Deeper Weekend 2014

Choose your favorite writer

  • Greg Kyte
    Greg Kyte
  • Jason Blumer
    Jason Blumer
  • Jon Lokhorst
    Jon Lokhorst
  • Melinda Guillemette
    Melinda Guillemette
  • Toni Cameron
Jason BlumerI keep a keen eye on how our profession is changing. The change in our profession really affects our Thriveal Network and it’s members so I’m very interested in it’s change. One story I’m hearing a lot is how larger firms are buying smaller regional firms. More seasoned practitioners are ready to retire, and it seems they aren’t finding the younger partners eager to take over the firm (especially when the seasoned partner stays around to micromanage them). If you want to get your cash out, then just sell to a larger firm. Makes sense.


But one thing we are not hearing in the news is the growth, enjoyment, profitability, and freedom that comes from running your own firm. Communities like Thriveal are becoming the place where smaller firm entrepreneurs can find a community fighting the same battles they are, and winning! Thriveal firm owners are growing, caring, maturing, and fighting to be profitable. And they are doing it. Creative, entrepreneurial firm owners have decidedly shed the large firm mentality, and have exchanged it for the creative, entrepreneurial lifestyle of building firms around their lives, instead of building their lives around their firms. But the news doesn’t talk about this, because it’s not very interesting. The lifestyle firm owner is committed to changing lives, one client at a time… and that does not usually make the news.


One of the biggest problems with this lack of coverage of the rise of the lifestyle firm is that younger accounting graduates are not sensing the value in becoming CPAs. They don’t know how awesome it is to build a firm inside of a community. There is a growing discrepancy between accounting graduates, and those sitting for the CPA exam. The accounting media only reports on the role of the larger firms in shaping our profession. The professors are still telling the accounting students that beginning your career in the Big 4 is the right first step. There is a large majority of smaller firms, run by entrepreneurs, that are building the firms they want to build, while living the lives they want to live.


Here are examples of how Thriveal firms are building their own lifestyle firms:
They have small children or babies, and still own a firm. Children are not an either/or decision anymore. Children are part of the bigger picture, and a firm will fit nicely inside of a growing family. The lifestyle firm allows for this.


They are deciding how fast or slow they want to grow. There are seasons to growth. Sometimes it’s time to turn on the growth, and sometimes you need to slow down while a firm matures. You get to decide how fast or slow you want to grow in a lifestyle firm.


They are working at home, or closing their offices. A lot of newer Thriveal firms just begin at home. An office is often not a discussion. Though having an office, or NOT having an office is neither right or wrong, Thriveal firms have a choice. We know how to work invisibly.


They are focusing on industries that they enjoy. Thriveal firms are serving fun industries like beer breweries, tech startups, storage unit owners, dentists, musicians, farmers, and web designers. Thriveal firm owners are focusing and doing only what they are excellent at, and they are thriving. They say no to clients that aren’t right, so they can excel at serving those that are.


They are focusing on becoming excellent at particular services. Thriveal members are restricting their firms to performing only the services they can excel at (i.e. outsourced Controllership or payroll for example), while working together to provide the other services that their customers need.


The Lifestyle Wrapper
Think of the life you want to live as your Lifestyle Wrapper. And consider this – only commit to family and work activities that can be wrapped up with your lifestyle wrapper. Your wrapper might have “I want to travel every other month” written on it. Or maybe you’ve inscribed “I want to be at home when my kids get out of school” written on your wrapper. Thriveal members are careful to inscribe what they want on their lifestyle wrapper, and then work to make their firms fit inside. If the firm won’t fit inside of the lifestyle wrapper, then it has to be changed. Their teams benefit too. Thriveal firm owners are aware that their employees have lifestyle wrappers too. Thriveal firms often give full freedom and autonomy to their employees to do what they want, when they want to do it. A firm owner’s lifestyle wrapper can fit the lifestyle wrapper of the team member too.


It’s time the news media portrayed the real (and probably more abundant story) of the lifestyle firm. We hear this phrase in other industries, but it is a real thing happening in professional accounting firms too. We at Thriveal hope to find more people that want to leave larger, burdensome firms for the enjoyable (and profitable) lifestyle firm.


Do you think you need to join Thriveal?


Jason is the Founder of Thriveal and the Chief Innovative Officer of his CPA firm, Blumer & Associates. He is the co-host of the Thrivecast and The Businessology Show and speaks and writes frequently for CPAs and creatives, his firm’s chosen niche. Jason loves to watch documentaries on just about anything. He lives in Greenville, SC with his wife and their three children. Stay connected with Jason by signing up at


CPA firm, Personal Growth
  • On 08-25-2015 at 2:04 am, Kevin said:

    Amen, Jason! Even crazier is that the Big 4 dominate the press but sole prop firms are something like 90% or more of firms, no?

