Accounting and Finance Consultant: Career Research Report

[Thanks to NE for sharing the career research report on how to become a business consultant in the field of accounting and finance and related occupational information.]

accounting-finance

Introduction

Why I came up with my chosen career/occupation:
The career I chose to research is business consulting. Specifically, consulting in the accounting and finance industry. The reason I chose this career is because I have spent the last 11 years working in accounting and finance and want to start my own business. Working in the corporate world, I have a stable check and regular work every week. Starting my own business would give me a sense of pride knowing my own work is being judged and my business will grow based on my success. No matter how much I may succeed in my regular job, I can’t double my income that year which is possible in business consulting.

My interest level concerning my chosen focus:
I am somewhat interested in this path as my alternative is to move up the corporate ladder and be an executive. Right now I’m 75% leaning towards the corporate ladder route because I am married, have 1 son, and we anticipate having another child in the future. Due to my family situation, the corporate ladder route is more stable and predictable. Also, if I were to get 10 more years of experience and network more, this would be a better starting point for my consulting business versus now due to additional savings and experience gained.

How much I already know about your chosen focus:
I know probably 50% of what I need to know about consulting. I’m aware of the work involved as I’ve been doing it for 11 years in various capacities as a financial analyst to finance manager. The 50% I need to learn is to be able to market myself and close deals for myself. I am aware of the basic principles of how to sell your skills but haven’t actually implemented it in a real world setting. Once I’m able to close a deal and work on an assignment I feel I can contribute immediately and add value-added services ranging from financial analysis, reconciliations, to financial modeling.

Presentation and Discussion of Information

Description:
My career of small business consulting consists primarily of three main tasks. They are to manage the business operations, to market and close deals, and to work on projects through completion. Being successful at all three components are critical to growing my business. The main premise behind small business consulting is to provide a business service to my clients in financial reporting, analysis, modeling, and process improvement.

A service engagement can last between 2 weeks to 6 months and I would charge per hour for my service. During this engagement I would market myself to new opportunities at that company or another company. I would present my skill set and what value I can provide to the new client.

Marketing would occur on social networking websites including Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. I would also have my own personal website describing my experience and service.

I would continue this cycle, grow my business, and potentially hire people to consult as well.

Managing the business operations consists of the legal requirements, financial requirements, and setup of the business (1). Setup of business includes identifying a name, setting up a primary office, website, and the business plan. My primary office will be my home office which I would need a computer, phone, and fax. The name of my consulting company will be FirstName LastName Consulting. My business plan will include components for what my business is, how I will make money, when I will start it, and my overall vision/mission. It will also include the financial, legal, marketing, and timeline aspects of the business.

Regarding the legal component of a business I’d look into whether to incorporate as a sole proprietorship or a limited liability company. Both have advantages and disadvantages based on the specific structure of the business so I’d need to do more research. To start any business you need money for various startup and maintenance of the business. I’ve listed out startup costs and estimated annual costs to maintain the business below (2).

Annual Incorporation Fee: $200
Website Fees: $100
Marketing Fees: $200
Computer and Internet Service: $1500
Total Initial Costs: $2000

Fortunately, starting this particular consulting business does not entail large financing from a bank and I can utilize savings already at hand. From a tax standpoint, I need to keep records of expenses in order to pay the appropriate business taxes assessed at the federal and state level. Being a CPA, I’m familiar with filing taxes and do not need to pay an accountant to manage my annual taxes or financial statements.

The next big step in running a successful business is marketing and closing deals. This entails networking with contacts, marketing my services to the public, and closing deals based on appropriate pricing. The networking of contacts will incorporate several avenues including online social websites, re-connecting with prior co-workers, advertising in various mediums, and developing a website summarizing my services. The goal is to differentiate my skill set from the rest of the consultants. Initially, I’d price my services slightly below established consultants although having an MBA and CPA provides brand name recognition of my competency. After a few years of consulting I would raise my rate to align with my experience and brand value.

After I am able to market myself and close deals an important part of the assignment is to actually do the work! Given that I’ve been working for 11 years in finance and accounting, I have been able to hone my skills over a decade. Since the plan is 5 years away, I’d continue to broaden my skill set to keep up to date and continually learn. Once on an assignment I would ensure I put in 100% effort to provide value-added service in the form of financial reporting, analysis, developing models, and providing guidance to my employer. Hopefully, I would do a great job where they would continue employing me to work on newer projects and be a reference for future projects.

Work environment:
The work environment is a corporate professional environment where regular business communication occurs. Typically this involves dressing business casual, no gossiping, and be social and cordial to fit in appropriately. It is typically 8 hours with 1 hour of lunch. The work setting is in a corporate building sitting in a cubicle working on the computer completing assignments and attending meetings.

