For 22 years, Sean McCabe, Diné, from the Fort Defiance Chapter, has been crunching numbers to help businesses and organizations with their accounting practices. For the past 12 years, he’s done so under his own banner, the McCabe CPA Group, which offers full-service accounting, including bookkeeping and audit services. He also has a payroll company that handles third-party payroll processing for his clients. Licensed in both Arizona and New Mexico, McCabe works exclusively within Indian Country.
“We’ve prided ourselves over the course of 12 years to say that we work pretty much 100 percent with Native American entities, governments, enterprises, agencies, and schools,” McCabe told Native Business Magazine™. “We’ve also prided ourselves in making a real effort to hire Native professionals.”
At one point, his firm was comprised of 100 percent Native professionals. Today, that number is at 85 percent, with all but one person having a Native background. Even still, McCabe says that one of the challenges he sees when working within Indian country is that some markets are difficult to break into.
“I think Native Tribes sometimes feel like they need to have a brand name on their audits,” McCabe said. “In a lot of cases, that’s just not true, and they’re just overpaying.”
“One of the challenges with Native America is really breaking into that market and getting Native America to understand that there are Native professionals who can do the work you need them to do and get them in there to start helping you out with your audit and accounting services,” he said.
He sees this as an opportunity for Indian country that has yet to be capitalized upon.
“Speaking as an entrepreneur, Native America has started to become very sophisticated in its business practices and its business development,” McCabe said in an interview. “There’s a real opportunity for all Natives, if we can learn how to hire each other and work with each other. There’s opportunities for growth in business sectors like professional services providers like accountants, lawyers, and doctors all the way down to retail and food service.”
McCabe says that if Tribes can collaborate, they can develop economies of scale which lead to significant purchasing power. One example he cited was that if a region of casinos – like those in New Mexico alone – were to band together and cooperate, they would have substantial purchasing power that would lead to lower prices for goods and services. That, he says, would lead to real growth for Native economies.
Based on his experience, he says that any Native owned business needs to focus on having solid accounting practices.
“A lot of times, plans go wrong or things don’t work out because the numbers aren’t quite right, so getting a professional to help you out with that is a good thing,” McCabe said. Still, he encourages Native Americans to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors.
“It’s a tough road, but it’s a very rewarding thing to be an entrepreneur,” he said. “I would recommend it to anyone. The hardest thing is to take that first step.”
As to whether he would encourage other Natives to follow his lead, he says it’s a great field to get into.
“I can tell you it’s a very rewarding career,” said McCabe, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in accounting from Fort Lewis College. “It offers a very strong income profile. You’re not going to get rich quick off of it, but you’ll have a very steady income that will support a good lifestyle, and as you grow in the profession, the income part of it and the training piece of it are very, very rewarding.”