How A Firm In A Tiny Town Went National
On the Grow Your Firm podcast, we like to highlight companies that have successfully scaled themselves to run at a level of freedom that other companies should strive to emulate. In one of our customer surveys, we found that Steven Brewer & Company, CPAs, is one of those and we invited the founder to speak with us.
How did a company in a tiny town in Indiana grow to be a national presence? Find out in this week’s podcast.
- About Steven’s Company
- How a company in a tiny town went national
- How they went from working every Sunday to only three during tax season
- The company’s structure
- Why he says she should have hired an accounting supervisor sooner
How An Old Business Learned New Tricks
Steven Brewer & Company CPAs has been in business for around 23 years. That’s a long time for any business. They’ve found a formula for success, but technology and smart hiring have made them even more efficient over the past few years.
The company is located in a rural community in southern Indiana, but they now get 70% of their business from national clients in 20 states. Most of their clients are small businesses of under 50 employees with a focus in the home inspection niche. They’ve honed their workflows to the point that they only work three Sundays every year during tax season. And they’ve managed to grow their advisory services to the point that only 40% of their revenue comes from tax preparation.
How did they get to this point?
The first thing Steven did was take his years of experience and put together a package of valuable services he could offer to his clients beyond the basics of tax preparation.
His story is like many others. Small businesses would come in with boxes of physical receipts. He and his team would work like mad trying to reconcile everything before doing the taxes. And given the age of the company that was how things were for a long time.
These days he requires his clients to allow access to their accounts so he can use software to reconcile their information each month. But this lets him do more than just save time during tax season. It allows him to advise his clients on what to do in order to save money throughout the year.
He sells his clients on the idea by explaining to them that once the year is done there is little that he can do to fix any problems that have been building throughout the year.
By pointing out that his team could create reports and advise clients on where they could save money before these major deadlines, Steven found it easy to sell advisory services. Essentially, he made them aware of the value of advisory by pointing out his client’s mistakes and how they could have fixed them earlier had they known.
How The Company Went National
In two words: social media. The company has a very heavy social media presence. It’s not just an active company page. They also created a group for their niche that currently has over 900 members. Not all of these are clients, but they are all potential clients.
Steven also takes a step that many businesses fail to do. He reaches out to other social media groups to make alliances. For instance, he may contact a school that teaches home inspection or business training and try to set up some sort of arrangement. It could be a booth at an event, a workshop, a presentation, something that puts his business in front of a larger audience. Making alliances in this way is a low-risk high-reward action that has paid off handsomely.
Freeing Up Time
When we asked how he was able to free up so much time, the answer came down to one word: control. Using tools like Jetpack Workflow, he was able to get his client’s data slowly over the course of the year rather than in a big lump at the end of the year. This saves his company a ton of time.
Removing this time pressure has been something his company has worked on for about five years now. At this point, by the end of the year, his bookkeeping clients are caught up to November/December and are complete by early February. It all started with gaining access to client information so they could get it on their terms rather than chasing them down for paper receipts and QuickBooks files. According to Steven, 80% of his clients don’t bring things in. It’s all electronic.
For his tax clients, the workflows have been smoothed to the point where if something is missing he’ll contact people around the 20th of March to see what’s going on and not feel rushed. The company deadline for on-time tax returns is April 5th.
By using Jetpack, Steven’s team has everything they need to onboard new clients and to pull and process information in a timely manner. If a client came in through the front door and gave them a box of receipts, his administrative assistant would set up the job in Jetpack for the month and assigns the job to one of the bookkeepers. The bookkeeper scans all the paper into their document management system plus pulls whatever data they can access from websites and baking information into their accounting software.
Once the data is reconciled, the job is passed off for review to a supervisor, and then up to Steven for a final review. Steven still examines all the financial statements and tax documents before they go out the door, but thanks to the workflows in place it’s just a cursory examination. That’s how he’s able to handle reviewing over 500 tax returns on his own every year!
Depending on the month, Steven will also process financial statements. Steven estimates that if everyone was available they could do a single client from beginning to end in
6-7 hours, though more realistically it takes a couple of days. Despite what seems like a heavy workload, Steven is still able to spend at least three days a week working on the business pursuing leads on social media and strategizing for the business.
Finally, we’ve added a new part of the interview and asked our guests what their technology stack is. Here are the top apps used by Steven at his company:
- Jetpack Workflow
- AccountantsWorld products for payroll and bookkeeping
- Drake for taxes
- Zoom for communication (did you know they went public recently?)
Thanks again to Steven Brewer for his time and thank you for listening and reading about our interview. If you’ve been experiencing growth in your accounting firm and want to share your story, contact us.