Texas Tech University

Mentor Magic: Entrepreneur CPA Mike White Returns to His TTU Roots to 'Pay it Forward'

Innovation Hub Team

May 4, 2020

The Hub's newest mentor shares insights from taking his home-based startup to top 8 corporate merge-up

Mike White says he doesn't fit the traditional personality profile of a CPA- if indeed there is such a thing. "I'm not an introvert at all. I'm more of a business development guy or a sales guy," he says.

White's startup experience is also anything but ordinary.

MWA, the bookkeeping and cash analysis side hustle White began in his home, became one of the top 400 CPA and healthcare consulting firms in the country within about ten years. "We grew to around 60 team members between two offices before we sold to CLA (CliftonLarsonAllen) in 2018. That core group I came over with is still here. Now we're part of a 6500 member team, and I'm one of the 300 owners of this $1.3 billion firm."

White says the building blocks of his success are hard work, self-confidence, and a drive to keep learning. Seeing those same traits in the entrepreneurs he works with daily keeps him going, he says.

"My entrepreneurial spirit evolved from the incredible work ethic I saw in my parents. My dad is a high school band director and my mother is a nurse. They've always been passionate about their professions and somehow managed to balance that with family. So that's where I got my drive. And it's fueled my lifelong passion for entrepreneurship," he says.

White's first job at age 12 was sweeping hair at a barbershop to contribute to the family income. He began working two jobs when he was 14. Through college, he continued to work at multiple jobs simultaneously. He graduated with a BBA and MSA in accounting from the Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University in 2004. After working at PricewaterhouseCoopers and then in the banking industry, White decided in 2007 to focus on his own firm full-time.

Mentor values

Self-confidence also took hold early for White. He laughs, "My parents say that when I was a young child, I told them I wanted to own a bank because that's where all the money is. I don't know where confidence like that comes from, but I think it's something you continue to build and refine."

White says sticking to core values and principals contributes to confidence. "Just as you don't see some of the failures behind successful entrepreneurs, you also don't see some of the doubts. I believe you choose doors in life. I chose the risky door in a lot of cases, but they've all been choices I believed in. Not all of them have been successful. Not all of them have been complete failures."

White says he starts each day looking to further his knowledge so he can share the most timely relevant information with clients. "I believe to help people and to create innovation, you really have to work on that. It's still all about learning for me," he says. "I get excited because not any one of my days looks the same. I know in general one or two things that I absolutely have to get done that day. I didn't wake up knowing about the other 20 things because my clients hadn't asked me for them yet."

Hustling mentor

White's unique blend of finance, accounting, and entrepreneurial experience is in higher demand than ever during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to that, he'd been traveling across the country for eight straight weeks to speak at conferences. White conducted a webinar for an audience of more than a thousand people on the day of this blog interview. "I've done this presentation 20 times in the last two weeks," he says.

Startups involved in the Texas Tech Innovation Hub can now tap into White's wide-ranging expertise, too. The newest volunteer iTTU mentor sees that as an opportunity to contribute to the growth of the entrepreneurial ecosystem that's helped him.

White says, "I've always absorbed as much as I could. At the beginning of working out of my home, that involved starting to work with business owners, getting to know bankers, getting to know people that could drive revenue and drive new relationships for me. I realized at 25 or 26 years old, I didn't know everything. So I surrounded myself with a group of mentors- still dear friends of mine- that would help me learn along the way. So the type of mentorship Texas Tech and the Hub are building is great because it's how we all learn as entrepreneurs. As soon as I met some of the people, toured the facility, and saw the energy and excitement there, I immediately wanted to be a part of it. I strongly believe I'll learn as much from the startups as they'll learn from me."