Chase Birky from Dark Horse CPA

Episode Transcription

Glenn Harper [00:00:00]:

Hello, everyone. Welcome to another edition of the Empowering Entrepreneurs podcast. I’m Glenn Harper.

Julie Smith [00:00:04]:

Julie Smith.

Glenn Harper [00:00:05]:

Listen. This is a a later recording today, so I got a coffee now. So I don’t know if I’m on my right time zone or not. How about you? You’re

Julie Smith [00:00:12]:

struggling? Mine’s almost done. I’m gonna switch to water, so we’ll see how this goes.

Glenn Harper [00:00:16]:

Girl. Well, we got a great guest today. He’s joining us all the Away from sunny California. So he’s just waking up. Here we go. So I gotta I’d like to introduce you to Chase BIrky, a fellow CPA, brings a tear to my eye, who not only is drinking the Kool Aid, but has come up with a new flavor for aspiring CPAs to become principals in their own firm. He’s the founder and owner of Dark Horse CPAs, a company that puts CPAs in a position to build a book of business that they can scale. He’s an obsessed entrepreneur that thrives on helping other abused CPAs find their meaning in life.

Glenn Harper [00:00:46]:

Thanks, Chase, for being on the show.

Chase Birky [00:00:48]:

Thanks, Glenn. That, pretty well encapsulates it. I like it.

Glenn Harper [00:00:52]:

I I speak from experience of of the abused CPA world, so it is truly a thing. We really appreciate you coming on and spend some time. I know you’re a busy guy, and, we’d like to I like to stalk our guests from obscure facts and such, and you’ve got a lot of controversial stuff out there. So I’m really I have a lot of content to pull from, but I’m gonna pull up a couple things that I read it on the Internet, so I think it’s true. But, rumor has it that you grew up, Salem, Oregon, which is where the Stephen King book Salem’s Lot was really based on before it switched to Maine. Is that true?

Chase Birky [00:01:24]:

That is true. Hopefully not one of the controversial

Glenn Harper [00:01:27]:

no. No. That’s that’s an easy one. What’s, and I think Salem’s between port Portland and Eugene. So are are you really from the the real Salem or West Salem?

Chase Birky [00:01:38]:

The real Salem. South Salem,

Glenn Harper [00:01:41]:

specifically. Good.

Chase Birky [00:01:43]:

And, you know, in terms of small world connections, one of our principals who’s Based out of the Portland area. Actually went to South Salem and graduated 2 years after I did.

Glenn Harper [00:01:52]:

So It’s funny because we’ve got a, there’s a where I grew up in Ohio, there’s a town called West Salem. And so it was kind of funny when I pulled up your Google thing and, like, you got all these different So I thought, well, I wonder where he’s really from because you don’t wanna be from the west side. That’s that’s that’s bad.

Chase Birky [00:02:08]:

Well, it’s interesting that you mentioned that though because when I was in high school, between my freshman year and sophomore year, West Salem High School was actually formed, and so half of our athletic program Went over there, so then they instantly became a rival.

Glenn Harper [00:02:23]:

So, they took all the talent and took their ball over there? God love them.

Chase Birky [00:02:28]:

Are you a I think we we kept the best. But

Glenn Harper [00:02:30]:

yeah. Were you an athlete in high school?

Chase Birky [00:02:33]:

I was. Yeah. I played baseball and basketball, And I actually got down to San Diego, because of baseball. So, during December that was pretty Gloomy and rainy, in the Pacific Northwest. I went down to San Diego to try out there. 85 degrees because they had Sienna winds. And I was on a baseball field that was overlooking the Pacific Ocean off a cliff, and I was like, yeah. I think I can do that.

Glenn Harper [00:02:58]:

So that’s what made you leave. We’re always curious on how you would ever wanna leave such a great home town. I’ve been to to Oregon a couple times, and it’s it’s awesome. But it’s, it’s a lonely place. There’s not a lot going on.

Chase Birky [00:03:10]:

I don’t know if I’d say that. I I would say it’s difficult from a weather standpoint. If you’re in the Willamette Valley, you know, it’s just you gotta be, someone who’s not, you know, affected by seasonal affective disorder or the that sort of thing, because definitely blooming, definitely rainy, but it’s beautiful. I think there’s a lot going on. There wasn’t a lot going on in Salem, but definitely a lot going on in Portland and Eugene. And actually, you know, more recently, I rediscovered the Oregon coast. And so, my wife and I actually just bought a property over there, to, you know, be able to Utilize that and experience it, you know, in a town called Pacific City, which is a place I went to, never times growing up. So bit of nostalgia for me and a little full circle.

Glenn Harper [00:03:54]:

Is that near Bandon Dunes?

Chase Birky [00:03:57]:

No. So Bant, that’s Shannon’s in Southern Oregon, so that’s probably about a 5 ish hour drive from Pacific City. Oh, wow.

Julie Smith [00:04:05]:

Yeah. Don’t don’t let him fool you with his Oregon experience. All he does is go out there and golf. Just like and, like, he just referred to, you know, Band of Dunes. That’s how he’s getting his sense of geography in regards to where you are, his golf.

Chase Birky [00:04:17]:

Well, If Glenn is able to get these tea times at Band of Dunes, he knows some people. So

Glenn Harper [00:04:22]:

I got high friends in places. Yeah. And then, of course, the Bend River was a a very desolate spot. No cell service. Camped out, it was a great fly fishing experience, and I’ve really enjoyed it. So I’ve I’ve got positive experiences. I I missed out on all the riots. I I wasn’t there at the wrong time.

Glenn Harper [00:04:40]:

If I had planned better, I coulda got into that but, you know, it happens. Sometimes you miss. And the other you know, it looks like you enjoyed school at Point Loma Nazarene University in sunny San Diego where you received your BS in accounting, and how rewarding was that to know that your whole life was gonna be an auditor in a big four firm? Did that was that just, like, a great experience or what?

