Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

Tuesday, February 27th, 2018

It’s An Important Role – DOFI

“Without hard work and discipline, it is difficult to be a top professional.” – Jahangir Khan

A key role in your firm is one that I call the Director of First Impressions (DOFI). Many firms have adopted this title because it really is very descriptive. Some firms just say it is their Receptionist or the front desk person. For some reason, and it probably goes back to the old days, team members look down on this position and no one wants to “sit at the front desk” even when that person goes to lunch!

I think you should be very selective in hiring for this position and demanding when it comes to their performance – set some high expectations. It really is NOT a no-brainer job!

Historically, this person just greeted clients and answered the phone. There wasn’t much else they could do without physically leaving their desk. Technology has changed all of that. Now, they can do a lot of what the other administrative assistants do. Plus, phone traffic has decreased in many firms because of direct phone numbers for your team.

One very important task this person should be handling in your firm is the monitoring of 8879s and releasing returns. Many firms have actually established this procedure and it is working very well. Reminding clients and following up if they don’t respond and then monitoring the release of returns is something that can be done without leaving the front desk.

Your DOFI also is an important part of your client service and marketing efforts. They make everyone feel welcome when they visit the firm, offering them refreshments and hanging up their coats. They have a smile (in their voice) when they answer the phone.

Many CPAs have told me that some clients call the firm’s main number just so they can talk to the DOFI. At my firm, we once landed a big client and in their acceptance letter, they mentioned how nice they were treated by Sonya (DOFI) when their executive team visited our firm.

If you are fortunate enough to have a top performer in this position, pay them well. They are worth more than an average administrative assistant.

  • If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.
  • Red Adair

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018

Enable Your Firm To Grow

Katie“Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.” – Bruce Lee

I enjoyed attending the CPAFMA Ohio Chapter meeting last week in Columbus. Katie Tolin of CPA Growth Guides enlightened the attendees about the importance of product development, something missing from most CPA firms.

Here are some bullet points from Tolin’s remarks. I hope you find them very thought-provoking!

  • For a CPA firm to grow, they need 3 things: marketing, business development, and product management.
  • In most firms, product management is missing – you need all three.
  • Accounting is a mature profession and compliance work has hit its peak.
  • We are in a sea of sameness. Starbucks elevated the cup of coffee. How have we changed the tax return? About the only thing is e-filing, now everyone does it.
  • Technology is speeding things up and that kills billing by the hour.
  • We have mature products and a mature industry, how do we innovate? It can’t only be about new products (services), we need to innovate things we already do.
  • You must always challenge the status quo. Make it part of your culture.
  • Employees need to be empowered to please clients. You need two things, happy clients and happy employees.
  • Katie Tolin

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

Be Bold

“Be original; don’t be scared of being bold!” – Ed Sheeran

Sometimes, I have observed that accountants are actually afraid to be bold. Don’t be!

Do things differently, treat your team differently, treat your clients differently and maybe it would be beneficial if YOU acted differently.

Many people believe that all accounting firms are pretty much alike. I have observed that fact over the years. I have also observed that there are some, a small number, that really are different.

I have also observed that there are some firms where there is one VERY bold partner. Well, almost too bold. That person lords over the partner group and the team and everyone seems to fall in line because they are afraid to be bold in return.

One of the questions I have heard over and over again is, “What are other firms doing?” This year, don’t follow the pack. Begin by giving your firm a “facelift.”

  • Is your office modern?
  • Is your logo trendy and modern?
  • Are you offering services that other firms are not?
  • Do you focus on something besides chargeable hours?
  • Are you making the client experience awesome?
  • Are you making the employee experience awesome?
  • Are you operating in the digital world – no more paper, no more fancy, expensive covers, client-friendly portals, lots of social media activity to benefit clients and prospects?
  • Is your website cool?

Read the Ed Sheeran quote, above, again. BE BOLD.

  • Originality implies being bold enough to go beyond accepted norms.
  • Anthony Storr

Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Be Sure You Are Asking

“One who never asks either knows everything or nothing.” – Malcolm Forbes

It’s busy season. You are talking with so many clients either in person or via phone.

They are asking questions. Are you?

Every time you are talking with a client ask:

How are we doing?

Encourage them to share even little things that might bug them about your services, your communication and what you can do better.

Do you know anyone who could use our services?

Just briefly tell them how referrals are so valuable to you and the firm.


  • Why and how are words so important that they cannot be too often asked.
  • Napoleon Bonaparte

Thursday, February 1st, 2018

Incentive For New Business – Keep It Simple

“If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.” – Steven Johnson

Many firms, in recent years, have adopted an incentive plan for bringing new business to the firm. It is usually a percentage of fees billed to the new client for the first year of service. Some firms pay a percentage for the first two or three years of service.

