Making the Transition from Public Practice to Business & Industry 

Is life any greener on the other side of the fence?

For a variety of reasons, many young CPAs begin working in public practice, stay for a certain number of years in the same firm or move to other accounting firms, and then decide to make a dramatic change to a position in business & industry. Making this kind of decision is not easy; would you be lured by the type of position, the kind of company or industry, or more pay?

After spending the first part of his career in public accounting with a Big 4 firm and a Tulsa-based firm, Jamie McCoy, CPA, a 2010 AICPA Leadership Academy graduate, recently made the transition to chief accounting officer of Eagle Energy of Oklahoma, LLC, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Edge sat down with Jamie to find out what motivated him to make this kind of change, what he may think he’s leaving behind, and some particulars on advice he would give to other young CPAs who may be thinking about a similar transition.

Edge: Everyone has their one “a-ha” moment when they begin working with a new employer. What was your “a-ha” with Eagle Energy?

Jamie McCoy: So far, my time with Eagle has been pretty hectic. I was not necessarily looking to leave my firm when Eagle presented me with a full-time opportunity. When I came, we had initiated the early stages of the IPO process and were working full force on that and a potential sale of our assets. As a result, I had little time to reflect on where I was! Ultimately, as things slowed down, I have really enjoyed the change of pace and new experiences that industry has afforded me, especially those new experiences outside of traditional accounting.

Edge: Some Young CPAs who work in public accounting think all there is to do inside a company is management accounting, internal audit or finance. What kinds of projects do you work on?

Jamie McCoy: One reason I made the transition to Eagle was the opportunity to continue to develop and broaden my skill set. My background has always been technical accounting for public and private entities, so Eagle gave me the chance to get involved more with the overall execution and evaluation of the company’s business strategy compared to just focusing on detail accounting.

In my time with Eagle, I have been able to work closely with our CFO to begin rounding out my experience base. Some of those projects include budgeting, forecasting/planning and treasury/cash flow management. Developing our budgeting and forecasting future results draws off the analytical skills I developed throughout my career, but has also given me the chance to dig deep into our operations to evaluate our returns against our expectations. This has also given me the opportunity to work closely with our operations team, and to learn a great deal about the business and our operations in the field.

I have also enjoyed exposure to the treasury function. As an energy and petroleum company, we allocate a majority of our capital resources to develop our oil and natural gas reserve base. I have enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about how to effectively manage cash flow in the day-to-day business, as well as the opportunity to develop relationships and work with the lenders in our credit facility.

Edge: Why did you make the switch from public practice to business and industry? What motivated you to do this?

Jamie McCoy: My background has been primarily focused on accounting for public entities and those with public intentions. At the local firm in Tulsa, I spent a significant portion of time consulting with public and private companies working through public transactions. I enjoyed the firm and the opportunity to work on many different projects.

Eagle had been a client of mine for about a year before I made the transition. When I started consulting with them, they were a private entity very early in the process of looking at options related to the public markets. Over the first six months, I spent a good number of hours working internally to help them prepare for their audit and get financials into shape for a public filing.

Ultimately, when Eagle decided to move toward a public offering, they gave me a great offer to join the team. I had greatly enjoyed working with the entire team as a consultant and saw this as a great opportunity to learn more about the process from the inside. In hindsight, it has proved to be a good decision and has given me many new experiences and the chance to develop relationships throughout the energy industry, from investment bankers and private equity to transaction legal support.

Edge: How is working with Eagle Energy different from working for a firm?

Jamie McCoy: The number one difference is no daily time sheet!! All kidding aside, the primary difference for me is the singular focus on one client. Working within the company and not as an hourly billing consultant allows me to spend more time on a variety of issues that may be ancillary to our primary goals.

Edge: What parts of working in public practice will you miss?

Jamie McCoy: I had great experiences in public accounting with a large and a small firm. I was able to work with many great people with varied backgrounds and experience bases. In the Big 4 firm, you knew there was always someone who had dealt with your issue or was uniquely qualified to help you find an answer. I feel like I grew up professionally there and had many great mentors to learn from and look up to, while in the small firm, the proximity to the revenue stream was exciting. As we grew the firm and were able to share more directly in the rewards. I enjoyed seeing our hard work pay off.

I also really enjoyed working with so many different clients over the years. In public accounting, you have the opportunity to get exposure to a broad cross section of clients and see how they approach their work differently. I learned a great deal from many of them and have many friendships that have endured through my career changes.

Edge: What’s your advice to other young CPAs who are trying to decide to make the leap like you did?

Jamie McCoy: I enjoyed my time in public accounting and truly believe it was fundamental to my professional career. I had great professional mentors and managers who taught me how to think critically and approach all kinds of different issues. I would not be the professional I am today without these opportunities and experiences. I was not specifically looking for a full-time opportunity at Eagle when the company initially became my client. Over time, I became close with the team and what I considered to be a unique opportunity was presented to me. I have enjoyed my time with Eagle and look forward to the future.

Editor’s Note: The AICPA’s Young CPA Network has a variety of career resources to provide more information on making the transition from one accounting field to another. Visit these pages often for continuous updates.

Learn more about the AICPA Leadership Academy and the opportunitiy to young leaders from around the country. Click here


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