Eight years ago I was blessed with a beautiful baby boy. After taking advantage of a six-month maternity leave, I sadly left my infant and returned to work full-time. I struggled to find passion in my corporate job while dealing with missing out on my son’s “firsts.” I knew I needed to find a new path – one that would lead to a more meaningful career, as well as a flexible schedule to meet the demands of parenthood. I enjoyed accounting and wanted to start my own business. So while on maternity leave #2, I enrolled in accounting courses at a local university and embarked on a path that led to where I am today – mom of four, certified public accountant, and successful business owner.
Just as I was studying for my last CPA exam (with two toddlers and baby #3 at home), I connected with a former classmate, Blake Oliver. I talked about wanting to start a CPA practice while working from home. He told me about how the latest cloud technology was revolutionizing the accounting industry. Together, we developed a plan for an online accounting firm in a remote, flexible environment serving clients nationwide. Blake would be CEO and work from a coworking space in Los Angeles, and I would be COO and work from my home office in Chicago. We wanted to offer the same benefits to our staff, allowing us to hire the most qualified candidates and not have a location-based recruiting process.
So, Blake and I founded Cloudsourced Accounting according to our plan, and over the next 2 1/2 years, we grew the company to a remote team of 12 serving hundreds of clients. As the business grew, so did my responsibilities both at home and work. It was a daily struggle, but here’s how I achieved the balance I was looking for, and it’s my advice for those looking to do the same.
Take advantage of technology
When I decided to become a CPA, I was unaware that new technology was changing the accounting profession and making it possible to have a truly flexible work-life schedule. In just the last five years, cloud accounting software, like Xero and QuickBooks Online, has made it possible for accountants to work on client files from anywhere, at any time, on any device. Cloud collaboration tools make it easy to work remotely with both my clients and my team. Smartphones and tablets mean I can be connected while on the go. I was even able to work from Croatia for one month each summer… talk about work-life balance. In the past year, I started taking advantage of technology to balance my busy personal life. I use a shared family calendar app to stay on top of my family’s schedule and a few fitness apps to make sure I take care of my health as well.
Seek a supportive and family friendly culture
When Blake and I started Cloudsourced Accounting, I had no idea I was pregnant with baby #4, and truth be told, was nervous to share the news with him. Fortunately, he was genuinely supportive, and we knew we could find a way to make things work. We were starting a remote accounting firm after all! By the time baby #4 arrived, we had assembled a great team that was able to support my clients and take on additional work as needed. I took a short maternity leave and then worked around my baby’s schedule for the first few months.
It takes a village
Here’s the secret to work-life balance: having a strong support system. It may be your family, your neighbors, or school community. I am blessed to have a large family that is willing to help out. Without the support of my parents, aunts, uncles, and siblings, I would have no work-life balance. Actually, I likely wouldn’t be working or I wouldn’t have four kids. I am also lucky to have a husband who doubles as super-dad. His work schedule is flexible, which allows him to do much of the chauffeuring of the kids, which any parent of school-age children knows is most of the logistical battle. We are also part of a few communities that have helped us build a great extended support structure. We’ve connected with parents who can carpool, teenagers who can babysit, and families who have become our best friends. Communities help create work-life balance by creating a much needed support structure, especially if you don’t have family nearby.
Don’t be hard on yourself
For a long time I felt like I was failing. As a stay-at-home mom of two (albeit going to school and taking CPA exams), I was able to plan playdates and birthday parties while keeping the house clean and dinner on the table. As a working mom it was frustrating not being the supermom I once was. Then, last year I watched a video where PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi says that “Women can’t have it all.” Surprisingly, those words gave me great relief. It helped me accept that I can’t be the mom I was when I stayed home with two toddlers. I can’t pick them up from school most days, and I’m definitely not cooking dinner, but they and I will be ok (see “It takes a village,” above). Once I came to terms with that, it became much easier to find balance. How? Well, I started feeling less guilty and instead focused on making the time I do spend with the kids count.
Enjoy the journey
When I started on this journey towards accounting and entrepreneurship, I knew I wanted to find work I felt passionate about and the ability to balance it with my family life. I was fortunate to partner with Blake who shares the same values. I loved that I could work from home and be there for my kids as needed. I was also fortunate to have found a passion for accounting and I’m excited to be a part of the industry’s future.
This past July, Cloudsourced Accounting was acquired by online CPA firm HPC led by Bruce Phillips who shares the same vision and values that Blake and I have. At that time, I resigned my position as COO in order to start a new venture. I am grateful to my family and colleagues for making it possible, and I’m actually inspired to continue to share my journey as I start my new company… as a mom, CPA, and entrepreneur. Stay tuned!