    The lifestyle wrapper is a great name for the concept.

  • On 08-25-2015 at 3:53 am, Bryan Coleman said:

    The lifestyle options are limitless for CPAs and so few of the next generation realize this. This is exactly why I joined Thriveal and why it’s such a great organization to be a part of. I never saw a path at a traditional firm that made sense to me. It’s been amazing to build a business that allows so much freedom and I couldn’t have done it without the support of the Thriveal community.

    • Jason Blumer

      On 08-25-2015 at 9:20 am, Jason Blumer said:

      Bryan, awesome comment. You are right. The Thriveal community has “given me permission” to do crazy stuff, and not be called a nut! All I get is support (and am sometimes challenged) to experiment with new avenues of growth for my firm.

      I feel more courageous because I’m part of the community.

  • On 08-27-2015 at 8:25 am, Jordan S Zoot CPA said:

    Permit me to call BS on a large swath of this….we are small roughly 25 professionals……..EVERY SINGLE ONE OF OUR PROFESSIONALS HAS PASSED THE EXAM BY THE TIME THEY HAVE STARTED WITH US. For the last five years we have recruited at Univ. of Illinois-Urbana, Univ.of Michigan, Univ. of California-Berkley, University of Texas-Austin, and Univ.of Penn. Wharton. They all have either an MS-Tax or an MBA and we match Big 4 on compensation.

    We work in four verticals, hedge fund/private equity, real estate, distressed debt/assets and professional services. As I wrote in another spot we have 90 client all kinds of design services.

    I have taken pieces of perhaps 60 client deals, and every year our associates get a chance to participate in those deals. and their comp works out to match their peers in Investment Banking, Venture Capital or any of the first tier management consulting firms. We have also been a salesforce partner for ten years and a Google Apps reseller…and I would be that and 54 I am still diong ok with technology. []

    We work hard…..65-70 hours year round is common…..everyone that joined knew full well what they were getting into, the quality and technical sophistication of what we do will match any one of the Big 4 firms. The culture you are espousing works great for small mom and pop businesses….but falls FLAT ON ITS FACE where real execution and transactional skills and capabilities are needed. We work in a service business…..and clients come first PEROID.

    When we do campus interviews….and literally we haven’t added an experienced hire in five years, and of the professionals that have left a year hear has worked out to be worth close to three years and they go to Big 4, investment banking and real venture capital.

    We have never had a client with inventory, we DON”T even do our own payroll, and just about all of our bookkeeping is done offshore. I have mid-seven digit pension money from being an Andersen Partner well socked away…I can hang the cleats up tomorrow. I choose not to because of the incredible electricity that comes out of our it in New York, Evanston [Chicago] or San Francisco. You probably get a whole lot more days off than I do…not going to talk about compensation of billing rates, but let’s say we have capability to do all of the high complexity tax and transactional deal work that not regionals, but Big 4 do and be competitive.

    If some of you choose to make lifestyle choices that’s great…..but how dare you decide decide that we shouldn’t be able to engage in a high complexity transactional practice at a small firm. If someone goes into accounting and isn’t planning on do at 150 hour program and taking the exam….they are going in something which isn’t the profession we know as public accounting. There remains a HUGE difference between a CPA and a payroll clerk.

    Feel free to the lifestyle wrapper and throw it in the garbage. You don’t need to be a certain size to be a Big 4 firm but lets distinguish between the world of bookkeeping, cloud accounting and outsourced controller from the profession of public accounting.

    • Jennifer Blumer

      On 08-27-2015 at 3:28 pm, Jennifer Blumer said:

      Good for you. You are arguing a number of points that were never made. But it sounds like you made a choice about the kind of firm you want and we’re happy for you. There are MANY ways to run a firm, including yours. And including those that are represented in Thriveal. I think the point of the post was that the really small lifestyle firm we (Blumer firm and many Thriveal firms) are is under-represented, not that your model is wrong.

    • On 08-27-2015 at 3:53 pm, Jason Blumer said:

      Dude, you are obviously angry about something. Not sure how we ticked you off. Wow. Nothing like professional collaboration, huh?

      My post above is about recognizing that there is a new way to run a firm. But we are not the only way. The way you run your firm is certainly an option, and you can make good money doing it – but Thriveal firms would never work for a firm like yours. That doesn’t mean it is wrong, it’s just different. It’s not what we want.

