• Jamie Skinner

My Gritty Start-Up

In my last blog I talked about grit and my grittiest semester as an undergrad. Needless to say, I survived that semester and ever since then have been on a crazy adventure in the accounting profession. The latest chapter of my adventure consists of my second attempt to be my own boss. Yes, SECOND attempt. In November of last year I transitioned from working as a full-time corporate accountant to being an independent accountant. It’s been a long, arduous process but I am finally starting to see my dreams come into fruition. That was not the case the first time around.

In 2014 I was working as an assistant controller for a commercial property manager. I loved coming into a new company and using my niche for lean accounting and business process improvement and whipping the books into tip-top shape. Things were no different at this place, but soon enough I would be faced with a huge career-changing dilemma. I discovered an on-going process that was illegal and needed to be rectified. I felt especially committed to exposing it because it dealt with payroll and labor laws. When I met with the Controller about it, he shrugged it off and said that’s just how things were done there. So I proceeded next to the CFO and I got the same dismissive attitude.

How on earth could I continue working for a place that did not align with my ethical standards? I knew once I had my CPA license that ethics played a major role in being able to retain your license in good standing. I was not yet licensed but I felt morally obligated to treat any current situation as though I was. This work day made me reflect on whether it would ever be worth it to sit at a desk all day and feel like I was not making a difference or to experience recurring challenges of moral distress. I knew that I would not be happy until I was working for myself, where I could control every situation to ensure it complied with my ethical values.

The very next day I QUIT. I had no clients lined up, I had no network to speak of, and I had NO IDEA WHAT THE HELL I WAS DOING. I did not even have a plan. Maybe I should have read “5 Steps to Take Before Quitting Your Job to Become an Entrepreneur” and consider my options if things didn’t pan out so well. Because that’s exactly what happened. I was reckless with my first meddling in entrepreneurship. I owned a home with no income from roommates. I pulled out $20,000 from my credit cards to fund my personal expenses. I did not know how to build a client base and the one big project I worked on was probably the worst client I could have worked with. It was so discouraging.

6 months later, with no clients and mountains of debt, I put my tail between my legs and started job hunting. I felt like a complete failure. I felt like maybe I wasn’t cut out for my dream. I worked the next job for about a year, slowly – ever so slowly – paying off that $20,000 cash advance, which amounted to ridiculously high monthly interest. Then I decided to pick up my entire life and move to Reno, NV, where I worked a couple more corporate jobs. It was at my most recent job that an opportunity presented itself that I could not pass up. An opportunity to give entrepreneurship another try. But this time things would be different and failure was not an option.

I was working as a senior accountant for the Reno Aces and they were willing to support me by becoming my first client. Since then I have immersed myself in the business community. I joined a wonderfully supportive and educational networking group that focuses on small businesses. I aim to genuinely connect with as many people as possible and constantly take initiative to reach out, whereas previously I was more selling focused instead of relationship focused. I truly want to help other business become more efficient and obtain more meaningful financial information and I’m continually working to make that resonant in my branding.

I still have a lot of work ahead of me to make this second venture successful. The experience is a complete 180 from the first time. I go to tons of meetings each week, I’m working long hours, and I’m absorbing as much as possible in my MBA program. The best part of it all is I’m loving every minute of it!

My favorite meetings are those where I get to talk with other entrepreneurs who have either been in my shoes or are in my shoes right now. Hearing other’s stories keep me motivated and invigorated so if you have a gritty story I would love for you to share it in the comments below! Or even better, contact me so we can grab coffee.

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