Balancing IPOs, Ledgers & Fatherhood, A Moment with Travis Combs

Introduction: Two dad’s discussing life balance in the hectic world of IPOs with featured guest, Travis Combs, Managing Director at the Effectus Group.

In this interview, Alan Olsen, CPA, MBA and Travis address family, faith, career, client’s best interest, and trying to strike a balance.


Alan Olsen

Welcome to American Dreams. My guest today is Travis combs. Travis welcome to today’s program.

Travis Combs

Hey Alan, thank you very much for having me today. I’m excited to get to be a part of this.

Alan Olsen

Alright, so Travis bringing a we’re gonna talk about your, your path in life. You know how you got to where you are today. And I’d like to first start with you, for you to share your background and what led you to pursue a career in accounting.

Travis Combs

Alright, well, before I share that, my it’s really an honor to be here. And I love listening to the podcast because of the inspiration that comes from all the stories backgrounds and interesting people. I don’t know if I consider myself to be quite one of those people yet, maybe I’m on my journey.

But I’m grateful you take some time to chat with me and I am an accountant. So little different than like a founder of a startup or someone who’s revolutionizing things, but I’d love to share my thoughts on on accounting and how it’s been a interesting part of my journey and path.

So, to go back, I think my love for accounting started early, which might be strange for some people. But when I was 1011 12 years old, I decided that making money was of great interest to me. And I started a lawn mowing business using the family lawn mower.

And had, you know, the family friends letting me mow their lawn down the street.

And as people saw me pushing this lawn mower, not a commercial lawn mower, by the way, up and down the street, scrawny little kid were trying to figure out things they, they would hire me to help them with their lawns to I don’t think I was doing a particularly great job.

Maybe it was people taking pity on me. But I really loved it. And this was in the late 90s. So we’d had a desktop computer at the house and I some early form of Excel. And I would make invoices for those customers, and send them a invoice and get the check.

So I had revenue, and AR accounts receivable and cash. Now at the time, I wasn’t learning about other important parts of the county, like, like expenses or like paying my taxes. So I wasn’t a licensed CPA at that time. But that gave me a love for business and running a business. And I really enjoyed that.

So you know that that started young and I had a mentor tell me that if you love business, you should think about accounting. And this is a kind of a cliche, but accounting is the Language of Business.

And I’ve always taken that to heart and thought, hey, if I like business, and I like understanding how businesses run, I’ll pick accounting. I picked it when I was an early teenager, and I stuck it out past all the way till this day.

Alan Olsen

Now, you grew up in the Denver area. Is that okay? So and then and then you transitioned over to the San Francisco Bay Area, which is, you know, going from the intermountain west to the West Coast, how has it affected your career?

Travis Combs

Yeah, well, I’d say that’s like swimming upstream. And hopefully that has made me stronger. But to fast forward to my career. When I finished college, I joined one of the big four accounting firms as an auditor. And I’m so happy I did that. That was a wonderful time in my life.

I spent over eight years doing corporate audits and really learning about business and accounting. This was like my goal, you know, working for the Big Four firm was like another college education, with hands on experience, and getting to see how fortune 500 companies run.

How other types of businesses operate from that perspective of helping them with an audit opinion. And as I continued through there and learned more about myself and what I was interested in, I felt as though I needed to pursue a passion to move away from auditing.

Although I have a lot of respect for that into technical accounting and more business advisory type of counting, to assist with deals transactions, and to see more business I like business. That’s how it started with the lawn mowing empire. And which was a small empire, by the way, and then to this day.

So I decided to join a start, I call it a startup accounting firm. It was fast, you know, small but fast growing, serving Bay Area companies with you know, high growth.

And I thought, okay, I could be another student of business in this environment, helping these great innovative companies getting a seat at the table, helping them with some technical accounting services, assisting them through the difficulties of the IPO process from an accounting perspective.

Get them ready, make them successful, and see them launch into a new chapter and exciting chapter of their company life as they become public and move on to the next levels.

And so, moving out here to California gave me that offer To pursue, you know, a different little path in accounting that I’ve fallen completely in love with.

I moved out here to the Bay Area four years ago, and have really, really enjoyed working in this space, meeting the amazing people and getting to be a part of from an accounting sense, all the excitement that’s happening out here.

Alan Olsen

As you reflect on your life journey here, did you have any mentors or individuals that significantly influenced your, your path?

