The Architect asked me what Nucleus meant to me. Nucleus is the culmination of a passion for the future of the accounting industry and breaking the chains of tradition. Nucleus is investing in humans to reach their potential. Nucleus to me is what I would have wanted as a depressed Tax Manager working at a large public accounting firm.
Let me back up for a minute. I started my public accounting career at 19 as an intern at a large firm with a ridiculous amount of ambition, some natural talent, naivety, and a whole lot of billable hours. By 20 I was a full-time tax associate finishing up my bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance. I asked too many questions. I questioned why we did things the way we did. I pushed back on following traditional practices. I annoyed my superiors and managers so much that I was advised I needed to wear a hat that said “I’m Sorry” to preempt any conversation I had with the reviewers on my engagements.
After a year of manual processes and paper, my frustrations at inefficiencies pushed me to create a small automation for tax – a program that did OCR recognition on scanned tax forms, created an excel workpaper package, imported the numbers into the tax program, and then printed the referenced paper-based tax workpaper package that was required. I ran it on a separate computer and was more efficient than any other tax staff. After busy season, the tax partner called me into her office to address how my hours were so low on returns. I was convinced I was going to get fired. Instead of firing me, she called the National Tax Process and Tools Group’s partner and introduced me. I was offered a position in Phoenix on this National Tax team. I accepted (without ever having been to Phoenix and without even telling my fiancé). I pushed my start date out just long enough to get married and put all of our things in a truck to start a new adventure.
I then spent a year working on implementing a paperless tax system across the country. I was put in charge of a couple of regions of the US which included many older, white-male partners who spent the year yelling at me for the change that I was helping with. Needless to say, this was not my ideal position. What seemed like a dream come true, was actually a nightmare. I moved to another large public accounting firm to focus on corporate tax and tax consulting. The experience was amazing in terms of academic growth and challenging projects. However, I dealt with the same inefficiencies, the same bullshit politics, the same old-school mindset, billable hours, and poor client relationships. I voiced my opinions for change and was basically ignored. My direct boss loved me and hated me at the same time. He would take long deep breaths every time I walked into his office because he never knew what I was trying to improve this time that would just end in him having a headache. I was a terrible (but profitable) employee.
I decided I needed to move on. I thought about opening up my own firm, but I lacked the confidence to do so. I was convinced I could not sell anything as I was never given the opportunity to learn sales. I was convinced I was not smart enough to advise clients on my own. I was convinced I would fail without the infrastructure of a firm behind me.
I tried my hand at a local firm for a year, hoping it would be different. I found the same traditional practices and the same resistance to change. The same billable hour goals (actually mine went up a bit) and the same levels of anxiety and depression. I saw partners with no relationships with their kids, divorced young, and only their careers to hold onto. I saw a future I absolutely did not want.
This story probably sounds similar to other people you have talked to, or to your own story. This is the story of public accounting. Everyone has to pay their dues, right? Everyone has to toil away chained to a desk to be productive, right?
WRONG. I refuse to accept that as the answer. I refuse to accept that people have to work their asses off doing basic manual processes for years before they can actually enjoy their lives. I refuse to accept in-office mandatory Saturdays, or weeknights spent getting home after midnight. I refuse to accept two weeks of travel a year. I refuse to accept their definitions of success.
The brainwashing wore off slowly and I started realizing how psychological tactics were at work in many traditional firms, where you were not considered successful unless you were promoted on their timelines and moms were penalized for having to pick kids up at school. They dangled the carrot in front of you and convinced you that you not only wanted it, but that carrot was the only way. I woke up and saw life for what it was – mine. My life will be lived my way. And, I truly believe anyone with talent and ambition, when given the right opportunity, will succeed how they want to.
Entrepreneurship is hard. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. I make mistakes, cry, lose sleep, laugh, cry again, jump up and down, and feel like I am on top of the world all within an hour. I have learned a ton through this journey and I want to share this knowledge. Not only that, I want every accountant that wants it, to have the opportunity to build their own book of business. I want them to do it in a way that fits with their goals and their definitions of success.
Nucleus to me is the culmination of a passion for the future of the accounting industry and breaking the chains of tradition. Nucleus is investing in humans to reach their potential. Nucleus to me is what I would have wanted as a depressed Tax Manager working at a large public accounting firm.