Choosing the Right Company

A frequent question for financial professionals is public practice or industry?  An even more important consideration is figuring out whether you will be better off working for a big corporation or an entrepreneurial company is an important consideration, especially before leaving public practice.  Top financial professional performers share similar traits, no matter the type of company they work for.  However, choosing the environment best suited to your strengths, style and interests can improve your chances of success.
Big Corporations

Many CPAs excel when there is the hierarchy, detailed job descriptions and regular managerial oversight found within big corporations.  If you are working for a big five accounting firm, working on a specific portion of a large company client file, you are working in a similar environment to a big corporation.

One significant difference is that in industry you will be doing the accounting work (as one example) rather than auditing it.  Another important difference in industry to be aware of (and this is true in both big corporations or entrepreneurial companies) – direct reports sometimes aren’t as self-motivated as your peers and staff in public accounting.  Success while working in industry often requires CPAs to elevate their management / leadership and motivation skills.

If you experience frustration with the structure often required to produce positive change within a large and established organization, entrepreneurial companies might be a better place for you after leaving public practice.

Entrepreneurial Companies

From the October 2007 issue of Profit Magazine:  “Small business is often acclaimed as the engine of the economy.  It’s actually just about the whole car.  Of the 2.4 million businesses in Canada, 98% employ fewer than 100 people – and 95% employ fewer than 50.  Most businesses are small businesses”.  Industry Canada defines small business, or entrepreneurial companies, as those employing fewer than 100 people.

Entrepreneurial companies looking to hire a CPA are often in the process of acquiring the infrastructure and resources needed to achieve their business goals.  CPAs working for an entrepreneurial company will need to be able to make do with the resources they have available until internal resources catch up with the growth.

Entrepreneurs rarely have much time to regularly guide their employees – being a self-starter will help you to proactively determine what you will improve, then cut through the obstacles in your path.  CPAs with better than average energy levels and a strong desire to contribute to the bottom line to see the fruits of their personal efforts will typically fair better in an entrepreneurial environment.

Most entrepreneurs can’t afford to have a 9-5 culture.  Likewise, a fast-growing entrepreneurial company means few jobs will have a firm job description – you will typically receive a general job description and then receive specific assignments throughout the year.

Your Choice, Your Success

If you left public accounting, didn’t succeed in industry and have moved back into public practice, that doesn’t mean you should give up on industry.  It might simply be that you went to work for the wrong type of company – big corporation when you should have gone to an entrepreneur,  or vice-versa.


Stephen Smyth is the CEO & Managing Consultant of Chief Financial Interviewer, Inc.