Questions from a CPA trying to break free…

This question was posted recently on LinkedIn. Can’t help myself … I just had to jump in… marketing a consulting practice is a favorite topic!

I am a CPA who would like to would like to own my own CPA firm, but clients have been hard to come by.  Any ideas on a proven marketing program?

Here is my reply:

Yours is the first question asked when people find out I’m an independent consulting engineer. But after 30+ years in business, I’ve concluded there is no “magic bullet” or “proven marketing program.”

But don’t despair – you can do it as many have before you. It just takes time and effort.

One big advantage you have is a professional license, in an area where almost everyone can use your help. The big questions are WHO do you go after, and HOW how do you reach them?

The key is to focus. You need both strategies and tactics.

STRATEGIES — Try to define your ideal market(s), subdividing into niches. For example:

  • Business (B2B) or personal (B2C)?
  • Local or nationwide?
  • Special services like tax, audit, financial planning, estate planning, or???
  • What about specialty markets, like accounting for medical practices, or??? (Heard of one accountant who specialized in homeowner associations, and owned his local market – now that is a clever niche.)

TACTICS – Its all about credibility and visibility. That can be done through:

  • Speaking (such as local professional groups)
  • Writing (focused tutorial articles or white papers)
  • Teaching (adult education,seminars, webinars)
  • Networking (LinkedIn of course, along with cultivating live contacts.)

It won’t happen overnight, but it is worth it. Pick a couple and start working on them.

Incidentally, many of these can be done while you are still employed. We spent several years “laying pipe” before breaking free in 1987. Even though the market crashed (the very first day in business!) we still survived thanks to those previous efforts.

So it is doable, but it takes work. Is it worth it? I certainly think so – no regrets here!

Several other replied, but here is my favorite, from Carl Harrington, another tax accountant. Great nuts and bolts advice – my favorite kind.  These ideas apply to other disciplines too.

Couple of brief comments based upon my myopic view.

1. People don’t want to pay CPA’s to do the tax work because they didn’t want to pay the taxes in the first place.

2. Many people don’t understand the limited FAT privilege. The people who need you the most (in trouble) can’t hire you or share with you as you are not privileged. I would target every tax attorney in town and offer assistance, to come and meet the client at their office as part of their virtual staff or under a kovel letter. I would do this for free, or else you are not helping to facilitate their employing you.

3. You have a great chapter 9 going on in Detroit, probably with enough accounting and audit work for 30 CPA’s. Have you scoped it out yet? Why not? That work is not only huge, it would be fun too. They are re-negotiating thousands of contracts…..

4. Start volunteering with VITA, Start volunteering with public law firms who do things for indigent people. Soon your reputation will precede you. Go to small business meetings, become a volunteer for SCORE and other similar organizations. Teach classes on tax and accounting. Teach areas of taxation for attorneys, CPAs and EAs.

5. Shadow the local CPA; EA; TAX ATTORNEY meetings. Look for office space opportunities (a) to find what’s out there, (b) as a pretext to meeting new people.

6. Get the tax prep software (demos) and become familiar. Take free training from Drake etc. Get all your computers organized to go into business and clone everything so that you will have backup.

You will have a lot to do, and you will be able to open the CPA office “naturally” as you become so in demand that it is the greater of your choices.

Get busy and sustainedly busy before you launch.

Lot of work to do this……no time to slack off…….but you will be in demand…..

Of course, I invited Max and the others following the discussion to visit us here.

If you are one of those readers, welcome.  If not, you are also welcome!

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