Before quitting your job to be an entrepreneur

When you ask a successful entrepreneur the story of their success, typically somewherin that story they quit their job in order to pursue their business idea. It’s often a part of the story that gets glazed over, but as many aspiring entrepreneur would know it really is a pivotal move. It’s not so easy to quit a job especially if you are dependent on the income from said job. As someone who is more conservative with money (as most accountants are), I would advise on taking some preparation steps before making the jump to be a full-time entrepreneur.

Consider pursuing the business idea as a side gig

Some business ideas can be pursued as a side gig until it grows large enough to pursue full-time. This is a good way to test the waters and see if the business idea is a viable one that can also support you financially. And let’s be honest, some business ideas are just not going to work out so this is a good way to get a little taste of entrepreneurship with less risk.

Being a bit of a serial entrepreneur myself, I had several side gigs including selling soaps on Etsy, starting a tutoring business while in University and starting a Shopify store based on the basic drop-shipping model. These were all fun and each experience has shaped me as the entrepreneur that I am today.

Freelancing or contracting while starting a business

Freelancing and contracting offers an excellent way of making some side income while the business is growing. When I first quit my job, I was lucky to be contacted by an agency who wanted to hire me on a short-term basis to contract for a bank. Freelancing nowadays can be entirely done virtually and from home. I used upwork.com and freelancer.com to look for contracts. If you’re lucky, you can even convince your old employer to keep you on an as-needed basis.

Going all-in

As my friend and mentor, Yanky Li from Openhouse.ai believes, a truly good business idea deserves 100% dedication. So if you’ve decided to dedicate yourself to your business idea congratulations, now you need to keep close watch on how long you can survive while making little to no income. And if you cannot survive with little to no income, then I recommend seriously reconsidering this option.

Personally, when I started to realize the lifestyle change I had to undergo I had to make some quick and fast decisions. It wasn’t an easy task to go from a senior software consultant salary to no salary. I first considered what was important to me (my business, my family), and cut out some unnecessary costs.

  • I cooked more at home and started going to Chinatown for some really cheap meats and fresh fruits. I can cook dinner for a whole week for under $30. I also froze meals for later consumption. I also cut back significantly on ordering food deliveries.
  • I picked events to go to that offered free food, which saves me from paying for an extra meal. The events doubled as a means to grow my network. With very little exceptions, I declined to go to paid events.
  • I stopped buying clothes and make-up almost entirely, which wasn’t so difficult since I often worked from home. Surprisingly, for the first time in my life, I felt content with my existing wardrobe.
  • Getting coffee and meeting for coffee was purposeful, but I actually stopped going for a routine drink at coffee shops.
  • I wasn’t willing to go to a cheaper hair salon, but instead I grew my hair long and reduced the frequency of needing a haircut. I stopped getting routine procedures like getting my nails and eyelashes done. I learned how to wax at home.
  • I’ve not gone on a vacation since I started my business.

Hiring the wrong people was the biggest and costliest mistake that I made

I’m going to outright say that I made so many mistakes in hiring during my first year of business! I’m going to share all of these mistakes so that others need not follow and can learn through my own mistakes.

Hiring Friends

When I first started the company, I figured that I needed someone to do sales. I decided to hire a friend who is also an accountant to do it, and pay them on a commission basis.

Unfortunately for me, I learned that my friend wasn’t very reliable, nor was he very good at sales. He couldn’t even articulate what the company does in order to make a sale. Turning to friends may seem convenient because they are in your social network, but it’s not always the best especially if you’ve never worked together before on anything real.

Hiring Family

I decided to hire family. I am lucky I got out of this one unscathed. I love my family and I think that is all the more reason to not hire them. Again, for the same reason that hiring friends that you’ve never professionally worked with is a bad idea, hiring family is a bad idea.

Okay, so at this point, I realized that I needed to hire outside of my social circle. I needed to post a job ad out there.

Hiring Freelancers

I can write an entire blog post about hiring from the online freelancing community, but in short, I was able to find a few gems that eventually turned into longer-term team members. I found my right-hand woman this way, and I cannot see myself being where I am today without her!

The secret? Having a filtering process to be able to test candidates for language competency, technical skills, communication skills, customer service skills and the ability to work autonomously.

Hiring Local Employees

At this point, I had a few contractors now and decided that a full-time local employee would be the way to go. I took the same approach as I did online and applied the same tried and true strategy. In short, it didn’t work.

The hiring process does not take into account those that are articulate about their skills but do not have the actual motivation and discipline to own up to the job. I can say for certain that hiring the wrong employees was the biggest and most costliest mistakes as I was starting out in the first year. If I could go back to give myself just one piece of advice, it would be to own up to the mistake and end the relationship sooner.

So what worked?