Chase Birky [00:05:02]:

Oh, yeah. You you hit the nail on the head there. Quite the contrary, but still a meaningful, you know, time in my life. So I graduated right around the peak of the great recession. And so I had friends that had graduated the year before. They were trying to get jobs at Chili’s and, you know, other spots and, you know, just couldn’t get a job. Right? And so a lot of them were scraping by or moving back with their parents, and I was just like, I’m not gonna do that. Accounting is actually gonna give me, you know, a job.

Chase Birky [00:05:36]:

I didn’t know what audit was gonna be like, to be perfectly honest. You know, taking the courses, in college and studied for the CPA exam, the audit section, but, you know, what the job actually was versus, you know, the academia aspect of it. It was just 2 totally different worlds.

Glenn Harper [00:05:54]:

It’s worser. It’s worser.

Chase Birky [00:05:57]:

Yeah. And, you know, it’s just one of those things where, you know, especially in the big four, All of your time is really dedicated to that job. And when it’s a job you don’t love, you know, that that’s a tough proposition to spend most of your waking hours doing something that, you know, you don’t like. And for me, it was something I didn’t really like. But on the same hand, it was a really great experience for growth because you’re instantly put in the seat where you’re talking to CFOs, controllers, and as a dumb 22 year old kid, you know, questioning their work, essentially.

Glenn Harper [00:06:33]:

Wish you the best.

Chase Birky [00:06:35]:

Figuring out how to do that tactfully and, you know, ask questions that, are sound as intelligent as possible even when you don’t really know exactly what you’re going after and, you know, the the surrounding context. So, I mean, there’s just a ton of learning I got, you know, in those 2 years 2 months of that Deloitte. But it was clear to me pretty early on that this was a stepping stone, and I needed to be ready for what was next and not get stuck. So that was really my my main focus.

Glenn Harper [00:07:04]:

It, it said there on the Internet that you, had rented out, Viper’s Alice from Top Gun on Point Loma. Is that true? Were you was that the party place?

Chase Birky [00:07:15]:

I I don’t know who wrote that because that’s that sounds like a

Glenn Harper [00:07:19]:

It was a cool house. Legend. Yeah. It was cool. It was a cool house. Yeah. Point Loma is just gorgeous. Did you when you were in school, did you stay on campus? You have to get an apartment? You know, how did that look? Because that’s way different than middle of Oregon.

Chase Birky [00:07:32]:

Yeah. So, I was on campus for the 1st 2 years and then off for this last 2 years. So, I was in LaPlaya My junior year, which is that area right along the bay, on the other side of Point Loma. And then senior year was Kind of a off the Midway District area. So, it it was definitely a different experience being on campus versus off in a lot of ways. I don’t know how much you know about Point Loma, but they’ve got some pretty strict rules. Oh, boy. You know? So there was there was no drinking.

Chase Birky [00:08:03]:

There was, you know, women could come over for, 3 hours on 2 specific days of the week. Door had to be open, feet on the floor, all that sort of stuff. So, yeah.

Glenn Harper [00:08:14]:

It’s like an Amish community, really.

Chase Birky [00:08:18]:

I mean, you said it. It it it was definitely less freedom than I had, growing up in my parents’

Glenn Harper [00:08:25]:

were you were you playing baseball in college

Chase Birky [00:08:28]:

then? Yes. Okay.

Glenn Harper [00:08:29]:

So you have to do a

Chase Birky [00:08:29]:

I played my played my freshman year, and then sophomore year heading into the season, you know, I really just kinda I got burned out, and lost my love for the game, which, You know, it was a culmination not just of, you know, playing, you know, in college, but everything I put in high school at that point. I mean, I really had about 2 years where I Never stopped playing. And so it got to a point where I was just like, you know, I’m putting A lot into this. And what’s what am I trying to achieve here? You know, because sure, I could get drafted in a low round and, You know, chase that dream for a couple years and, you know, obviously, not make it to the major leagues because that’s you know, the numbers are stacked in a lot of ways there. And I didn’t wanna be mid to late twenties and, you know, just starting my career at that point. So I also, on the other hand, wanted to Enjoy my college experience, you know, and not just be so myopic in terms of sports and, you know, studies and have no time for anything else. So got to the point where, you know, it was time to make Trying to make a move and, you know, I I think that that was somewhat a theme in my life in my twenties was, you know, going hard in the paint in whatever area I was in, you know, and then getting to a place of burnout and needing to do something else, you know, because, I just, You know, got myself so deep into, certain, pursuits that, you know, I had to Had to find my way through it. And so my twenties really were a pretty tough time, to be honest, but it’s what really propelled me into entrepreneurship.

Chase Birky [00:10:14]:

I never looked at myself as an entrepreneur. And, you know, there’s an entrepreneurship class in college that, Just scared me, to be honest. You know? It just all these different disciplines that I felt like I just didn’t know and just didn’t feel cut out for it. Right? And it wasn’t until I kinda got forced into being an entrepreneur that I started to discover, like, this is actually what resonates with me, and this is what gives me life. And, You know, it it’s really what I was built to do, which was a bit of a revelation because it was just the opposite of how I viewed myself for so many years.

Glenn Harper [00:10:51]:

What’s funny, you show all the entrepreneurial tendencies, and you didn’t even know it. Back then, you you didn’t come out of the closet till it was too late, and it never it’s never too late. And it’s funny that, you know, the accounting space, CPA space, you know, very stereotypical. And I think if I looked up in an encyclopedia, looked up at your picture, you would not look like the typical CPA. And it was funny because I kinda felt the same when I was going. I had a good mullet going, and and I wasn’t at a point a pocket projection. Yeah. Well, no.

Glenn Harper [00:11:20]:

I I kept that in in the in the office only. I was very, very good about that. But it’s funny how you think about, you’re trying to change something, but you they’re never gonna change. Right? And and for you to not only be in the industry and, like, I think this is gonna work, and then you kinda get out, and then you’re doing your whole entrepreneurial gig, I’m helping other CPAs. Like, you know how hard it is to change CPAs, but yet here you are still doing it. But because you did it, I feel like you’ve got a great leg to stand on where people will resonate and listen to you. Right? Is that is that kinda how it resonated for you?

