Why I Had to Fire My Mother

Leslie Liondas, CPA
Posted by Leslie Liondas, CPA on Jun 7, 2021 1:10:29 PM

My firm was started by my mother and I had worked in her bookkeeping firm for years while working towards my CPA license. One of the clients I worked with in her firm was a man who came to depend on me after I began maintaining his data in real time. 

The time came when I had to leave my mother's firm to meet the CPA licensing requirement of working under the supervision of another CPA, So, about four months into the new job, that client of mine from my mom's firm came to me to ask if I could help my mom out with his books. She had gotten behind again and he was back to not being able to see where his company was. To help him out (and to help my mom), I started working on his books in the evenings and weekends to get him caught up and keep him there. 

What most people did not know, because my mom believed in keeping everything to herself, was my dad was very sick. She was constantly taking him back and forth to doctors appointments and to the hospital. She was struggling to take care of everything by herself and did not want the clients to know how bad she was struggling. She would try her best to keep up, but she just had too many demands on her time.

My mother had an employee that was completely dependent on her and would constantly have to ask my mother questions - all the time, every time, when my mother was at the office. She never got anything accomplished.

She was in a vicious cycle. When clients would ask her when something was going to be ready, that was her signal to select that client to work on. You know the saying “the squeaky wheel gets the grease”? That was my mom, constantly putting out fires.

After obtaining the required experience for my own CPA license, I went back to work for my mother. Not long after, my current business partner came on board as well. I took over the firm - both the client work and the firm operations.

Although I had previously worked for her, I had never known the financial situation of the business. This was a huge mistake on my part. Now with four employees,  I knew that the business simply could not sustain the payroll. Payroll was high and work was completed too slowly. Work was extremely underpriced. And since it was all on hourly billing, the backlog of work made it difficult to bill the clients. There were times my partner and I went without getting paid. I knew we could not sustain this model for long. 

When I first attended QuickBooks Connect, I attended a session taught by Mike Michalowicz on his book Profit First. The book truly inspired me and it showed me that my business could not continue to operate this way. I started a list of expenses to cut, but quickly realized I needed to cut payroll. 

Unfortunately, I knew who had to go. But how do you fire your mom knowing she needs a paycheck?

This would be one of the most difficult conversations I had ever had in my life. I mean really, my mom started this business and I took it over - now I am firing her from that same business. 

I came up with a plan that could work for both of us. And she agreed! 

I split our client list into two groups. The first group included the client work that would stay with my firm, including both the clients I had brought into the firm and the historical clients that we had grown to real time reporting. The second group were the ones that my mom enjoyed working with, primarily clients she was able to manage with a flexible schedule. 

Next, my mom started a new work from home company. She no longer was in a constant battle of trying to choose to go to work or take care of my dad. She had complete control over her schedule and she was in charge of how she got paid. She had her own company again to run how she wanted.

This was 6 years ago and it has worked out for us. My mom was able to continue working while taking care of my dad until he passed. She still works from her home when she wants to work and as much as she wants to work.

My business has completely transformed since that time. We use the Profit First method in my business and we are implementing additional efficiencies in the firm. I now have an amazing team and I never want to go back to those early days again.

Sometimes, people have to help you do what is best for you. While it was a difficult decision to fire my mother, I had to make the decision not only for the business, but also for her. The change was extremely difficult for both of us and they were times at the beginning when it was awkward to be around each other. 

However, my mom seemed so much happier after we split. And I'm very happy to say that my mother and I are as close, if not closer, than we have ever been!

Topics: Practice Management

Do you have questions about this article? Email us and let us know > info@woodard.com