When I was the CEO, I Learned How to Fail

accounting bookkeeping bookkeeping business ceo Mar 01, 2024

When I left my corporate job to start my own bookkeeping business, I had a clear vision:

  • Land a few clients right out of the gate to replace the income from my job
  • Quickly grow my business to 6-figures
  • …or maybe even 7-figures!  

It felt amazing. I was in control now.  I was the CEO of my own business. 

But of course, the path wasn’t nearly as simple as I envisioned. There was something major holding me back. And it wasn’t being too ambitious, landing clients, or lack of bookkeeping and accounting expertise. 

The Committee 

Has your conscience ever told you that you just can’t do it?

Self-doubt is a real thing. The fear of failure is a real thing (we’ll discuss this more later). 

There were days when I leaned into those thoughts and let them get in the way of starting and growing my business.

But I took a step back and realized what was happening. I labeled the thoughts “The Itty Bitty S***** Committee”, we’ll call them “The Committee” for short. Why the harsh name? Because they were stoking the fear of failure and I knew I had to kick them to the curb!

Fear of Failure

The fear of failure is often cited as one of the greatest fears among people. It stems from concerns about not meeting expectations, disappointing others, facing criticism or rejection, or experiencing a loss of self-worth. This fear can lead to avoidance behaviors, perfectionism, procrastination, resistance to change, and reluctance to take risks. 

The fear of failure is significant because it can profoundly impact individuals' behavior and decision-making processes. My fear of failure manifested itself into "The Committee". 

Here are some things they might present to me on a given day. Has your “Committee” served you up any of the following before? 

  • “What were you thinking? Why would you leave a comfortable job for something so uncertain?”
  • “You’ll never land a client. And if you do…you don’t even know where to start!”
  • “You don’t know how to be a CEO, you only got your CPA a few years ago!”
  • “You have no business going after those big clients, your business is brand new!” 
  • “Forget about charging those rates. Play it safe and conservative or you’ll regret it.”
  • “You are too young / too old to start a business!”
  • “You should take on that difficult client who wants to underpay you, it’s better than nothing!” 
  • “Do you remember that mistake you made 6 months ago? I’m going to remind you about it again, and again, and again…”
  • “Everyone is going to either laugh at you or pity you when this all crashes and burns.” 
  • “Why are you taking a break? You’re a CEO now, you should be working as much as possible!” 

It was difficult to get any work done with The Committee’s constant nagging, almost as though I was being subjected to a non-stop PowerPoint with all of my mistakes, doubts, and failures! 

Lack of Success in Starting My Bookkeeping Business

As you can imagine, my first attempt at building a bookkeeping business was off to a rocky start. My past self didn’t know I’d one day be CEO of one of the largest tax and bookkeeping companies in the world with nearly 4,000 offices, or responsible for building multiple 6-to-7 figure accounting businesses. 

Here are some of the ways this fear of failure was impacting my business:

  • Instead of embracing the freedom of being independent, my life was even more stressful. I was working even more hours than my demanding corporate job.
  • I was thinking super small and conservative. There were major opportunities out there just waiting for me to grab them, but instead, I focused on safe bets which seriously limited my income and growth potential. 
  • When you don’t feel good about yourself, it’s hard to enjoy daily life in both business and personal time. It wasn’t the life I had dreamed of, and I wasn’t as happy as I could have been during that time. 

Bookkeepers and Accountants are Trained In Certain Things

We’re trained in churning out accurate bookkeeping, payroll, and advisory work for our clients so they can make better business decisions.  We’re not trained in running and growing our own businesses. We’re not taught how to take big (if calculated!) risks with our own money.

And we’re certainly not taught how to deal with the self-doubt and fear of failure that our internal committees bring to us whenever we try something a bit off the beaten path. 

So, just like how I had to teach myself how to run a business and be the CEO, I had to teach myself how to deal with The Committee. 

CEOs Must Learn Different Skill Sets 

Imagine any CEO you admire, or have read about in the news. Their list of failures is often much longer than their successes. But most interviews (unless there’s a major scandal!) aren’t going to ask CEOs to list all of their failures…they know that would take too long! 

Society isn’t in the habit of rewarding shortcomings. We celebrate people only once they’ve “made it big” and pity or shun them if they’re not there yet. Many people ridicule entrepreneurs who are taking moonshots but will be the first to call them up and offer praise when their work finally pays off. 

As a CEO, I had to learn to embrace doubt and failure as an essential and valuable part of learning. And success. 

Failure Is An Option, And It Can Bring Success

In my next blog post, I’ll talk more about how I cultivated my CEO mindset to put The Committee to work for my business instead of against it. 

While failure is essential and inevitable, you can save precious time by learning from my failures and mistakes by signing up for Bookkeepers IGNITE. I lay out the systems you can use to build your own bookkeeping firm to 6-figures and beyond. We don’t just support you with systems - we support you in shifting your entire mindset. Embracing failure and success as part of your exciting entrepreneurial journey. 

Your journey to 6-figures+ starts here. SIGN UP NOW! 

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