Chase Birky [00:11:52]:

Yeah. You know, I mean, I think I’ve seen, you know, I’ve had experiences kind of on the spectrum of public accounting, so I know what, you know, it’s like to be in a big four. I I know what it’s like to be, you know, in a small, you know, regional boutique sort of firm and then to start something from scratch on my own. And there’s pluses and minuses of on all sides. But I think for a lot of folks, you know, it’s the minuses that, you know, eventually get to a place where they leave public Accounting. Right? And they go work, you know, for a private company or maybe get out of accounting, you know, in total. So, You know, the experiences that I had really informed what dark horse became. And it was really catalyzed by, you know, starting, What became Dark Horse, it was called the at the time.

Chase Birky [00:12:42]:

You know, that journey of starting from something from scratch was just so empowering for me. You know, I think it was probably more personal growth than even professional growth. You know, just the idea that I can be the author of my own story and, you know, you know, have a level of autonomy that, you know, was something I never had before. And, you know, just that level of agency in life is so refreshing, you know, that, You know, that’s really what I wanted to replicate for others within dark horse. But on the other side, You know, I was so tunnel visioned again with, you know, that part of my life that actually, you know, almost lost my marriage. My wife and I got were separated for a couple of months, and really as a result of me just being emotionally and physically unavailable while I was, you know, building a firm. So, you know, the idea was really, you know, how do we give folks a positive side of that risk of ruin when it comes to relationships. Because a lot of folks, you know, that are starting a firm are gonna be, you know, that phase where they either have a young family or about to start a young family and, you know, having to spend all of that time, money, energy, And resources into building something from scratch, definitely has a cost that, you know, doesn’t always make itself known until Later on.

Chase Birky [00:14:23]:

So we really designed this accelerator program we have, you know, in a way that, yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s substantially less work, you know, than it would be to go out and do it on your own in a much shorter time frame to to stabilize.

Glenn Harper [00:14:38]:

It it’s kinda like what you end up doing is, you know, accounts that start off their practice, they they don’t know how to be an entrepreneur. They just know how to do work. And if you’re gonna be good as an accountant for whatever reason, we care too much, and we overcommit daily to our clients, and we sacrifice everything else for that, which is no different than any other entrepreneur. It just so happens that you happen to know this space. And that leads me to the question of, you know, most entrepreneurs well, a lot. You know, they know from the very beginning, listen. I’m I’m hustling ice cream bars or papers or mowing lawns. I’m gonna be an entrepreneur.

Glenn Harper [00:15:14]:

And other people, they just stumble into it. Did you have something, you know, traumatic in your childhood that showed you what an entrepreneur window looked like, or did you just happen to stumble into this thing?

Chase Birky [00:15:26]:

I stumbled into it. I mean, I definitely did some entrepreneurial stuff as a kid, even though I didn’t realize it. Arbitraging, you know, different bidding sites, You know, so Ubid at the time and then selling it on eBay. You know, so I was always trying to make a buck, you know, in creative ways. Because Playing sports, I didn’t have the, you know, extended period of time to have a job, you know, that, would recur. So I Found other ways to make my own money. So, you know, in retrospect, that was maybe kind of the seeds that I didn’t realize. Didn’t look at that as Entrepreneurs, and I looked at that as just, you know, trying to make a buck.

Chase Birky [00:16:05]:

Right? So, anyways, I didn’t really see it modeled for me, you know, in any way growing up, which is maybe why I thought, you know, that was a different world. That wasn’t something that I was built for. But, stumbling into entrepreneurs, I don’t think resonates, As much as getting pushed into it Mhmm. I was, you know, in a A partnership that, resolved pretty quickly. And, you know, it was more just about, okay. All I need to do right now is focus on clients because this was during extension season. So, you know, making sure these people got returns filed, you know, and I was able to pay some bills and just I’ve figured out after extension season. And that ended up, you know, creating referrals and, you know, just slowly building that Book of business.

Chase Birky [00:17:02]:

You know? So it’s something where it’s really just all I was concerned with was, you know, starting something small just to get, know, the clients that are serving through tax season, you know, pay some bills and then just see what was gonna happen on the other side. And just this time when I was like, actually, I like this. You know? I was doing the things that I wasn’t doing before and, you know, involved in all aspects of the business versus just a a silo, and, it just really resonated for me in a lot of ways. And so, you know, over time, just Built. You know? And, you know, the thing I would say, though, is that, I think a lot of entrepreneurs and maybe especially CPAs can attest to. It’s very easy when you build something and you have that success early on to become a victim of your success, Meaning, you know, you quickly get underwater in terms of the referrals that result from it, you know, and, what it actually takes to replicate that at scale, You know, being too late maybe to build a team, you know, and trying to unwind that. So a lot of the learnings again that, you know, I’ve had, you know, myself and that we’ve seen, You know, within our firm with our accelerated principles, we’re able to help guide, you know, future and current, accelerated principles by look. These are the things you have to do to avoid this situation because we have so many data points that, you know, that show that out.

Glenn Harper [00:18:25]:

You know, it’s funny, the Process the system you have for CPAs to do this. You probably only have to make, making up a number. 10, 15 tweaks, and you can apply that to any different industry out there as an entrepreneur to help them. It because it’s it’s really the mindset of how to value what you do and how to price it and how to scale it. It’s the same concept. It just happens you you’re really in bed deep with the CPAs because you lived the life, and you know it. And part of that is, you know, I’m trying to figure out you know, to be an entrepreneur, you’re forced into it. You’re just like, I gotta do work.

Glenn Harper [00:18:59]:

I gotta pay my bills, and that happens. But at some point, did was there buddy that was an entrepreneur that talked to you and said, hey. You know? Hey. You’re on track on something. You should stay with this, or will you literally, like most entrepreneurs, are in their own little private island trying to just figure things out.

