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MP recently spoke with Tony Zorc, founder and CEO of Accounting Seed, the first-ever accounting platform that seamlessly works with the Salesforce Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. After graduating with an accounting degree and holding several positions at well-known companies, Zorc was challenged as a Solutions Architect for ERP systems to find a way to connect accounting software to front office solutions. At the time, there was simply no quality way to do so with only sub-standard solutions available. It was at that moment when he thought, ‘there has to be a better way.’ Soon after that, in 2008, Zorc started Accounting Seed. Now, there is a full business solution on one platform.
Having been a CPA for 20+ years, CEO, and tech entrepreneur, Zorc decided to author, with ForbesBooks, Iconoclasm: A Survival Guide in the Post Pandemic Economy.
Let’s jump right into it…
MP: What’s an iconoclast?
TZ: An iconoclast is the fusion of three things: creative thinking, engineering, and discipline…all with a drive to make things better. An Iconoclast lives by what I like to call, the iconoclast formula – challenge, design, execute – as a way to open doors that seem shut and bring about change where change is due.
How is being an iconoclast helpful to entrepreneurs?
This is a great question. The iconoclast formula itself is a way entrepreneurs can bring something new to the market, grow a business, hire the right people, and so much more. Iconoclasm is a lens through which an entrepreneur can choose to see their circumstances and opportunities.
By approaching problems, societal norms, and more with the iconoclast formula, an entrepreneur can not only take hold of opportunities in a new way that will propel them forward, but they will also be able to take the ideas they already have and bring them to life. In fact, the iconoclast formula was the foundation for the creation of Accounting Seed – something that people said ‘couldn’t be done’ or ‘didn’t exist’ came to life because I chose to forge my own path through iconoclasm. And now, there are over 1,000 companies and 15,000 users that benefit from the kind of technology Accounting Seed offers. It’s the perfect formula for any entrepreneur!
How can an entrepreneur become an iconoclast?
I think it’s important to outline the different types of entrepreneurs here. There are investor-driven, innovation-driven, and mission-driven. All three types can be iconoclasts and often there is crossover between the three types, meaning an entrepreneur can be one of these types or all three. But the truth is, the iconoclast formula serves the mission-driven entrepreneur the best because the formula most often transcends technology and return on investment (the most important things to innovation-driven and investment-driven entrepreneurs, respectively). To become an iconoclast, it first starts with a change in your mindset and outlook. It has to be someone that wants to see real, positive change. It requires big-picture thinkers to look at the details and vice versa.
To become an iconoclast, it first starts with a change in your mindset and outlook. It has to be someone that wants to see real, positive change. It requires big-picture thinkers to look at the details and vice versa.
The first thing I recommend is to set aside time to outline what life would be like for you and for those you want to influence if your idea, business, product, or service was available, and use the iconoclast formula to bring that to life. It starts as a daily practice that then becomes second nature. What I have found is that going for small, iterative, and measurable improvements in a short period of time is better than trying to make big moves over many months. You often get closer to your goal this way. Start by challenging something small, design a plan to accomplish it, and then execute on it. I bet most will find they are leveling up their opportunities faster that way. In fact, I have a video (below) that serves as a great guide on how to put the iconoclast formula into practice.
Many entrepreneurs think they need a ton of money to successfully launch their business and make sales. You’ve proven this isn’t always the case with your personal experiences. What should entrepreneurs who think they need a lot of capital do?
For entrepreneurs who think they need a lot of capital to get their business off the ground, I would say they should start smaller and more focused. As I mentioned previously, going for small, measurable improvements, goals, and overall plans can lead to business success without the need for capital. It is the case so many times that capital is NOT needed to start. This is a myth I cover in my book, Iconoclasm: A Survival Guide in the Post Pandemic Economy. A lot of entrepreneurs believe they need capital to get off the ground because they don’t have a well-thought-out plan to launch their product or service. As an entrepreneur, you have to think both in the short term and the long term to be successful.
As an entrepreneur you have to think both in the short term and the long term to be successful.
