Talking to yourself with Clint Myers

Venture Capital
Private Equity

Clint Myers is a former public accountant who now works in venture capital. Clint is also the founder of Kill Busy Season, so…uh…he’s interviewing himself today.

Tell us about your background.

I don’t have the typical background for someone who worked in public. I studied Organizational Leadership in undergrad and went directly to grad school for an MBA. In the business world, my undergrad degree didn’t carry much weight. But I learned some really valuable things in the program, including how to write. I didn’t realize how essential that was until much later. I worked for four years in an audit function for Liberty Mutual, which was a dead end role. I wanted to get into an investment role so I started studying for the CFA designation. I passed the first exam, but got discouraged about breaking into the industry. So I went back to school to get a master’s in accounting, and joined PwC during that program. I worked at PwC for two years, coming in as an experienced associate in audit. I actually took classes during busy season, which wasn’t very smart. During my second busy season I was senioring a job and taking a class. I attended like four classes or something, the first day and the test days - that’s it. We had a group project that I did nothing on…literally nothing. I passed the class, I think my classmates and professor took pity on me.

What was your experience like at PwC?

Generally it was really good. PwC has a certain energy to it (other firms probably do too). I don’t know if it’s because everyone is career-oriented, or like-minded in other ways, or what. But there’s almost a hustler’s vibe, which is not something I expected from a bunch of accountants. But everyone is out to get stuff done, which is a cool environment.
My first busy season was a (relative) cake-walk. It was a segment of a Fortune 500 insurance client. The client had a bunch of shared services centralized at the corporate headquarters, which made the segments less involved. We worked 7a-7p, Monday-Friday. No weekends. The team included a partner, senior manager, manager, and three associates (including me), one of which was acting as the senior. I still keep up with the other associates, we were pretty tight. Like we went through hazing together or something.
My second busy season was much more intense. It was the same client, but I seniored the job and PwC implemented procedure changes that made testing more complex. Also, the partner and senior manager rotated off the job, so there wasn’t a lot of continuity with the team. The 7a-7p schedule went out the window, we worked real busy season hours. We got the job done on time and without major hiccups, but at times I wasn’t sure it was going to happen.
Overall, I learned a lot in public and it was pretty fast-paced, but nothing compared to my first investment role…which made me rethink everything I thought I knew about business. It made me realize I didn’t know shit. Even though I learned a ton at PwC, I knew nothing about running a business. I still learn this lesson on a regular basis. That’s one thing that I love about business, there’s so much to learn. It’s never ending.

What are a few of the most valuable things you learned while in public?

In no particular order:
  • How to dig into a topic or issue. In order to (properly) audit something you have to understand it. I wanted to have answers if I got grilled by the partner. So I’d ask and ask questions until I could teach someone else what was going on. I think people hesitate to ask about the same topic over and over because they’re afraid of coming across as stupid. Others probably don’t have the desire to have a granular understanding of how things work. But it’s critical to be able to get into the weeds and really understand something. It’s just as critical to know when you need to do so, and when you don’t - I did not learn this in public. I had a hard time deciphering between important and unimportant details for a while.
  • How to figure stuff out on my own. You’re thrown into the deep end. A good senior will talk about the procedure for 30 seconds and show you prior year workpapers. This can be difficult and overwhelming when starting. I’m not sure if it’s by design, but this forces associates to become somewhat independent. Just as critical to figuring out how to accomplish specific tasks is figuring out what specific tasks need to be done. I don’t know if I learned this in public, probably a little bit within the context of an audit. But not in terms of operations.
  • How to drink from a firehose. When you start, there’s a lot of info coming at you in a short period. This forces you to develop the ability to filter / sort / prioritize info.
  • How to work. The amount of work on your plate forces you to focus and get things done. It helps that everyone has more work than they can handle, because it forces everyone to focus and not bug others. I think I’ve lost some of this ability over the years. Partly from all of the distractions (email, text, slack)…but also curiosity can be a bad thing. Sometimes it gets the best of me and it’s hard to pick one thing to focus on.
  • Maybe most importantly, that I didn’t want to be an accountant for the rest of my life. I’m glad I have that background and knowledge but happier that I’m no longer doing accounting work.

