Emotional rollercoaster: The psychology of starting a small firm or business
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Emotional rollercoaster: The psychology of starting a small firm or business

Jan 18, 2019 · 3 min read · AICPA Insights Blog

Do you feel destiny may be calling you to something? Perhaps you’re thinking about a long overdue job change. Maybe you’re being tapped for partner or you’re exploring starting that firm you’ve always wanted to build from the ground up. As you’d expect, starting a firm or any business comes with many intricacies. Some are big details, like funding and office space, and building the right client base. Other details can wait, yet are still important, like setting up utilities, registering with your federal, state and local governments and regulatory boards (if applicable) and marketing your business.

One thing you might not have considered as you think about branching out is your own mindset. What’s keeping you from moving forward? There’s a psychology to owning your own firm. Here, we explore emotions, from fear and uncertainty to courage and enthusiasm.

Fear and anxiety

You’re not alone in the fear of starting a business; it’s normal and will be a factor in certain aspects of life. In fact, some people fear starting a business more than skydiving. Acknowledging fear is one way to neutralize it. What are you afraid of? Are you anxious your firm won’t grow or be successful? Are you worried about how you’ll cover your bills as you start up? You’ll want to begin by acting to diminish negativity and focus on the positive. When you’re in action, you’ll find you’re not as anxious. You can point to specific steps you’re taking when resurfacing fear threatens to distract you.

Another great first step is conducting a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis to help you identify your issues and prioritize an action plan. Initial steps may be to secure a line of credit, develop a business plan, identify your ideal target market and more. Taking an honest look at your SWOT and identifying your first steps may help put some of your fears to rest, or at least ease them by mapping your path forward.


Courage is being afraid and acting anyway. We’re all afraid of something. Leaving your current firm or job can be a hard decision, especially in the face of a promotion or partner opportunity. If you come to this crossroad, leverage the strengths you listed as part of your SWOT analysis. Tap into your network. Talk and listen to your peers and bounce ideas off them. Ultimately, it’s your decision and all about finding the right fit. If you do decide to leave, leave with integrity. Be sure to understand your obligations under the non-compete and/or non-solicitation clause in any agreement you signed.


We all seek validation, but there’s so much uncertainty when it comes to managing your business. Ask yourself, what’s your intention in your business endeavor, what’s driving you and what are you committed to? Perhaps you seek the ability to be your own boss, have more flexibility and choose your clients. Don’t underestimate the power of your intention. You can’t expect to be certain about your new venture, but you can certainly devise strategies and follow through on your intention.


So, after deep reflection, you decide to branch out on your own. Congratulations! Now, excitement starts to settle in. As you begin your journey, this checklist might help as you start your CPA firm. Another important first step is to make sure you create a vision for your firm’s culture. What do you want your staff and clients to feel when they work with your firm? By creating a clear and strong culture up front, you’ll be able to find and retain the right staff and clients. Spread positivity, and if your staff are pursuing the CPA, support them along the way.

Whether you’re thinking about starting your own firm, you’ve been tapped for partner or you’re a veteran small firm owner, the AICPA has a dedicated resource page for small CPA firms and sole practitioners. This site features technical guidance to help you manage your practice and plan for your firm’s future.

Perhaps 2019 is the year you’ll pursue your dream of owning a firm or business. I wish you much success and happiness in whatever your career goals may be in the year ahead.

The AICPA’s Private Companies Practice Section has many tools for firm practice management like succession planning and merger and acquisition resources.

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