Chase Birky [00:19:17]:

Maybe a little bit of both, but, the Former resonates a bit more. My father-in-law actually was my first, you know, major client. And he is an entrepreneur. He’s a home builder So Las Vegas. And, he also had another, you know, side business, which is the one I was helping him out on. You know? So I got to see how how he thought about things, how he communicated, how he structured his companies, You know, and, just got that behind the scenes look at like, this is what an entrepreneur, a successful entrepreneur looks like. These are the questions they ask. These are, You know, what they demand, you know, their of their people and how they motivate them.

Chase Birky [00:19:59]:

Just all these things that, you know, you could read about, but until you see it live in action, You know, it it it really just, is so informative to watch someone do that and be a part of that. So that was hugely, you know, helpful for me, especially as I was just trying to learn a ton of things and How to build and lead a team and, you know, these things that, you know, I was never directly responsible for, before. So that That, kind of learning by osmosis was hugely impactful for me.

Julie Smith [00:20:35]:

So, I mean, you consider him probably a little bit of a mentor too as you started out. But was there anybody else that was maybe, you know, in the outer circle that kind of grabbed you and could have an opinion that said, you know, hey. Keep doing this or, hey. Maybe tweak this and do this that you were able to kind of Confide in. You know, I don’t wanna say, like, neutrally, but you were able to kinda go to, and they kinda gave you just the honest truth to you know, it might have impacted you more than you thought.

Chase Birky [00:21:04]:

I put my wife in that category.

Julie Smith [00:21:06]:

I don’t know that she’s neutral. No.

Chase Birky [00:21:09]:

No. She’s not neutral. But she definite I mean, she was, You know, driving force for, you know, the change that led, to me starting up what became dark horse and has always kind of been my biggest cheerleader. But, I mean, to be honest, Because what we’ve built is really its own category, most of what I got from the outside was, I don’t know. This doesn’t seem like it’s gonna work.

Julie Smith [00:21:35]:

But did that motivate you more?

Chase Birky [00:21:38]:

Totally. Yeah. It’s I mean, For me, I looked at that as, you know, proof positive that no one else was going to Try this until I prove the concept. You know? So I had that runway and, also that, you know, if it Sounded too good to be true sort of thing, you know, which is kind of the feedback I was getting. You know, that was gonna be a great recruiting tool. You know, like, we’ve built something that No one else has, you know, the stones to to try and, you know, and we’re gonna do this. Right? So, I would say that, And, you know, Glenn, when you’re talking about the, maybe controversial sorts of, content I have out there, Really, a lot of this, you know, experience from 2019 to today, you know, 2019 is when we pivoted, has been punching up at the incumbent, you know, because, there’s just some systemic issues within public accounting that creates, You have the talent shortage that we’re in that create poor employment experiences that create mental health crises. You know, and I don’t say that lightly because I’ve I’ve witnessed it, firsthand, secondhand.

Chase Birky [00:22:48]:

You know, there’s there’s a lot we could do, You know, as an industry to just be better. And to me, a lot of that stems from just the business model and the incentives. You know, and when you look at a traditional accounting firm, it’s partnership that has a bunch of chiefs, you know, that, run Their own practices and engagements in ways that are not always aligned with, you know, the Intended direction of a firm. So you can have a very different experience from 1 engagement to the next depending on the partner. But, You know, the the way that the business organizes, you know, not how their clients are organized. You know, the clients are typically, You know, more of a corporation setup, you know, that has a CEO, you know, a defined leader, and not just, you know, a consensus of chiefs. So could go a lot deeper into that, but, you know, where I really found that a lot of the Things that are driving accounts out of the industry are stemming from is truly business model. Because when I looked at the folks I worked at, you know, at Deloitte, I loved and, you know, respected a lot of them.

Chase Birky [00:24:03]:

Few I had to take your bone in contention with, but, you know, Some of my best friends I met there. Right? And yet the system and the machine, you know, of the big four made, You know, no matter who I was working with, you know, not a great experience. So, to me, that was a bit of an moment that, you know, If you have the best people going into a toxic system, you’re not gonna get anything better than what the system allows.

Julie Smith [00:24:32]:

But do you think your corporate experience has helped you scale your business today? Because I do I have corporate, you know, background too, and I feel like some There’s pros too right in there, but I think you can take some of those and it helps you to kinda scale and grow a small business In your own way. And so maybe that was the, you know, the why behind that

Chase Birky [00:24:55]:

experience. Totally. And like I was about 4. I mean, there’s positives and negatives, you know, from, you know, all of my experiences. And, You know, there’s definitely positives, you know, and things you you learn and observe that you don’t see in a smaller environment, you know, because there’s a higher level sophistication and regulation and just things that require, you know, scalable, processes and repeatable processes and HR and all these things, you know, that, small firms, small businesses, you know, you’re just kinda winging, to be honest. You know, so to be able to have, you know, experience on both sides is super important because, you know, You gotta know what you’re going into, right, in terms of when you’re small, like, what a mature sophisticated company actually does and looks like. But on the same hand, you know, you’ve gotta be comfortable in the uncomfortable, part of that growth where it’s like, yeah, we don’t have someone Leading our HR, we don’t have x, y, or z, you know, functions within our company that, you know, a mature company would have. And we’re we’re winging.

Chase Birky [00:26:06]:

Maybe, you know, there’s a liability or risk associated with it, but you can’t just hire, you know, your full org chart from day 1 for obvious

Glenn Harper [00:26:13]:

reasons. You know, it’s when I was at the very beginning, when I was talking about the controversial stuff out there, I didn’t find it. I was just messing around with you. I was trying to find some great college photos because at at the end of the day, there’s always gonna be haters, and there’s always gonna be somebody attack you. And you just gotta stay true to what you believe in because you know it’s right, and you know you see the impact. So that it is a is a thing where, again, we’re always being attacked as entrepreneurs. It’s just the way it is, and you just you get you learn how to deal with that. You got a thick skin.

