Early in my career, the partners at Wouch, Maloney & Co. instilled in me the firm's core values: To be knowledgeable, caring, proactive, and responsive. These four core values have been integral to my personal development, but they’ve also been invaluable in building a niche practice. I have worked in public accounting for six years, but I am currently building a small practice that focuses on servicing athletes' accounting needs. There have been ups and downs, but we have been able to achieve some success by taking advantage of networking opportunities, being persistent, and continuously exhibiting these core values.
We started to build this niche by becoming knowledgeable about the financial intricacies athletes face and meeting with sports agents. Accounting work for athletes is fascinating, as players are subject to tax in every jurisdiction in which they play. There are numerous inherent planning opportunities, ranging from residency matters to the impact a team's schedule can have on the players' net pay.
To grow our knowledge base, I researched pertinent topics and developed tax planning strategies to discuss with agents and players. I also created a program that calculates a player's effective state and local tax rate based on his specific schedule. This proved valuable with agents as they could use this resource in contract negotiations. Instead of abstractly knowing that, in a contract of equal gross value, an offer from, say, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers may net more than one from the San Diego Chargers, we could provide a tangible figure. The agent would then have a foundation to try and negotiate the Chargers offer upwards to normalize for the tax difference.
Adopting a proactive approach has helped us solve problems for players before they occur. Although helping to fill out a W-4, ensuring that a team has a reciprocal agreement appropriately handled, or double-checking that a team will withhold sufficient federal income tax on bonuses may seem like small steps, they can make a world of difference for a young player.
We take nothing for granted with these steps, and do all we can to solve problems before they materialize. Not only does this help the players immediately, but it also helps build client loyalty. They see that we are knowledgeable, caring, and proactive in looking out for their best interests.
Finally, being responsive is especially important. Athletes and agents keep different hours and schedules than most accounting firms. By making myself available, the players have an additional level of comfort when it comes to important decisions. Whether it's a quick text message on the deductibility of an iPad used primarily for game film or an in-depth e-mail thread late at night on establishing residency, we are always responsive because a concern of our client is a concern for us.
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We have been able to build this niche by exhibiting our firm's core values and continuously looking at different ways to be of service.