Essential personal characteristics:
The essential personal characteristics and skills include a broad range from organizational skills, selling skills, planning, strategy, and core accounting and finance skills. The marketing and selling skills are always utilized from getting the assignment to working during the assignment. You are always judged and you must always act professionally. The accounting and finance skills entail understanding intermediate-level accounting and finance theory. It is also critical to incorporate this knowledge in completing tasks that involve analysis, interpersonal communication, organization, and influencing others. Most importantly is to program myself for success by affirming positive thoughts such as I am assertive, I am self-confident, and I visualize success (3).

Training and/or schooling involved:
The typical training involved at a minimum is a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or other business related background. The more education completed the higher the likelihood of obtaining assignments as some companies prefer higher-level consultants. Higher education includes a Master’s degree in Business Administration or Accounting. Complementing this would be other certifications including the Certified Public Accountant, Certified Management Accountant, or Chartered Financial Analyst certifications (4).

Typical earnings for entry level positions and more advanced levels:
The typical hourly earnings can range based on several variables including the experience of the consultant, the type of work the company needs help with, and the negotiation involved. For my level with 15 years experience (5 years from now) my range would be $75 to $150 per hour based on an intermediate-level range of finance and accounting activities (5). Compared to the market, companies offer this serve for $100 – $200 per hour due to several consulting companies having brand name recognition and higher overhead costs.

Professional associations:
There are several professional associations which may help such as the Institute of Management Accountants and Society of Certified Public Accountants associations to network. These contain usually 15-30 active members in each regional club such as San Jose. They contain workshops to learn more about the industry and processes. Also, there are a lot of business owners to network with. Usually there are fees of $100 each year.

Conclusion

A discussion on the best path to attaining my chosen career/occupation:
Overall this plan is for 5-10 years from now due to my family situation and current career location. With my family situation, we have a good amount of money saved but to start a small business consultant company would entail some more savings since starting a business is more risky than the stable full-time job. Another component with my family is the intent to try for another child within the next 2 years. My wife would subsequently stay home for 2 years where I would need to have a stable job. Also, when she returns we’d need to save some of the money we spent from her lost income. We’re looking to upgrade to a bigger house in 3 years now that there may be 4 of us in the household. We would then save for another few years which would bring this plan to years 5 through 10.

From a career standpoint, I have been working 12 years and am at a manager level. I would like to get to over 15 years to round out my experience further including learning new systems and processes that will broaden my skill set. Also, over the next few years I can continue networking and marketing myself to start my business down the road. The overall economy also plays a role as the last year and the next 2 years appear to be slow for job seekers. Therefore, it is important for me to remain in my current situation and ride out the storm. When the job market cycles back to a job seeker’s market then I may start pursuing opportunities that open up.

A discussion on what I learned from the research that I previously did not know:
What I’ve learned from researching this is the enormous effort one must put in to run a small business. Although, the income will be less with long hours initially, there are the higher long-term earnings potential, which is really exciting! Also, running a business entails a full range of business skills from marketing to finance in order to run it successfully. Overall, this exercise was a worthwhile exercise which opened my eyes to the ups and downs of being my own boss!

A discussion on my interest level now after my research:
My overall interest level is higher now than before completing this career research report. I would say it’s at a 50% interest level as I’m aware of the large obstacles involved to run a business more but am more confident that I can do given more information. This is a longer term plan 5-10 years out and if I can take steps each year towards this opportunity then my interest level will increase due to the higher confidence that I can do it. Definitely writing this down and planning does move me closer which I’m thankful for! I can stick to the corporate route and I’m halfway there starting at Entry-level and now at Management level in 11 years. It’ll probably take 5-10 years to get to executive level at which point I can evaluate how reasonable it is to start on my own versus giving up that executive salary. By then I may seek this small business consulting opportunity to keep me challenged instead of dealing with the office politics!

References

  1. Weiss, Alan. (2009). Getting Started in Consulting: Wiley
  2. Webber, Amanda. (2009). Startupnation.com – Estimating Startup Costs for a New Business. Retrieved May 29, 2009, from http://www.startupnation.com/articles/1248/1/startup-costs-new-business.asp
  3. Sukiennik, Diane. (2009). The Career Fitness Program – Exercising your Options: Pearson Prentice Hall
  4. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-2009 Edition – Retrieved May 29, 2009, from http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos010.htm
  5. Salary.com – Retrieved May 29, 2009, from http://www.salary.com

Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *