Adam Boatsman

Managing Partner at BGW CPA

Adam Boatsman, CPA, is the Visionary and Managing Partner at BGW CPA, PLLC, an Anything But Typical® accounting and business advisory firm based in Charlotte, NC and serving clients nationwide. BGW specializes in the service of privately held, middle market companies, with a mission of helping clients save money, make money, stay out of trouble®, and have fun as they run their companies.

Business owners typically call Adam when they are frustrated that their current CPA is unresponsive and has a “once a year” relationship with them, adding no real value to their companies, and/or they’re surprised by tax bills, afraid to call their CPA for fear they’ll get billed like an attorney, or they’ve been kicked around the firm — promised the A team but a year later are stuck with the C team. Adam quips these are “The Big 4” reasons CPA firms get fired, and he and his team have built a firm dedicated to avoiding those issues.

Incidentally, Adam left a Big 4 accounting firm to start BGW.

Adam has a passion for helping people in the community and educating others on financial concepts related to owning a business, and you can find him sharing his accounting and consulting knowledge of over 25 years on his company’s blog, podcast, or free weekly webinar series.

In true service to others, Adam has also perfected his guacamole recipe.

What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?

I’m up early. Very early. Sometimes that means 4 a.m. But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that I’m sharpest when the rest of the world is sleeping in.

I work out first thing in the morning. Experts say that gets it off your “to-do” list, but I think there’s more to it. My ability to deal with the stresses of the day is a thousand times better if I’ve sweated in the morning. I wasn’t always physically active. Now, I can’t live without it.

My days are packed with meetings — internal and external — but no two days are exactly the same in terms of hours. We service business owners across a variety of industries, and they have their own schedules to keep. A dental practice with a day full of patients might need to meet before their office opens, while the owner of a construction company might need something later. One of the best parts of the job is forming genuine friendships with clients — so much so that we might meet for lunch or happy hour to strategize.

Over the past few years, I’ve implemented a few tools that do keep me on track. First and foremost is having someone on the BGW team manage my calendar/schedule meetings in advance (for example, with clients we meet with quarterly) as well as help me on the administrative side of things. This person is a combination of a project manager, executive assistant, and client liaison, ensuring there are no roadblocks on the way to any deadline. We actually have several of them across the firm helping different teams, a unique concept for most CPA firms.

Hubspot helps immensely with easy calendar scheduling, by the way.

I do also utilize Microsoft Teams to help me find times on my calendar to block off, put my head down, and focus on tasks. I typically hit that button on Sunday night after my week has been planned out in advance.

How do you bring ideas to life?

“Aha” moments can and should happen everywhere. Yes, we can plan brainstorming meetings during business hours, but when you love what you do and think about scenarios even off the clock — which I do — good ideas happen in the middle of real life, too. Grocery stores, long runs, talks with my wife or friends, listening to a podcast… all have resulted in big ideas.

Internally, our leadership team has weekly meetings. That’s typically where we all share big ideas for the firm first. If no one thinks another is nuts, our typical approach is to start small, work out the kinks, and then implement the idea firm wide. That’s how we came up with the role of Quarterback Coordinator — that combination role I detailed in the last question. We got someone in there for me for nearly a year before we perfected what he/she would be doing and expanded the role across the firm.

Externally, meaning an idea for a client, I’ll just email them…or text or call or schedule a lunch. Like I said before, one of the best parts of this job is forming genuine friendships with clients. I can shoot an idea over however I like, and it doesn’t have to be “formal”.

What’s one trend that excites you?

I’m loving the discussion on AI (artificial intelligence). So many think it will replace hot blooded CPAs entirely (it won’t — ChatGPT just failed the CPA exam, and true tax strategy requires nuance), but it does show some potential in reducing some mundane work. We’ve actually dedicated a few weeks of our weekly webinars to this topic. I love the back and forth on this.

More important to me is the demand for work-life balance. Generational shifts along with COVID protocols solidified that the fact that we’re working from home a hybrid schedule as long as that works for our clients and staff (including young interns and new hires who need in-person training). I genuinely love seeing our teammates be able to do the things I wasn’t able to early in my career — volunteering at their kids’/grandkids’ school, reliably coaching a baseball team, volunteering for a local food bank, etc. — because working from home and creating a flexible schedule wasn’t an option.

What is one habit that helps you be productive?

Scheduling focus time. Again, the exact hours are different every week based on client needs, but Teams helps me find open times on the calendar where I can really put my head down and focus on work. I’m also religious about getting to bed at an early hour. I wake up very early, which means I have to be in bed early. Sometimes, that earns me the stink eye from family members ready to start a movie, but I have to prioritize rest to be productive the next day.

What advice would you give your younger self?

You’re uncomfortable here for a reason. Get out.

I left Big 4 firm, ultimately, to have a better work-life balance. I only wish I’d done it sooner.

Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you.

The real happy hour is 4 a.m.

What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?

Meditate. It took forever to get into the practice, and I still struggle to do it right, but getting my mind right has been as transformative as changing my physical body.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?

Ha! As I just said, meditation (think of it as intentional focus if “meditation” seems too weird) is critical. If you can block out all other thoughts and distractions, and recenter, the change is amazing. There are apps to help you.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?

Never lose contact with good employees. They may have to leave you to embrace parenthood, explore new opportunities, or try to be their boss. Don’t be resentful of that. Congratulate them and send them on their way. Recognize what an asset they’ve been and keep in touch! Things change. The children someone left your firm for (to raise) get older. Career changes don’t always work out. It’s a joy to welcome good people back, and your company will benefit from that.

What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?

I actually don’t think of it as a failure, but I’ve learned some lessons around growth/expansion. Even with the best due diligence, merging firms will be problematic. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth it in the end, but I’ve learned to focus as much on culture and practices as I have on financials.

What is one business idea you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Have the courage to do things very differently than everyone else in your industry is doing them.

What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?

Hubspot. It’s our CRM, website host, calendar manager, and more.

What is the best $100 you recently spent?

Registration for a half marathon for me, my wife, and 2 of my 3 kids. The intent was to run it as a family, but those 2 kids smoked us. Still, setting a long-term goal as a family and then seeing through the months of training was powerful.

Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which you’ve received much value?

Oldie but a goodie is Good to Great. It still holds so many valuable lessons that I reference often. My colleagues run a bi-weekly podcast called Anything But Typical which showcases the personal stories of entrepreneurs who have built successful businesses. Sometimes, BGW clients end up as guests, and I’m always amazed to hear a story or anecdote I’ve never heard before — even from a long-time client.

What’s a movie or series you recently enjoyed and why?

I’m a sucker for old Star Trek and the original Star Wars, but I love Ted Lasso and anything my film-making son produces.

Key learnings:

  • Trust your gut at every stage of your career but act smart.
  • Your clients value their personal lives just as much (if not more) than their business. Honor both as you advise.
  • You’re only as good as the team around you.
  • Star Wars is still great.