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How to Start a Practice in a Retirement Community

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Aug 13th 2015
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The 1980s rock band “The Talking Heads” might be best remembered for the song “Once in a Lifetime.” You've heard the lyrics:

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack.

And you may find yourself in another part of the world.

And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile.

And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife.

And you may ask yourself: Well, how did I get here?

As a CPA, you may find yourself starting a practice or relocating to a vacation or retirement community. Perhaps you are part of a two-career household and you followed your spouse. Maybe you wanted to get away from the pressure-cooker, big-city environment

Let's add more definition to “retirement community.” Yours isn't the stereotypical Florida town filled with people lining up for the early-bird special. Yours is the upscale community near a world-class hospital (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), a golf resort favored by celebrities (Palm Springs, California), a winter resort favored by old money (Naples, Florida), or a college town (Charlottesville, Virginia). There's money here, and people who have it need accountants.

Five Ways to Find Clients
The pessimist might just see a community where nobody works and everyone is on a fixed income. But that's not you. Here are five areas – and tactics you can take – to find potential clients.

1. The big hospital. In most communities, the highest-earning professions are in the medical field. As those 76 million baby boomers age, demand for services will increase. Health care is a growth industry.

Finding prospects: Doctors and most other medical professions require licenses to practice. Same with pharmacists. This is in the public record. It's not difficult to track down the names and contact information of all the doctors in your market. Market to them.

2. The big college. The famous institution employs plenty of professors. But don't forget administrative staff, also called “postsecondary education administrators” by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. They may also do consulting work as a side business.

Finding prospects: Educators and administrators usually belong to professional associations with local chapters. Do they have a category for associate members? Do they have guest speakers at meetings?

3. Homeowners' associations. OK, so people with time on their hands can become busybodies, wanting to regulate everyone's lives. This governing body often oversees a homeowners' association which charges dues. In planned communities, they often have a clubhouse and feature activities.

Finding prospects: Do they bring in speakers? Yes, but they are likely to be sales adverse. Can you present a seminar on identity theft or Social Security? That's an educational topic.

4. Libraries. Wealthy communities have traditionally taken libraries very seriously. In a world where technology has moved research from encyclopedias to online search engines, libraries have worked to keep up with the times.

Finding prospects: Many libraries offer a seasonal series of speakers. They do the publicity. Offer some engaging topics of interest to people with assets.

5. Attorneys. Approximately 55 percent of Americans do not have wills. As they get older, it moves higher on their to-do list. Although some legal work can be done online, attorneys are often involved in the preparation of wills or the settling of estates. Your community likely has more than you think.

Finding prospects: Attorneys advertise. They are licensed. They join community organizations. They are pretty visible in the community. Assuming your neighbors are in the 45 percent of Americans who have wills, they can probably introduce you to their attorney.

The Traditional (and not so Traditional) Routes
Let's assume you have read about the obvious ones before. People with time on their hands join golf clubs. People with time and a boat (or aspire to own one) join yacht clubs. Another reason wealthy people live longer (in addition to moving near a large hospital) is they take good care of themselves. Gyms and exercise classes are often full.

Your objective is to be top of mind when someone needs an accountant. Many communities have benches near bus stops. These benches often feature ads. Shopping carts in supermarkets often have ads on the folding child seats. Adopt-a-road programs often feature a tasteful sign naming the firm or individual committed to keeping the area tidy. Motorists see your sign daily. Religious institutions often have business card ads in the weekly bulletin. Your well-to-do retiree prospects shop, drive, and worship. They see your name often.

Raising your visibility in a retirement community is easier than you think.

About the author:
Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. in New Hope, Pennsylvania. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book "Captivating the Wealthy Investor" can be found on Amazon.com.

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