Behind the scenes of starting a CA firm as a 25-year old fresher and later upskilling myself with CPA Australia
- Hi, I am Hersimren Jeet Singh, a CPA Australia and Chartered Accountant from India.
- In 2012, as a fresher, I started my own CA Firm in Ludhiana (India).
- The first year of running my firm was amazing, however, in the third year, I realised my clients don't just need a technical expert but also a strategic thinker!
- Following a visit to Australia and a chance meeting with some CPAs, I decided to pursue CPA and eventually qualified in 2016. This proved to be a turning point in my career as it changed my vision of looking at problems.
- I am still very young and have a long way to go but all I can say is I faced a lot of challenges and overcame them, mostly through upskilling myself.
From a below-average student to becoming a CA
I hail from Ludhiana, Punjab (India).
I was very much below average in academics and my teachers did not even expect me to pass high school, however, a certain incident in my life created a hunger for success.
I decided to achieve success in a career that is considered to be difficult and that is how I chose to do CA.
Considering how poor I was at my studies; it was not a smooth journey. I did face failures several times. In fact, I am so used to failures that when I get something easily, I wonder whether it was really meant for me.
I qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 2012.
Starting my CA Firm right away!
After qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, I was shortlisted for a job in a Dubai based company. The salary package was approximately INR 20 lac per annum. You can imagine how excited I was.
Alas! I met with an accident in Delhi and I was out of the race. Losing this opportunity was the biggest failure in my career.
I was devastated, however, I felt that my destiny was in my own hands and I could achieve success by being my own boss! That is when I decided to start my own CA practice.
As a 25-year old fresher, I was aware that establishing my own practice would be a very difficult task. So, I decided to give myself a year. If things wouldn't work out in one year, I would once again look out for a corporate job.
Fortunately, I started getting clients and earned enough to survive the first year!
Keeping this progress in mind, I dropped the idea of working in the corporate world.
Growing the firm and overcoming roadblocks
Take it from me, establishing a practice was no cakewalk, and that too a sole proprietory traditional CA firm is even more challenging!
Initially, I got a few clients with the help of my close friends.
I had a very good client retention ratio but my biggest challenge was to bring in new clients.
Since it is a sole proprietory firm I had to manage a lot of things alone like acquiring clients and most importantly, retaining them by providing quality services. (I did not even set up a separate office in the initial years, I operated from my home. Only once I had a good client base, I set up a separate office and hired staff.)
However, on a positive note, running a sole proprietory firm can make a person technically and mentally strong. That’s what happened to me. In course of time, I grew to be knowledgeable in several areas and that brought me success.
Having faced a lot of ups and downs, I knew that whatever I do, there is an equal chance of success as well as failure. I always lay my faith in the quality of my services and hard work and I was sure that I could rewrite my own destiny.
CPA Australia designation changed my perspective
Once my practice got off to a good start, my clients approached me not only for technical advice but also for strategic guidance. I knew I had to upskill myself and pursue a qualification that could help me in strategic thinking.
During a professional development event conducted by ICAI (The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India), I got to know about the MRA between ICAI and CPA Australia. Around the same time, I got an opportunity to visit Australia.
Meeting a few CPAs strengthened my resolve to add this qualification to my kitty.
One of the papers in CPA Australia enables you to become a strategic thinker and a future business leader. I felt that this course could help me achieve my vision of building my practice to a higher level.
In 2016, I passed the exams and acquired the CPA (Aus) designation.
Pursuing CPA Australia was a turning point in my career as I started looking at my work in a different way. I understood that each and every financial statement is a blueprint of investment, expenditure, and decisions taken by the business entity.
I started reviewing the financial statements of my clients and provided them with future strategies. My clients benefitted from these strategies and slowly my client base increased.
While our firm provides all the traditional services of accountancy, auditing, taxation, we also specialize in Financial Analysis and Strategy.
Timeline of my journey
2012: Practice started. Very few clients.
2013: This was a successful period as I was being recognized as a hard worker and knowledgeable person among my clients.
2014: This was a period of highs and lows. I lost a few clients and got some clients as well.
2015: A challenging period. There was not much growth this year. I started providing financial strategy services during this period. However, it was not sufficient for a turnaround. I rented an office space
- When you are ambitious and work hard and get nothing fruitful from all your efforts, it does feel as if your game is over. That’s how I felt.
- I had started providing financial strategy services by this time. I really thought this would prove to be the turning point of my career but it was not so.
- My strategies failed and I really considering shutting the firm.
- Qualified as CPA Australia.
- Owing to a positive turn of events, my efforts of the previous two years paid off. This year proved to be the turning point that I was hoping for.
- I got a few clients. I was able to solve their problems through the financial strategies I suggested.
2018: All my strategies succeeded.
2019: Successful year.
2020: Due to the COVID-19 situation, I do not expect major growth. I have taken some decisions and I have to wait and see the results to know whether my decisions were right or not. Hoping for the best.
A few words …
I am still very young and have a long road to travel.
Running a sole proprietor firm in times like this is a challenge. I am even considering finding a job opportunity in the middle east or securing a few outsourcing projects.
I am not sure what the future holds for me but one thing is sure this will not be a failure period.
My only advice to those reading the article is - To keep upskilling yourself to face the dynamic changes that keep happening in the job/business environment.
Hersimren Jeet Singh is a practicing CA and independent Consultant with a demonstrated history of working in the accounting industry.
Now It's Your Turn...
As a young CA have you faced any challenges running your firm? Would love to know in the comments.
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(Article edited by CA Uma Krishnan and image by Ankit Lodhi)
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