In this week’s Growing Your Firm podcast, we’re interviewing Vince Porter, president, and CEO of Porter & Company, CPAs. He was recently awarded the 40 under 40 award by CPA Practice Advisor. Our interview went over a broad range of subjects related to how he grew his business. Here, he shares some of his secrets with us, like his special tax calendar that helps him and his firm stay sane during tax season.
In this episode of the Growing Your Firm Podcast, David Cristello and Vincent Porter discuss:
- Why you need to keep in contact with clients as a CEO
- The power of a project coordinator
- Building in a little fun into tax season to stay sane
- Why business coaching may be the best investment you’ll make in yourself this year
- Vince’s website: http://www.mytexascpa.com/
- Vince’s tax calendar: http://calendly.com/portercpa
- Vince’s business coach: http://www.think2perform.com/
Transitioning From CPA To CEO
I started doing CPA work with what was then McGladrey (now RSM US), then started work with my father doing work at his company. At the time he had three employees. After a couple of years, I bought out his practice and grew it to our current size in about three years.
We don’t do anything particularly fancy. Just solid traditional CPA work. My goal within the next five years is to bring in around $2 million each year in revenue. My story is similar to a lot of small CPA firms that want to grow up to a comfortable level. I want to share with you some of the challenges I faced and how I overcame them.
The first challenge was transitioning from a CPA role to a CEO role. When you’re down in the trenches as a CPA, you get to form a pretty good relationship with your clients. After a few years, you can start to see their ups and downs and share in their struggles. But when you move to the CEO role you can get disconnected from them.
I was fortunate that I had a hand in working with our clients in some fashion. That personal touch before I transitioned helped them adjust later when I passed off those accounts to my staff. Making a connection with my clients on a personal level is so important. If you are moving into an ownership or executive role, you have to take some time in your day to keep those connections going. Get out in front of them and shake their hands. Call them up and check in.
This isn’t just polite. It’s good business. It shows that you care about the health of their business, not just the revenue they’re bringing in. It’s a little like how a politician will work a crowd, but if you are reaching out in a genuine way then your clients will still feel served by your firm instead of feeling abandoned.
Consider A Project Coordinator
If you’re working to get into an executive role, it’s quite likely you know a lot of quirks about your clients that you use to smooth their requests. That knowledge isn’t easy to transmit to others. So when you take over that role, it can feel like you’ve lost a couple of good employees.
To get around that problem, I hired a project coordinator for my business. Their role is to coordinate work coming into the office, make sure all the documents our CPAs need are there, chase our clients down for more information if needed, and to follow up with them for further work. She and her team are much like a quality control team. The CPA side of my business can focus on generating billable work without needing to chase down a bank statement or some other piece of documentation.
This is a role that I created after I learned about how law firms did things. This is something I learned from Chuck Wachendorfer, my business coach (more on business coaching below.) They have someone on staff who tees up the ball for the lawyer by doing all the document chasing. It’s the same idea in my firm. Plus, I can work with my project coordinator to develop processes for regular work, develop checklists for complicated projects like tax returns, and basically make everything as smooth as possible before a CPA touches the work.
Another advantage to this is that our clients have a point of contact that isn’t bogged down as much during the busy season. We’ve all had years where we’ve forgotten a client’s request during tax time because there are just so many other things to track. When clients feel like we’re on the ball or get ahead of issues by asking for things they missed, it goes a long way toward making them feel like they’re appreciated.
Staying Sane By Building Fun Into Tax Season
Every CPA knows that tax season is the busiest time of year. It’s not uncommon to work 12 hour days. Without a way to blow off some steam, it can really drag down morale at the office. A way that we help deal with the pressure at Porter & Company was to schedule in some fun into our workday during the tax season.
We pick one or two times a week from the end of January through April 15th to do something fun and completely unrelated to taxes. Some days we tell jokes in the morning. Others we build little survival kits for tax season. We also mark the holidays in some way. It breaks up the monotony and grind of tax season.
We try to make these fun and silly, even corny. When you’re facing the pile of work at tax time, you sometimes need something completely different. My team likes the breaks in the slog and we’ve found that tracking the 75 days of tax season together really builds a sense of camaraderie. I invite you to give it a try at your own office.
Get Some Business Training
If you haven’t worked in a managerial or ownership role before, I urge you to get some training with a business coach. The skills you need to be a good CPA are different than the skills you need to run a business. I worked with Chuck for about three years on my business blind spots.
We would have a phone call twice a week where we would hammer out business goals and talk about the issues that I was facing with staff and clients. Having a neutral third-party to talk things out with let me express things I was struggling with without affecting my staff or clients. I got some truly excellent feedback and I would not have achieved the success I’ve had without his help. He helped me keep my eye on the big picture instead of the fine details.
I think it’s good for anybody in business for themselves to have someone they work with and they can trust and that can really get good valuable feedback as to what they’re doing. I do recommend that you choose a neutral party who isn’t vested in the success of your business.
One final tip I want to share is to start exercising in the mornings. It helps so much with the stresses of the day and you don’t have to face the treadmill after hours of crunching numbers and thinking about tax strategies. If you don’t already have an exercise routine, just take 10-15 minutes each morning to do some movement.
Transitioning from a CPA to a CEO without tanking your business is tough. I hope that some of these techniques that I’ve used in my business will help you with yours.