Last month, we had Caleb Newquist, editor-at-large at Gusto, join us on our podcast, What’s the Factor? While most of our podcast guests have been entrepreneurs sharing their startup stories, Caleb’s background as an accountant turned writer took us on a new journey with a fresh perspective.
Throughout the episode, Caleb reflects on change and serendipity, sharing about the ups and downs that led him to write blog posts instead of analyze financial statements. As a former accountant and current tech enthusiast, Caleb brings unique insights on disrupting the financial industry and helping the small business space.
Here are some of the key learnings from his episode:
Your path may be anything but linear
Caleb intentionally chose to be an accountant but somewhat stumbled into being a fintech blogger.
After launching his accounting career, Caleb, a small-town Nebraska guy, found himself in Denver and eventually, the bustling city of New York. Years into his career, he found fairly quickly that he was getting burned out working at a larger firm. When the financial crisis came into play in 2008 and he lost his job, Caleb notably felt a sense of relief. Now, he could start fresh and go back to Denver.
Around this time, Caleb says he picked up blogging as a hobby. He first started writing about his experiences living in New York City but eventually turned to writing about his experiences in the accounting world. In July of 2009, Caleb shifted to a writing career when he helped launch an online accounting publication. Today, he is the editor-at-large at Gusto.
This is all to say that Caleb, a CPA turned blogger turned marketer, did not follow the linear path that many people set out to do. Caleb’s changing career path proves that there may be things you haven’t tried before, or other ways to share your expertise, that you haven’t considered.
Your perspective will change
Early on, Caleb says his view was a vacuum. He accepted that accounting was the path he chose and being in the weeds, he struggled to be objective. But, as a blogger and writer, his perspective changed. He was able to look at the accounting world as an outside observer and finally, call things out, like the attitudes of firms that ultimately drove him away.
In his current role, Caleb’s lens takes a different shape. At Gusto, his perspective is all about finding common ground with the issues that Gusto cares about and the issues that directly impact his audience. He sees his writing as a utility: a tool to resonate with his readers and to ultimately drive more users to Gusto.
At the end of the day, each role Caleb has taken on required a different outlook. Today, he says he feels fortunate that it worked out this way. Having been an insider as an accountant and an outsider as a writer, he feels like he can cater to the many perspectives in the industry.
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It’s only a matter of how
In this episode, Caleb shares that AI and technology will change the accounting function—it’s just a matter of how.
In one of his older articles, Caleb wrote that technology’s ability to automate tedious tasks could move accountants to a more advisory role. Today, he shares that there is still a lot of uncertainty, but he’s eager to see how technology will transform what an accounting professional does.
By automating the complex and tedious tasks, AI is not only changing the way an accountant works, but it’s also changing how pricing works. Before, it was common to charge on the hour. But, since technology is giving professionals heir time back, fixed pricing is becoming more of the norm.
Caleb also notes how bigger firms are hopping on the bandwagon to provide accounting packages that go beyond their traditional offerings. He says that this “playing for keeps” dynamic between larger firms, accountants and bookkeepers, and startup platforms is fascinating and something to watch.
Make ambiguity your friend
At the end of every episode, we ask our guests: “What’s the factor? What’s the factor for your success?” Caleb’s answer is to be open to ambiguity and to allow for serendipity.
At a young age, Caleb notes that he didn’t know that an attitude of being uncertain was perfectly okay. When he lost his job due to the 2008 financial crisis, that’s when he discovered that instead of being afraid of the ambiguity, he could be excited about it.
Whether you’re starting a new job or a new business, fostering excitement around uncertainty allows you to explore your possibilities with an open mind and helps you find the positive in any situation. As Caleb notes, it’s rare to do something and not get anything positive out of it. Allowing for serendipity to surprise you is one of the best things you can do you for yourself and your career.
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