Harvey on marketing an accounting firm and life in general
On average it takes seven years to build a public accounting practice. As many of you can testify, it’s not easy obtaining clients, even though we are bombarded hourly with emails from marketers promising, if not guaranteeing, instantaneous success.
Many of us spend thousands of dollars for a website, containing “twenty seven eight-by-ten colour glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph … explaining what each one was….” Some of us even install flash videos on our websites in an attempt to make them more dynamic and alive. Of course, there are the usual blurbs cataloguing our credentials and areas of expertise, in an attempt to distinguish us from billions of other CPAs out there. And we add a few gadgets, like tax calculators, or a few tax tips to fill up a half dozen to a dozen pages on our site.
The best advice I can offer anyone desiring to establish an accounting practice is what I acquired from my friend, “Harvey”. Harvey befriended me years ago: in fact, to be a little more precise, 31 years, 23 days, 17 hours, and 9 minutes ago. I had just returned home after working 12 hours non-stop at an accounting sweatshop on Lewis Street in downtown Hartford, Connecticut, when at my doorstep I was greeted by a 6′ 3.5″ pooka named Harvey. That evening Harvey and I sauntered down to Charlie’s and had a very long conversation about accounting, accounting firms, and life in general. While we were downing beers one right after another (one gets very thirsty talking to Harvey about life), I recounted to Harvey about my treatment at this particular accounting firm sweatshop, bemoaning the inhumane treatment by my superiors. Harvey listened very attentively, and eventually after several hours, and many beers (when you are with Harvey, you lose count), offered the following advice about life in general. I recount it now to all of you. Perhaps you may find it of some use. Here is what Harvey told me.
Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, “In this world, Harvey, you must be” – she always called me Harvey – “In this world, Harvey, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.
Although I recall these words precisely as I quoted them above, it took me several decades to absorb the essence of their meaning to life in general and to the marketing of my accounting practice today. I have discovered that just by being “oh so pleasant” to individuals calling me about accounting, QuickBooks, taxes, or whatever, that I have had some success in building an accounting practice. I discovered that I didn’t need a very expensive office on the 26th floor in downtown Hartford, nor an expensive website featuring flash videos and the like, nor any trappings of success. Nor did I require an Einstein command of taxes and GAAP. There are plenty of Einsteins around; and they usually work for individuals who are not Einsteins, but who know how to acquire and treat clients.
I hope Harvey’s advice works for you as it did for me. Harvey wishes you a Happy New Year. Harvey and I are about to stroll down to Charlie’s right now. You are welcome to join us.
The Barefoot Accountant—is a Certified Public Accountant, Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, operating an accounting, tax, and QuickBooks consulting firm in Berlin, Connecticut, Accountants CPA Hartford, Connecticut, LLC. Bill has instructed graduate and undergraduate courses in Accounting, Auditing, and other subjects at the University of Hartford, Central Connecticut State University, Hartford State Technical College, and Purdue University. He also taught GMAT and CPA Exam Review Classes at the Stanley H. Kaplan Educational Center and at Person-Wolinsky, and is certified to teach trade-related subjects at Connecticut Vocational Technical Schools. His articles on tax and accounting have been published in several professional journals as well as on several accounting websites. William was born and raised in New Britain, Connecticut, and served on the City's Board of Finance and Taxation as well as its City Plan Commission. Bill is a crazed animal lover, feeding birds, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, possums, stray cats, and any two-legged or four-legged critter traversing through his yard. His backyard in Berlin, Connecticut has been certified as a habitat suitable for wildlife by the National Wildlife Federation.
Bill also writes an Accounting, QuickBooks, and Tax blog: Accounting, QuickBooks, and Taxes by the Barefoot Accountant. For entertaining articles, please see his listing at The Amazing Brighenti.