Nancy Kirby Shares Insights on Leadership and Entrepreneurship

Nancy Kirby, executive director and CFO of IncubatorWorks, and Operations Manager Greg Saufley go over startup costs and a three-year projection for a client. They are working in the “Round Room,” a conference room at IncubatorWorks in Painted Post.

Nancy Kirby Shares Insights on Leadership and Entrepreneurship

Nancy Kirby, Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer of IncubatorWorks—a member of the Southern Tier Startup Alliance—recently shared her insights on entrepreneurship and leadership in an interview with

Five years after graduating from Binghamton University, Kirby started her own accounting firm in her hometown of Elmira. She sold it 25 years later and then spent a decade helping organizations improve finances in Virginia and Upstate New York. In 2012, she joined IncubatorWorks where she provides startups and small businesses in the region with the support, training, mentorship, and connections to succeed.

“I started my own CPA firm in 1979. I was in my 20s. It was a tough time for women in that field. There weren’t a lot of open doors. So when I was looking at my options and looking at what I thought I could do, I decided to start my own practice. I found it to be very rewarding. I built it up to a practice of 14 professionals. It was Kirby Beals Maier when I sold it to my partners in 2004,” said Kirby.

“That experience of starting and growing my own firm, as much as anything, helps me support our entrepreneurs. I know what it’s like, especially for a service business, to go out there, develop the business, and build it up.”

Kirby’s work is concentrated in Chemung, Schuyler, and Steuben counties, and also in Allegany County from an Alfred incubator. Through the Southern Tier Startup Alliance , IncubatorWorks has support from Cornell and Binghamton universities. Through the state’s incubator networks, Kirby shares insights with colleagues at similar organizations, like The Tech Garden in Syracuse.

“I think incubators are critical to our economy, both regionally and nationally. More and more people are turning to entrepreneurship as they reinvent themselves and reinvent their careers. Whether it’s a one-off programming or accelerator classes, incubators provide that,” said Kirby.

“Right now we’re assisting about 40 entrepreneurs. Eight of them are resident in our incubators. The others are what we call virtual clients – they don’t rent space, but they use our programming. We work with people when they’re at the ideation stage. Our startups typically don’t have a lot of employees. Eventually, they do. It all takes time.”

Kirby has served on the board and executive committee of the state Society of Certified Public Accountants. She was named a small business advocate by the Small Business Association, and she is a certified leadership coach.

On leadership she advises: If you expect people to care about their job, you must care about them as people.

“First, be genuine. People know when you’re feeding them a line. If you’re not genuine and you’re not consistent, people can’t follow you. They don’t know what they’re following. I think it’s important to lead by example. If you’re asking people to behave in a certain way or target a goal, then you’ve got to show that those goals are important to you,” said Kirby.

Read the full interview with Nancy Kirby of IncubatorWorks on