I went back to focusing on hiring freelancers since that was working fairly well. For those freelancers that were doing well, I gave them a raise and asked them to commit all of their available working hours to my company. I guaranteed them security as best I can. Since they were working well, I asked them to refer their colleagues and this has worked really well.

What was sacrificed?

To the best of my ability, I do not let poor hiring practices impact the work that we do for our clients. What I did sacrifice instead was my mental well-being in having to fill-in for poor hires. I knew that I needed this to work in order for the company to move forward.

Hiring Interns

Stay tuned for an article on how I was able to turn an internship from a burden on resources to a positive experience for both employer and intern.

Your Start Up and E-Commerce Accountant

Jenny Tran, CPA, CMA

5 Lessons that I’ve learned in my first year of starting a cloud accounting firm

It has been several months since I’ve last blogged and I have a good excuse for that. I’ve been busy! Like any entrepreneur trying to make their vision come to fruition, the first year of building a business is just immensely challenging. I’ve been busy learning some really critical lessons in my industry and as a new business owner of a cloud accounting firm.

Documenting the process of becoming the president of a cloud accounting firm was something that I’ve wanted to do, but in this first year this process took precedence to the actual documenting. Moving forward, I will be blogging regularly and sharing my journey through various mediums including this blog. I have also been sharing this journey through social media, Twitter and Instagram @fintcloud .

Here are some critical lessons that I’ve learned in my first year of starting a cloud accounting firm, which I plan to elaborate on in more details in future blog posts.

#5 Partnering with the right people

Networking and meeting new business contacts can be really exciting, but sometimes some skepticism is warranted. I’ve learned that treading carefully is a good idea, and doing some background research on those you partner is worthwhile. It’s kind of like checking out a Yelp review before trying a restaurant.

#4 Managing growth

When I first started the business, I was super gung-ho for new clients and growth. I realized that I really had to pull back on business development in order to for me to first build the operations in a way that was sustainable. It’s a good problem to have.

#3 Having the right software stack

There was a bit of tinkering to figure out the best software stack for my company. Keeping an open mind and staying flexible really helped here. I plan to blog more in future about the cloud applications my company uses on a daily basis.

#2 Taking on the right clients

When I first started the business, I wasn’t choosy about the clients that I took on. As long as they knew how to use e-mail, it was a green light. I really had to take a step back from that to redefine my ideal client. This is still a work in progress, but long story short, we had to let go a few clients who were not a good fit. Letting go the wrong client can have a positive impact on profitability, resource availability and staff morale.

#1 Hiring the right way

When I hired my first employee for Fint, I was very naive in thinking that anyone can learn anything. This isn’t true, and that’s a hard fact. Motivation, drive, ambition, discipline are just a few factors that go into determining whether someone can do the job. When hiring employees, contractors or even interns, it is so important to do this the right way, consciously. Not everyone can do the job. I will most definitely go into more details about my learning on hiring in a future blog post.

Your Start Up and E-Commerce Accountant

Jenny Tran, CPA, CMA

@fintcloud

Take 15 mins to execute this Christmas personal finance hack

Christmas in more recent years has become a time of reflection for me.  It is a time when I review what has gone well and what has not gone well when it comes to life events, relationships, career and my own financial situation.  If new years is the time for a fresh start, changes, and new goals then Christmas is a time to think about what it is that defines our life purpose.

There has been a lot of firsts this year for me from leaving my consulting job to starting my own accounting firm, getting my first client and hiring my first employee.  In my personal life, I celebrated my twin dogs turning one this year and met some new friends who taught me more about myself.  I attribute many of the good things that happened this year to being able to let go of some of the things that were not so good last year.  Sometimes you have to re-evaluate and make room for more good things in your life.

On that note I’m going to share with you a personal finance hack that took me 15 minutes to execute this Christmas.  I cancelled my main credit card.  Well, to be more accurate, I called in to my credit card company to report my main credit card as being lost.  Why?  Well, these days it is common to have dozens of recurring subscriptions whether it is monthly, or annually and it is admittedly difficult to keep track of these costs.  If you can’t remember every single subscription you have, and can’t be sure that you won’t be hit with a subscription charge for something you’re quite sure you’ve cancelled, then I recommend this hack for you.  I’m now going to have to update my credit card information for all of my subscriptions, but I will gladly do that to be more conscious about my costs.  I assure you that if you do this, you will find at least one subscription that you can do away with!

Best thing about this hack?  I can do this in the comfort of my family’s home while snuggling with my dogs.  Furthermore, Christmas tends to be a slow time for call centres (at least that is what I remember it to be when I used to be the one picking up the calls).  Make sure to thank your customer service representative and wish them well.  And while you’re executing this hack, you can also take a minute to follow my new YouTube channel by clicking here.  Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Your Start Up and E-Commerce Accountant

Jenny Tran, CPA, CMA