      The Lifestyle Firm is about being able to work hard if you want to, do complex tax work if you want to, run your firm virtually if you want to, or work less if you want to. The Lifestyle Firm is about having control. That’s what we want – control over our destiny while still enjoying the privilege of running a firm and serving clients that we love. And it’s working.

      I’m not a millennial, so I’ve worked for firms like yours. That’s why I decided to build my own firm – so I wouldn’t have to work for a firm like yours.

      That doesn’t make your firm wrong, but it certainly doesn’t make our option to work wrong either. I’m glad we work in a profession where we have a choice.

      Thanks for your comments. They were enlightening.

      • On 08-27-2015 at 5:27 pm, Jordan S Zoot CPA said:

        I am not angry at all….a bit frustrated, and the following are my concerns:

        1. The rate of compliance with AICPA Professional Standards regarding Professional Licenses for Individual CPA’s, CPA Firms, compliance with SSARS-21, Peer Review and compliance with Circular 230 with respect to para-professionals is horrendous…if you look up the information for a sample for 50 of the top small firms in the Xero and QBO ecosystems the compliance is horrible. Moving to the cloud doesn’t mean that professional standards get abrogated.

        Statements like

        “But the conservative nature of technical proficiencies will not keep us from mixing appropriate risk into our firms, trying new things and, if necessary, disrupting the beliefs, methodologies, and practices within our profession. Polarization may be a result… and so be it.

        Common practices or best practices will not be found”

        send the wrong message. Many of us have spent YEARS working to develop tools to provide for a system of quality control….there is a reason for best practices….the Private Companies Practice Section “PCPS” has a wealth of materials that have the wisdom and experience of many of us from years of managing. I served two 2 years terms as an appointed member of AICPA’s Practice Management Committee…and continue on the FICPA’s online committee. I also ran a 300 professional, $400M annual revenue division for Andersen. We learned a whole bunch about practice management and risk management. My sense is that you probably wouldn’t have an issue with many of the procedures, etc that exist there. You certainly could have been more articulate in expressing what I think you were trying to say.

        I am engaged with Susan Pierce, the person in charge of AICPA’s IT Section and was one of the first 200 CITPs. One step that would be incredibly positive would be to identify a couple of your members that would be willing to be involved in that effort. Having a couple of people engaged with PCPS would also go a long way.

        I blew a gasket over the perception of encouragement of the flouting of professional regulations…which may well be something that many of you members are very careful about….

        I also have substantial concerns over not sitting for the exam and meeting the 150 hour rule requirements. I could go on with a list but that is probably a something for another place.

        I have been teaching in the MS-Tax programs at Univ. of Illinois, University of Texas and New York University almost since I graduated.

        I am in the process of completing the process for certification for a CA certificate in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. I have a couple of UK clients but, the primary reason I have gone through the process is to provide an ability for new graduates from commonwealth countries to do a portion of their practical training in the US so that they get exposure to the profession on an international basis.

        The sole reason I am still practicing is that I have the privilege of working with some of the absolutely brightest,and capable new CPA’s to come out of the top tier accountancy and tax programs that exist in the United States. You group has chosen to prioritize family and life style, we have chosen to provide a small firm alternative to Big 4 where a person has choice to practice in public accounting at the same level they would get with a Wall St. Investment Banking firm, a Sand Hill Road Venture Capital Firm, or a McKinsey/Bain consulting firm.

        Each model is an alternative, and it is possible to do very well in either one. The two models are not compatible…..I know because thirty five years in, the divorce rate among my friends [I spent 22 years in New York] serving investment banking, hedge fund, real estate and professional service clients] is easily 90%. I knew that going in and made a choice. To flip the coin over, neither version is better its personal choice.

        Statements like

        “”Technically, we are the best. ” – same thing…the technical complexity of what we do is staggering at points…you might have chosen your words better.

        Finally, you spend a substantial time talking about providing for yourselves and your clients…..not much about stewardship and contributing to the profession…teaching, committee work. If you have ideas and want to see things change, you need to engage and make the change happen from the inside. I could give you a list 20 pages long of what ought change…..we are one of the five Xero Cloud Integrators, and more than willing to assist any accounting partners that have issues However,your approach in many ways is just as abrasive and mine…but I readily admit it.

        An interesting statistic is that 85% of the work we do is non-recurring…its transactional and with technology project based…..a very different business model. Second, 75% of our clients have a primary CPA….out of roughly $5M in net fees the only payroll we do is our own, we have a team of approximately 18 FTE’s in India that do our bookkeeping.

