Although there are many ways to build a tax and accounting practice, I have found that embracing challenges and turning them into opportunities, having confidence in the value you offer your clients, and creating a personal connection with clients are key to growing any business.
When reflecting on my venture to go out on my own and start my practice, I am amazed by how quickly the practice has grown. I started working out of my home in 2009; now, in 2018, I have a staff of seven full-time employees, three of which are CPAs. My practice, Premier Accounting & Business Administration, now serves about 750 clients.
Most of the decisions that I have made throughout the journey were a result of seeing a need and finding a solution. From 2004-2009, I was the CFO for a company owned by real estate investors. I was responsible to oversee the accounting for the 15 companies. In 2008, when the real estate market was failing, I saw the writing on the wall. I was the highest paid employee, and the investors were having to sell off properties to pay the bills. Instead of hoping the market would turn around, I looked at the situation as an opportunity to grow. After measuring the risk, I drained my savings and started my own tax and accounting firm.
Having lost my salary, the pressure of knowing that I only had six months of cash available to pay the bills drove me to be aggressive in finding potential clients and creative in selling them on why they should switch to my firm. In the beginning, I used every opportunity to network with potential clients and other professionals who could refer clients to me and vice versa. One of the keys to networking is being confident that you have the knowledge it takes to provide quality services to future clients and that you can convey that confidence to potential leads. Once introduced to a client, I used price point advantage to entice them to try my firm, and then worked hard to understand each client to ensure I knew what was important to them. Knowing the client and relating to them, according to their priorities and preferences, allowed me to personally connect with them.
All accountants are capable of crunching numbers and preparing tax returns, but clients choose an accountant based on the chemistry in the relationship. It has always been important to me that my clients see me as a trusted advisor. Are they comfortable being vulnerable, can they ask questions that reveal their lack of knowledge, and can they share their fears and trust you with that information?
Once I had a base of clients, I was seeing exponential growth as satisfied clients were referring us to new ones. The challenges changed from being introduced to clients to ensuring clients were having a positive experience. As such, I am facing the new challenge of having to learn to reproduce myself by choosing employees who care for my clients with the same intensity for customer service and desire to connect with clients in a way that would continue meeting their business needs.
With each challenge I face, I am pressed to grow. I look forward to grooming my employees into trusted advisors who value connecting with our clients. Many of the clients referred to us convey the fact that they never had a connection with their prior CPA. I challenge you to evaluate the priorities of your firm to ensure that strongly connecting with your clients has not taken a back seat to crunching numbers and preparing reports/tax returns.