Accounting alum makes career of helping small business owners

Victor Amaya sits for a portrait
“I'm able to look at business more in a bigger picture,” said Victor Amaya, reflecting on his time spent studying in the College of Business.

A clear path ahead

Victor Amaya has always been one to lend a hand. Growing up in New Jersey, he would look for ways to help out at home, cooking tamales with his mom who would sell them to her coworkers and friends to earn a little extra money for their family.

His parents always stressed the importance of gaining an education, but they didn’t know how they were going to be able to afford it.

So, at 18 years old Victor joined the Army to be able to support himself, serving for seven years and eventually moving to Colorado to be stationed at Fort Carson.

When Victor started thinking about what to do after his enlistment ended, he knew that pursuing a degree would be a good way to move forward. He began looking at Fort Collins, drawn by the sense of community he felt from the people in the city, and excited by the opportunity to enroll at Colorado State University.

Victor came into the University as an undergraduate at 24 and took a few computer science classes before realizing the program wasn’t a good fit. However, he soon found a home as a student in the College of Business.

Victor started concentrating on accounting, drawn by the structured approach and number of job opportunities available after graduation.

“I could see, A, it made a lot of sense, and B, I could help others be successful at what they do,” he said. “It just clicked. This made sense to me and I stuck with it.”

Professor Margarita Lenk at graduation with student
Accounting professor Margarita Lenk congratulates a student during commencement for the College of Business.

As Victor progressed through the undergraduate program he built a strong network with his classmates and the college faculty.

“I felt like everybody there was helping each other be successful,” he said. “I really loved being at CSU.”

Victor found a kindred spirit in Margarita Lenk, an associate professor in the department of accounting who took a “servant-leadership” approach to teaching her students.

“She made CSU feel like a place I could thrive and do well,” said Victor. “There’s not enough words I can say about her, and to this day we still talk and are still good friends.”

Wanting to contribute, Victor began tutoring other students as part of his involvement with Beta Alpha Psi, a service organization for accounting, finance, and information systems students.

After graduation, a new journey

Approaching graduation, Victor accepted an internship with a Big Four accounting firm. After he finished the internship, the company offered him a full-time position, holding the opening as he returned to CSU to complete the year-long Master of Accountancy degree in order to earn his Certified Public Accountant license.

But after two years as an audit and assurance associate for the accounting firm, Victor began seeking a change.

Office exterior at night
Victor left the corporate environment to start his own business and work more hands-on with clients and see them through to success.

“At the end of the day it wasn’t my calling,” he said of his decision to look for work outside the corporate environment. “I felt confident that I could step out and do what I wanted to do.”

“The beauty of our profession is how flexible it is, and the ability for you to find a path that’s right for you.”

Although his classmates are working with some of the biggest accounting firms, there are others who went different directions. Graduates from CSU’s Master of Accountancy program have found work at nonprofits, heading up accounting and auditing departments in industry positions, and have even started up their own businesses outside of accounting by using their skills and knowledge to better position themselves in the market.

So, Victor decided the time was right to take a chance. “I have a lot of family who are small business owners and I just wanted to help small business owners be successful, so I decided to start my own firm.”

He helped found ClearPath Accountants and opened his doors to clients in 2010.

A comprehensive understanding

“I’m able to look at business more in a bigger picture,” said Victor, who, as a master’s student, learned ways to provide a range of advisory services. “And to me that’s the part that I thought was lacking in a lot of accounting firms, especially smaller ones like ours.”

Victor’s holistic perspective has allowed his company to take a more proactive approach to serving others and helping them meet their goals.

A lot of other accountants might look at a struggling business’s tax return and go, “Wow, these guys didn’t do so well this year,” said Victor. “I look at it and go, ‘Wow, these guys didn’t do well this year. I’m going to go help them do better this year.”

When he served a small role in a large accounting firm, Victor used to sit at his desk and wonder, “Am I helping, am I adding value?”

But now as a partner working closely with his clients and seeing them succeed, he’s able to answer that question: Yes.