Glenn Harper [00:26:39]:

If you gotta fight back, you gotta fight back, but it is what it is. And, you know, for entrepreneurs out there, I think what’s important is that I think you changed something very dramatically in your in your journey. You went from, I’m working for somebody. Oh my god. I guess I’m running my own firm here helping clients doing accounting work, which takes a unique skill set to do that. It’s not nobody it’s not something anybody else can’t learn, but your interaction with your clients is, like, your thing that you can do very well, right, for your regular accounting clients. But then all of a sudden, you’re like, you know what? I’m tired of just doing business. I think I wanna build a business.

Glenn Harper [00:27:18]:

And then but for an account, that’s really hard. Right? Because you’re now you figured out the secret sauce, and now you’re gonna actually share that with others. Like, that’s that’s heresy. Why would you do that? You get burned at the stake and sail them with that. Right? So why would you what made you decide that, hey. I now I know the sauce, and I wanna help others. Like and that it’s and it wasn’t I don’t think it was for the money per se. Money comes with success, but it became bigger than you.

Glenn Harper [00:27:45]:

Right? How did you why did you decide to do that? Because the industry needs that help. Right? All industries do. What made you decide to share the secret sauce?

Chase Birky [00:27:55]:

Yeah. And, you know, that’s an interesting question because When I made that decision, I would say the recipe was half baked, you know? Always. But there’s yeah. There were certain things, you know, that, I knew I and, you know, the firm did well, and, you know, we could absolutely, Replicate and democratize. And so for me, it was passion. It it you know, it was really just A recognition that, you know, if I wanna do something I’m proud of, you know, when I’m on my deathbed, you know, it’s not just gonna be growing a firm and making a bunch of money, You know the way I was doing it?

Glenn Harper [00:28:37]:

You’re telling me it’s not tax season deadlines and helping follow it. It’s not that or doing auditing? It’s weird. Enough.

Chase Birky [00:28:43]:

Yeah. Those aren’t the things, you know, that, end up

Glenn Harper [00:28:47]:

alright. Whatever you think.

Chase Birky [00:28:48]:

Obituary. Yeah. So oddly enough. But, yeah, no, it was really just that recognition that, you know, this was something that even if it failed, you know, I needed to pursue. It was something that if I didn’t do, it would be that thing that, like, I had this great idea at one point. I never, you know, went after it. So and knowing the struggles, you know, intimately, you know, I think was, necessary. You couldn’t create a business like Dark Horse by just, you know, coming in from the outside.

Chase Birky [00:29:19]:

You have to be inside and know The struggles and the problems, you know, of the customer that you’re serving. And for us, that customer actually is the account. You know, so being intimately aware of, You know, the challenges, you know, that they’re facing, which are a lot. Right? You know, and the other thing too, you know, that was kind of Baked into your question is, you know, there’s a big difference between being a practitioner and being an entrepreneur. And I think a lot of, accountants Conflate that a bit because they’re consulting with entrepreneurs, and they they know, you know, the nuts and bolts of what it takes. But, You know, the soft skills and the things you have to do to truly be successful that are beyond the technical are the most important. You know, building a team, Motivating them, you know, and getting the best from everyone, you know, in creating career paths and, you know, all these sorts of things. It’s That’s the softer side of the business, but that’s ultimately what matters the most.

Chase Birky [00:30:21]:

And, you know, when I’m talking about kind of the The ills of the partnership model, a big part of that is a partner is practicing. Right? So they’re spending a majority of their time practicing, You know, in client service areas instead of leading the business, instead of truly, spending their time developing their people. You know? And so you look at any Fortune 500 company and, you know, does Steve Jobs actually, you know, sit on the manufacturing line building the

Glenn Harper [00:30:49]:

phone? Yes. He does. Absolutely. He’s down there plugging in things for sure.

Chase Birky [00:30:53]:

Right. Yeah. So it’s like, you know, there’s a recognition that, you know, if we really wanted to serve accountants and create a better employment experience. You know, we needed to not be so consumed with client service, and that started with me. So that was a really difficult decision to decide to divorce myself of client service. That started, really three and a half, 4 years ago. It took about a year and a half to totally get out of it, You know, because you tell folks, you know, but they still wanna come back to you for x, y, or z.

Glenn Harper [00:31:29]:

Gotta go to therapy. It’s a whole thing. I mean, it’s it’s brutal. You know, it’s it’s it’s funny as entrepreneurs listen to this. Again, the the the I think the point of this part of the conversation is changing from doing business to building a business, And this is a transition that a lot of entrepreneurs will have to face in their career. Sometimes they don’t even know it, and sometimes it just is gonna happen. But if if if you truly wanna build something bigger than you, you have to end up building a business. And regardless of that, you could have been real cushy, take your top 50 clients, bill them each, you know, 10,000 a year, make a great living, and just exist.

Glenn Harper [00:32:08]:

But, no, you decided. Let’s make it harder. Let’s try to convert a bunch of CPAs to drink this Kool Aid. Like, to do that, you it’s a lot harder than just doing business. Right? You you have to do something more, and your calling has to be bigger than it can’t be about the money, and it can’t be about anything other than you wanna make a difference. And and I think that’s what you’re basically trying to say because you recognize the the problem in that industry. And, again, you can insert any attorneys, financial advisers, vets. You can put any industry in this bucket that we’re talking about.

Glenn Harper [00:32:39]:

It just happens we we can commit some some, accounting humor.

Julie Smith [00:32:44]:

That’s why I’m quiet. I I have no idea about it. So

Glenn Harper [00:32:46]:

Yeah. Well, you witnessed it. It it’s a it’s a real big thing in the silos Ozan, in how you, you know, navigate your your value and and not be abused, it’s a real thing. And I guess now, I guess, the question is when you made this change from doing business to building business. Did you already have a team set up that was gonna help you execute this, or did you have to start this from scratch? Because you were still this was just an abstract theory out there, and you just kinda went with it and then backfilled as you went through it. How did you navigate that?