The most common ones that I am aware of are 10% of first-year fees or 5% of fees for the first one, two and/or three years.

Some firms require that a certain amount of fees must be billed and even that certain realization levels are accomplished. They also pay the incentive on a delayed schedule – after services are rendered and fees are billed (and collected, in some cases).

Why not be more generous? How motivational is it to make the effort to bring in new business when the reward comes way down the road with lots of stipulations.

At my firm, we paid 10% of first-year fees at the time the initial engagement letter was signed, based on the amount quoted in the engagement letter. We did not pay for individual income tax clients unless they were quoted a fee over $2,000.

The incentive was intended for business clients. If we quoted a range of fees, like many firms do, such as $3,000 – $4,000, we paid the team member 10% of the higher amount. If first-year fees ended up being more than the amount quoted in the engagement letter, we paid the make-up amount after the year-end. This policy did not apply to partners. All that was required is that the team member made the introduction and involved a partner.

Whatever your firm offers, keep it simple and provide more timely gratification to the team member.

Just FYI, we did not pay-out this incentive very often. It didn’t seem to motivate staff and admin very much.

  • You've got to change incentives for good behavior as opposed to just disincentivizing bad behavior.
  • Gavin Newsom

Tuesday, September 19th, 2017

Trying to be All Things to All People

“The difference between average people and achieving people is their perception and response to failure.” – John C. Maxwell

Many CPA firms have remained generalists. They do compliance work for all types of businesses of all sizes. Maybe that is why many people who need a CPA think they are all alike. These firms try to please everyone and probably end up being an average firm.

Some of the most successful firms are evolving into experts. They have become known for special expertise with specific types of businesses. You know who they are, the auto dealer firms, the medical firms, the dental firms, the native American firms and, now, even green firms.

If you continue to try to please everyone, you may end up not pleasing anyone.

Here’s a good post by Seth Godin – Beware of false averages.

  • The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.
  • Andy Rooney

Thursday, August 3rd, 2017

Rapid Change

“It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” – W. Edwards Deming

The above quote is one of my favorite and it applies to CPAs in public practice.

CPA management consultants (like me) have been asking, urging and pleading with CPAs in public accounting to change for several decades.

Enlightened CPAs paid attention, the vast majority did not. One of the first major changes I can remember was more focus on marketing. Way back, even before my time, CPAs were not allowed to market/sell – it was unethical. You had to rely on word-of-mouth via satisfied clients and referral sources. Finally, over decades, marketing and selling are just like breathing – something every CPA firm must do.

The scary thing to me, as I reflect back, is how long it has taken to begin marketing and to actually learn to sell. It has also taken way too long to begin focusing on the efficiencies with technology and to realize the importance of building a people-friendly culture.

I recently read an article (@hrbartender) about how the number one concern of CEOs right now is not recruiting and retaining, it’s the speed of change.

Of course, recruiting and retaining is still a huge issue but it has become a given and will always be a priority.

For CPAs, change has been something to do gradually. Now, they must face the challenge of rapid change. Never before has the business world moved so rapidly.

Many companies are moving away from any type of long-term planning. They are focusing on hiring the right people – those who fit their culture. Company culture has become a top priority.

From my experience, CPAs in public practice know they need to change many things inside their firm. They know they need to change, personally. They listen to me and others and they learn what must be done. They simply do not do it. My favorite description of CPA firm owners:  Good intentions.  No implementation.

Keep in mind, you are running a business. Business decisions must be made. You can’t take decades to implement changes inside your firm. You must get it done in a few months and maybe even a few weeks!

Revisit the quote at the top of this page. Consider how many CPA firms have disappeared via merger/acquisition. Many could not accomplish change so they have permitted others to do it for them.

  • Stagnation is a slow death.
  • Ellen Hopkins

Monday, June 26th, 2017

Start Networking Now

“If you’re trying to be successful, networking is the difference between mediocre and big.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

Sure, accounting firms are getting a lot of new business via social media. Many new clients now come directly from your website. I love to see CPAs using Twitter and Instagram. There are some great blogs out there authored by CPAs.

Here comes the but. But, personal networking is still an extremely important part of career-building for CPAs working in public accounting. If you are just beginning our CPA career – begin networking now. If you have many years of experience and really haven’t been expected to bring in business up to now – begin networking now. If you are a partner who rarely brings in business – begin networking now.

I am a fan of Jeffrey Gitomer and all his writings about sales and other things. He says, “Networking is life skills and social skills combined with sales skills. It is business leisure conducted before and after work – as proposed to business frantic, which is conducted from 9 to 5 (the exception being lunch)

Here’s Gitomer’s principles of networking:

  • to get known by those who count
  • to get more prospects
  • to make more contacts
  • to make more sales
  • to build relationships
  • to make a career advancement (or just get a job)
  • to build your reputation (and be seen and known as consistent)What do you need to be a successful networker?
  • A GREAT 30-second commercial that engages and asks questions that qualify the prospect, and gets to the next step in the sales cycle if there’s an interest.
  • Your willingness to dedicate the time it takes to do it and be excellent at it.
  • A plan of where and when.To maximize your networking effectiveness, you must follow one simple rule:
    Go where your customers and prospects go, or are likely to be.