Travis Combs

Absolutely. So mentoring and mentorship is something that I’ve found to be so critical and helpful in my life. and I are so many who I’m grateful for, who’ve taken the time to teach me and helped me.

You know, first and foremost to my parents who helped teach me important life lessons and values in the home. But along the way, there’s been many others, in addition to my great parents who’ve taken me under their wing and taught me the things that they know and part of their wisdom.

Again, this is why I love your podcast, and this show is that this is sort of like a mentoring, battleground, or excuse me boot camp. For folks where they could really gain some life lessons from wise people, I want to talk about two mentors or experiences that really were formative.

One was when I was in college, I was in an accounting program, that was really challenging. And I really wanted to do well and get good grades and secure a good job. And when it came to our first round of midterms, once we were in this accounting focus section of my college career.

I didn’t get the grade that I wanted on one of my key exams. In fact, it was quite a bad grade. And I tried and I’d studied and I had kind of expected to get a good grade because leading up to that point, generally, I’d been able to get good grades.

So I did what Travis did, which was okay, I’ll solve this problem, I’m going to talk to my teacher and figure out what the extra credit is. I, they always give Travis good grades because he you know, shows up and tries.

And that teacher who was very kind and has stayed to be a very good friend to this day, said just a few words to me that have resonated. And that never left me. He said Travis, academically. It’s like you are on the varsity team in high school. Now you’re in college. And frankly, you’re on the bench.

And he kind of turned around politely. And that was it. He didn’t offer extra credit. He didn’t, he didn’t tell me, it’ll be okay. He just left me with that message. And I thought about it.

And what it means to me now is that every time we in our lives, get ourselves into a situation where we’re going to push and learn something new and be at the next level, we’ve got to also get ourselves to the next level, push and try harder. We can’t We can’t rest or expect things to just happen.

We’ve got to push for it. So I thought about that all the time, I was expecting, you know, frankly, a little handout. Instead, I got some real life advice that is carried me every time that I tried to take on a new challenge, a second one.

And this has to do with my you know, choice of accounting, frankly, a friend of mine, I was a few years into my career. He was a friend that was successful in commercial real estate. And we had a one on one we were chatting and he said, and I asked him, hey, what’s made the difference for you?

Like what was some of your breakout moments? How did it happen? And he said, Travis, find something, a department a project a position or role, a task that other people are afraid to do. And raise your hand and take it on. And if you take it on and you do just okay at it, people will give you great recognition.

But if you take it on and you do great at it, the sky’s the limit. And I took that to say, hey, you know what, and Alan, I know you’re my fellow CPA here, but people in this world are kind of afraid of accounting, they’re a little afraid of the process and what it can mean.

And so I thought stick to this course, learn, you know, gain experience and be excited about it. And let it be the opportunity maker to do something that other people are afraid to do and build your career around it.

So I thought about that all the time is finding something people are a little afraid of, and going after it and doing your best in it. So stories like that have just helped me throughout my career wonderful mentors. I

n fact, Alan look out I may be coming for you because I know you’ve got great wisdom and love your advice. And I you know I love what you do here especially in all that you do to give back and share, share stories of wisdom. So I can’t speak enough about the power of great mentors.

And and to me it’s you know, one way that I can express gratitude for it is to try to pay it forward and to look for opportunities to help others.

Alan Olsen

You no thank you that that is great wisdom in itself by as we go through life journeys. You know, we always look to the who you know who can help us through the current circuit stances that we’re facing. I want to, I want to draw, you know, we live in a we live in, in a world right now of rapid change.

And which means that business models are often refining lifestyles are often changing. You know, for some individuals, they accept change, no problem at all other individuals are like, hey, I need to find my way through, you know, the new, you know, navigate these new waters.

What strategies do you employ, to maintain motivation throughout your personal journey, given the environment that we’re currently? Yeah,

Travis Combs

you’re, you know, that, that is the key, right? There is where it had, how do we adapt to fast change, and if we get used to the way things used to be, we’ll kind of always be behind. You know, I think motivation, which you touched on there at the end is maybe the key is finding that which motivates.

And trying to grab on to that, and then letting that help you navigate through the changing environment. So, you know, I think for myself, when I made a career shift out of big for public accounting, and audit work into consulting, advisory, and helping high growth companies preparing for going public.

