This month marks the ten year anniversary of the start of my accounting practice. A lot has happened over the course of that decade. Here are a few lessons:

  1. Goals. Everyone knows they should set goals regularly, but very few people do it. In our family we set goals every year. On the wall in our kitchen is hung 12 years of goals for our family, written on the back of brown paper bags. There are goals for each of the six of us, as well as goals for us as a family. You can flip through the pages and see what we were aiming at in 2008, what our kids were wanting to accomplish in 2013. We have done the same for the accounting practice every year.
  1. Keep showing up. To be successful in anything at life, you need to do it regularly and not stop doing it. Have a fitness goal? Work on it regularly and don’t stop working on it when you achieve it. When I started the practice I had 0 clients. That’s not a typo, I had zero clients. But I showed up every day to prospect and build relationships. That work led to the first client, then the second and now we serve over 500 clients.
  1. It’s not glamorous. If you hang out on Instagram, you may believe that “entrepreneur” is synonymous with fast cars, elegant attire, opulent homes, and dreamy vacations. That looks great, but it’s not true. Being an entrepreneur means that you have given up being told what to do for 40 hours/week so that you can be your own boss for 60-80 hours/week. It’s more work with less sleep. It’s longer hours with more uncertainty. It’s fewer accolades and frequent frustration. The real entrepreneurs in your circles aren’t posting glamour shots on Instagram, they are toiling away in relative obscurity out of love for their craft and a desire to chart their own course.
  1. People won’t understand why you do it. I get it. I could just, “work for a large accounting practice and avoid all of the trials and tribulations that come from being self-employed.” But the people who say that have learned none of the lessons that come from being self-employed, neither have they reaped the rewards (financial, emotional, relational, etc.) of charting your own course. Not that the self-employed are better off, but we have unique opportunities that we enjoy pursuing.
  1. 10 years is a long time. 80 hours/week during tax season and 50 hours/week the rest of the year makes for long days, weeks, months, and years. Subtract two weeks for vacation and that’s still nearly 3000 hours/year. A typical 9-5 employee works 2000 hours. In 10 years my family has transformed from 4 little kids to 1 in college, a junior in high school, an 8th grader, and a 6th grader. In 10 years the practice has grown from 0 clients to 500+ clients. I’ve added staff, bought 15 computers, purchased an office building, and watched my hair become streaked with grey. And it’s all been worth it.
  1. 10 years is a short time. If you have children, then you are familiar with the expression, “The days are long, but the years are fast.” The accounting practice feels like a child that is now 10. I can still remember working at a desk in our basement during the early months. I remember my first client meeting, the first tax return I prepared, the first client that fired me, the first client that I fired, my first employee, the fears, the doubts, and the good times. And I know that the next 10 years will fly by even faster than the first.

For all of the lessons above and the ones that I am still learning, I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to my amazing wife. She has supported me throughout this journey and I could not have done it without her. And perhaps that is the most important lesson of all: you can’t do it alone.