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Life as a CPA

Life as a CPA (4): Entrepreneurship – challenges & success

Ty Oka

Ty Oka

– Ty’s Summer Internship – Day 5 –

At ITK, there seems to be always multiple projects running in parallel, so Donny and his staff play multiple roles on different projects. This is something new to me as I worked in a large firm and was always assigned to one project at a time. This means that you have to wear multiple hats, be flexible with your roles, have to be a generalist as well as an expert in your area, and each team member has to have strong self-management skills. While I am working on process diagrams for one client, Donny is reviewing an infrastructure architecture for another client with the “Systems Team”, and the “Applications Team” is running tests for a custom development project for yet another client.

What amazes me is Donny’ commitment to the quality of deliverables. Donny tries to review almost all of the work done by staff. Of course, each team is responsible for their own work and coming up with the best deliverables, but he is the one who ensures that only the highest quality deliverables are submitted to the client. Donny is the gate keeper.

His staff all know this, so all the review requests go to Donny’s Inbox, which sometimes has 300 unread emails, especially when he is traveling or comes back from a trip. He provides not only the advisory service but sometimes also the on-going system support for certain clients. So if anything happens in the live production system, then he has to quickly prioritize what to do and what to go resolve the system issues that might be more urgent. It was a total SURPRISE to see him changing the programming in an application… Does he even have an application developer role? It’s just simply crazy to see that one man can do all that. That’s called management skill, isn’t it?

Even though I can see his wide variety of expertise and great management skill, I feel like Donny needs a middle person (or a few), who is knowledgeable enough to make decisions on the subject, well trained on managing the team and project, and can communicate with Donny on the project issues so that Donny doesn’t have to check everything that is going on in the project.

I asked him once if it is too much of a workload for him, and he said he is thinking about hiring somebody so that he can delegate more work and authorization, but it is not an easy decision because (1) it is hard to find the right resource (especially in a location like in Hawaii, where qualified resources are limited), and (2) hiring somebody is a big deal for a small company like ITK.

Coming from the large firm culture, hiring was a constant event. Business demands constantly change so we were hiring people almost every day based on the needs of the projects (and probably firing people as frequently as well). For small companies, hiring somebody full-time is a big commitment in terms of both cost and the human resources (HR) management perspective. Is it worth hiring one? Can we generate more revenue to cover the cost? What is the 3, 5, 10 year career path for the position? Donny told me that he loves what he does as a CPA/CITP and IT advisory consultant, but if there is anything that he doesn’t enjoy doing, and then it is the HR and administrative part of his business.

But he also said that the fun of running your own business and helping his clients is more rewarding than enough to offset any annoyance. Running your own business is tough. Donny started his own company in his mid-20’s and been successful for over a decade now. I have to learn something from him, his insights not only as a CPA/CITP, but also as a business owner. That’s right, my job is to shadow him.

***** Question from Donny: What do you think is the biggest challenge for Entrepreneurs? *****


2 thoughts on “Life as a CPA (4): Entrepreneurship – challenges & success

  1. Gee Ty, you make me sound like a total control freak. Well I am to a certain point in that I want to ensure that my clients only get the highest quality deliverables, so I do try to review everything that goes to them. But that is also part of our CPA standards of practice and quality assurance requirements (not explicitly required for advisory engagements, but I follow the spirit of the audit standard in my advisory work to ensure the highestlevel of quality).

    In my defense too, you also saw me operating at a somewhat of a perfect storm time. Our lead application developer had just left a month ago so I was having to jump in and do the programming until we find a replacement. Normally I wouldn’t be doing programming except when he would get stuck. In fact I’ve touched more code this year (since he left) than in maybe the last 3-4 years total.

    We’ve also been searching for a good IT director (overseeing systems and networking work) for a while now too. It amazes me how difficult it is to find an IT person that has a very good understanding of how to put together a business case, develop decision support packages, and also has a good technical understanding and project management capabilities. After searching for 5+ years, I think we finally found him in August, so I should be able to shift back to just a techhnical reviewer role for that work by the end of the year.

    All of these events really have shown me how valueable of a skillset we as CITPs have. Our combination of technical expertise, business acumen, and leadership skills is really quite a valuable (and somewhat rare) combination.

    Posted by donnyitk | October 11, 2013, 10:02 am


  1. Pingback: Meanwhile back on the set of “Life of a CPA” … | Inspiring the next generation of Business Professionals - January 3, 2014

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