        We do a bunch of hedge funds that have waterfall cashflows which require software like pennyIT and fundcount or a modeling engine like Quadrix. We should probably say that it isn’t a different business model, its that we are in different businesses.

        Since you have a position of influence, please consider what amped me up. It isn’t personal, its has to do with how a CPA that never learned the habits I have addressed doesn’t know any better.If you understand your responsibilites and make a choice its one thing. But you need to be careful when individuals that never had the exposure of a big firm set up on their own.

    • On 08-27-2015 at 4:14 pm, Justine Laurie said:

      Your firm sounds like exactly what I was looking for in a job 12 years ago when I graduated with a degree in finance from Boston University, and I was ready for my career to dominate my life. Fast forward to 2009, I decided I wanted to get into accounting instead of financial services, so I took and passed the CPA exam in one shot. Then, in 2012, added mom to my role of also being a military spouse, and the traditional accounting firm became a very poor fit for my life if I still wanted a career. A lifestyle firm was my solution. I am all that you speak of, a graduate of a top tier business school, a CPA, and an MBA. But I am also the owner and operator of a “lifestyle wrapper” firm, because it allows me to also be flexible military spouse who is often on the move, and mother of two, who can always be there for my children. My clients love me because they know I will ALWAYS pick up the phone and I know their businesses intimately, but I am well aware that my situation is not the ideal fit for all clients. The beauty of the accounting industry today is that it is not one size fits all. It can be anything to anyone. So, please, get down off your high horse and realize that success is in the eyes of the beholder.

  • On 09-01-2015 at 2:58 am, David Boyar said:

    Hi Mr Zoot and Mr Blumer,

    Long time reader first time poster.

    Mr Blumer, you make some great points about challenges and opportunities in your post and have clearly opened up a valuable discussion.

    Mr Zoot, you use the word “I” 21 times in your second response and your homepage refers to you being known as an “asshole”.

    Thanks for your contribution, but I’ll be taking thought leadership from Mr Blumer.

    Oh and there is a spelling mistake on your “win an apple watch” page.


  • On 09-03-2015 at 11:53 pm, Mike Bark said:

    Mr. Zoot,

    It’s great that you are doing well. Since we’re here measuring our credentials I’ve managed to grow our firm from 4 people to 26 in the span of 3 years essentially by creating, for the lack of a better term, a lifestyle firm. We’ve gone head to head with 4 of the biggest firms in the country and have been winning the battle for clients.

    What I mean by being a lifestyle firm is we work in the verticals we want to. We abandoned some of the processes that we didn’t like at the big firm. We are flexible with the employees. We have embraced some technology making it easier to work with clients.

    I’m not sure that’s damaged the industry at all. If I were still working at the big firm I started out at it’s likely I’d still be grinding as a manager.

    No doubt you’re a smart guy, but a lot of people who decide they don’t want to do it the way you do it have just as much value as you do. We are doing just as good of a job for our clients as you are. And quite possibly we may be just as smart as you.

  • On 09-04-2015 at 12:18 am, Mike Bark said:

    A few other things:

    – when i talk about abandoning processes we didn’t like it doesn’t mean we are being cowboys and ignoring our responsibilities. Rather it means we’ve ditched time sheets. Gotten rid of audit and review clients and targeted a group of businesses we felt we could serve better than a larger firm. Maybe not your cup of tea, but we’re pretty happy with it.

    – for a guy who is touting how smart he is your firm sure seems obsessed with what other firms are doing. Too bad you weren’t paying as much attention to what other CPA’s were doing when you were at Anderson. How’d that go?

    – I don’t think anyone has ever said don’t get some experience at a large firm or to start making up accounting and tax law. I agree with Jason that it’d be nice though if accounting professors weren’t saying that working for the Big 4 was the be all and end all though.

    – Last thing. If quality control is your deal I’d get someone to proof your website. I literally thought my computer crashed when I checked it out.

    • Jason Blumer

      On 09-10-2015 at 12:31 pm, Jason Blumer said:

      Thanks Mike for the support!

  • On 09-09-2015 at 11:16 am, Colin Timmis said:

    Ran into Mr Zoot on a Xero Discussion forum as he was tearing strips of the Thriveal Manifesto.

    Guy has some issues. My advice – just smile and wave…

    • Jennifer Blumer

      On 09-09-2015 at 1:39 pm, Jennifer Blumer said:

      Good to know!


Join the party and leave a comment