Gitomer’s recent post gives you the 21.5 BEST places to network. Be sure to read it and begin networking!

  • Let us always meet each other with a smile, for the smile is the beginning of love.
  • Mother Teresa

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Hiring a Marketing Person and More

“There’s no lotion or portion that will make sales faster and easier for you – unless your potion is hard work.” – Jeffrey Gitomer

I enjoyed a recent blog post by Sarah Johnson Dobek about when to hire a marketing person for your CPA firm. Much like Sarah, I often get questions about when to hire a dedicated marketer. I also am asked when do we need a firm administrator, an HR person, a Controller (rather than a bookkeeper)?

sarahPer Dobek, the 2016 AAM Budget Survey indicated that most firms invest early. The highest growth firms employ one marketing professional for every 34 employees, while the average firm employs one marketing professional for every 54 employees. I usually recommend hiring a full-time marketer when a firm reaches 45 employees, so I guess I am in the ballpark according to the AAM survey.

As for the other professional support positions, I have observed that growing firms hire or designate a full-time, professional firm administrator when the have 12-15 people, although I see very successful firm administrators in much smaller firms. When the firm administrator becomes saturated with work, an HR professional should be added, usually at 70 to 80 people. A CPA controller is a huge benefit to a growing firm when it reaches 80 to 100 people. The former firm bookkeeper might then be designated the assistant controller.

As a firm grows, adding non-CPA, degreed, support professionals is a necessity.

  • To me, job titles don't matter. Everyone is in sales. It's the only way we stay in business.
  • Harvey Mackay

Friday, April 28th, 2017

“For happiness one needs security, but joy can spring like a flower even from the cliffs of despair.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Because of all the concerns about cybersecurity and the opportunity that it provides for CPAs to provide cybersecurity-related assurance services, I wanted to share a press release from the AICPA this week.

AICPA Unveils Cybersecurity Risk Management Reporting Framework

Voluntary Engagement Will Help Companies and Auditors Communicate Cyber Risk Readiness

NEW YORK (April 26, 2017) – At a time when organizations around the world are facing cybersecurity attacks, it is more important than ever for them to demonstrate to key stakeholders the extent and effectiveness of their cybersecurity risk management efforts. To help businesses meet this growing challenge, the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) has introduced a market-driven, flexible and voluntary cybersecurity risk management reporting framework.

“Cybersecurity threats are escalating, thereby unnerving boards of directors, managers, investors and customers of businesses of all sizes – whether public or private,” said Susan S. Coffey, CPA, CGMA, AICPA executive vice president for public practice. “While there are many methods, controls and frameworks for developing cybersecurity risk management programs, until now there hasn’t been a common language for companies to communicate about, and report on, these efforts.”

The AICPA’s new framework will enable all organizations – in industries worldwide – to take a proactive and agile approach to cybersecurity risk management and to communicate on those activities with stakeholders. Two resources that support reporting under the framework are being released today:

  • Description criteria – For use by management in explaining its cybersecurity risk management program in a consistent manner and for use by CPAs to report on management’s description.
  • Control criteria – Used by CPAs providing advisory or attestation services to evaluate and report on the effectiveness of the controls within a client’s program.

A third resource for CPAs will be available in May:

  • Attest guide – This guidance, Reporting on an Entity’s Cybersecurity Risk Management Program and Controls, will be published next month to assist CPAs engaged to examine and report on an entity’s cybersecurity risk management program.

Building on CPAs’ experience in auditing information technology controls, the AICPA’s Assurance Services Executive Committee identified the emerging need for cybersecurity-related assurance services. The goal was to enable companies to more effectively communicate the robustness of their cybersecurity risk management programs to key stakeholders.

“The framework we have developed will serve as a critical step to enabling a consistent, market-based mechanism for companies worldwide to explain how they’re managing cybersecurity risk,” Coffey explained. “We believe investors, boards, audit committees and business partners will see tremendous value in gaining a better understanding of organizations’ cybersecurity risk management efforts. That information, combined with the CPA’s opinion on the effectiveness of management’s efforts, will increase stakeholders’ confidence in organizations’ due care and diligence in managing cybersecurity risk.”

For more information and links to valuable resources for CPAs providing cybersecurity advisory and assurance services, visit our Cybersecurity Resource Center.

  • Man maintains his balance, poise, and sense of security only as he is moving forward.
  • Maxwell Maltz