Get to Your Financial Goals Faster with Nth Degree CPAs' Dan Nicholson
September 22, 2021 | Episode 10
Get to Your Financial Goals Faster with Nth Degree CPAs' Dan Nicholson
September 22, 2021 | Episode 10
Do you want to reach your financial goals faster? Who doesn’t! If you’re serious about reaching your financial goals, whether you’re already a business entrepreneur, thinking about starting your own business, or just want to learn good habits and ways to build your financial future, this is the episode for you!
Eric Grundhoefer brings his signature interview style to this episode to really dive into what Dan Nicholson does and why he’s so focused on his own concept of ‘Financial Certainty’
Dan is all about figuring out how you can turn the dreams and goals on your financial ‘vision board’ to create a concrete and proven plan to be able to fund your priorities. Plus, Dan helps his customers learn the shortcuts and tools you can use to help get there even faster.
Of course, we couldn’t have an interview with Dan Nicholson without also talking about his upcoming book, and his business Nth Degree CPAs.
If you want to be a CPA, Nth Degree CPAs is a name you want to know. Their all about building the business team and skillset that can really accomplish their goals and accomplish them quickly and efficiently. That makes them one of the more incredibly CPA businesses out there since it’s not just about results, it’s about supporting people to achieve those results.
The path to entrepreneurship isn’t always straightforward though. Dan calls himself a born entrepreneur, but he also talks about the times when he felt stuck or trapped in places he didn’t want to be, and how freeing it was to break out.
If you’re looking for financial freedom and personal fulfillment, this is the interview for you.
Eric: All right. And we are back on Becoming Legends. I’m your host Eric Grundhoefer. Today with me I have Dan Nicholson. Dan is the founder and CEO of NhtDegreeCPAs.com, founder of the certainty, I’m sorry, CertaintyApp.com, as well as, what was the last one, CertaintyBook.com?
Dan: Yeah, that’s just my upcoming book called Rigging the Game.
Eric: Rigging the Game, I absolutely love it. This guy is doing it all. I will mention those a thousand more times, because I just butchered all the things of those. But guys, this is Dan Nicholson. Dan, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it. I’m really excited about this episode. Please tell the audience who you are, what you do, and why you do it.
Dan: Yeah. Well, kind of working backwards, what I do is what I think most people are really in search of, which is achieving what I call financial certainty. And so I do that through a few different kind of companies, and things that I’ve created. The Certainty App is basically a tool that I developed. And the idea behind it is, many of us have this vision board that we’ve created, maybe physically or in our minds. But the problem with the vision board is that it’s not a solvable equation. What I mean by that is that for many of us, it actually creates more anxiety, because it doesn’t tell us how much more we need to make or if we can even achieve that. And so then we go out and do a bunch of stuff, and maybe unintentionally get further away from what we actually want.
So, the Certainty App allows you to basically create your own unique wealth algorithm, and it tells you based off of all your current assets and cash flow, how much more money you need to make to fund all of your priorities. And then it gives you some tools and marketplace and things to show you how to get there faster. Whether that’s improving the ROI in your assets, whether that’s paying less in taxes, whether that’s on and on and on. So, that’s Certainty App and this idea of financial certainty.
Then I wrote a book that’s coming out on sort of my methodology around it. And then I’ve run a CPA firm for the last 11 years, which is all trying to show people how, by keeping more of their money, so paying less in tax, and then reallocating that to funding their priorities, how much time you can sort of cut off from funding your priorities. But it all comes back to how do I help you get closer to what you actually want?
Eric: That’s absolutely amazing. How did you come up with this concept? So, how long have you been doing this, is my one question. And then how did you come up with this concept?
Dan: Yeah. So, I have been a lifelong entrepreneur, I guess. So, doing all the cliche stuff, as a kid growing up, mostly terrible ideas, trying to convince my parents to let me do some harebrained thing, sort of a life-long entrepreneur. And got an accounting degree and a Information Systems degree because I thought, okay, a combination of the two is going to be the best skill set to run a business, be an entrepreneur. And then I went about as far away from entrepreneurship as you can go, which is I did a fellowship at the board that writes all the accounting standards in the US, who helped to write derivatives and hedge accounting standards. So, not only did I do something that’s about as far out of entrepreneurship, but then I worked on the accounting standard, that’s also kind of the way that most regulations are. So, I kind of spent the first 10 years of my career being miserable. And I realized — Oh, sorry, go ahead.
