Interview With Shauna Breeden, CPA, About The Importance Of Support And Training When Building An Accounting Practice On Your Own
Every CPA has a story – we all have a journey we’ve taken to get us to where we are. Every entrepreneur also has a story and journey as well. This week I had the pleasure of interviewing Shauna Breeden, CPA. Shauna is a mom of two from Kentucky and became CPA MOMS second founding franchisee, having previously struggled with building her own practice and having the support and training she needed.
During the interview we discuss:
- She knew in high school that she wanted to be an accountant
- She worked full-time throughout college so it took her a little longer to complete her degree
- While she doesn’t regret the path she took, she says that if she had to do it over again, she would have concentrated on getting her degree first and then working in the field
- She worked in the healthcare industry for 15 years
- She started as an A/P clerk and moved her way up to a financial consultant
- She didn’t like the “corporate feel” of the company, after she had her children
- Like most accountant moms, she felt that if she needed to do things outside of work for her children, it was a burden to the company
- She struggled with wanting to spend more time at home with her then young children
- She didn’t feel that she had the support from other women in her company, often feeling the competitiveness that happens in corporate environments
- She experienced the typical “walk of shame” issues where she had to leave to pick up her children at 6 pm and was looked at as not as committed to her job as others
- It was a hard balance between being a mom and being a good employee
- She felt like she almost had to choose one over the other
- She considered going out on her own and started a small bookkeeping business on the side
- She gave her business card to a local CPA and offered bookkeeping services
- She built up her bookkeeping business enough to do it full-time
- She joined a local BNI networking group and explained that a BNI networking group is for local businesses where there is only one type of professional at a time in the group (ie, one accountant that does bookkeeping, one accountant that does taxes, one lawyer, etc)
- This networking group helped her build referrals
- She had to give presentations about her business which helped push her out of her comfort zone and practice public speaking
- Every week she had to do a “30 second commercial” which was a challenge for her, but she did it
- She explains that it was very difficult to build her business alone and that she didn’t have someone to go to, to ask questions and get help from
- She was looking for a mentor, spoke to a local CPA and merged her firm with his
- She learned a lot working with the CPA firm, but felt she was losing that close relationship with clients
- She had been connected with CPA MOMS for a few years and once she heard about the franchise opportunity, she knew it was what she was looking for
- After watching the franchise webinar, she resonated with issues like not charging enough, not having systems in place, not having support, not having work-life balance, etc.
- Although her children are older now, she still feels like being able to be there for them as they were growing up, as opposed to needing to get to her corporate job, was so important
- As part of the franchise onboarding, she particularly liked the training on sales because that can be difficult for accountants
- The various training she received as a franchisee has filled the gap in all the areas that were so challenging when she tried to do it on her own, saving her so much time and effort
- She shares how touched she was by the CPA MOMS Welcome packet that came in the mail on a day that she was feeling low – it included pictures pulled from Facebook of her family and other personalized items that really shows how much CPA MOMS cares
- She’s so happy to be a part of the CPA MOMS family
- She was burned out in her corporate job and is so happy to be building her own firm as a franchisee
- For the future, she is looking to continue to build her business as well as have the freedom to travel with her husband
- She loves being able to connect with other fellow CPA MOMS franchisees, like Lori Hinesley, supporting each other on their journey building successful accounting practices
- The advice she would give to other accountant moms is to make sure you have good resources and connections to support you along the way, as early on as possible
I think it would be fair to say that we live in a very divisive time right now. Not only do so many people have opposing opinions about a lot of topics, from anything like childrearing to face masks to politics, but due to our technology based world, those opinions are easily shared in ways that have never been possible before.
As the saying goes, “Opinions are like assholes; everyone’s got one”, it also seems like all those opinions are causing more and more people to either feel attacked, or to react by attacking back. Whether it’s someone’s negative comment about a picture you posted on Facebook, or it’s your neighbor’s political sign on their front lawn, other people’s opinions are more visible than ever before.
Of course it’s important to be able to express yourself and to have your preferences, but unfortunately instead of bringing us together or just being interesting, the barrage of opinions are tearing a lot of people apart instead. Children are suffering with bullying, teenagers are being ostracized, and adults are lashing out or ending relationships, all in response to other people’s opinions.
What was once easy to manage and deal with because there were fewer opinions expressed, often due to the limited number of people you came in contact with on a daily basis, has now become a tidal wave of information. For example you probably didn’t know, or even care, what your boss’ views were on global warming, but now his comments might be on your radar because of the exposure to so many people’s opinions on the subject.
