Nathan Liao

Founder of CMA Exam Academy

Nathan Liao is the founder of CMA Exam Academy, a top Certified Management Accountant exam review program. As a CMA and CMA coach, Nathan mentors accounting and finance professionals in over 80 countries to earn their CMA certification in as little as 8 months. The unique review framework in CMA Exam Academy has proven to be the key to his students’ outstanding success in attaining their dream of earning the Certified Management Accountant certification.

Where did the idea for CMA Exam Academy come from?

“After passing my Certified Management Accountant exam, I created a blog as a hobby that discussed the CMA test and provided tips and strategies to pass it. As my audience grew, requests to launch an exam review program kept coming in from my audience. People wanted me to teach them the subject matter, so I launched CMA Exam Academy.”

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

“I wake up at 6:30am, get ready for my day, and start working around 7:30am. I keep my days productive by planning out my most important tasks the day before. Having a mapped-out day with all my priorities listed out the day before helps me start each morning in execution mode, tackling my to-dos and ensuring my productivity stays high all day. After work, I work out, read, and hang out with family or friends.”

How do you bring ideas to life?

“I have an app just for cataloguing ideas that pop up randomly in my head every day. Once a month, I’ll go through the list and pick one to try out. Creating a minimal viable product to test the idea is the approach I follow. If there’s good feedback from customers, I’ll invest to make it a full product/service.”

What’s one trend that excites you?

“Artificial intelligence applied in an online education environment is exciting. How humans learn online or offline will evolve very rapidly with the advent of AI. AI will be able to assess a learner’s strengths and weaknesses and create custom learning paths to speed up the learning process and mastery of new subjects and skills.”

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

“My planner ritual. Every Sunday morning, I go through the wins and lessons from the week, plan out the most important tasks for the upcoming week, assign a day to each one, and execute. On weeknights, I review my planner to ensure the tasks mapped out for the following day are scheduled out. If I had to boil it down, I’d say planning is the one habit that helps me stay productive.”

What advice would you give your younger self?

“Everything takes time so make decisions with a long view in mind. Those are the decisions that will have the biggest impact in your life.”

Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.

“Equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome, is what we should strive for as a society.”\

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

“Know your numbers. Review your financials on a monthly basis, not once or twice a year. Knowing how your company is doing regularly will help you course correct quicker.”

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

“Putting a face to an otherwise ‘faceless’ industry. Buying test prep programs from big corporations is an outdated strategy. People want to do business with people they know, like, and trust. By putting myself front and center, my customers know who they are doing business with. They get to know me and by extension my brand/business before they decide to study in my program.”

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

“I launched a college textbook exchange marketplace online back in 2009. I invested all the money I had, which wasn’t much at the time but was all I had. The website flopped and I decided to close it after a year. I took it as my first real-world MBA experience in learning how to launch an online business. The experience served me well in subsequent years in other successful online ventures.”

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

“I’m a huge fan of coffee and I’ve always had the idea of creating a coffee brand that’s specific for accounting and finance professionals. The coffee would be sourced from organic farms.”

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

“I bought myself an Amazon Kindle Paperwhite. It’s my first one and I can’t put it down. I’ve always liked to read but now I love to read. The gift of knowledge this device has given me is priceless.”

What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?

“Trello by far. I have my days, weeks, months, and quarters mapped out in Trello. It’s super easy to use with their kanban card digital system. Trello keeps my team and I organized.”

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Atomic Habits by James Clear is a fantastic book to learn about how to build habits the right way. My productivity has increased tenfold thanks to this book. Building habits that last is not only rewarding from a personal level but professionally as well.”

What is your favorite quote?

“My favorite quote is ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’ This quote always inspires me to strive to make true, meaningful change in society and help others, whether that be with my business or with other ventures.”

Key Learnings:

  •  Make decisions with a long view in mind.
  •  Review your financials on a monthly basis, not once or twice a year.
  •  Keep your days productive by planning out the most important tasks the day before.
  •  Knowing how your company is doing regularly will help you course correct quicker.