Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high-quality outsourced accounting at an affordable price. Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the workforce after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were previously overlooked. Protea strives to represent people from all backgrounds and provide an environment for them to grow and succeed in a setting that provides the flexibility and acceptance of who they are as people.
We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.
Protea Conversations in 2022 will focus on positive transformation and representation from all backgrounds. We are broadening our Conversations with the hope that these conversations will continue to create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges leaders face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.
In October 2022 we spend time with Tony Wilson of Accquip. Small business and entrepreneurship has been a passion of Tony’s ever since 2010, when his brother and I launched a photography & design business. While helping his brother with the back-end helped Tony discover this passion for supporting visionaries. He loved the electricity that comes with working in a small business. Finishing this to pursue his first career out of college, he knew his dream job would involve him owning his own practice, helping others.
From 2014 through 2021, Tony gained experience in the accounting industry, becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in 2015, working for both public and private companies. Tony loved the learning and the practice in Corporate America, but his dream job still awaited.
Tony joined the masses in “The Great Resignation” of 2021 to create this brand. He left an incredible company with amazing benefits, not because he was upset, but because he knew that it’s never the “right time” to quit your job to pursue your dream. So here he is living the dream!
In all he does, Tony brings his passion for teaching and his excitement for life!
Tony’s personal mission is:
Lead others to a more abundant life, illuminating that path through education and inspiring action with creativity and joy. with creativity and joy.
Tell us a little more about your decision to start a career in accounting and how this aligns with your passion for teaching and thus starting Accquip?
My journey into accounting was largely driven by my mom’s encouragement to do so! As a learning & development professional, she was able to see certain skills and propensities in me and my brothers. Funny enough, she said that because I like math, I would be great at accounting…
I firmly believe that anyone can get into accounting. It’s really not as difficult as it’s made out to be. The way I see it, we’re just in the business of writing financial stories.
One thing I loved about my first job out of college was the learning opportunities AND the expectation of ongoing education. As a CPA (and now CMA), I need to keep my credentials active with continuing education. There’s something about needing to stay accountable to having demonstrable learning that really excites me. I never want to go stale in my career!
Along with my love for learning, I love taking what I’ve learned, simplifying it, and helping others to learn as well. All throughout my career, I’ve gravitated towards teaching and learning how to teach in a way where others experience real and lasting change.
My vision in starting Accquip was to bring much-needed education to the most underserved entrepreneurial market: <$1M in annual revenues. The problem they face is that the finance professionals most capable of helping them are priced out of the market. I saw a huge opportunity to build a brand that could connect with those entrepreneurs and empower them to do the work themselves (at least long enough to be able to afford a finance pro).
What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?
I think the greatest challenge has been in finding my voice (and trusting my own intuition). I was always an “A+” student and was always a great test-taker, but until I entered the workforce, I was never required to think critically or challenge assumptions.
As a professional, I eventually came to realize that it’s not about finding the “right answer.” It’s about standing on your own two feet and thinking deeply and critically about the work you do. When I was early-on in my career, I didn’t know how to take a stand on a topic or an approach.
Eventually, I learned to trust that, while I don’t have all the answers, my opinions and perspectives are valuable. I’ve worked with a lot of very hard-nosed people who believe it’s “my way or the highway.” If you’re not careful, you can assume you have nothing to contribute.
The biggest challenge I’ve overcome is to combat that feeling by acknowledging that some people have a fixed mindset and cannot see things from a different perspective. It doesn’t mean that I’m wrong. It just means that they might not be the right type of people for me to work for.
What are your short-term goals for your career and yourself?
Right now, my biggest short-term goal is to grow my new business to a place where it can be sustainable without having to go back to taking full-time employment elsewhere. I’ve got about 6 months to make this thing fly!
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?
Hands-down, the BEST advice I’ve ever received was from one of my managers in audit. He said “Tony, don’t come to me and ask what the answer should be. I want you to come to me with your answers and you ask me for my opinion on the answers you’re providing.”
It changed the trajectory of my career!
Don’t just identify the problem.
Come up with a solution to the problem first, and then ask for feedback on the solution.
It helps you learn and grow so fast in the industry. But it’s also an immense blessing to your manager when you approach problems like this.
What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?
Personally, I wish I would’ve started my business earlier. There is this thought in the back of my head that said “I need XX years in order to be qualified enough to start my own business.” The reality is that there is a lot of experience in large, corporate companies that does not translate to being an entrepreneur or serving smaller businesses as an accountant. The best experience to get in your dream job is just doing the dream work!
What advice would you give to others to help them be better leaders?
Resist the urge to jump in and “save the day.” If you spend all your time doing the work for your staff, you will never be able to get out of the weeds. Empower your team by holding them accountable to delivering a specific end result.
Along the same lines, just because your staff asks you “what do you think?” does not mean you should give a direct answer. 9 times out of 10, that question is often your staff subconsciously asking for permission to share their thoughts. Flip the question on its head and ask your staff “I’m so glad you asked, but I’d really love to hear your thoughts first.”
Get really good at challenging your team to learn and grow and prove to themselves that they are brilliant!
Can you share something interesting about yourself that will provide insight into who you are outside of the professional space?
I’ve got an 18-month old and 2-month old twins at home right now… they’re all girls – it’s absolutely nuts, and also amazing! It’s easily one of the biggest pros about working 100% remote: being able to spend time with them every day!
As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will donate to Positive Images (https://www.posimages.org/). Positive Images is a grassroots nonprofit organization serving Sonoma County since 1990. Their LGBTQIA+ Community Center hosts multiple weekly support groups, a youth leadership development program, mentorship opportunities, an LGBTQIA+ Library, resource and referral station, and a Transformation Station. They proudly offer a warm, welcoming, and affirming environment for young people to explore their individual identities, develop leadership skills, and contribute to our collective community. Positive Images staff lead LGBTQIA+ Cultural Competency Trainings and presentations that educate the greater community focusing on human connection, compassion, and inclusion. Their goal is a community where all LGBTQIA+ people are valued, compassionate community members, creating a just society.
Connect with others around you and grow your network. Here at Protea Financial, we love working with people from all industries and walks of life. For help finding people that can help you reach your goals, contact us today!