Finding Prosperity in Purpose
In her own words, Mackey McNeill, founder of MACKEY Advisors, shares her story of transforming from a “successful” accountant on paper, to one who is prospering in all aspects of life.
Flashback to 2004, after tossing and turning all night, I crawl out of bed and get ready for one of the biggest days of my professional life. Today, I fire my largest client, shrinking my business by a third, and putting another third on the market for sale. I awake as CEO of one of the largest CPA firms in my city. And I go to sleep after taking myself off that list, intentionally.
It began with one question. One answer. No possibility for unknowing. My largest client is creatively padding the pocket of a local bank president. On paper, it is legal, but ethically it smells like fresh roadkill.
I am a single mother, with no family to fall back on. I can’t afford for my business to fail. But after searching my soul, I cannot find it within me to rebuild a CPA firm I never had the passion for in the first place.
You see, growing up, I watched my dad lose his life dream, going bankrupt as an entrepreneur. And I had to know why.
So when I heard accounting is the language of business, I said, sign me up. I will become a CPA, and learn how to help business owners thrive and prosper.
And as I hang out my own shingle, that is my intent. But with bills to pay, and mouths to feed, I fall back to what most CPAs do – count beans!
Throwing Out the Old Playbook
I count beans for 20 years. Until this moment of reckoning with my largest client gives me pause. This uncomfortable situation forces me to reconsider my future, to reconsider my intent, to reflect on what I have learned these last 20 years counting beans.
In my work with business owners, I see a common playbook: work hard, grow sales, and the bottom line will follow. But this playbook rarely works. And when it does, it comes with an enormous price tag: family, friends, your health, and even your joy.
Is business really all about profit? Why not profit and less stress? Or profit and more time? Or profit and a bigger purpose?
Why do so many settle on profit alone? Why not live your most awesome life? And build your most awesome company? Why not prosper in all areas of life?
I’ve worked in my own business and with thousands of other business owners in pursuit of prosperity. Iterating, trying new things, seeing what works and discarding what doesn’t. And throughout this process, I’ve found myself asking, if the common playbook of work hard, grow sales, and the bottom line will follow doesn’t work, what does work? What does a prosperity playbook look like?
As I started out, I saw two major obstacles in the way. One, entrenched habits of making decisions based on gut instinct, backed by little data or, even worse, bad data. And two, a disconnect of all the different systems that make up the whole when it comes to running the finances of a business.
The path around entrenched habits was to form a new kind of service model. I knew I needed to move from being an adviser to a coach. From someone who says, “I know what you need to do,” to someone who asks, “Where are you going? Would being better at the craft of finance and accounting help you get there easier, better, faster?”
I knew this would be no small mountain to climb, as it strays from how accountants are trained. But it was essential.
As for the second obstacle, just like in personal financial planning, where many disciplines are used to create a cohesive personal financial plan, in a business, you have the same challenge. There are so many micro systems that touch the financial system.
Think about strategic planning. Often the strategic planner knows little about money or finance, and yet they help business owners and their teams create long term plans. These plans include key metrics, and often the metrics chosen are disconnected from financial reality.
And then there’s budgeting, a back office practice, if it happens. Most often the accountant looks at the previous year and makes an educated guess about the upcoming year. Thereafter, no one pays attention to the budget, except the person who prepared it, the accountant.
And of course, there’s historical accounting and financial reporting, which many business owners see as a necessary evil required for tax preparation. Which could be a gold mine of valuable information, as long as you find a path to teaching a non accountant to read a financial statement.
And let’s not forget sales forecasting, often from the hands of incredibly optimistic sales people. They need that optimism to drive sales, but it mostly creates unusable and unrealistic forecasts.
And lastly, financial analysis. The kind, for example, where someone really digs into the customer base and finds out who are the most profitable clients. And then makes decisions accordingly. But more often, there is an educated guess, either because no one knows how to do the analysis, or they think they already know the answer. This is fraught with challenges, as humans are prone to bias, to remember their own personal version of history.
To build a prosperity playbook, I needed a system. A coordinated, integrated system that brought all these disciplines together in a structured way. A system that was repeatable, built step by step, from a blueprint, and included a compass to always tell us where we are at any moment.
Your People are Your Purpose
I naively thought developing the prosperity playbook would take a few years. Instead it took more like 14! In the first few years I had a system, but I kept finding holes in it. And once the holes were plugged, I had to find a path to make it repeatable, and live beyond me.
I started by developing the system and personally delivering it. I would find out what was missing as I worked with clients. In their struggles, I found new paths. New tools were developed as unanticipated obstacles and challenges surfaced. More than a few times, I thought, the playbook is done now. Only to discover there was more to do.
Once the system was changing clients' lives and helping them build more prosperous businesses, I tackled the challenge of training coaches. Since our CFO coaches had to have deep technical knowledge of finance and accounting, I had two choices. Either, find seasoned accountants and CFOs and teach them the difference between advising and coaching. Or, to find young talent, not yet overly influenced as to what being an accountant looks like, and take a longer training path, one with both technical and coaching components.
In the end, I chose both options. As in almost any hire, it turned out the most important success factor was purpose. Whether seasoned or starting out, if they were fired up about creating prosperity - which, in our case, is time, mind, and money freedom for clients - they would succeed. With that definition of success in mind, I now am surrounded by successful colleagues and clients alike.
There's No Time for Thinking Small
This journey of mine has been a wild and crazy ride. And one I would repeat again, in a heartbeat. Why? Because of the lives that are changed. When we help change one business owner’s life, our impact is multiplied as the positive impact extends to their family, team and community.
So, how does this story end? Well, it’s not over yet, but I can tie a bow on where it began.
That client I fired – remember him? – after we parted, he flew past legal funny money to full blown fraud. 34 million dollars, 40 banks, 40 companies. And 25 years in jail. Can you say dodged a bullet?
As for me, I built Prosper for Business. A life-changing system for helping business owners achieve the Three Freedoms of Prosperity: Mind, Time, and Money Freedom. Through this, I’m able to transform clients’ lives, who then go on to tell their friends, creating a tsunami of growth. Growth that propelled my company, MACKEY to 2745 on the INC5000 list for 2022.
As you might guess, we measure our results with clients. On average, our clients triple their investment with us in the first year. And the longer a client works with us, the greater their return.
I believe the world is abundant. That the universe is calling each of us to our highest potential – as part of the human family, and every day in our businesses. This is no time for thinking small. Or limiting your potential.
Now is the time to step into your possibility, your potential, your prosperity.
Why settle for profits, when you can prosper in life?
Mind, time, and money freedom await your call.
The journey to prosperity begins with choosing it, and taking one next step.
Now go, and find what that step means to you.