The short term should be, how can I launch this business with the resources available to me now?
The long term is, what additional resources do I need now to scale my business?
Why is it important for entrepreneurs to start small when launching a new business?
It is very important for entrepreneurs to start small when launching a new business because providing a good product and delivering it successfully not only takes time but growing too fast can be a real failure if you are not ready to scale with the growth. I believe in starting with a couple of key target markets, creating depth within those markets, then scaling to expand into other areas (if that makes sense for the product or service your business is providing).
As entrepreneurs, we dream big, don’t we?
That is a beautiful thing but if we let our ‘end-goal dreams’ get in the way of our path to accomplish what we are set out to do, then we may never see those dreams become a reality.
How will an entrepreneur know when it is the right time to scale their business?
An entrepreneur will know it’s the right time to scale their business when several items (processes, technology, resources) need to be upgraded at the same time along with a growing customer base and their product or service is mature enough to beat out the competition. These are usually the red flags that the business is taking off and more support is needed to keep up with the growth being experienced. Another way of evaluating this is by asking: “If I push x million dollars into the business, what will be my bottlenecks to growth?” If the answer is not having enough people and having them trained, then the reality is you are probably ready to scale. If the answer is the product or offering not meeting the market requirements will still hold me back, then you are NOT.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who think they’re ready to scale and are considering approaching investors?
My advice to those entrepreneurs that believe it’s time to scale their business through investment is to have a detailed plan – know exactly how you would spend more money, what the ROI on it would be within 3-5 years, and how it would impact each department within your company. So many entrepreneurs just assume they need more money and have no detailed plans on how to spend it.
Let’s say an entrepreneur has objectively reached the point of needing external capital to sufficiently scale their business. What advice can you share with this entrepreneur when looking for the right VC to pitch?
My advice to those that are in a position to pitch for external capital is simple – do not make forecasts for your business that are too much of a stretch for you. Forecast conservatively. Underpromise so you can over-perform. I know you may be thinking, “but I know and believe I can do so much more!” You’re probably right, but it’s better to overperform than underperform, especially for your potential investors. Do not sign up for a growth plan you do not feel you can realistically perform just to get a high valuation multiple.
Do not make forecasts for your business that are too much of a stretch for you. Forecast conservatively.
Do you think the VC method works against an entrepreneur’s best interests?
The VC method works fine for competent entrepreneurs who are willing to adapt quickly. It is always the case that success at the next level requires adaptation and mastery of new skill sets and some entrepreneurs do not have these skills or are not willing to put in the hard work to develop them. If you are a hard-working entrepreneur and are willing and eager to master the next level of skills, then there is nothing to fear (and much to gain) with a VC partner who is on board with your plan.
How can an entrepreneur lay out a plan to raise funding for their business without sacrificing either their own or their business’ best interests?
By having realistic growth plans that maintain a great value for their customers and balance the objectives desired by the investors. Specifically, it’s important to find investors who share your same point of view when it comes to the growth path for your business. If you have done the research and know where you want to take your business in the next 3-5 years, it’s important to find investors that align with that.
You know your customer base the best. You know what your customers want out of your product or service. Because of this, you are the driving force behind the type of investment partners you bring into your company. It takes time to really find the right partner, but it’s worth it. The worst thing you can do is get yourself stuck with a partner that is not going to do right by your customers. However, if you’re taking more than 6-12 months to make a decision, you might be doing something wrong in the process. It’s a delicate balance!
It takes time to really find the right partner, but it’s worth it. The worst thing you can do is get yourself stuck with a partner that is not going to do right by your customers.
Are there any resources you can share with entrepreneurs looking to make an educated decision on how best to approach fundraising for their business?
I talk about this in my book, Iconoclasm: A Survival Guide in the Post Pandemic Economy.
Is there anything else that you would like to share?
Being an entrepreneur is about taking strategic risks, but there is a lot to be said about a gut feeling. More often than not, you already have the answer and solution inside of you. It’s simply a matter of bringing it to light through some of the tactics I’ve shared.
Cover photo courtesy of Tony Zorc.