Chase Birky [00:33:16]:

So I was By myself for the 1st 9 months, but then my cofounder joined me thereafter, who is someone that I worked closely with at my previous firm. So Other than that 9 month period, we’ve been working together for about 11 years now. And so he’s been my right hand man. You know, allowed me to, you know, make that initial step back from, client service to be able to build, you know, the the infrastructure, you know, that we needed, you know, to actually serve accountants and to create the accelerator program and, you know, staff, You know, our leadership team and just do all the stuff that needed to happen to make this come to fruition. So for me, what I would say yeah. I would I mean, I think this is probably true for just about 90% of super successful companies is that you have to have A great leadership team, but it has to start with, you know, 1 or 2 people that you’re really, in locks up with, you know, that have complementary skill sets. You know, where I was weak, my cofounder Max is strong, you know, vice versa. You know, so We, together, were able to do something that neither of us could have even scratched the surface on, you know, by ourselves.

Chase Birky [00:34:30]:

And, you know, that leadership team has just Evolved in, you know, we’ve got just some really, really, amazing folks, you know, that help lead the organization that are so good in their areas And are also so different from each other. It’s like we’ve got this commonality and this rapport and, you know, cohesion, but we’re all very different people, different personalities, very different skill sets. You know, and I think that that is super helpful because that provides a very comprehensive, you know, set of, services that we can provide for our CPAs, as opposed to all being, you know, Myopically kind of the same person that’s, you know, focused in, you know, technical aspects of accounting or tax.

Glenn Harper [00:35:14]:

You know, it’s, it’s funny. I will might do a little bit of accounting humor here, but it is next to impossible to have an accountant, a CPA, empower and trust somebody else to do something. Like, we know it all. We can do everything, and and that is the hardest thing to get out of your own way to do that. And for you, you recognize it pretty early that that had to happen. And so as we talked to you know, we’ll make fun of accounts because they’re fun to make fun of. But any entrepreneur has the same issue that they think they have to do it all, and and not only that, but they think they have to have it all figured out before they make the jump. And here you are.

Glenn Harper [00:35:53]:

You didn’t have it figured out. You made the jump, had a couple people that helped at some point, but you believed in who? Yourself? You believe in your ability to empower others to bring that value to the table to help the organization? It became bigger than you. Entrepreneurs out there, please take this in a note. This is this is the secret sauce. Right?

Julie Smith [00:36:12]:

Yeah. No. I think it’s great. I have a question because I think it’s it’ll make you reflect, I think, on your journey. And we talk a lot about peaks and valleys in that entrepreneurship journey. Can you think of a specific valley that maybe you were in in this journey that really propelled you to a higher peak than you thought? Throwing in the towel. Maybe you thought about pivoting completely. Just something that maybe defined your journey that really propelled you to that

Chase Birky [00:36:48]:

next level. Yeah. I mean, the First Valley, I would say, was, when I was working in the big four. I mean, truthfully, I would say that I was depressed for the majority of my tenure there, Which, you know, I don’t wanna make that sound like that’s just a a result of, you know, working at that firm. I think it’s tough to go, you know, transition from, you know, a structured school environment to being an adult and being responsible for yourself and, You know, have to chart your own path through life. You know? I think that there’s that’s a tougher adjustment than people maybe, you know, Talk about. But I just again, I really didn’t like what I was doing, at all. And so, I You know, I’d wake up as late as possible, you know, so that I could really just rest as much as I could not think about, You know, the things that I was not excited about in life and then frantically get to work, come home, and drink myself to sleep.

Chase Birky [00:37:57]:

And that that was the reality. That was that was my headspace when I was working there. So That was, you know, really it was obvious that I needed to find a next plan. I needed 2 years because at that time, that’s What, the licensing requirements were, get that 2 years work in public, you know, to get your license. So I knew I needed to at least do 2 years there. But, you know, kind of heading out of that, I, made a decision that was a little bit From a not great mental state, of something that just seemed better It was different, you know, and would allow me to make that move out of, Deloitte. And then that had its own set of, you know, I guess a different valley. Right? You know, there’s parts of it that were much better, but other parts that were much worse.

Chase Birky [00:38:57]:

You know? And just to protect, you know, the privacy of everyone, you know, in that situation. I won’t go Too much detail there, but it just it was not a good thing for me, which is again why I feel like I was pushed into entrepreneurship, because it was kind of a breaking point, you know, that I needed to go one way or the other. And I really didn’t know what was next at that So And then, you know, the last valley is really just that separation I had For my wife, you know, the recognition that I was prioritizing the wrong things, you know, and just being, Out of balance and out of whack, in, you know, living a balanced life. So, I would say that, you know, I would agree with that statement. The the valleys that I’ve gone through, you know, really informed, You know, like, this is a place I can’t be together, and I have to be able to construct something, you know, that, Prevents me from getting back into those sorts of head spaces and situations in life. And then I also wanna make sure that I can leverage that for others so that, you know, they’re not in situations that I was in that, You know, maybe they’re stronger than I was, you know, and didn’t, get to that place mentally. But, you know, my experience tells me my My own experience, you know, was not uncommon. The conversations I’ve had with hundreds of CPAs, you know, there’s The struggle is real.

Chase Birky [00:40:35]:

You know? And, there’s a lot of people out there that, you know, can articulate the problem, And there’s not a lot of people that, you know, can really craft a solution to it. You know? And I, just got sick and tired of Being the one who did articulate the problems, and, you know, this whole endeavor has been how do we create a solution that actually Save public accounting from itself. So it’s it’s been a lot of fun. It’s been a ton of work Building the airplane while we’re in flight.

Glenn Harper [00:41:08]:

It’s on the way to

Chase Birky [00:41:08]:

roll. Yeah.