I was looking at my motivators, and also at what’s happening in the world, and saying, How can I stay the most motivated, that will help me hopefully, to do a great job at what I do, because I’ll find passion, and, and then move forward and adapt to this changing world and environment.

And I think when you identify in yourself, whatever your path is, your passion, your skills, how you stay motivated at work and in your in your goals will define how you attack those problems. So you know, what I identified myself is that the most motivating things for me, were relationships.

And being with people and helping them, I do like the accounting, but I really like solving a problem and making some people’s days, weeks projects journeys a little better for them.

So like for companies going through this process of preparing to go to go public, they often have a mountain of, I’ll call them issues that they need to address that from an accounting perspective to make sure things are in line and they can get through all the compliance.

And I’m really motivated by an opportunity to help solve those issues. And hopefully, take that problem from the client, help them focus on you know, the key parts of running their business, and securing their important financing and having a great transaction and moving forward.

So I think, you know, the pace of life. And business changing so much, presents an opportunity, especially in accounting, where we can, if we stay ahead of things and stay sharp, you know, we can make it you know, a non issue for companies instead of a huge stumbling block that can get in their way.

So I’d say, finding motivators, and then trying to apply them to the future circumstance and seeing around the corners for, you know, the problems that you’re facing can help without changing and adapting.

Alan Olsen

But in the viewpoint of the millennials, currently in their 30s, what is what is the American dream look like

Travis Combs

You know, being a millennial in my 30s. And kind of taking in, you know, maybe I’ve finished a quarter of my career, maybe a third. What do I think the American Journey or dream is? And how does that play into, into our path?

You know, I think that perhaps the American dream, for me is actually a journey. And so working toward the goal can be the dream, instead of maybe it being a destination. I love on your podcast, there’s a lot of guests who seem like they might have reached some of their really big goals already.

And they can tell great stories about how they did that and teach others from that wisdom. I’m still working toward the goals and trying to find joy in that journey.

I think can look like a lot of different things for a lot of people but from one perspective, I want, you know, my family, to be happy, and to have great opportunities.

I’m the father of three young children, the oldest of whom is 10, and the youngest son It was for, I want those children to have a beautiful childhood and learn great things and in a great environment and see the good in the world, and be able to learn their own important lessons.

And go out and contribute and do great. I want to enjoy a long, happy marriage with my wife. And I want to continue to always build that relationship and make sure it looks good. And from a career perspective, I want to always feel motivated.

As I mentioned before continuing to find new tasks, looking for problems that need to be solved, and helping folks. So I think that, to me, is the American Dream is actually maybe the journey, and continuing to find opportunities.

And helping, one piece I’d add to it is I think that being involved outside of our careers in the community, and in opportunity opportunities to lift and help others is a great other way to find some joy in life. If we spend a lot of time looking inward, it can get a little bit dark.

Or, or we can maybe lose some focus, but spending some time to look outward. And seeing how we can lift and help others and be surrounded by good relationships and opportunities. Also help so as I sit here in my 30s, I have a lot left to do, I’m not yet a partner in the business.

I’m not yet an owner of a business, I’d like to do those things, I would like to learn as much as I can, I’d like to see and find great opportunities, and be able to identify them and go and chase them. And learn through the journey. So I guess it’s a journey. For me, it’s what it looks like.

Alan Olsen

How important is faith?

Travis Combs

To me, I think faith is very important. In my view, and regardless of any religious background, any may have. My view is that everyone on Earth is one of God’s children. And because of that they are special. And they have great purpose.

And my view is that the instruction we should all try to follow is to love God and to love one another and to help. And I think if we can see other people as, as wonderful, full of potential and good humans, that are meant to fulfill a really important destiny, it can change how we view things.

So I think being involved, and having faith can actually really be the key to unlocking joy, and finding fulfillment. So I think I think it’s very important. And in addition to that, I think, try to take I suggest to people is find a way to exercise your faith, whatever it looks like.

And trying to do what you think is right. And that can help others around you and see how you know, you can change the world and help people.

Alan Olsen

It’s good, good advice there. Well, Travis, how do all of these values align with your professional commitments and personal passions? You said a lot here. In really where this is going is a question of how do you balance all of this out?

Travis Combs

Oh, I should ask you this question. I’m figuring it out. It seems like we need it, my wife and I get to the end of our days and feel quite tired. She still works part time. By the way. She’s an accountant too. And so she she works. We help the children through their activities, sports, music lessons.