Eric: No, I was literally just going to — The question I had in my head when you said that, I was like, but were you happy to do it? Or was it something that you thought you had to do at the time? That’s all I was going to say, and you said you were miserable.
Dan: Yeah. You picked up on it. This fellowship wasn’t something I sought out, fortunate that I got nominated. First person in my family got to college. And so I end up kind of fish out of water in this experience where the other fellows were kind of what you’d expect. Like, their parents were CFOs of fortune 500 companies or top cardiologists in the East Coast. They just kind of came from a background that you would not surprising they did this fellowship. And then there’s me, like, pulling up in my Honda Civic totally — just uncomfortable. But that sort of — I allowed myself to feel stuck in that, that I had to do it ,because I built in my head that it was almost insulting to my parents for all they sacrificed for me not to pursue it. Now, they couldn’t have been more supportive of whatever I wanted to do. I was sort of like playing with house money as far as they are concerned. I’d gone further than they had necessarily imagined for me. So, I sort of convinced myself that I had to stay there. And yeah, so consequently, it was soul-sucking.
Eric: Yeah, no. And I know exactly what that’s like. My first business was a personal training firm. I somehow, I worked for them in Buffalo, New York. And then I started running three of them in Buffalo, New York, and became the, kind of, regional manager. And it was just to sell training and I loved it. I was happy because I was selling something I believed in. And then I was like, why am I making all this money and spending all this time? I’m talking 15 hour days, but I enjoyed it. But I was like I’m going to do it for myself. So, I talked a Gold’s Gym down the street into letting me service their members, because they didn’t have a corporate structure in there. Did that, ended up getting three partners, which was way more than enough, and it was just too many. And it didn’t work. And there was too many people — too many cooks in the kitchen.
And then I ended up working for a marketing company after that. The second I sold and started working for that marketing company, because I thought it was — I thought everything that I was going to do was going to be in fitness. At the time, I was 22 years old, like all of these things. And I just didn’t have any belief in myself, really. I wasn’t thinking broad enough. But I did that for two years working for two marketing companies that were pretty big companies. I actually don’t even know how I got the job either. Like, I was looking around and I was like, I am way under qualified because at the time I had no experience.
But anyways, I just know how, like I was targeting like very deep depression. And I mean, I was in Buffalo, New York, which is already a depressing, gloomy, like snowy seven, eight months out of the year kind of place. But like, the soul sucking like you said, it’s the only thing I could do. And then, immediately after that, 2014, I was like, I’m done. I quit. And I’m starting — I go to start my own. And I’ve never looked back. I can’t work for anyone else ever again. So, I mean, that’s kind of my story. Is that similar? Like, once you did this, after you did that, where you just like, I’m done feeling like this was? Was it your heart and happiness guiding you? Or was it you had the right idea and kind of pivoted off of that? You get what I’m saying?
Dan: Yeah. Certainly, there’s no way I could ever go back to working in corporate America. Just absolutely not. Like, I could do the work, but I would be miserable doing it.
Eric: Exactly, exactly.
Dan: So, much of what I do now, and what — like you asked me how to come up with the Certainty App, and just the methodology that I have in my book coming out is from a combination of advising somewhere north of 3,000 clients at this point through our CPA firm. And then my own experience as an entrepreneur, realizing that there’s so much over generalized information about business that causes you to feel like you have to become somebody else to be successful. Which is probably the worst thing you could do is play somebody else’s game in all disciplines of business in life [inaudible 00:08:45] by playing someone else’s game, yeah.
And then the consequence of that is that in order for you to try and grow your cash flow, you end up taking out a bunch of risk. So, then you have all these ups and downs. That’s a long way of saying, my greatest strengths have never been more apparent, but also, my greatest weaknesses have never been more apparent. And so it’s been an awesome experience. I couldn’t say I’m 100% happy every day just because of those self-inflicted things that we do.
