Penny Wise, Dollar Stupid

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By Allan S. Boress, CPA - How does working for a CPA firm work against marketing success?

Got a call last week from a marketing professional that just lost her job. “They decided that the marketing function wasn’t producing enough results for the investment,” she said.

No surprise, there. She had no dedicated staff (the managing partner’s secretary was supposed to work part time for her…sure she was), a small budget, everything had to be approved, she was treated as less than a professional – all ingredients for failure.

Much of her time was wasted doing things no marketing director should ever be forced to do: putting together lists, and other tasks that could and should have been done by someone else. No wonder she was less effective than expected considering her successful history at other firms.

And it is this – having marketing professionals do things that could be leveraged elsewhere – that was brought to front of mine by an article sent to me by Cole Silver, a lawyer and certified career and marketing consultant. He heads up The Silver Group, a company specializing in career and business development for attorneys ( The fifth item in his article on “Powerful Cures for An Allergic Reaction to Marketing” reads:

”Get someone to do the grunt work. Apply the 80/20 rule and spend the brunt of your time on the most important clients and matters. Your secretary or a virtual assistant can help write letters, call clients, send out articles and press releases, and help you build a client database. There is no way you can do this alone, nor should you depend on the firm's marketing manager”

I was fortunate to have a strong mentor when I embarked on my speaking and consulting career full-time in the early ‘80’s. He was an internationally known speaker and I paid a bundle for his advice. “First thing, Allan, is you must hire an assistant to do those things you cannot afford to invest your time in.” And so I did. I hired a 16 year-old girl part-time who was highly intelligent, and wanted to stop working at Wendy’s!

Many of you reading this blog, who have seen me speak, or brought me in for training, came in contact with my “better-half,” the amazing Stella. It was her work that propelled me past dozens, if not hundreds, of people like me who wanted to sell marketing and sales consulting and training to our profession. Stella worked for me for twenty years as a highly paid marketing professional.

Initially, Stella did the lists, sent out letters, kept the calendar, answered the phone and responded to messages. I hired a woman to work doing public relations, but the cost benefit ratio was so out of whack, that Stella suggested she just take that over, also.

My assistant called chambers, associations, newspapers and created relationships with editors of magazines. She solicited speaking engagements, articles, publicity, and found out what it took to get published in important publications.

So, almost from the very get-go, I had a strong public presence in the market I was pursuing. Within a couple of years I was speaking at dozens of state societies and the AICPA annually, you get the idea.

All because I was investing my time in what I was good at (writing, creative and doing the speaking and training) and she took off my hands everything I didn’t have to do.

I have harped on this concept for years (leveraging marketing through clerical people), mostly to deaf ears. But this is just another example of the business mindset of an entrepreneur versus the penny-wise, dollar stupid approach of the pro-typical CPA and often explains why “the marketing function wasn’t producing enough results for the investment.”

By Allan S. Boress, CPA, author of The “I-Hate-Selling Book”, available at and

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