We’re active in our church community and in our local community. My wife is a soccer coach for one of our kids teams. I do some volunteering with some organizations here. And sometimes we get to the end of it and we just feel tired.

But I think we’ve found is that you know, we’re happy to be spending our energy in positive ways and while may maybe wish we were streaming a few more TV shows or spending a little more time on the couch.

We’re happy to go to sleep tired and then wake up the next day and try to try to make it happen again. But one thing we do that is helped me a lot I followed my wife’s example in this but she’s helped me see the light about this and I’ve really tried to lean into it in the last year is is to pay ourselves first.

And what I mean by that is we wake up a little earlier than we’d like to and we’ve tried to give ourselves an hour in the morning for exercise. And we live in a little house here in the Bay Area. So it’s, it’s a little cramped and we don’t go out to a gym membership.

But before those kids wake up, we tried to give ourselves some time to exercise and feel good, we do it together. And by doing that, I feel like we kind of pay ourselves first before some of those other obligations come up. And it gives us some good strength for the day.

So I’m not doing anything perfect in that regard. But I do think if we don’t take care of ourselves, you know, we could get to a point of burnout. So adding in some, some good ways to create healthy habits and also share some passions with those people in your life that are really important to you like a spouse.

It can it can add some good clarity while you’re trying to balance and do we balance it perfectly? No, never. We never do. But we try our best. And I do think that we’ve found joy even though we feel at times maybe over committed.

Alan Olsen

Well, Travis, it’s been a pleasure having you with us today a lot of good wisdom and good thoughts in here as as we walk through your career and path in life. Any final thoughts or words as we as we part,

Travis Combs

I just want to thank you for the work that you do here and taking your valuable time. I mean, every question you asked me we I could ask you and I’d actually really love to hear those answers.

But sharing these stories and voices for the community to inspire hope and to give everyone out there a chance to be mentored and to learn and to think about their their path. Everyone still has path left. I think everyone is still building their dreams.

I think that you’ve just created a great way for people to, to connect to that and think about that. So I encourage myself in this moment and anyone else to always be looking for ways to grow and develop and, and find joy in life.

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The above transcript was generated by software; therefore it may contain errors.

    Travis Combs on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
    Travis Combs

    Travis Combs is a Managing Director at Effectus Group, specializing in technical accounting and IPO services. With over 12 years of professional experience, he has worked as a Big 4 auditor and a technical accounting advisory consultant, primarily within the Life Sciences and Technology sectors. Travis has expertise in technical accounting, the S-1 and IPO process, SEC reporting, financial statement preparation, internal controls over financial reporting, and audit assistance. Before joining Effectus Group, Travis was an Audit Senior Manager at KPMG’s Denver office for eight years, where he primarily served public telecom and technology companies.

    On a personal note, Travis and his wife, Alison, are parents to three children, cherishing the moments they spend together as a family. His journey led him from Denver, Colorado, to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2019, where he now calls home. Beyond his professional commitments, Travis possesses a passion for exercise and movement, recognizing the importance of maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Travis is also actively engaged in his local community and his faith community. Whenever he can find a convenient time for it, Travis enjoys snow skiing and water skiing. Recently, he has developed a unique hobby of revisiting literature assigned during his high school days, where he seeks to discern what makes these pieces of literature classics without having to write an essay or take a test on them.

    Alan Olsen on Alan Olsen's American Dreams Radio
    Alan Olsen

    Alan is managing partner at Greenstein, Rogoff, Olsen & Co., LLP, (GROCO) and is a respected leader in his field. He is also the radio show host to American Dreams. Alan’s CPA firm resides in the San Francisco Bay Area and serves some of the most influential Venture Capitalist in the world. GROCO’s affluent CPA core competency is advising High Net Worth individual clients in tax and financial strategies. Alan is a current member of the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (S.I.E.P.R.) SIEPR’s goal is to improve long-term economic policy. Alan has more than 25 years of experience in public accounting and develops innovative financial strategies for business enterprises. Alan also serves on President Kim Clark’s BYU-Idaho Advancement council. (President Clark lead the Harvard Business School programs for 30 years prior to joining BYU-idaho. As a specialist in income tax, Alan frequently lectures and writes articles about tax issues for professional organizations and community groups. He also teaches accounting as a member of the adjunct faculty at Ohlone College.

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