IMA Life: When Startups Meet the CMA

By Qing Zhu, CMA
October 1, 2017

During the last 10 years since college graduation, I’ve had three startup experiences—the first one in Canada and the last two in China. Now I’m the owner of a consulting firm that provides financial consulting services to SMEs (small and medium-size enterprises), especially startups in the high-tech industry in China. The CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) certification has been a valuable asset for me throughout my career so far, and I’ve become an advocate for the CMA in China. It’s been gratifying to see several of my clients, employees, and even my nephew beginning their CMA journeys based on my advice.


I first encountered the CMA as an independent bookkeeper in Vancouver, Canada, in 2008. At that time, I was still a poor international student struggling to pay the rent and to cover tuition. I did this for several coffee stores and restaurants, and I filed personal tax returns for other students.


Finding a suitable full-time job is often difficult for international students, and my greatest wish was to be an auditor at a local accounting firm after graduation. As my client list grew, I realized that I have a talent in communication rather than accounting techniques, and I decided that I should capitalize on that. So I spent more time finding clients while subcontracting detailed work to several of my classmates.


Revenue rose at a tremendous speed, but internal control problems appeared at the same time. Running my own business was a different world for me, and management accounting and governance became critical. After consulting with my instructors and researching all available accounting credentials, I finally chose the CMA because it would provide the knowledge and career resources that suited me best.


After coming back to China several years later, I was amazed by the expanded presence of IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants) in my home country. With the introduction of Chinese-language exams, the CMA is now one of the most popular certifications among students, with or without accounting backgrounds. If the current trend continues, I think it won’t be long until IMA is the largest international accounting body in China.


In my consulting for SMEs, I find that many of them lack sufficient management accounting functions, which leads to internal problems similar to those with my first company in Vancouver. Sometimes I suggest the owners and startup leaders earn the CMA credential themselves.


The CSCA® (Certified in Strategy and Competitive Analysis) is another great credential suitable for CMAs since strategy and competitive analysis are always among the top priorities for SMEs.


I actively participate in IMA activities, both in China and internationally. I’m a judge of the China student case competition; a translation reviewer of Strategic Finance, Chinese edition; and also a mentor for peer IMA members. If you have any questions regarding doing business and working in China, I’ll be more than willing to help you.


Qing Zhu, CMA, is the founder of Greenstone Consulting, a financial and operational consultation provider that helps SMEs. You can reach him at jzhu@greenstone.club.
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