Eric: Yeah, exactly. It’s also too, like the grass is always greener. During the pandemic, like, everyone was struggling, yeah, but it was like marketing’s the first thing everyone dropped. So, I’m sitting here struggling, going through. We barely made it through alive. And I’m just like, I got to get a job. I look like crap on paper, my resume looks made up. So, I’m like, I’m going to work and it’s going to be fine. And then I’m like, I was like worried about all these hours. And I’m like, what am I talking about? I literally, I work five to 10 o’clock at night, every single day, seven days a week. It’s just for myself. So, I was like, why am I stressed about — I know exactly what you mean.
There’s all these little things in there that come along with entrepreneurship, that at the time, if you don’t have your head on straight about it, you’re like, this is awful. Why am I doing this? But then it’s always getting better. It’s just curves, man, it’s highs and lows. That’s all it is. It’s wild. So, I absolutely love this. I love all the stuff you’re doing. Let’s talk about Rigging the Game more. What’s Rigging the Game about? When does it come out, first off. I love the name. When does it come out? And what can people that are listening now expect when they order this?
Dan: Yeah. So, for those who pre-order, you get a copy in October, otherwise, the general release is end of January. We’re still ironing out the exact date with the publisher. But you can get a pre-order copy at the CertaintyBook.com. And so the book, Rigging the Game, and then the subtitle is The Entrepreneurs Guide to Financial Certainty. And basically, a few element. It’s my complete operating system and how you create sustained wealth or financial certainty. And it starts with kind of breaking down, why is it that winners win, and others don’t. So, you hear all these stories and entrepreneurship of we know the person who seems like they’re always winning, that they’re constantly getting the results. And then you see some other folks who burn the boats, they go all in, and they get some massive wins. And then they try it again, and they go all in and they fail miserably. So, what is it about the person who consistently wins? What is it that they’re doing? So, I provide kind of the research behind that around what folks who are consistently winning, getting closer to what they want, what they’re doing.
And a lot of it starts with, just to give a little bit of a way, starts with this idea: every system is perfectly designed to create the outcome it’s currently generating. In other words, if you don’t like the outcome that you’re getting, you either have to change the system, or change the inputs into the system. And so how do we do that? How do we rig the game? How do we basically put ourselves in a position where we’re always going to get the outcomes that we want. And so part of it is understanding human behavior and biases, cognitive distortions. And then part of it is having an actual operating system. So, I give what I call my four commandments of financial certainty, which are, what are the key assumptions that we need to make, and then I break down the tools, the mental models and principles, and then I get some real actual application of those principles. And so it’s really like a handbook for decision making and entrepreneurship.
Eric: I love that. And I love that it’s like the main — the first thing you said was reverse engineering the wealthy, reverse engineering what other people do. And like, this might sound bad, but to me, I’ve learned 99.9% of what I do by reverse engineering what successful people have done. And that could be in business, that could be in fitness that could be in just anything. And personal life, so a lot of things, what we do is, I think it’s great to do and people don’t realize it’s not stealing and copying. It’s taking the good that works for you, and then putting your own spin on it, and then taking a piece — that’s yourself now. So, I love that that was in the book. And you kind of have a formulaic path for that to see what’s working for these people, and what’s coming back. So, that’s amazing. So, that kicks over to, they get the book, they teach all these things, and then how does the Certainty App integrate and work with Rigging the Game?
Dan: Yeah, yeah. I’ve tried to create an entire ecosystem around Certainty. That’s sort of my broader play is creating a platform around this concept. And so we’re kind of attacking it from a bunch of different angles. We’ve got the book that teaches the methodology, and one of the steps is defining, so a step back. One of the key commandments or assumptions is we have to buy as closer [inaudible 00:14:36] more. What I mean by that is every action should get us closer to the things that we want. More is not necessarily the answer. So, sometimes it is but not always. I’ll give you an example of that. If we want more free time right now and more whitespace, hiring some employees isn’t necessarily going to get us closer to that today. It may, long-term, but if we need that time right now it might be the worst thing we could do because we have to train those employees, mentorship, onboarding, now we’re spending more time. Right?