Before you know it, his opinion might have you at odds with him in ways that weren’t an issue before. All of a sudden your easygoing interaction with him has become challenging and his constructive feedback about your performance seems off-putting and disconcerting.
Maybe you have always had a respectful relationship with your mother-in-law, but you’ve started to notice her comments about how you’re handling your children during the pandemic are getting frustrating. It seems like she doesn’t trust your judgement and is often commenting on things you post on Facebook, in a passive-aggressive way.
Unfortunately, the more opinions there are, whether they are about you or about everything else, the more challenging it can become to navigate both in your personal and professional life. As an accountant and a mom, it’s important to learn how to handle other people’s opinions, as well as be able to be an example and show your children this skill as well.
Thankfully, just because you are more aware of other people’s opinions, doesn’t mean they have to be so challenging. There is a much better way to navigate the tricky waters we’re all in, where other people’s points of view are much more visible, and in our own line of sight.
This week I’m going to discuss how to handle other people’s opinions of you, as well as how to handle other people’s opinions of everything else.
How to handle other people’s opinions of you
You’ve probably heard the expression ‘What you think of me is none of my business”, but let’s be honest – it can be difficult to handle other people’s opinion of you, especially since it’s become so much easier for people to share their opinions. Things like what you look like, what you do and say, as well as your own opinions of everything else, are now more exposed and open for judgement by others.
Unfortunately, so many working moms spend their lives trying to control other people’s opinions of them, that they lose themselves in the process. They seek the validation of others in order to feel confident in themselves and in their abilities, creating a lose/lose situation where they do or don’t do things, all for the sake of acceptance and approval.
Maybe you’ve experienced this as well, where you were afraid of a few people’s opinions, so you didn’t go out and create what you genuinely wanted to create in the world. Instead you chose to play small or stay put, not wanting to risk disapproval or rejection from others.
It could be as simple as not getting that new haircut you admired on someone else, for fear of what your partner or girlfriends might think. Or it could be something big like having a desire to be your own boss, but not taking the steps to make it happen because of what others might say when you need to fail your way to success.
The interesting thing is that so many women hold themselves back based on their perception of other people’s opinions, not necessarily their actual opinions. This often happens when no one has actually expressed any doubt or judgement, but you believe you know what others will think, assuming that it won’t be favorable, so you stop yourself from getting any imagined negative comments.
After I had my second child I was struggling with the idea of leaving my tax manager position at Ernst & Young and staying home for a few years to spend more time with my two young children. I was so worried about what other people would think about me walking away from my accounting career for a little bit, and especially what my parents would think.
My perception was that they would be disappointed because they had helped me pay for my college education and that they would try to convince me to figure out how to stay in my current, highly sought after position. The funny thing was that once I sat down and actually told my mom what I was thinking of doing, she was 100% on board and supportive of my decision.
Of course that’s not always the case, where your perception of someone else’s opinion is wrong, but more often than not, that’s exactly what happens. We actually project our own fears and concerns onto someone else, believing they have to be having the same thoughts that we’re having.
In order to better handle other people’s opinions of you, you first have to get clear about your opinion of you by asking the simple question, “What is my opinion of myself?” It might seem silly, but I guarantee your answer probably has a lot of interesting layers to it.
The reason it’s so important to ask that question, is that when you have a firm foundation of self-confidence and you really like and respect who you are, other people’s opinions won’t be able to shake that foundation so much. When you feel confident and show up authentically, other people’s opinions of you are interesting, but not hurtful.
As I’ve shared before in a previous podcast, you can be the juiciest peach, but there are just going to be people who don’t like peaches; and that’s okay. When you can make peace with your “peachiness” and let others decide whether they’re a peach-loving person or not, you give up trying to change people in order for you to feel better.
For a lot of women, we are so concerned about other people’s opinions of us, that we often show up around people as inauthentic versions of us. We become chameleons in various situations, rarely showing our true colors, worried about others will think, say or do.
If you are like most women, you might be afraid of being judged, but the truth is that people are already judging you. That’s never going to change, because the human brain is programmed to make judgments about everything; judgement equals protection to your brain.
Fortunately, by deciding that your opinion of you matters way more than others opinions of you, that’s when you experience true freedom. That’s when you can just allow people to be wrong about you, without making them wrong for having an opinion about you.