Why did you leave?

More than any other reason, because I figured out I didn’t want to be an accountant. I wanted to help companies grow, not record the growth created by others. A high growth company obviously needs a solid accounting and finance function, that’s essential. I don’t want to downplay the importance of accounting, without it you can’t understand what’s going on in the business. But a lot of accounting functions are backward looking and I want to focus on where the company is headed, not where it’s been.
I also got jaded about auditing. Partly by seeing some people rubber stamping procedures. That made me wonder why I was doing what I was doing. But what had a bigger impact was how miserable most partners seemed.

What was your first role after PwC?

The worst job I’ve ever had. It was an FP&A role at a lab equipment company. It was a Fortune 500 company, but I worked at a branch office. We had a separate P&L and local general manager, who was extremely sharp. If I would have worked directly for him, the experience would have been great. But I was in the finance group, which consisted of a director, manager and 3 analysts (including me). I liked the team but I was so bored. I literally had nothing to do. Nothing. The other analysts were busy and the manager was absolutely swamped. I was hired to relieve some of the manager’s workload, but he was so busy he couldn’t find the time to give me work. So I surfed the web for 5 months.
My goal when leaving PwC was to get into an investment role. But I wasn’t having much luck, so I thought perhaps FP&A was the interim step I needed. That’s why I applied to this role in the first place. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t a very good plan. I’m lucky that the job was awful. If I would have been there for 3 years, it may have been even harder to get into an investment role. Anyway, much of the 5 months was spent looking for other jobs. I lucked into an acquisition role at a private equity backed real estate investor.

Tell us more about that role.

The company mainly invested in multifamily properties but dabbled in other commercial real estate. Shortly before I joined, the company secured a $125 million commitment from a NYC based investor. They (the company, not the investor) owned ~25 properties and contributed ~20 of them to a NewCo that was capitalized with the new funding. The company had ~400 employees but most worked at a property. Only ~20 worked at the headquarters. I was on the deal team with 3 others (CEO, EVP, VP of Acquisitions). Between acquisitions, dispositions and recaps we did 18 transactions totaling $500 million in 2 years. We also bought out the private equity investor shortly before I left. That was…hairy.
I learned more in those two years than any other two year period in my career. I worked directly with the executive team who had deep transactional expertise. I was also the liaison between our team and the private equity investor. I had daily conversations with them, so I learned how they think about investing and operating businesses. I also did projects for operations, asset management, property management and finance. I didn’t love it at the time, but in hindsight it was good to see these angles of the business. Overall, it was a great experience. But I also learned how dysfunctional companies can be. At the time, I thought that was unique to that company. I’ve since learned that every company is screwed up in one way or another.

What is your current job?

I work for Nueterra Capital, which is a healthcare investor based in KC. We’re a bit unique in terms of structure but the best description is a family office that does venture style investing. We have two portfolio buckets:
  1. Directly held companies, most of which we started ourselves and own a controlling interest. The oldest and largest of these companies was founded in the late 90’s. The success of this company led to the formation of Nueterra Capital, which is charged with diversifying the company’s interests and investing in healthcare innovation.
  2. We also have a portfolio of companies held through a fund structure. This is where I spend most of my time. The round nomenclature is confusing these days, but we typically invest in Seed extensions or Series A rounds. We are active investors and try to help beyond just capital. This could be board participation, strategy workshops or industry connections.
My entire time with Nueterra has been in an investor role, but the company’s execs are operators at heart. I think this is a differentiating factor versus some VCs who are strictly investors.

Would you ever go back to public? Is there anything you miss?

I don’t see a scenario where I’d go back. Industry roles have been much more fulfilling for me. But I’ve never been in an accounting role after my time at PwC, so I can’t really speak to public accounting versus industry accounting. I really like working in venture. There’s so much innovation going on - both inside and outside of healthcare, which is where we invest. I feel stupid daily, which is a great way to stay humble. I talk to crazy smart and ambitious founders who are trying to change a heavily regulated and totally messed up industry.
The closest thing to an investor role at a public accounting firm is probably transaction services. Which is certainly interesting but I like being in a deal role. I guess some firms also have investment banking services, but I don’t think I want to be a banker.
I do miss the camaraderie in public. Everyone is in it together and dives in to get the job done. The energy that I discussed earlier was pretty cool too.

