My story starts like any other story, at the beginning. For years, having worked as an engineer on various programs including the Lockheed L-1011, Northrop F-18, and the Hughes Helicopter AH-64 Apache, as well as working in purchasing, contracts, subcontracts, litigation support and as manager of warranty for those and other companies, I knew that I had a wealth of experience, a varied wealth in both the technical and business arena. With this varied experience, my engineering degree combined with my law degree, it was time to decide what I wanted to be when I grew up. So far, I haven’t, grown up that is, but then growing up is a work in progress and hopefully will be, as such, for a long time to come.
With all of this background, and personally knowing some of the top executives of these companies, realizing they were no smarter than I but had access to information I didn’t, and the authority to make decision I couldn’t, decided to start my own business. What business? How should I know? Talking with my wife, asking her wise council, her comment was that to really understand business from a business perspective, I needed to take some classes in accounting. So I did.
With no intention of becoming a CPA, I took some accounting classes at Western International University in Phoenix. I was getting straight A’s and began to think, am I really learning anything or is this a diploma mill? Then my first A- followed by a B+. To make a long story short, the school did a good job in convincing me to stay on and take those classes required to sit for the CPA exam. So what the heck? My employer was paying the bill, why not? After two attempts at the CPA, exam, I passed. Great! Now what?
My employer, then McDonnell Douglas, formally Hughes Helicopters, allowed me to start my own private practice while working full time. After the first year, they allowed me to drop from 40 hours per week to 32 hours with full benefits. With the onset of the third year, I dropped to 20 hours a week. This was the break point as I needed to build an income source from my new business well letting go of my regular job and its benefits. I can’t say I know too many people who were ever given that opportunity. I was fortunate and am indebted to McDonnell Douglas, my direct management and the encouragement of my company executives by allowing me that opportunity. You might be interested to know that I took this risk with a wife in nursing school and a new born with three teenage children. As a part time manager at McDonnell Douglas there was no going back. This had to work.
As my practice grew, I quickly learned that I knew a lot about accounting and taxes, but very little about “business.” I guess that is something that they don’t teach you in school; how to run a business. Running or managing a business has little to do with the technical expertise needed to do the income generating work. Even with my law degree, still, the task of running a business as opposed to doing the work was daunting if not intimidating and, quite easy to set aside all with the excuse of being, “too busy”, too busy to manage my own business.
With 20+ years as a practicing CPA (8 of which as a partner in a firm I helped found), learning from others, reading, listening, watching, I began to grasp the art of running or managing a business. Twenty years. Twenty years is a long time with ample opportunity to fail catastrophically. My guardian angels were on permanent overtime and probably not too happy with me.
All in all, I learned how and will continue to refine my skills in running or managing a business. I have no hesitation to say this to you as none of us know all there is to know, so why lie? What I did learn is that the risks every business owner, entrepreneur, or dabbler takes can be minimized with the right help and guidance. You can’t get it out of a book because you can’t ask a book questions. You can’t get it from the class room as the class must end at some point and you hope you learned enough to go on your own. You can’t get it from a business plan as today’s goals become yesterdays’ missed opportunities and no longer applicable tomrrow. Growing, learning, achieving are a continuing process and it’s very difficult to do it alone. A young lady said to me recently, “Success has nothing to do with luck as luck is usually temporary. There comes a point when success must be sustained.” She made a brilliant statement and one worth embracing.
With all of this, with all I have learned, with all that I have seen and done, I have committed myself to helping other avoid the mistakes I made and to get down to business. I have been there and done that. I have walked the walk and stumbled and know that had I had someone to guide me, I may have fallen on occasion but not fallen badly. People don’t go into business to fail. They go into business to succeed. That is where I can help.