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Second Acts: Forensic Accountant Trades Lucrative Career to Open a Toy Store

Insights & Ideas Team •  December 30, 2015 | Focus on Women, Business and Careers

As a corporate leader, Diane Moore told her staff, “If you’re not having fun in this job, then it’s not for you.” She was a forensic accountant—a CPA who led teams in poring through financial records, calculating damages to support or refute lawsuits between billion-dollar companies.

“You get a massive amount of information, and you have to figure out whose number is right,” she said. “You either enjoy that, or you don’t. I love figuring stuff out, so I found it fun.”

Past tense—she used to find it fun. Twenty-six years into her career, Moore was exhausted. “I couldn’t get the adrenaline going. It dawned on me that I wasn’t having fun any more.”

She held a senior position in a respected firm, served prestigious clients and earned impressive wages. Could she turn her back on success just because it wasn’t fun?

A family emergency gave her the answer.

“I was planning to pick my mom up at the airport on a Saturday. She was coming for a visit,” said Moore. “But we were doing this huge project at work, and we had a problem we couldn’t figure out. I needed to work that weekend, so I sent a car service for Mom, which she actually loved.”

By the time her team unraveled the issue and Moore got home, her family was asleep. She dropped into bed, too, and was sound asleep when her mom came into the bedroom, short of breath. “She was talking to my husband, and I didn’t hear until she said we should call 911. That put me on full alert.”

While Moore’s husband placed the call, she walked her mother downstairs, into the kitchen and onto the porch for air. “She seemed okay. But then she held the back of a chair and said, ‘I think I’m going to die today,’ and she collapsed.”

Moore called 911 again, and the operator told her to do chest compressions until the paramedics arrived and took over.

“I thought she died, because the ambulance didn’t leave right away,” said Moore. “But they got her breathing again.” Moore’s mom had experienced a severe allergic reaction, and her heart had stopped beating on the porch that night. But after three days of care, she was released and made a full recovery.

Now Moore knew she needed a change. Not only had her job stopped being fun, it was taking her focus away from what mattered most. “In those 72 hours I asked myself, ‘What am I doing? What if she had died on the porch and I had missed those last few hours with her because I was at work?’” So Moore guided her team through the end of that large project in progress, then directed her thoughts toward “what next.”

“I opened my mind to anything,” she said. “I walked an hour every day, in silence and alone, searching myself. What could keep me close to home? How can I be my own boss? What would be fun?”

One day, Moore noticed a downtown building for sale just five minutes from her house. If she could buy that building, she wondered, what would she do with it? What did her town need? After mulling options, she landed on a business that would be fun not just for her, but for her children, too: a toy store.

“We had a family vote,” said Moore. She, her husband and three sons (now 9, 11, and 13) faced a choice: Open a toy store, or move forward with long-standing plans for a pool in the backyard. They couldn’t afford both.

Changing Jobs? Top Financial Considerations Beyond SalaryThe decision was unanimous. Her husband’s income would pay the family’s expenses. She would finance the business alone, without taking funds from their joint accounts.

Moore made it happen. In January 2014, she closed on the building, began renovations, resigned from her job and started sourcing toys to fill her shop. In May 2014, Moore Toys & Gadgets opened in Wheaton, Illinois.

Since then, Moore has drawn on her passion for figuring things out. As an accountant, she had a team to do the nitty-gritty work. As sole proprietor, she has to do it herself. To learn advanced features of software such as QuickBooks, she turned to the Internet.

“YouTube is my training department,” she said. “I so appreciate the video tutorials I find there.”

Moore, who calls herself “debt-averse,” is careful with money. She rents the second floor of her building on an hourly basis for parties and classes, generating income to cover the mortgage so the store runs almost rent-free. Revenue from toy sales goes toward new inventory and paychecks for high school and college students who staff the store.

“I used to make a lot of money, and now I don’t,” she said. “Sometimes I threaten to hire someone to run the store so I can go back to work. But I wouldn’t. I love being here.”

Although Moore can’t imagine life any other way, she does feel something missing: daily interaction with other smart business people. So she’s considering ways to fill that void.

“I feel this desire to help other people a couple days a month, pro bono,” she said. “Maybe help local owners figure out their business value or share cool things I’ve learned about QuickBooks.” She’s even considered making her own series of YouTube videos to share her lessons in accounting and problem-solving with other small business owners.

“I taught myself,” she said. “Now I’d love to share my experience with others. That would be fun.”

With her mom’s collapse as wake-up call, Moore found the motivation to heed her own advice that work should be fun. Once she started listening to her heart, a new career path practically unfolded in front of her. Now, by making smart use of her resources and skills, she has a job that’s fun and a life that’s true to her values.

This post is the last in a four-part series on women who have changed their lives through unexpected career moves. Previously: 

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