Envision the Future of Your Firm: How Can You Move It to the Next Level?
CPAs serve a vital role in the initiation, operation and functions of the world’s various and complicated economies. Our profession is standing at the first step of a climb upward in the value-chain of economics. Successful funding and operating of entrepreneurial enterprises is the backbone of the financial world. We provide services to our clients that are integral to this goal. Take some time to think about your role as the trusted adviser for business owners.
Specialization is the key to firm profitability.
The formative years of my career exposed me to many areas of public accounting. That included business consulting; tax planning and compliance; audit programs and procedures; and general accounting for small businesses. I discovered I loved helping people form their futures and not just re-exam their past. So, financial planning became a passionate area of practice for me. During tax season, I discovered information that would benefit the tax preparation process. For example, many individuals were not taking advantage of tax deferral through retirement plans. After tax season, we'd approach clients and explain the benefits of paying themselves first. We became specialists to them by providing a proactive solution to their long-term concerns.
Analyzing and implementing key components allowed clients to live the life they desire. This served as the foundation of our specialty, tax-efficient financial planning. Many companies have jettisoned pension plans for programs that place retirement responsibilities onto employees.
When CPAs solve problems clients didn't know exist, they can forge special friendships. The advisor is then exposed to personal matters in which the client values his or her opinion. Many clients are afraid that sharing details of their finances with immediate family members would lead to arguments. But CPAs are independent, qualified and competent professionals. We earn the client’s trust by providing services and advice in a candid and honest manner.
Task #1: Find your passion in the profession. Then seek out a specialty that differentiates you from the generalists in the marketplace.
Specialization is the key to growth.
If you have a small market, you may think, “I can’t specialize; my market is too small to make a living.” I encourage you to think of your marketplace as one much larger than your office address. We have clients in many states because of our specialty in tax-efficient retirement planning. We provide our clients with a unique, trademarked process. It's the foundation of our services. Set you apart in the market by providing a unique client experience. Differentiate yourself from firms that use traditional selling methods. Many clients will be grateful for the candid information you provided them. Many will begin to refer family and friends to your firm.
To provide the highest quality service possible, invest in the best technology. Use T1 lines in your office for superior speed and bandwidth for electronic meetings. And, invest in a secure portal or vault that will allow clients to upload documents to you for review.
Lastly, create a client relationship system that is unique for your particular needs. For example, track pertinent demographics of each client and their family members. Provide your clients with detailed solutions that exceed their expectations. You will receive confidence from them that will convert to exponential growth.
Task #2: Invest in technology and develop a unique process to give your clients the ultimate experience.
Take your firm to the next level by building collaborative teams.
Love what you do or don’t do it! Too many CPAs accept engagements and provide services that they don’t enjoy doing. Find a firm or professional that provides services you don't wish to perform. Then discuss forming a collaborative team to help clients.
In the future, only the largest of CPA firms can afford to be generalists with specialty services within the firm. For many of us, it’s more prudent to build relationships with CPAs who have expertise that you do not. For example, when I opened my own firm I knew what I didn’t want to do. I worked with a friend who is a fantastic auditor and loves (yes, I said loves) to perform financial audits. Our clients were thrilled and heralded us as trusted advisers for providing this advice.
Create your firm as the quarterback of engagements. Seek out specialists in the various areas of need for your clients. Perhaps the team will look more like an offensive line in football. But you are the quarterback. Your offensive line consists of IT consultants, data specialists, estate planning attorneys, tax attorneys, wealth managers and advisors, and valuation experts.
Task #3: Examine your current practice capabilities and identify areas of specialty need. Seek out other professionals to initiate the collaboration process.
Specialize in a niche that is your passion. You will be more excited, productive and profitable about your work. This is the secret ingredient to a happy career as a CPA.
Jimmy J. Williams
Jimmy J. Williams, CPA/ PFS, CFP, is the founder and president of Compass Capital Management, LLC in McAlester, Oklahoma, and has served on numerous Oklahoma Society of CPAs (OSCPA) committees, including the Business Valuation/Forensic Litigation Support, Professional Ethics and Nominations Committees and is currently serving on the OSCPA Insurance and Personal Financial Planning Committees. Williams is a Favorable Friend contributor to the OSCPA’s Centennial Celebration Campaign for the Educational Foundation. A member since 1989, Williams is a former OSCPA president, an Accounting Hall of Fame inductee and a Public Service Award winner.
Originally published in CPAFOCUS, the member magazine of the Oklahoma Society of CPAs. Copyright 2015. All rights reserved.