Why does the ProAdvisor Program persist in permitting a ProAdvisor to sign-up for multiple memberships in multiple cities across the United States when they know good and well that the 'individual' does not have 10, 15, 20 or even 50 or more offices in which 'they' are located? Our ProAdvisor membership represents a 'person,' not a firm (even if you are a solo practice), and our Certifications belong to 'us', not anyone whose name we want to alternatively post on the ProAdvisor site.
I talked several times last year with Luis Sanchez, the past ProAdvisor Director, about this and he had indicated that Intuit's policy was going to change. He indicated; that ProAdvisors would not be permitted to have more than a couple of memberships in different locations, and then they would have to show that they really had offices there. In fact I even wrote an article about this last May, but recently I have noticed that more of these 'sham' operations are showing-up. (Sorry if I am offending any of our readers if you are operating in this manner, but I don't believe that it is right, and I don't think a majority of our readers think it is either.)
Essentially when a ProAdvisor rents a 'mailbox' at the UPS store, and then pretends that is their local office, they are fraudulently representing themselves to the public and those who may contact them for support. I wonder how they respond to the question, "when can you come to our office to look at our problem?" Well, I suspect they give some excuse and say, "I can just remote in to your computer." Doesn't the ProAdvisor Program promote us as 'Find a local expert'? I, for one, know that my waste-line is too big to fit into any size 'box' at the UPS store, so I don't intend to EVER take this approach to marketing.
I have also seen instances where every location has a different individual's name, but when you look from location to location, you find that despite the name on the UPS Box, the various ProAdvisor certifications, credentials, practice description, and every other aspect of the ProAdvisor Profile, are identical. What this means is that one individual actually took out all of these, and then manually changed the name on the listing (you can do that, it was designed so you could insert your 'common name' as opposed to your official name'. Again, it is a flagrant example of misrepresentation, and in my opinion, warrants reprimand.
The only reason I can see this practice is used by ProAdvisors is revenue. Those who practice it are trying to hone in on the business of ProAdvisors who have a true local practice. I guess those who do so must have so under-served the clients in their own local area that they must reach out into some other ProAdvisor's neighborhood.
Don't get me wrong, there is nothing fraudulent about serving clients in other areas when those clients solicit you. There is a big difference in taking this 'misrepresentation' approach, than responding to solicitations from users in other areas. If your reputation warrants, then you will get calls from all over, and even referrals from ProAdvisors in many other areas. You don't have to set out to rob your fellow ProAdvisors of their local customers by pretending to be where you are not.
If you legitimately have 'offices' in other locations with furniture, and computers, and staff and a sign on the door, then OK, I guess you should be able to register that as 'another location' for your practice assuming that YOU are actually there from time to time. I have been the 'multiple office' route in my lifetime, flying hundreds of thousands of miles to service those offices on a regular basis. It isn't any fun. I won't be doing that again. No matter what.
I work a lot of out of town, and even out of state, and actively service clients in 7 states, but I make certain that I see the vast majority of my clients at least once per year, and those I don't see, I talk with regularly. Still the same, I don't list myself as having an office as anywhere but home base, even if I do from time to time set-up a temporary office in a location (yes, Regis is good for that sort of thing) in regard to a long-term project.
I also make a lot of referrals to other ProAdvisors, perhaps not as many as other ProAdvisors make to me for specialized situations, but I do make a lot of referrals. One thing I will not be doing is referring anyone to any of these 'sham' offices, or anyone who operates a 'sham' office.
And that's my 2-cents!
I look forward to your comments on this topic, and plan to share them, anonymously, with the ProAdvisor staff when I see them at Scaling New Heights.
Note from the Editor - Intuit has responded to this article with the following email; out of complete fairness I am printing the email in it's entirety. You can read the response HERE