant.”  I had never heard of the E-Myth before and was certainly willing to listen.  What I heard really changed the direction of my career.  The E-Myth (https://emyth.com/) is a system for helping small businesses turn into turnkey operations, moving the owners from people who work in the business to people who work on the business, and helping to ensure that the business can survive the loss of key personnel or even the owner.  This resonated strongly with me, as this was exactly what I wanted to do.  This is where I saw myself.  My partner and I decided not to pursue the coaching at the time, however I read the book (as I have numerous times since then…this was circa 2001) and the principles stuck with me, and I attempted to apply them at Bruce & Gottesman, CPAs, with mixed success.  And I kept observing clients for opportunities to help them improve their business.

While I had high hopes for developing a practice in CFO services with Bruce & Gottesman, CPAs, life doesn’t always turn out the way we want.  I was going through a very rough time personally, and there was enough demand for compliance services that my focus kept staying there.  My business partner and I also had differences on where we thought the practice should go.  He seemed to favor the more traditional, and probably more secure, compliance route, while I favored the riskier, yet (for me at least) more personally rewarding CFO services route.  In late 2006 we started working with a small, publicly traded company and I was providing them with some CFO services, and while there were a lot of challenges, I relished doing much of the work involved.

I’ve called 2007 my “year of divorces.”  In March, I parted ways with my business partner, as my heart was no longer in compliance work, and that’s really what he needed at that point.  In some ways it was liberating, as I got to pursue my dream, and in some ways it was terrifying, as I didn’t have as solid a client base as I would have liked.  However, the client for whom I was providing CFO services officially brought me on as their CFO on a part-time basis.  This part-time basis ended up being 40 hours a week or more, and too much of what I was doing was bookkeeping and this led to clashes with the CEO, who always wanted to be a higher priority over other clients.  I ended up resigning from that position as it was not paying me enough to support myself based on the time commitment.  Finally, late in the year my wife and I decided to split after years of struggling to hold our marriage together.  While painful at the time, in retrospect I believe it was the healthiest decision for both of us.

By 2008 I had a new business partner in PG Business Growth Advisors, and we were doing our best to focus on CFO services, although an intro into that was still taxes and financial statements, which neither my partner nor I really enjoyed.  However, we were involved in a couple of very big projects that kept both of us happy and humming along.  And then, because 2007 hadn’t given me enough kicks in the gut, the economy started to collapse.  Clients who were paying us thousands of dollars a month were now paying us hundreds, or none.  My partner eventually took a CFO position with a start-up entity, and I soldiered on alone with one bookkeeper as an employee, and eventually she had to be laid off for lack of work.  This was a tough time, as my practice had been heavily real estate based (developers, agents, brokers) and they were hit the hardest.  While I knew what I wanted to do, the economic realities were I was going to do bookkeeping, accounting and taxes.  This was not satisfying to me, and it was honestly difficult for me to pursue more work that I knew would make me unhappy.  Much of 2009 – 2013 was a struggle because of the economy and my own internal struggles.

Things began to change in mid-2013.  A former employee of mine from Bruce & Gottesman, CPAs, contacted me saying that the company for which she currently worked needed someone to help clean up their accounting department and to assist with their growth and budgeting.  This sounded like a great opportunity.  The company did have someone with the CFO title, however I still believed I could be of great value to them.  It was a part time position, however it paid well, and it allowed me to continue my accounting practice, and for a time things were good.  After the initial mess was sorted out for my new employer, it became obvious to me that I was just giving them controller services.  I saw many opportunities for improvement, and my employer didn’t seem interested in listening.  They had their own ideas and own ways of doing things, and weren’t going to listen to me.  I watched the numbers, and I saw some of the holes they were digging for themselves, and I was powerless to affect change without their cooperation.

Another feature of this company was that it was co-owned by 2 groups of partners who became increasingly at odds as time progressed.  This led to them deciding to split the company into 2 parts, with each group retaining control of operations that they had brought into the combined company.  I helped them determine a value for the business and some of the technical aspects of a split, and they unhappy marriage became an unhappy separation.  The final issues were not resolved until long after I had departed.  An upshot for me was that, while I was still employed there, with only half as many locations, there just wasn’t enough work to justify my positon, and I was laid off.  This was disappointing, as I still believed I could help, and I was aware of the financial realities of the situation.

Now I had the “what am I going to do when I grow up?” conversation with myself.  53 years old might seem like an odd time to have this conversation, and I knew that I did not want to go back to public accounting.  While I still had a small practice, it was mostly with clients who had been loyal to me over the years, and I was not pushing for its growth.  I knew in my heart I wanted to perform CFO services.  And I also had grown used to the flexibility of being my own boss and setting my own hours, so I decided to start looking for part-time positions.

While going through listings one link jumped out at me, for B2B CFO®.  It looked interesting, so I went to their Careers page.  As I read through the description of what they wanted out of a partner, and the opportunities available and the sort of work that would be done, my reaction was “they wrote this specifically for me.”  Never had I seen a position so in line with my goals.  The next step for me was to apply to join the partnership.  They expressed interest in me, I spent a couple of months doing due diligence, and in June, 2014 decided to pull the trigger and join B2B CFO®.  I have not regretted that decision for a minute, as this is the 1st time in my life that I do work that makes me happy.  I get immense satisfaction out of solving client problems and helping clients grow and prosper.  I know that the work I do has ramifications far beyond today.  If I help a client grow in a manner that they can hire a new employee, that affects not only that client and the new employee, it affects the new employee’s family and community.  That is my passion, improving the lives of my clients, their employees and their communities.

And that, dear reader, is how I got here….and why I stay here.

photo credit: thor_mark  So There I Was Driving Along a Road in Big Bend National Park… via photopin (license)

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