I’m Nathan Liao, CEO, and Founder of CMA Exam Academy (a top-rated Certified Management Accountant exam review program). I wanted to share my brand story with the hopes that it inspires other aspiring entrepreneurs to chase after their dreams of launching their own businesses and being their own boss.
My Post-CMA Exam Epiphany
My business journey with CMA Exam Academy began when I was in college, working as an accounting clerk. I gradually moved up the ladder in this company and decided that accounting would be the best choice for my college major, as I already had gained years of experience in the industry.
I later decided to take the Certified Management Accountant exam, as I knew it would open up many more doors for me and bolster my overall career success.
I ended up passing the exam on my first try, which was not very common — at the time, the CMA exam pass rate was a lousy 35% on average. After I passed my exam, I then had an epiphany: others who were planning to take the Certified Management
Accountant exam would probably love a resource that would help them also pass it on their first attempt. After this realization, I then launched a helpful blog as a hobby, CMAcoach.com.
From Blogging to Entrepreneurship
My CMAcoach.com blog really started off as a fun pastime — I simply enjoyed sharing my tried-and-true studying tips and strategies with others who were gearing up to take the same exam I did. However, my blog’s visitors kept on growing and growing, and before I knew it I was constantly receiving requests to create an exam review program.
My blog’s audience really wanted me to coach them and help them pass the CMA exam on their first try. At the time, there weren’t many CMA exam study programs available — the ones available were missing video lessons, coaching, and a step-by-step study framework, so self-study was the typical go-to.
This made me think… could this possibly be a viable side hustle?
I had a feeling it would be, because I, myself, could have really used a helpful program when I was prepping for the CMA test. I then asked my website visitors if they would be interested in a step-by-step, guided program that would help them pass the exam on their first try. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so I took the leap and launched CMA Exam Academy.
Filling a Need in the Study Prep Niche
I ensured that CMA Exam Academy would be the ultimate study resource for anyone who was prepping for the Certified Management Account exam. The final product consisted of a 16-week, calculated online course to help one prepare for both parts of the exam. CMA Exam Academy is complete with pre-recorded video lectures, exam simulations, audio lectures, online and print textbooks, and assignments.
I even took it a step further and included weekly coaching calls, unlimited coaching support, and accountability check-ins with every single student. Finally, all of our students get an in-person exam rehearsal at a Prometric testing center
One of my main goals for my business was to put a face to an otherwise “faceless” industry, and CMA Exam Academy does just that. Purchasing exam preparation materials from massive corporations is not the go-to anymore, as many people nowadays opt for businesses that they like, trust, and consider personable and credible.
I have answered this need by placing myself front and center in my company through all of the lectures and phone calls — these elements really allow my students to get to “know” me and, by extension, my brand/enterprise.
Launching a program that was a solution to our students’ prior pain points made it a success from the very beginning. Yes, I worried a little about whether CMA Exam Academy could compete with all of the large corporations that have been providing study prep materials for many years, but the “personability” of my brand helped it rise above the competition.
Now, our unique and novel program structure helps our students pass their CMA exam at a 90% rate on average — that is well above what the average pass rate was when I took the exam!
Overcoming a Major Challenge
Like most entrepreneurs, I also faced a major challenge in my journey with my business. When I first launched CMA Exam Academy, the study materials for our students were provided by a third-party company. However, when the number of our students increased rapidly, this third-party enterprise cut us off from using their materials because my business had become their direct competitor.
This was a massive dilemma we needed to figure out how to overcome quickly, as CMA Exam Academy had a constant flow of new students every month.
I couldn’t allow this problem to lead to the demise of my entire business, so we took action and developed our own brand-new study materials from scratch. This endeavor required a massive investment of time, money, and team effort, but there was no other option than forging ahead and not looking back.
Trust has always been a core value of my company and I, so I had to do whatever it took to not break our students’ trust in our program. So even though the R&D costs to create our own materials were high, I know that they were well worth the expense.
Looking to the Future
CMA Exam Academy has grown every single year, and I really look forward to seeing where my business will go in the future and how many people’s lives we’ll impact positively.
Through my program, I have coached finance and accounting professionals from over 80 countries to help them achieve their dream of earning the Certified Management Accountant certification in as little as eight months.
I plan to continue ensuring that CMA Exam Academy is the top resource for anyone who wants to pass the CMA exam on their first try. Our top priority is to help all of our students succeed and maximize their potential.