Any advice for those working in public or studying accounting in college?

This isn’t specific to accounting, but networking is one of the best things you can do for your career. I would not have my current job if I hadn’t previously networked with my current boss. Growing your network should be a lifelong goal. I strongly prefer one on one networking versus events. But networking can also become a distraction, so you have to be thoughtful about it. Don’t accept every coffee invite, don’t blindly ask everyone to connect. Have a reason to network - they work for a company or industry you’re interested in, have a career path that you’d like to mirror, etc.
That leads to my second thought, which is to create a career map. Pick three positions you’d love to have in 10 years and then map out how to get there. Literally make a map. Research how other people got those positions and try to mirror their careers. Talk to others about your map, see if you can help other people make their own or help them get to their next step. The maps will be wrong. But this will force you to think critically about what you want to do with your life. And when you’re thinking about doing something different, you can refer back to your maps, update them and use them as rails for your next job search. The earlier in your career you do this, the better.
I’d recommend that everyone learn programming, the basics at a minimum. We’re already seeing data science requirements in some finance jobs and I think that will become more common. The purpose of accounting & finance departments is to turn data into information that business leaders can use to make decisions. This process can be optimized with code, with many parts being automated. Analyses can be more efficient and robust and the resulting information can be better understood with data visualization tools.
Lastly I’d recommend that everyone create things and put them online. Make a personal website. At a minimum this can serve as an online resume. Doing this with Carrd or Webflow is cheap and easy. For project inspiration, look at MakerPad. There’s a huge no-code maker movement going on that’s really cool.

If you could go back in time, would you still study accounting?

Probably not. I’d study math and computer science because those are the things I’m most interested in now. But that’s a tough question…if I would’ve studied math or CS, maybe I’d be wishing I studied accounting. Who knows. The beautiful thing is, there are so many amazing learning resources online today. Many of them are free, or at least not cost prohibitive.

Other than what you studied, what’s one thing you’d do differently early in your career?

Without question I’d work for a small, fast growing company. In my experience, you learn more at smaller companies. You have more responsibility (in depth and breadth) more access to senior leadership, more ability to influence decisions, the list goes on. This is similar to a high growth company. The faster the growth, the more there is to do and less time do to it. This forces employees out of their comfort zones, which is a great way to grow personally and professionally.

What are some of the most important things that you’ve learned about careers and business?

There are a number of cliches that are true - learn to say no, stop selling your time, everything is negotiable. I’ve heard these for a long time, but when you put them in action they’re pretty liberating.
The ability to view the same event through multiple lenses is really valuable. I studied this in undergrad. Reframing events in different lights will help you make thoughtful decisions and anticipate complications. Perspectives you should include are your employer’s (i.e. think like an owner), your direct reports, your customers, your investors, etc.
One of my personal values is continuous learning. This is also something that comes from undergrad. It’s one reason I really enjoy venture. There’s so much innovation going on that you have to be learning new things all of the time, otherwise you get left behind. So I try to read a lot, although not as much as I’d like. I subscribe to a bunch of newsletters and podcasts. I start reading a lot of books, unfortunately a lot of them go unfinished.

Why did you start Kill Busy Season?

I’ve had entrepreneurial aspirations for a long time. I’ve had thousands of ideas and “started” a few things but they all fizzled out. I got fed up with myself always talking about it but never making anything happen, so I decided to shut up and try something. Hopefully this won’t be my last project. I hope to get this going and on autopilot (as much as possible), then start another.
The main reason I want to do something on my own is so I don’t have to depend on someone else paying (i.e. employing) me for the rest of my life. I feel like that’s a huge risk; a bigger risk than going out on my own. Not that I’m planning on quitting my job anytime soon. But my goal over the next 12-24 months is to generate free cash flow from side projects that supplements my current salary.

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