Glenn Harper [00:41:11]:

You know, it’s

Chase Birky [00:41:12]:


Glenn Harper [00:41:12]:

it’s your your, you know, the the first valley, you know, is probably the your destiny, you know, that 1 movie, Mister Destiny, you choose 1 choice. You’re down this path. You choose this choice. You’re over in this path, and you just didn’t know you’re an entrepreneur. It was in you. You just didn’t realize it, which is the craziest thing. When I say crazy, meaning that the door was you’re getting a knock on it, but you just didn’t know how to answer that door. Right? And the and the only way you open the door is you like you said, you were kinda pushed into it.

Glenn Harper [00:41:43]:

You’re like, fine. I’ll open the freaking door, and then you’re like, wow. This is where it’s at, and pow, you’re at the at the peak. And I think as an entrepreneur, it’s it’s easy to be frustrated. It’s easy to to not know that you don’t So belong in the space that you’re in, and you know there’s something out there. And and the premise would be you can take a chance. You can you can jump because what’s the worst that’s gonna happen? In your case, it turned out pretty darn good, which is amazing. And most of the time, we never use the f word, which is the the fail term.

Glenn Harper [00:42:13]:

You just pivot and do something else. If this wouldn’t worked out, you would have figured something else out. You’re not most people do, especially entrepreneurs. They’ll they’ll find that opportunity.

Chase Birky [00:42:21]:

Yeah. And, I mean, I think what you think your business is when you form it, is usually something far different than what it ends up being, you know, because your Business plan of what your business is is going to meet reality, and reality is going to dictate whether that actually works or it doesn’t. And, again, being on the field, you see things that you don’t see from the stands, you know, and you you might have, A major pivot like we did, right, as a result of that. But I think the most successful companies, you know, they’ve had a mission that they’ve stayed true to, and it Just ends up expressing itself in different ways as they evolve and, you know, kinda see where the opportunities are in the marketplace.

Glenn Harper [00:43:05]:

Yeah. When you’re in the pit, it moves way faster then it you think when you’re in the stands looking down, you’re like, oh, I see this play developing. And when you’re in the middle of it, it’s it’s it’s light speeds. Do you you know, as an entrepreneur, a lot of times, you know, it’s a very scary, very lonely place. Again, you navigated some things with your business, with your relationship, with your with your significant other, and those things all end up turning all okay. But what was, like, the biggest fear you had as an entrepreneur that you’re like, my god. I just I don’t know if I can overcome this. I the I’m so scared to do this or So react to that or what this is gonna mean.

Glenn Harper [00:43:41]:

Did you have something that was just like paralyzing with fear that once you push through it, you’re like, this is all downhill from here. This is easy.

Chase Birky [00:43:50]:

Yeah. 2 things come to mind. At various points, I’ve been paranoid that someone is going to Do what we’re doing and do it better. You know, I think that’s probably common for, any entrepreneur, especially ones that are Creating a category. You know? You wanna get so far ahead of someone who comes into the space, you know, that The you become the Uber and they’re the Lyft sort of thing. So I’ve always been paranoid that, you know, I’ve given out Too much of the secret sauce of what we do to someone else that can execute on it, and maybe better. But as time has gone on, it’s become apparent to me that the idea was maybe 5 to 10% of it, you know, and execution is everything. And it’s, very difficult to execute on this business model and to create the front flywheel and actually get it in motion.

Chase Birky [00:44:48]:

I just when I look back at it, it, I almost don’t know how we did in the 1st place, you know, because it it required so much energy and torque to get that wheel spinning. And selling a vision to folks, you know, the earliest accelerators we had, you know, selling a vision of something we had not yet created and getting them to believe that we would get So You know, and and the pressure she feel to make good on, you know, those promises. And I I think that that’s common for any entrepreneur too. It’s you’re kind of selling ahead of what you actually, you know, have, currently in place. Right? Because your product or service isn’t fully baked from the start. Right? Like, you’ve gotta get people on board for what the vision is, You know, and get them to believe that you’re the person and you have the team to make that happen. That’s a really tough thing. So when I Rationalize it, you know, and think about what it actually took to get here.

Chase Birky [00:45:46]:

Yes. I’m not unique in being the only person who can do this, but It is so hard that I think the vast majority of people, if they tried, would be like, this is a little more than I bargained for. For me, I think think I was able to do it because I had such a deep passion for the mission and, you know, was willing to make Any sacrifices I needed to to make that happen. But, yeah, I would say that that that’s been Paralyzing for sure. And the other thing too, you know, is, like, a bit more existential, I would say, where it’s like if this doesn’t work, You know, do I have the energy and resilience to bounce back and move on to the next thing? You know, which is intellectually, I know the answer to that emotionally. Maybe not as much. Like, intellectually, I know. Yes.

Chase Birky [00:46:43]:

Emotions, like, I put so much of myself into this business, and it’s become so infused with my identity that, you know, if it was to be taken from me, that’s a scary thing.

Glenn Harper [00:46:59]:

But but as a true entrepreneur, I can drop you off on an island, and you’d have a freaking Walmart set up there because that’s how entrepreneurs think because every day is literally a slugfest. You’re in the and you’re in a heavyweight bout just the way it is, and and the mental toughness that that takes as an athlete, you already had done through that. You know, you had moved away from home. You were playing baseball. You’re you’re at the higher level. You’re doing all these things with multibillion dollar comp I mean, when you look back at your, you know, your, like, real of your life history, you’ve been always been put in a position where you have to make big decisions that are impacting a lot of people and a lot of money, and you nailed it. So, like, why wouldn’t you continue to do that? So it’s kind of funny when you you say those those fears or those obstacles, and when you look back, you’re like, every time you got challenged, you you nailed it. So why wouldn’t you continue? So those fears are so fun.

Glenn Harper [00:47:51]:

We’re gonna send a bill for the psychological profile here later at the end, but, no. This is this is good stuff. Jill, you got a good

Julie Smith [00:47:59]:

question? I have 1 last question. And Mhmm. What is your superpower?

