Jason Blumer realised his creative talent would be curbed if he stuck to the traditional ways of running an accounting business. So when he was let loose to manage his father’s firm, he started experimenting and having fun.
Jason describes this time as his wilderness years. He deliberately went off the beaten track, trying things out and abandoning them when they didn’t work. A lot of the time, he got his ideas and inspiration while out on long meditative walks in the woods behind his home in Greenville, South Carolina.
These strategy walks still play a big part in Jason’s life. “I walk two to three hours every other day. Some days it’s nine or ten miles, thinking and planning,” he says. His business partner, Julie, sometimes joins him on his walks. That’s when they figure out where to go next for their two businesses. Together they manage a successful CPA firm and Thriveal, an online CPA community.
Youthful energy poured into creative play
Jason’s boundless ideas and energy were evident early on. He was the kid that got into trouble at school for talking too much, and at home for having fights with his brother. At college he was in rock bands and is into progressive rock. He likes creative things that are a little quirky, so he often gets asked how he got into accounting. It turns out that Jason chose accounting because his father was an accountant. He saw it as a reasonable way to make to make a living. “Accounting doesn’t stifle me”, Jason says, “but that’s because I’ve figured how to do accounting in a creative way. It’s led to running an accounting firm differently, and to starting Thriveal.”
The copycat years
Jason’s early career was with a larger accounting firm. And when he took over running his father’s accounting firm, Blumer CPAs, he copied the things he’d seen the large firm do. Then he woke up one day and thought, why the heck am I copying them? I don’t want to be like them at all. Luckily, he was in a situation where he was free to make his own decisions and free to make mistakes. “Even though he probably didn’t agree with some of the things I did, my father was really good at saying, ‘You run this business the way you want to’.” says Jason.
The wilderness years
Jason started trying out all sorts of things – some worked, some didn’t. In retrospect, he admits he could have saved some heartache, and money, if he’d gone to his father for advice. But he reflects, “I kinda needed that – to be let loose to run it my own way; to play around and see what I could do.”
“Running a business is a creative process. It’s like playing chess – you’re assessing the risks, moving pieces at the right time, creating pieces when you realise you don’t have the right ones,” he explains.
Over several years, Jason experimented with new business models. It was a journey of exploration, and he was having fun. He offered innovative packaged services, value pricing and started using Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for marketing. Over time, the business grew. His wife, Jennifer, stepped in to help out in the office and began building her expertise in social media.
By 2010, Jason felt he was close to figuring out how to do the things that he wanted to. He and his partner, Julie, set out to become an online or virtual firm. Back then, moving all their clients and business processes online wasn’t easy. It took a good five years before they could finally close the office and work largely from home.
Seeking like-minded people for support
Around the same time as the firm moved online, Jason started writing a blog, sharing his thoughts about how to run a non-traditional accounting firm. He was keen to forge collaborative relationships with other forward-thinking CPAs. So the Thriveal CPA network got started and has grown into a vibrant online community.
Jason uses Thriveal to foster innovation and creativity. “I think accounting firm owners forget that they’re entrepreneurs. They need to try pricing and presenting themselves in new ways,” says Jason.
Thriveal’s activities now include podcasts, community calls, Yammer communities, two-day learning gatherings and Future Firm Groups for larger growing firms. CPAs take part in online meetings designed to encourage their professional and business growth.
Now, Jason and Julie are kept extremely busy running both enterprises. There’s continual cross-fertilisation between their two businesses. What they learn in the accounting firm, they share in the Thriveal community. And the fresh ideas that come from the community, they apply in their CPA business.
Currently, Blumer CPAs biggest accounting niche is in creative design and development agencies. They’re keen to add law firms and fitness businesses like crossfit and yoga studios to the list. Work on their branding, messaging, and some structured marketing campaigns are all in the pipeline. They have big plans for the future, so that could mean a lot more walking!