I had to “Jerry Maguire” out of there. I made that a verb. And just like Tom Cruise’s character in the movie, that moment can be ugly. At least mine was.
So many hopeful entrepreneurs think that you have to have a perfect business plan and proforma financial statements showing the first 3 years of your business profitability. Well, that isn’t always true. At least, not in my case and many others I have come across. See, you would expect this perfectly planned leap into entrepreneurship from someone like me, a Certified Public Accountant who once worked for the #1 public accounting firm in the world and who passed the CPA exam as a senior in college the first round.
But, like most, I would have been afraid to just take the leap without this perfectly planned engagement, making sure I had funds to live off of without any disruption. That could not be further from the truth of what entrepreneurship is.
The day I made the leap, was one of the worst days of my life….but it turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to me (besides giving birth to my son). See, I had been at a local firm for 5 years as a part time associate, so that I could be at home with my son every day when he got home from school. I was a single mom, but I did have help raising my son from a very good dad. However, I was fully responsible for a mortgage and my half of our son’s living expenses, so the pressure to make money was high.
At this time, my son was 11 and I figured I could up my hours and ask for a raise. So, one nondescript day I walked into my boss’ office. Let me point out that this was not the founder of the firm who hired me, this was my boss who got promoted to run the firm when the founder retired. Therefore, his loyalty was not with me, nor was mine with him. He was not one to ever mentor me, but rather tell me what I was doing wrong. Yea, he was that type of boss. So, I walked in with a list of the accomplishments I had made in the last 5 years of working there. I was ready to ask for a reasonable raise with more hours. In fact my increased hours would have diluted my raise.
I will never forget what my boss said to me, and in fact I don’t remember much of the conversation except his words telling me that I was “never going to make the money my peers were because I stayed at home for 6 years raising my son”. He was telling me that I was behind and that I would never make the salary I was asking for. I think I was stunned for about a minute. But then I did the unthinkable. I stood up and I told him that I quit. And I walked out, briskly running down the hall and out to my car. Seriously, like Jerry Maguire, I would have taken the goldfish, if there were any. And just like Jerry’s did, my one big client came with me.
I had no idea what I had just done, but I was already dreaming up logos as I was walking to my car. I had no choice but to double down on this thing called entrepreneurship because I knew that I never wanted someone to control my destiny ever again. And, I knew I had to prove something to myself and provide for my son. My office was my kitchen table for many years and it was only in my eighth year that I was able to invest in a dream office. The best part is, I have accomplished so much more than my ex-boss said I would. It has taken me awhile, but the journey has been worth the life I get to create. It is all in the power of believing in yourself and giving it your all. So, does the leap into entrepreneurship have to be pretty? Absolutely not.
Nesha Pai founded Charlotte, NC based Pai CPA, PLLC in 2011, which was born out of a passion for client service and creating
customized accounting solutions for small business owners and start-ups. Having graduated Magna Cum Laude
from NC State University and subsequently earning a CPA license in 1996, Pai embarked on a career that set
her on a path toward entrepreneurship focused on operational excellence. As a strong advocate for small
business and the spirit of mentorship, Pai launched Pai Networking Group in 2016. Today, Pai continues small
business advocacy and professional development through production of a successful podcast, key charitable
partnership initiatives, speaking engagements and a soon-to-be-released book on overcoming adversity as a
first generation Indian woman in the south.