Chase Birky [00:48:07]:

I would say I’m the one thing I can hang my hat on is that I’m a really good judge of character. So I might not always be the best judge of talent depending on, you know, what the skill set or the expertise is, but I know when I’m dealing with a good person and when I’m not, which has been a skill that I’ve honed, You know, throughout the years, I I think I I knew, on the positive side, you know, pretty well, you know, if I was dealing with a good person, I didn’t took me a while and some, hard experiences to realize when I was dealing with a toxic personality. You know, because a lot of times, it’s masked in ways that you don’t see until you have that pattern recognition And you, you know, kinda see how things play out. So, you know, some of the tougher experiences I’ve had in my career has helped develop, you know, that The eye for okay. This is a toxic person or at least not someone, you know, that is of the caliber that, you know, is acceptable for our team. So, Yeah. I would I would just say it’s kinda just quickly knowing, am I dealing with a high, you know, integrity, you know, high character sort of person? You know? And that’s everything because, you know, if someone has all the technical, you know, capabilities in the world and, You know, you can make it rain from a sales perspective and all that, but they’re a crappy person, you know, and toxic in the organization. You’re you’re you’re not moving forward.

Chase Birky [00:49:45]:

You’re moving backwards. So I would any day rather have someone who’s a great person that has maybe less skills and abilities than someone who’s toxic and, you know, is really good in certain areas.

Glenn Harper [00:49:58]:

How did you, out of curiosity. Because we we have this question come up quite a bit on the the trusting of somebody and how you learn that that character thing. Is it something where for you to hone that, you give the ability to that person to be in a position to screw you over or to trust them where they they will stumble sooner than later and you know quickly, or is it something you wait to see how that develops? You know, it’s there’s 6 to 1, half done the other. Which is the best way? Do you do right away so you know. And so you get hit hurt a little bit versus or do you let them go all the way and then you’re like, oh, son of a biscuit?

Chase Birky [00:50:35]:

I I think to start any entrepreneurial endeavor, you’ve gotta have an abundance of trust, Simply because to do what you want to do, you have to be more than yourself. And if you don’t trust people enough, You’re gonna hoard too much of the responsibility and not empower others that truly, you know, advance the company. So I think you have to have Almost an unreasonable amount of trust when you’re starting out so that people can do the things you need them to do. You know, I can fail and can learn the same way that, you know, you did. I think also that as you become more mature as a business, You have to trust a little bit less than you do when you’re, more in your infancy stages Because you’ve got more stakeholders, you have more risk. There’s more people that you’re accountable to. You know, and also you built systems and processes that are keeping the organization going in a direction that, you know, you can trust in that regard. So I think trust, you know, the if we can trust everyone, you know, in the world to do everything that was right, We would be so much more efficient as humans and get so much more done because we end up putting so many safeguards and things that, block productivity to accommodate the bad actors out there.

Chase Birky [00:52:04]:

And it’s necessary. Right? You you know, a certain size, and when you have enough at risk, like, you just can’t be stupid. But, you know, switching from, you know, that, you know, kind of blind trust almost to a bit more of a measured level of trust, To me is indicative of, you know, going from, you know, the founder hat to the CEO hat. It’s like, what made you successful as a founder is not gonna make you successful as a yo. And I’ve learned that the hard way by, you know, just being super disruptive and trying to break things, you know, just because that’s my nature, you know, and innovating and Trying to do all these things that, you know, you you can do and probably should do when you’re small and trying to really find that product market fit. But When you’re a more mature company, you end up being more disruptive than is helpful, so you gotta be very surgical about where you decide to disrupt the organization.

Glenn Harper [00:52:57]:

Yeah. It’s funny. We everybody wants to deal in the fantasy world, but it’s the real world we have to live in. And so even though we’d like it to be a certain way, it is what it is, and we gotta navigate that the best we can. And, Bud, you’re a fantastic yes, Chase, we really appreciate you be on the show. Do you got a a plug you wanna throw in there on what you

Chase Birky [00:53:15]:

do? Yeah. So, I mean, if you’re interested, follow the dark horse journey. LinkedIn is where I live from a social media standpoint. And if you are in the accounting space or considering The accounting space. You can go to a better way dot CPA and learn what we do for accountants, who again are our main customer. And then Dark Horse on CPA is our our our end consumer facing website for our clients.

Glenn Harper [00:53:43]:

So Well, well, thank you very I know you’re not on Facebook because you’ve posted nothing since 13. So I’m just saying, like, I think you were way young back then. But, no, we really appreciate you being on the show, and I hope our audience hit got some great nuggets out of this. And, yeah, there’s just a lot of good stuff here, so I really appreciate it. And, another, great podcast. I’m Glenn Harper.

Episode Show Notes

We are thrilled to announce that our latest episode of the Empowering Entrepreneurs podcast features the incredible Chase Birky, an inspiring entrepreneur who has overcome numerous obstacles on his journey to success.

Here are three key takeaways from Chase’s story that can empower and guide aspiring entrepreneurs like you:

1) Selling the Vision: Chase emphasizes the importance of selling a compelling vision to early investors, even before your product or service is fully developed. Entrepreneurs often have to sell ahead of what they currently have in place. So, learn how to effectively communicate your vision, inspire others, and secure the support needed to bring your dreams to life.

2) Balancing Business and Relationships: Chase shares his personal journey of finding a balance between building a successful business and maintaining healthy relationships. He highlights the importance of prioritizing the well-being of your loved ones, especially for those with young families. Discover strategies to navigate the challenges of entrepreneurship while nurturing meaningful connections outside of work.

3) Trust and Leadership: Trust is the foundation of any thriving organization. Chase emphasizes the significance of trust in building a strong team and delegating responsibilities. As businesses mature, it becomes crucial to establish systems and processes that cultivate trust and allow everyone to contribute their best. Learn how to foster a culture of trust within your organization and leverage the power of a united team.

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