Basically they just have a human brain that has 60,000 thoughts a day, just like you. What they say and do based on those thoughts has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with their life experiences, their beliefs, and the unique filter in their brain that they use to process all those tens of thousands of thoughts.
Think about this for a second – if you didn’t have blue hair, you wouldn’t care if someone told you they hated your blue hair; their opinion would be interesting and a bit silly, but it wouldn’t mean anything unless you made it mean something. To handle other people’s opinions of you, you just have to like your opinion of you more than you care about theirs, whether it’s good or bad.
How to handle other people’s opinions of everything else
Although it might not be much of a consolation to remember the saying, “No two minds think alike”, especially when dealing with other people’s opinions of everything else in the world, it really is the truth. But unfortunately we assume that when we think thoughts, others are thinking the same thing.
The analogy that I like to use is that if you put a blue chair in the middle of a room with 10 people in the room, how many chairs are there in the room? The answer is at least 10 because every single person in the room is having their own unique thoughts about that chair – they like/dislike the shape, they like/dislike the color, maybe they remember a similar chair in their favorite friend’s house, etc.
Whether it’s who should be elected to office next, what’s considered appropriate behavior during this pandemic, or whether children should be homeschooled this year, everyone is looking at similar situations and having very different opinions. Unfortunately, those differences in opinions are tearing apart a lot of relationships and dividing people in a world that really needs as much unity as possible.
As intelligent women, we can conceptually understand that other people have opinions that may differ from ours, but it’s often difficult for us to emotionally understand how, when we’re so wrapped up in our thoughts and the way we see things. We can get so caught up in agreeing or disagreeing with other people’s opinions, that we don’t stop to imagine what some else’s thoughts might be about the same subject and why.
We’re so busy trying to be right, that we don’t spend enough time trying to understand other people’s opinions from a place of curiosity, rather than condemnation. Just as there is an origin to your opinion on things, there is also an origin to other people’s opinions as well, and depending on how long and how often someone has thought a particular thought, that will determine how strong their belief has become.
In order to handle other people’s opinions, I suggest you come up with at least 3 reasons why someone might have the opinion they have. Just like people on a debate team need to be able to present arguments from both sides of an issue and be able to articulate the opposing viewpoints, it’s helpful to ask yourself what could someone who has a differing opinion be thinking and feeling?
For example, I was speaking to a coworker who has very strong political views and she was sharing that she had had a big disagreement with a friend with an opposing view. She said she was considering ending the friendship, since this person was “clearly crazy” based on their disagreement.
When I asked her to come up with 3 reasons why he may have the opinion he has, imagining what he might be thinking and feeling that would make that opinion possible, she visibly relaxed. She said, “I imagine he loves this country as much as I do, that he was raised to believe a certain way, and that he feels comfortable enough with me to express his opinion”.
Her brain, like all of ours, just wanted to be right, which meant that if someone’s opinion didn’t match hers, they were wrong. Thankfully, with a little imagination, she was able to step into her friend’s brain and envision what he might be thinking when he looked at the “blue chair” in the room.
By imagining what thoughts form other people’s opinions, and then how those thoughts probably make them feel and act, you can begin to agree to disagree, but in a more understanding way as opposed to an adversarial way. To handle other people’s opinions, you just need to choose to find them interesting, rather than insane or incendiary.
The more you can see that your brain’s need to be right is making others wrong, the easier it will be to live more peacefully. No two minds think alike, and that’s what makes life so interesting when you decide that it can be.
- Whether it’s someone’s negative comment about a picture you posted on Facebook, or it’s your neighbor’s political sign on their front lawn, other people’s opinions are more visible than ever before.
- Unfortunately, so many working moms spend their lives trying to control other people’s opinions of them, that they lose themselves in the process.
- When you feel confident and show up authentically, other people’s opinions of you are interesting, but not hurtful.
- We’re so busy trying to be right, that we don’t spend enough time trying to understand other people’s opinions from a place of curiosity, rather than condemnation.
- To handle other people’s opinions, you just need to choose to find them interesting, rather than insane or incendiary.
It’s understandable that with the current pandemic and the increasing pressure that everyone is under, that more and more accountant moms are dealing with avoidance on an even bigger scale than ever. With so much else going on around you, something like decluttering the attic, making that checkup appointment, or starting that new exercise routine can seem like a reasonable thing to put off for now.
