On your own
On your own

Should You Stay or Should You Go? Opening Your Own Practice

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Leaving your firm to go out on your own is a major life decision and shouldn’t be taken lightly. While many people start their own firms organically due to circumstances beyond their control, such as a reorganization or change in their geographic location, others realize, for a variety of reasons, that starting their own firm is just the right path for them.

How do they know the time is right, and what does it take to successfully venture out on your own? Running your own business is unchartered territory for most tax and accounting professionals. It definitely has many inherent risks, but it can also be incredibly professionally and financially fulfilling.

Recognize Your Vision

This is the first step to deciding whether you should leave your firm and go out on your own. If you are dissatisfied with your current job or have the feeling that you are not working in the right environment, it’s a good time for you to assess your own goals and purpose. You need to understand why you have those feelings before you can clearly define your vision, and if you can’t identify the reason, it may not be a good time to start something new.

I recently left the firm I worked for to start my company, Satterley Training & Consulting, – and believe me, it wasn’t an easy decision! It took me a good two years from the time the thought entered my head until I actually took action. It also required an enormous amount of self-reflection and research. Ultimately, my decision came down to the fact that my vision was different from the vision of the firm. I don’t mean that their vision was wrong or bad; the firm is a very reputable firm and provides outstanding services to its clients, and I am very proud to have worked with them for the six+ years we were together. However, my vision was different from the firm, and once I recognized that, I knew it was time to make a change.

Follow Your Passion

As you develop your vision for your future, think about your skills and talents, along with how you currently work with your clients. Which parts of your job do you get really excited about, or feel you are making the most impact? Maybe, you feel at your best when you help clients avoid tax surprises at the end the year by providing them year-round advisory services. Maybe, you are a whiz at helping business owners streamline their bookkeeping processes so they can spend more time running their business.

Think about how your ideal firm would provide the most benefit to your clients and what the end result of your efforts would be. This will help you develop your firm’s mission statement. No matter what you decide to do in the future, understanding your personal vision and mission is the key to a happy and fruitful career. When you are working in line with your purpose, working often doesn’t even feel like work.

Understand What You are Getting Into if You Make a Change

Once you decide it’s time to make a change, decide whether to look for another organization that is better suited to your vision and goals, or to start your own firm. Running your own business isn’t for everyone. It takes determination, self-discipline and a healthy tolerance for risk. As someone who has been an employee and a firm owner, I can tell you it can be overwhelming and lonely to run your own practice – but at the same time, it can also be the most gratifying and lucrative experience you can have.

In order to understand whether starting your own firm is the right choice for you, think about your experiences as an employee, and how you feel about certain situations and areas in which you’ve been involved. It takes a certain set of traits to be a successful entrepreneur and business owner, and it’s important to do an assessment of your personality and skillset before you take the leap. If you have successfully held a leadership role at your firm, you likely have many of the traits necessary to run your own firm, such as discipline, motivation and the ability to deal well with people. But, if you prefer that others in your organization deal with the difficult business situations, it’s important to realize that these responsibilities will fall directly on your shoulders in your own firm.

It’s a tough decision, so think carefully about it, and good luck.


Editor’s note: Are you ready to take the plunge and open your own practice? Read our “Start Your Own Professional Tax Practice” guide for some helpful tips!

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