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Founder Stories: Scott Zarret, CPAacademy

Joseph Patterson | May 11, 2015
Have you ever felt that you’re settling and not reaching your fullest potential? It happens to the best of us. Luckily, we’re surrounded by enough marvelous people with inspiring stories to push us to go further and pursue our dreams. One such person with a story that is beyond inspiring is Scott Zarret, President of CPAacademy.org and CPAwebengage. Learn how Scott founded CPAacademy.org below!  CPAacademy_logo (1)    I’m Scott Zarret, President of CPAacademy.org and CPAwebengage. If you’re not familiar, CPAacademy is focused on knowledge sharing and idea exchange for the accounting profession through high-quality webinar presentations. Before founding CPAacademy.org, I was almost certain I would become an accountant. As it often happens in life, things don’t always go as planned. Here’s my story. My grandfather and father were both accountants, so naturally, I graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in, you guessed it — accounting — and entered the profession almost without a second thought. As quickly as I started out in public accounting, I realized that it just wasn’t for me. I passed the CPA exam but never felt it was the right choice. So what do you do when your designated path doesn’t end up working out the way you thought it would?In my case, I moved to Colorado, took a job I wasn’t passionate about and ended up getting laid off. It was a crucial moment for me, and I realized I needed to find a way to reinvent myself. Coincidentally, a family member came to me around this time with the idea that I could excel at doing sales to CPAs. Sales. Interesting. With that, I soon discovered my passion: sales and marketing. Having no formal background in the field, I did everything I could to get my sales message out to CPAs and found that the best and most effective way to do this (and make a sale!) was through education. Just as the men in my family are all in the accounting industry, the women in my family are in education. My two worlds came together and I soon started playing around with effective uses of education for marketing to CPAs — articles, letters, creating websites, etc. I quickly realized that education and building relationships was the winning combination in the selling process, so I worked on figuring out creative and effective ways to educate that also utilized relationships. The answer: webinars. I built my skills in presenting in a live web format and after six years of teaching the same content over and over, it occurred to me that there was so much more opportunity out there than just the one topic I was teaching. Why not bring together a community of accounting thought leaders to share a variety of education and content? At this time, my wife was pregnant, and when you bring a child into the world, it’s a great opportunity to look at life with new eyes. It was the ideal time to set an example for my son — to not use him as an excuse to play it safe and not try to do something different but see him as a reason TO try something different.  So I left my job to pursue my idea. My intention was to create a tool that would be valuable —something similar to iTunes or Amazon - one place where people could find everything they needed to be successful in the accounting industry with one click. Just as Wikipedia and TED Talks brought a huge shift towards free, easy-to-find, one-click services that provided people with the information and education they wanted and needed, I wanted to create something similar for the accounting industry.  Thus, CPAacademy, which offers the accounting community the most up-to-date content for free, was born. CPAacademy is the result of a life path filled with a lot of learning, a few missteps, and an infinite amount of passion. How do you increase sales? Be the expert. Be the thought leader.  As much as you might want to tell people you’re the greatest and make sales through that, without providing education and showing that you’re the one with the knowledge they need, you’re not going to get the success you want. A terrific way to position yourself as that expert is through educating via webinar presentations. To date, we’ve had 90,000 people sign up for CPAacademy accounts, featured 180 different presenters and hosted over 1,000 different sessions. For the last three years, I’ve been expanding the message of free online education — the more students and presenters we have, the better off we are as a profession. The race is on and it’s exciting to be a part of it and see companies like TSheets and so many others benefit from using this platform to create something valuable for the accounting community. It’s a great feeling to continue to learn and help my clients succeed in using these tools. For CPAacademy, my goal is clear: reach one million registrations processed, create that one-stop shop for accounting professionals to learn from industry experts, and to see how many more lives we can touch and how much knowledge we can share.scott-2014    Watch Scott Zarret's presentation, “Education, Thought Leadership, & Sales” and visit CPAacademy.org to learn more about the instructors and sign up for a webinar.  
A little about Joseph Patterson

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