So, if we need more time now, hiring someone might get us further away. So, we have to understand what we’re trying to get closer to. So, the Certainty App, we’re defining that. We’re creating the solvable equation, putting each of our priorities down, giving a date, a dollar value, and then connecting all of our assets and liabilities to tell us how much more we need to make. And then the next step is, now that we know how much, can we get there without having to do more? Meaning, is there something we can do to keep more of what we already have and strategically reinvest it in assets that are going to, what I call asymmetric risks, have substantially more upside than downside. And so the app is a key tool. It’s like a GPS to show you, are you actually over time getting closer or further away from what you want?
Eric: That’s absolutely incredible. So, how did you — I think I might have got you off track when I asked this originally.
Dan: I might have gotten myself off track.
Eric: No, I hedge and I pivot, and I can’t even keep my thoughts straight, to be honest. I’m probably the worst person to actually interview people, because I’m the worst at staying on track. So, how did you get this idea that you said, I’m going to create this? And is that just from the success that you possibly have had doing this with your own money? Or were you your first client? Or was this just something that hit you and you said, I need to create this, then I need to teach them this, then I need to supply them? Like, building the ecosystem is really what’s fascinating here. How did we get the idea to build the ecosystem for Certainty? Are these three pillars that we have here; the Certainty book, the Certainty App, and NthDegreeCPAs.com, are these three things the end of the ecosystem? Or is there more stuff that you have planned for down the road?
Dan: Yeah, there’s another piece, which is called Certainty You, and it’s digital products that teach about certainty in more specifics. So, I have a specific way that I teach, how to re-engineer your cash flow, for example, a certain way that I teach how to think about creating what I call a wealth pyramid. And so I have these programs that kind of go into specific detail on how to do that. But ultimately, what Certainty You has done is we’ve created a credential called a certified certainty advisor. And so we have a cohort of students going through the program right now. They are not just finance folks, they’re marketers, copywriters, IT, operations all who want to be able to show their clients how what they’re doing is contributing to getting them closer to what they want.
So, in other words, it’s turning you from being a commodity into actually demonstrating, hey, this marketing campaign that we did for you generated this amount of profit. That profit back over here in your personal priorities, that’s shortened how long it’s going to take you to fund buying house funding retirement, so on and so forth, as long as you actually strategically reinvest it or deploy it accordingly. And so we’re really trying to create this overall, it’s called a transactional platform where we’re providing services, but in knowledge, but also resources that can, and many different domains, all back to this idea of how do we help you get closer to what you actually want? So, that’s what we’re creating.
And how did I figure it out? One of my commandments is that I need to make an asymmetric bet, meaning where the upside is substantially greater than the downside. And so sometimes you have an opportunity where the upside is substantially greater. Or the Bill Gates, Elon Musks, Jeff Bezos of the world are just naturally gifted at identifying asymmetric opportunities. Most entrepreneurs were making bets where the downside, like bad stuff, is greater than the good stuff. It’s like, hey, I’m going to be homeless, or I’m going to buy this nice car. It’s like, well, homeless is probably worse than buying this nice car. So, we end up making a lot of bets where the downside is greater than the upside or the downside and upside are equal. And you’re not going to create generational wealth if you’re doing that. You have to make bets where the upside is substantially greater.
So, I had this notion of certainty and I wanted to build an app. And so then I went through what I call the four lenses, one of my tools, it’s in the book, where I systematically take an idea and figure out how can I turn this into an asymmetric opportunity? So, how can I eliminate all the downsides, so that if I’ve done that, and all I have is upside, so I’ve turned it into an asymmetric opportunity. And so in doing that, I created sort of these auxiliary product lines, so that it’s all kind of internally hedged, if that makes sense. So, the book feeds the — the course, it feeds the certification, feeds the app, the app references back, so on and so forth. And then the certification program, as part of their tuition, they all, each student got 50 lifetime logins to the app. So, then they’re reselling it and getting their clients onto the app which is growing our user base, so on and so forth. So, I’m always trying to work through, long story long, how to create the asymmetry, that significant upside.
Eric: I absolutely love that. Dan, this has been amazing. For anyone that’s listening that wants to learn about financial certainty and how to achieve that and getting closer but not more, and the difference between those two things, you guys can find Dan at CertaintyApp.com, CertaintyBook.com, and order his book, Rigging the Game for pre-order right now. As well as NthDegreeCPAs.com. Dan, thank you so much for being on, I really appreciate it. This was absolutely phenomenal.
Dan: Yeah, my pleasure. Thank you.