Read more from Hugh Duffy here.
Does your firm have a long-term growth strategy?
When Bryan Sorenson, CPA, started his career, he began working two jobs with local accounting firms and then had a stint with a publishing company. He soon discovered that he wasn’t made for the corporate world and bought a small accounting practice in 2003. Known today as Sorenson and Company CPA in Salt Lake City, Utah, the firm originally provided a variety of services, including accounting, bookkeeping, auditing, and tax.
Today, after three years of work and much deliberation, Bryan decided to take a risk and narrow his focus.
“We fell into a routine I think a lot of firms fall into – wanting to be everything to everyone,” he said. “Of course, that’s fine if it works for you, but in our case, I knew I would be happier offering just tax services and focusing on service-based businesses, which caused me to give up a third of my revenue. Even though this was a leap of faith and we struggled initially, we hope to enjoy long-term success by focusing on one specific area.”
Growing the Practice
Any accounting practice and its professionals can process paperwork from the office and crunch numbers in their head. At Sorenson and Company CPA, Bryan prides himself and his firm on learning about each of his customer’s business goals and working to achieve the best results possible.
“Our clients feel confident knowing an experienced CPA who understands their needs is supervising and improving the financial aspects of their business,” he said.
When he first bought the practice, the first step in growing it was to think differently about the firm’s mix of services. Bryan knew he needed to continue offering bookkeeping, but also wanted to focus on value-added services, such as tax planning and business advisory services, with the goal of helping his clients grow their own businesses.
For example, he developed a strong QuickBooks practice with a full range of setup and support services on QuickBooks and QuickBooks Enterprise Solutions. As a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, he says the key is making sure the initial conversation and setup phase are efficient and effective for the service-based business owner.
“First and foremost, you have to be a good listener; even though clients may seem similar based on the industry they work in, each one needs something that might be a bit different,” he said. “We listen to what clients think they need, then provide recommendations and solutions that will help them reach their goals. It’s the age-old cliché: ‘You don’t know what you don’t know.’”
Whether it’s QuickBooks, tax planning, compliance, outsourced CFO services, or even IRS problem resolution, the firm works with professionals in several service-based industries, including real estate, architects, technology, and professional services. Bryan believes the “fun factor” is key.
“When clients dabble in multiple facets, like health care, they are extremely fun to work with,” he said. “For example, physical therapists don’t just do physical therapy. They have gyms, home health, run marathons, and have their hands in other businesses. That makes our work challenging, but also makes it rewarding. Once you know you’ve helped provide a solution or gotten them over a particularly difficult obstacle, you know you have succeeded. More than that, if they have a good experience, they’ll tell their friends and colleagues about you, too.”
Most of Bryan’s business comes from websites and Internet marketing. His Internet marketing consists of three websites, blogging, and monthly e-mail newsletters. He also uses pay-per-click and retargeting advertising, is active on LinkedIn and Google Authorship, and has a reputation management program.
For example, Bryan’s accounting firm has nine reviews in Google and fifteen reviews in Intuit’s Find-a-ProAdvisor directory to influence his local reputation and attract window shoppers. While the reputation management initiative is rather new, he expects this to support his overall Internet marketing program.
“I’ve been to the chamber of commerce meetings and done my share of networking, but it wasn’t very productive, and it was awfully time-consuming,” he said. “We also have done direct mail marketing, but the return on investment is lower than Internet marketing. We occasionally will attract a solid client from direct mail, but it’s relatively expensive.”
Growing your business is always a challenge, and you must put your best foot forward. More importantly, you must go about it the right away. For Bryan, making his practice a success is not only about finding his niche and being a partner to his clients, but also caring about them as individuals and taking the time to be more than just a person who looks at the numbers. He separates himself from the competition by being there for his clients and having a smart growth strategy.
About the author:
Hugh Duffy is cofounder and chief marketing officer of Build Your Firm, an outsourced marketing and website design firm for accountants. Build Your Firm’s practice management techniques focus on value billing, higher hourly fee realization rates, and niche development. He can be reached at 888-999-9800 ext. 151 or firstname.lastname@example.org.