Blake Oliver, once the CEO and Co-Founder of Cloudsourced Accounting, reveals how to get acquired in under 36 months based on his story.
Blake actually wanted to be a professional cellist, and instead went on to sell his accounting firm. This is an interesting story you won’t want to miss.
On this episode of the Growing Your Firm Podcast, David Cristello and Blake Oliver discuss:
- How Blake landed his first few clients which helps show you how to get acquired
- Challenges he faced while the team was growing
- How to managed client workflow and team communication
and much, much more!
- Blake’s Website
- HPC Website
- LINKEDIN – Blake Oliver
- How to generate your first 100 clients (interview)
- How to sell your accounting firm for 7 figures and beyond (interview)
How to Get Clients i.e. the fastest steps to how to get acquired
Blake Oliver, once the CEO and Co-founder of Cloudbased Accounting, didn’t go the traditional route. He wanted to be a musician and even majored in that arena. Then, to make a little money, he started working in a music store. While there, he happened to become the one to use Quickbooks and do the bookkeeping. He picked it up quick and each of his jobs going forward he managed to snag the bookkeeping gig there too.
He didn’t know it when he started, but he realized he enjoyed keeping the books. He started delving into the software and the apps out there. So, he decided to go back to school and get his CPA. While in school (again), he needed to make ends meet so he did some bookkeeping on the side. Quickly, he became frustrated with the software inefficiencies including having to drive to each client to use their desktop Quickbooks. Things were moving too slow for him!
That’s when he stumbled upon Xero and other cloud-based apps like Bills.com, etc. He found himself to be an advocate for Xero in their early days, and that translated to Blake being featured as 1 of only 2 Xero bookkeepers in the country. As you can imagine, a sea of new clients flooded his door.
With all this new work, he dropped out of getting his CPA, found an old classmate on a similar accounting path, and launched Cloudbased Accounting.
Now, you might read this and think “oh, well I wish I was an early user of Xero.”
There are these type of opportunities all the time. Blake simply lays out the formula:
- Understand the pains of the industry and actively search for new software solutions
- Become an advocate for that plugin, add-on, enterprise software, whatever it is
These new tech companies are desperate for some attention. They’d happily feature you if you’re signing up new clients for them.
DAVID’S TIP: Think about how you can become a first mover in the industry. Maybe it’s a technology, maybe it’s a new strategy. Where can you beat the pack? If you can get out in front, that will put you and your firm on the radar of dozens of new prospects.
Blake recommends looking at Xero add-ons and becoming an advocate for those companies. He’s doing that right now with his current company and it’s working.
The Growing Pains and Struggles of Building a Firm
If you plan on knowing how to get acquired in under 36 months, just know it’s no cake walk. Blake describes the fast influx of clients as “like building a boat while trying to row the boat.” It’s not easy at all. Yet, too many firms get complacent and sit on their hands while innovation takes over the industry. These innovations are where new clients can come from.
To build his firm, Blake recommends getting a co-founder. Preferably, someone who complements your skill set, not someone with the same skillset. As mentioned before, there were so many clients coming inbound from Xero and his advocacy efforts that he had to grow quickly to capture the opportunity. He was onboarding clients while implementing new systems, then also hiring on top of that.
His team grew so fast, they got to a dozen people in under 24 months. That’s about one new hire every other month.
If you’re curious about the hiring process, it was rapid fire. Blake says they made plenty of bad hires, including hiring accountants with too many years of experience. These years of experience translated into someone stubborn to learn new things. Blake found fresh, inexperienced college graduates to be best due to their flexibility in learning. Plus, they also knew and understood technology better.
The best recruits didn’t come from job boards. Actually, the best came from recommendations from team members. That makes sense. A person comes in recommended which means they’re already vetted beforehand.
How to Manage Client Workflow and Communication:
For communications within the firm, they use Slack.com. They have multiple channels where they discuss the different issues. Each client has their one accountant that is their ‘go-to.’ Say the accountant has a tech question. They simply open up the ‘tech channel’ in Slack, drop in their question and wait for the rest of the team to respond. The accountant then relays the answer back to the client. Much easier than the client having to juggle multiple team members. Keep it simple.
Today, they still get a lot of Xero leads through the new company he works with. Although, he expects Xero to make changes to location-based algorithms and thus will give up-and-coming Xero bookkeepers an opportunity to secure new clients.
He recommends to get a steady stream of clients to go all-in on being an advocate for the technologies you use. Then, reach out to those technologies and let them know what you’re doing. Those can lead to features which could lead to clients which could let to the first steps to how to get acquired.
The Positions in Your Firm That Will Be DEAD in the Coming Years:
Blake sees accounting moving to a more ‘client services’ destination. Bookkeepers will go by the wayside as manual entries will be gone. Also, he sees technical firms who just do compliance to fold up shop.
Because clients today want a one-stop-shop for all their financial needs. They don’t want a bookkeeper in one company, a CFO in another, and a compliance person in another, then a wealth manager.
Blake believes you should have the mindset of: “Everything my client needs financially, I want to be the first call they make.”
Technology, as mentioned, is on the rise. Clients need more firms knowing about these technologies and putting them to work. When Blake started automating his bookkeeping and accounting, he didn’t lower his fee. Instead, he found new ways to help his clients. That’s what the clients out there expect now.