Just like most of you working moms, I have definitely had my fair share of struggles with avoidance and putting things off. There have been plenty of things that I’ve avoided doing for weeks, months and sometimes years.
Whether it was finally donating my grandmother’s end table that’s been collecting dust in the basement or making that doctor’s appointment that was either scary to make or just didn’t seem that important, there are so many things that I have avoided for various reasons. If you’re anything like me, it can also seem like you just can’t add another thing to your long to-do list, so delaying often seems like the best option.
The issue though is that if your relationship with avoidance isn’t addressed, you are actually adding layers of unwanted stress into your life without being aware of it. The pressure you probably feel trying to balance your career with your family will only be exacerbated when you don’t deal with the issue of avoidance and learn how to overcome it.
Just know that if you consider yourself a procrastinator and believe that avoidance is just another aspect of procrastinating, think again. Understanding the difference between the two is actually an important part of overcoming avoidance.
To understand this better, the definition of procrastinating that I’m using is when you put off doing something, but eventually get it done. It’s usually when you have a deadline of some kind and you tend to wait until the pressure or expectations are so great, that you take the action to complete the task.
As an accountant, you’re definitely no stranger to deadlines, but what if there is no deadline? That’s when avoidance happens. The definition of avoidance that I use with my clients, is when you’ve decided to do something, or know that you should, but you never actually do it.
Basically avoidance is what happens to procrastination when there’s no deadline to make you actually do the thing, which is why it can become so easy to fall into the trap of avoidance. There’s no one and nothing holding your feet to the fire and no perceived penalty for not doing it, therefore, it becomes easy to make friends with inaction and avoidance.
By having a better understanding of avoidance, why it’s an issue for you, and how to handle it, you will be able to reduce an incredible amount of stress and overwhelm in your life. Thankfully the ability to overcome avoidance for working moms can not only benefit you, but your family as well.
This week I’m going to discuss what makes you avoid things and how to overcome avoidance.
What makes you avoid things
For most working moms with ever-growing to-do lists, and increasing challenges that lead to more stress and overwhelm, the ability to prioritize things that need to be done is a time and life saver. There’s only 24 hours in a day and it can seem like there’s just too much to cram into your waking hours.
However, if you have been avoiding doing certain things, it might not even be due to a lack of time. You might have thoughts like:
- I don’t have enough money
- This really isn’t a priority right now
- When my children are older
- When I’m not so busy
- After this deadline is over
- It looks confusing so I need to know more
- I’ll get to it someday
You probably have very valid reasons for avoiding certain things, but the issue is that avoidance is easy and sneaky. All the “I’ll get to it at some point” moments build up over time, creating their own momentum, eventually leaving you buried under the avalanche of avoided things.
To understand what makes you avoid certain things in the first place, you first have to start with your thoughts. If you’ve been a listener of this podcast, it will be no surprise to you that your actions and inactions are created by your thoughts, whether those thoughts are conscious or not.
The interesting thing about avoidance is that it’s not the actual action you are avoiding; it’s the feeling that your brain believes you’re going to have if you take the action, that you are really avoiding. In other words, your current brain predicts that by taking some action, you’re going to have a feeling you don’t want to have, therefore, avoidance is the best option.
For example, you know you need to make a dermatologist appointment to have some skin spots checked out. It sounds like a simple enough task, but then your protective, negative-biased brain predicts some possible disturbing news and the fear of that news has you avoid calling and making the appointment.
That’s why it’s so important to understand that when you are avoiding something, it’s the feeling that you don’t want to have that you are actually avoiding. Whether it’s putting off things like doing a task, talking to someone, or making a decision, what you are really avoiding is a feeling in the future.
Basically, your current brain is forecasting that if you try to do X, you’ll have an unpleasant feeling in the future that you will not like feeling. This most often happens without your awareness, leaving you with only a vague sense of unease or resistance to doing X, not really understanding why, but assuming that it must be for a good reason.
The reason this is so important is because your brain is spending a lot of energy trying to avoid unpleasant feelings, believing that feelings like fear, anxiety and overwhelm equal danger and death. Since your lower brain’s sole job is to keep you alive, the anxious or overwhelmed feeling it predicts you’ll have by doing something like decluttering the attic, means avoiding the task is, in a dramatic way, saving your life.
It might seem silly to your rational, higher brain, but that’s the point; only when you use that higher intelligence to look at the situation reasonably, can you understand what’s making avoidance happen. Since more than 80% of the time your lower, protective brain is choosing the actions you take and the actions you avoid, it’s important to recognize that it’s basing it’s approval, or disapproval, on what it believes you will feel.
