Five years ago, when I started my accounting firm, VM Wasek CPA, I didn’t know anything about marketing, selling, websites, social media, value pricing, or running a business. I struggled as I started my company in the middle of the worst recession. I didn’t have any clients and I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it.
I was crystal clear about one thing from the start – my goal to reinvent the accounting firm. I had worked at enough CPA firms (large and small) to know that I didn’t want to work on traditional services, I didn’t want to work overtime, I didn’t want to give sloppy work to clients, and I didn’t want my clients to wait weeks and months for their work to be completed. Frankly, I knew more about what I didn’t want to do!
Five years later, my firm has been recognized as a top 20 winner in Intuit’s Firm of the Future contest. It’s an honor to be among this visionary group of accounting firms and it is truly a validation that my goal of reinventing the accounting firm is coming to fruition.
How do you reinvent a profession that has been around for centuries? I’ll share with you the 5 steps I have taken to reinvent the accounting firm.
Step 1: Expertise
For six months after I started my accounting firm, I struggled to communicate to prospective clients exactly what I did. That’s because I was trying to be all things to all people. I thought that I would get more clients by providing a variety of services – outsourced controller/CFO, consultant, bookkeeper, auditor, etc.
After talking to many business owners, I noticed that most of them were asking me about QuickBooks. That is when I made the decision to become a QuickBooks expert. I was certified as a QuickBooks ProAdvisor that weekend and have since earned advanced certifications in QuickBooks desktop and QuickBooks Online.
Becoming a QuickBooks expert was the first key to reinventing the accounting firm. I stopped trying to be all things to all people. With a staff of 5 employees, we are now working with clients throughout the U.S.
Step 2: Specialization
Once I realized that QuickBooks expertise was the key to my company’s success, I turned away any work that didn’t fit my area of specialization. What I am learning 5 years later is that I need to specialize even more.
This year, I selected specific QuickBooks versions and integrated applications that we will use as a firm. We don’t need to know what all the apps do – we’ll focus on specific ones that are well suited for the types of clients we want to work with.
My next goal, is to specialize in specific industries and to build strategic alliances with other accounting firms that specialize in other areas.
Step 3: Innovation
Change is not easy for an industry that has been around for centuries, like the accounting industry. My goal from the beginning has been to find solutions outside of the accounting profession’s “box” of tools and traditions. Since the solutions weren’t always there, I had to innovate solutions for my company and for my clients.
Now is a great time to innovate solutions for clients. Using QuickBooks Online and integrated apps, we can bring solutions to clients that will save them hours of time, replace their accounting department, and provide meaningful financial insights.
Step 4: Technology
I’m sure you agree – most of us have a love-hate relationship with technology. I made it a goal go be an early adopter of technology (even though sometimes I hate it!). It was definitely a challenge working with clients in new and old versions of QuickBooks Online for a few months! What about when QBO was being updated several times a month? Good times…
Being an early adopter of technology has allowed my company to be ahead of the rest. We are cloud-based and paperless, we have been using QuickBooks Online for over 3 years, and we use integrated apps to streamline processes.
How did I do it? I simply tested software solutions on my own company first. I converted my company to QuickBooks Online and I have tried out all the apps that we recommend to clients. We do not recommend any apps that we haven’t tested.
Step 5: Staff
Having worked at several CPA firms in the past, it was obvious that staff people were always overworked and underpaid. I created a different experience for our employees. We pay competitive wages, we don’t work overtime, and we lead by example. That means that we have to carefully manage our work load and we have to teach staff to work efficiently. We highly value our staff and invest time and resources to help them develop their skills and expertise.
All five of my employees are certified in QuickBooks – several are certified in multiple versions of QuickBooks.
Staffing a new company has been challenging. Delegating was even more difficult. How did I get started? In the beginning I hired one employee to work 3 hours a week doing marketing for me. This employee has been with me for over 4 years and she is now my accounting manager and a QuickBooks bookkeeping specialist. I also hired people who worked for me before or who are recommended by my employees or people I trust.
You would think that growing a company from nothing, being uncertain of what I wanted to do, dealing with ever-changing technology, wondering if I made the right choices along the way, and forcing myself to learn to delegate and lead employees is tough. Yes, it is. But, I love what I do! I am having the time of my life helping clients, mentoring staff, and reinventing the accounting firm. Do you love what you do? Leave a comment and let me know what you are doing to reinvent the accounting firm.