Skip to content

How to shift your mindset from accountant to business owner

Heather Walker  

· 5 minute read

Heather Walker  

· 5 minute read

How to shift your mindset from accountant to business owner

You did it. You’ve made the leap from staff accountant to small firm owner. You’ve done the work, you have the experience, and you might even have a ready-made client list. More challenging, however, is the switch in mindset from an individual contributor to the one who is running the show.

Launching a successful business requires not only the desire and experience, but the ability to fully embrace an ownership mindset. While this may sound like an easy transition, thinking like a business owner requires a major shift in how your approach your work.

Protect your time

As a staff member, you likely gauged your performance on the completion of specific tasks. As a business owner, it’s time to shift your focus to big picture strategy and income-generating activities.

Paul Miller, Founder and Owner of Business by Design has embraced an ownership mindset in creating his business advisory and coaching firm that provides tax efficient solutions and accounting services to more than 600 entrepreneur clients.

“I think what happens when people decide to do their own thing, the first thing they want to do is just be busy,” says Paul. “Most people do not need to be busier. It’s about being very intentional with who you want to work with, what you need to do, and what services you provide.”

As a small firm owner, look to offload or outsource time-consuming busy work and administrative tasks so you can focus your time on growing your business. When you protect your time, you can focus on the work that supports the vision you have for your firm—and contributes to your bottom line.

Cultivate long-term relationships

Your role as a small firm owner means that your actions have more impact and your relationships carry more weight. The long-term success of your firm hinges on building and sustaining deeper and more meaningful client relationships.

To shift these relationships into high gear, consider implementing an advisory services model. By eliminating billable hours and moving to value pricing, you can strengthen the dynamic of the client relationship and lay out a clear scope of engagement. It’s a move that also opens the door to year-round client relationships instead of a once-a-year tax return transaction. Key to this shift is knowing that your knowledge is unique, and it shouldn’t be given away for free.

“Once we start moving into this mindset, we start changing the value proposition,” says Paul. “One thing I’ve learned is that different parts of my brain are priced differently. We hold the keys to the kingdom in a sense that we have a scarcity of knowledge and can control how we price out that scarcity.”

Making this shift can increase your revenue while building those deeper, more sustainable client relationships that ensure the long-term success of your firm.

“A tax return is a tax return,” he continues. “We have to break out of that mindset and believe that we bring a certain set of value.”

Build a firm foundation

When it comes to building a strong foundation, all small business owners can benefit from implementing processes and systems that help their business operate smoothly and save them time.

From a small firm owner perspective, look for tax software designed for small firms to automate manual tasks, increase accuracy, and optimize your tax workflow so you can free up time to offer more value-added services to your clients.

With the secure cloud-based options on the market today, you can collaborate with clients and staff from anywhere. Features like an instant tax prep checklist and pre-populated returns can maximize your productivity. With today’s technology, there are many ways small firms with limited resources can use software to drive efficiencies.

At the end of day, the shift in mindset from an accountant to business owner comes down to focusing your time on value-added activities, believing your knowledge is unique, and taking advantage of the technology and tools available to maximize your time and resources.

Let’s do this!


Heather Walker is the General Manager of Emerging Accounts within the Tax & Accounting Professionals segment, focused specifically on firms who prepare fewer than 250 tax returns per year.

You may be a small firm, but you are not alone. Add Thomson Reuters to your staff with solutions and resources tailored specifically to the small firm. View some of these now and check in for more tips, guidance, and small firm stories in the Small Talk with Heather Walker blog series.


More answers