ITB Summer Edition - Flipbook - Page 26
P U B L I C P R A C T I C E // W O R K S M A R T
AT A G L A N C E
The current business
accountants to consider
setting up their own
practices and operating
Starting your own
practice takes time, and
is required before you
can open for business.
Reviewing your skill
set at the beginning
can help you to identify
areas for upskilling.
ARE YOU READY?
F O R M A N Y C PAS , T H E B E N E F I T S O F H AV I N G T H E I R
O W N P R A C T I C E FA R O U T W E I G H T H E O N E R O U S H O U R S
A N D I N C R E AS E D R E S P O N S I B I L I T I E S .
STORY JOHANNA LEGGATT
Many accountants dream of starting their own practice,
motivated by a desire to be their own boss, generate
their own clientele and grow their own business.
However, as Montgomery Carey & Associates
(MCA) principal Dallas Carey CPA acknowledges,
while potentially rewarding, running your own
practice can be much harder than it looks.
“It’s been a huge learning experience,” says Carey,
who left a large multinational accountancy firm with
colleague Richard Montgomery to start MCA, based
in regional Victoria, in 2017.
“Especially in the infancy stage, you’re thinking of
the business 24/7,” he notes. “You’re working in the
business, as well as on the business.”
Brenton Ellis CPA is director of Melbourne-based
accounting, advisory and wealth specialist The Gild
Group, which merged with his practice Network
Financial Group, in late 2019. Prior to striking out
on his own, Ellis worked as a tax manager for The
Practice and as CFO for successful start-up PubCo
Group, which operates eight licensed venues across
the Melbourne metropolitan area and regional Victoria.
“My family has always had small businesses, so it is
part of my DNA to run my own show,” Ellis says. “This
was something I have always known I would do.”
ARE YOU TRULY READY?
The key issue is, how do you know if running your
own practice is right for you? Among the first
questions to ask, according to Carey, is whether
you are ready to take on the required level of
“In addition to a new business structure, you may
need to organise WorkCover for employees, public
liability and professional indemnity insurance, as well
as general insurance for the practice,” he says.
Both Carey and Montgomery have completed
the CPA Australia Public Practice Certificate, which
Carey considers a great tool in understanding the
minutiae of running an accounting practice.
When you first go out on your own, you may
discover areas of expertise in which you are lacking
and need to plug the gaps, Carey advises.
“Probably the biggest thing I had to upskill in
was IT,” he says.
“I’m fairly good with IT generally, but we moved
everything to a cloud-based system, so we had to
ensure we were secure with regard to data storage.”
Ellis says he was used to hard work, but in the first
year of setting up his own practice, he was working
at least 70 to 80 hours a week.
“Your hours will double or triple, so you need to
work hard and be prepared for that,” he warns.
On the other hand, he maintains that running his
own business definitely suits his business-focused
personality type, which is important when it comes
to attracting new clients.
26 ITB January 2021
“I can have a natural conversation with someone,
and they become a client,” he says. “I have a genuine
interest in business and people’s background, so that
helps generate work.”
Above all, you need a purpose – a reason to get
up every morning and grow the business, which some
salaried employees may not have.
“For me, it [has been] about improving the
way clients and accountants do business through
technology,” Ellis says.
He also insists on the imperative of investing in the
“Find the right people and then pay them properly.
Having good people around you is critical for success
[and] worth every dollar you spend on them.”
BEFORE TAKING THE PLUNGE
A key consideration is whether to build a new
practice from scratch, or try to retain some existing
clients. Carey and Montgomery were able to keep
their client base when they amicably left their
previous firm, but not all employers allow this. “It is
a case-by-case basis in terms of what your contract
states, and obviously it needs to be negotiated with
your employer,” Carey says.
“Ask yourself: if you are not able to take clients with
you, will you be prepared to start from scratch?”
He emphasises that you need a “Plan A, Plan B
and Plan C, because not everything goes how you
“We didn’t know exactly what was going to happen,
but were prepared to go out on our own and start fresh
if need be.
“Of course, there are no guarantees clients will
automatically come with you, but we felt we would have
success in this area, and that proved to be the case.”
You may also wish to buy an existing business to
avoid the headaches of establishing a new practice
from the ground up.
“It’s great to explore this, but just make sure you
research it extensively and do your due diligence,”
“It’s the clients who keep the practice going, so
you want to make sure they’re the right fit for you.”
Having a business partner was also beneficial in
allowing Carey to “bounce a lot of ideas off someone
I could trust”.
Ellis agrees and notes that part of the reason he
merged his business with another – in addition to
facilitating further growth – was to gain a sounding
board via a new business partner, director Paul
“Economies of scale are a big advantage, too, as is
being able to divide responsibilities based on where
your individual strengths lie,” Ellis says.
HOW TO PREPARE
YOUR OWN PRACTICE:
DALLAS CAREY CPA
Sketch out what you want
the practice to look like
and its ideal client base.
Conduct all due diligence
and plenty of research about
what is required of you,
CPA Australia’s online
resources on starting
Expect to work much
harder than you do now.
Consider taking on a
trusted business partner
to share the workload.
Thrive from the
CPA Australia library
to CPA Australia’s
podcast on building
your own practice
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