The Keys to the Kingdom

Unlocking What Success Means to You

Over the past three decades in my career as an independent certified public accountant (CPA), I have worked with hundreds of small businesses as they have grown. They all start with a different person or team of people, a different service or mission, and a different set of accounting issues. But there are a few constant principles that can work for all business owners, industries and finances, and by identifying these keys to success as a small business owner – and keeping them handy and top-of-mind – you can be prepared to navigate what sometimes feels like the “maze” of business ownership and unlock the opportunities that wait behind closed doors.

Do Not Go It Alone

If you truly want to grow your business, you simply cannot do everything yourself. A big part of successfully leading a small business is making sure you surround yourself with people whose strengths complement yours, and then let them do what they are best at (i.e. do not micromanage). As a small business owner, sometimes I feel everyone who works here is smarter than me in one area or another. The fact is, every person in this office has skills I do not have or can do things I cannot, and I like to think I have my own unique strengths as well.

Your team should be made up of individuals who can excel in differing areas. If you have that strength surrounding you, you are able to lead and trust in their performance. Be willing to delegate and trust your employees. And find investment partners who are committed to your business as well as your community. My role on the board of directors with Fidelity Bank of Florida has given me the opportunity to help other small businesses get started, grow and thrive.

Find a Trusted Advisor

You need to find a second set of eyes whose judgement you trust, who can advise you expertly and truthfully, and who is sincerely interested in your business. Often that person is an independent CPA. Whatever their profession, it should be someone you can trust implicitly and can also relate to – a person you can call whenever you are faced with any issue for an unbiased point of view. With my clients, the questions do not have to be accounting or tax-related. Clients call me for input on all sorts of business situations, and I am ready and willing to talk through things and help them arrive at a solution. Your advisor should be committed to your success and help you identify what that means to you. Find someone who will do the legwork alongside you and chart a course to success together.

Do Not Limit Yourself

Have an inquiring mind, be open to new interests and cultivate them. My first career was as a public school music teacher in Wisconsin, but after moving to Miami in 1980, I started my MBA program and was hooked. I took a chance and changed the course of my career. I cannot remember where I first saw my favorite quote. It is a bit corny, but it goes something like this: “Every dream you’ve ever dreamed, every wish you’ve ever wished, is waiting for you… just beyond the outer edge of your comfort zone.”

As an adolescent and young man, I was introverted and shy. At some point, I realized I had to step out of my comfort zone if I wanted to make any progress in life and in business. With practice, it got easier. This sort of practice is vital for small business owners as well. Push beyond the comfortable boundaries and take chances.

Have an Attitude of Boldness in Your Business Life

Another saying I have always liked: “Fortune favors the bold.” Failure is a teacher if you learn from her. If someone has not experienced failure in life, they are either exceptionally lucky or (more likely) they have not tried to do much. You might even consider small failures a form of tuition you pay once you leave college. You fail a little, you get smarter; it is a price you pay for gaining experience and learning. When you encounter failure, learn from it – and then get over it. Move onto the next project, challenge or endeavor.

One more great quote: “It’s not how many times you’re knocked down. It’s how many times you get up.” The great Vince Lombardi said that. Have I mentioned I’m from Wisconsin?

Take Responsibility For Your Own Happiness and Well-Being

Set goals for yourself, whether it is in your business, career or personal life. Make the goals as specific as possible and WRITE THEM DOWN. This exercise can work for any period of time: immediate (i.e. finish report by noon today and forward to client); intermediate (i.e. start training three to four times a week to run in the Thanksgiving 5K turkey trot) or long term/lifetime (i.e. accumulate $X,XXX,XXX during my working life to ensure independence and dignity in retirement). This is a tool I learned rather late in my career, and I wish I had started using it earlier. I have found it to be extremely effective. If you need help defining your goals, find someone you trust to help you.

Thomas P. Flavin, CPA/PFS, CVA is the CEO and founder of Flavin, Nooney & Person, CPAs and Advisors, a full-service accounting and advisory firm in Brevard county. He began his career as a CPA in Miami in the 1980s, then moved to Brevard in 1987 to work at Dobson, Bjerning & Duffy before founding his own firm in 1989.