By understanding what’s really going on when you are avoiding, you can begin to take back a lot more control over your life. With that control comes more balance, less stress and a much greater sense of accomplishment.
How to overcome avoidance
In order to understand how to overcome avoidance, you have to become aware of the thought/feeling connection that your current brain is offering you. You need to know what your current brain is expecting for the future.
In simple terms, when you are avoiding, your current brain is predicting that your future brain will have a thought and that thought will cause a feeling. Normally that’s not a big deal, except that when it comes to avoidance, your current brain predicts that your future brain won’t like that feeling, so it chooses to avoid something now, in order to not feel bad in the future.
For example, let’s say you have a goal to leave your accounting job and become a mompreneur; you’re tired of the lack of support from your employer, you’re frustrated with missing out on things in your children’s lives, and you like the idea of being your own boss. The idea sounds exciting in theory and you have a general idea of the different steps you might take to make it happen, but then you don’t do any of it.
You may think about scheduling time to start drafting a business and marketing plan, but you don’t actually do anything. The question you need to ask when this happens is, “What am I thinking that’s creating a feeling that my brain wants to avoid?”
Remember, your brain is avoiding a feeling, not an action, therefore you have to get clear about the feeling it’s trying to avoid in the future. In this example, your brain is probably predicting that if you schedule time to draft that business and marketing plan, that you’re going to feel things like anxious, overwhelmed or worried.
Once you know the feeling you’re trying to avoid, ask yourself, “What is my brain thinking now and predicting that I will think in the future, that will create that feeling?” In this example it might look like this:
- Current thought – “If I set aside time for a business and marketing plan, I’ll have to actually have to consider doing something with it.”
- Feeling prediction for the future – Anxious
- Thought prediction for the future- “I have too much on my plate already and it’s probably complicated”
In this example, your current brain is trying to protect you from the anxiety it predicts you will feel in the future. To your lower brain, anxiety is an unwanted and threatening feeling that needs to be avoided at all costs which is why you would resist doing what you want to do.
So now that you have a general idea of what’s happening when you are in avoidance, let me give you some steps to overcome it:
- Step One – Pick a task, project or goal that you have been avoiding (big or small), and write down all your thoughts and fears about it. Set a timer for 10 minutes and write down every thought you have about the task, project or goal. Word of caution – don’t let yourself say, “I don’t know”; that’s just your brain’s way of indulging in confusion so that you will not expend energy.
- Step Two – Now read those thoughts over and notice how they make you feel. That feeling is the reason you are not taking action and avoiding. That feeling is the key to overcoming avoidance. Those thoughts that you probably have been unconsciously aware of, are creating that feeling and then creating fear of having more of that feeling. That’s why you haven’t been taking action.
- Step Three – You need to come up with a better feeling thought about the task, project or goal. You need to decide what to think on purpose that will help you take the action, and not make you feel the predicted feeling. You need to choose a thought that creates a better feeling like committed, determined, curious or any other feeling that will move you away from the feeling that’s leading to avoidance.
In our example, if your thought was “I have too much on my plate already and it’s probably complicated”, you could choose to practice thinking, “This is important and I’ve figured out complicated things before” or “There’s always help available when I ask for it”. Thoughts like those would most likely create a feeling of openness or determination, as opposed to anxiousness or overwhelm.
The last important point I want to make is that the thought you choose to practice must be believable. Too many women I work with want to jump to a better feeling thought in order to stop the habit of avoiding, but if they don’t choose a believable thought, they go back to their default avoidance habit quickly.
If you are having some trouble coming up with believable thoughts or find the feeling that is causing avoidance, schedule a free coaching discovery call; I’ll provide the link in the show notes or you can go to https://cpamoms-academy.com/p/manage-your-mind-program. You can always learn how to overcome avoidance, allowing you to create more balance, lessen your stress and take back control of your personal and professional life, goals and dreams.
- As an accountant, you’re definitely no stranger to deadlines, but what if there is no deadline? That’s when avoidance happens.
- The interesting thing about avoidance is that it’s not the actual action you are avoiding; it’s the feeling that your brain believes you’re going to have if you take the action, that you are really avoiding.
- In order to understand how to overcome avoidance, you have to become aware of the thought/feeling connection that your current brain is offering you.