Accidental Entrepreneur: The Martin Moll Story
Take one glance at your Linkedin feed, and you’ll likely be inundated with tales of rags to riches, the incessant grind, and other ostensibly-motivational accounts of the road to becoming a successful entrepreneur. These gurus often preach the power of visualizing your goals, thinking with unbridled ambition, and a relentless pursuit of success. While these admonitions are not without merit, they often steer budding entrepreneurs in the wrong direction. They emphasize the aforementioned grind for the sake of it, and the idea that being an entrepreneur is a worthy goal in and of itself. Perhaps this represents an admirable objective, but once lacking true substance. The eminent titans of industry of this and past generations were motivated by a passion to disrupt and ultimately revolutionize their respective industries, not to break out of the 9-5 lifestyle. As such, many entrepreneurs find themselves in the role out of necessity to bring their ideas to fruition. This “accidental entrepreneurship” is more common than social media and popular culture would have you believe, and a phenomenon shared between myself and Alfonso (ACG co-founder) and Martin Moll, founder of Breakaway Bookkeeping & Advising.
At just 5 years old, Martin quickly skipped over the typical superhero/firefighter/astronaut aspirations and set his sights on becoming a lawyer. He just knew. Naturally, his academic predisposition prepared him to both enjoy and excel in reading and writing, not to mention other courses where he was apt to apply his logical thinking skills. When it came time to apply to college, he opted to study political science and history at the local University of Oregon. This experience would prepare him for the next chapter in his self-prophesied destiny: law school. The next half decade of Martin’s life came and went; he excelled in law school, and lost no time jumping into a practice at regional firm Garvey Schubert Barer. Over 20 years after he sowed the seeds of a future legal practice, Martin had accomplished his dream. He was a practicing lawyer, and loved his role as an advocate for his clients. However, after several years into this newfound career, a realization began to dawn on him: the cutthroat nature of law simply wasn’t the culture he had envisioned years ago. It was time for a change.
In his frustration with his legal career, Martin inadvertently discovered another path to channel his analytical, systematic approach to problem-solving: accounting and financial advisory. Drawing from his innate aptitude for logic and the “ability to think in a disciplined fashion” he learned while practicing law, he jumped into the accounting world head first. Quickly rising the ranks, Martin soon became a director at KPMG before moving to Aldrich, where he covered healthcare clients as a partner in financial services and accounting. He loved the ability to create a transformative impact for each of his clients, and especially found satisfaction and purpose doing so within the rapidly-evolving healthcare space. As an invaluable asset to Aldrich and its clients, and a talented leader who prioritized being a true advocate for his clients, Martin was soon promoted to CEO and Managing Partner.
Martin’s leadership style centered around breaking down the barriers typical of the dense bureaucracy of financial services firms. He continues to work to create a “more level playing field” between employees and executives, and create a culture of transparency. This not only created an open atmosphere at Aldrich that inspired open discussions and increased productivity, but gave Martin the satisfaction of empowering others while earning a respectable living. After years of driving growth at his firm across the northwest, Martin soon realized that his current firm was not the long-term vehicle to see his vision to fruition. It would require breaking out of the boundaries of an established firm. It would take a leap of faith into the unknown.
After an illustrious career in the financial services industry, Martin Moll embarked on a new chapter in mid-2019. He founded Breakaway Bookkeeping & Advising, alongside colleague Kristen Keats, to reimagine the traditional accounting/financial advisory business model. They set their sights on disrupting how distributed CFO, controller, and bookkeeping services are provided in the marketplace. In speaking with Martin, we took away many valuable insights, but one axiom truly stood out to me and my team: “anyone can become a leader, and it starts with intentionality.” This eloquent observation came as the answer to a question we often pose to our interviewees: “are leaders born, or are they made?” Unpacking this response, we came to understand the nuance embedded in such a question. True leaders make the decision to lead and drive their desired impact. They understand their own shortcomings, and are willing to constantly learn and evolve. Martin’s career as a leader in business embodied these concepts, and his self-framing as an “accidental entrepreneur” really revealed the quality of his character and insight into the why behind his success. Breakaway continues to grow, and recently added 17 new team members in the midst of the global pandemic. I have no doubt that this success will only balloon from here, and I learned some incredibly powerful lessons I will apply to my own journey as a young leader in business. Through following Martin along his storied career, we realize that while entrepreneurship may often be an accident, effective leadership is no accident.
At The Astral Consulting Group, we approach every business case with a clean slate, and apply our unique framework to build workflows to suit each client's individual needs. Our founding partners come from engineering backgrounds, and understand the importance of reasoning from the ground up. As such, we combine this "first-principles" style of thinking with a holistic growth mindset to evaluate each case from both the top-down and bottom-up. This creates a comprehensive process unique to each solution we develop, and gives our clients insight into both the granular details of their business and supports strategic decision making to propel them forward.