3 Lessons in Growing Your CPA Firm

If only I had known … that it would take so long to establish myself, that it would take so long to form relationships that resulted in referrals, that it would take so long for promotional strategies to gain traction.

Yes, I had read the stories about entrepreneurs who were down to their last dollar when they landed the big sale that changed EVERYTHING. I have a friend who talks about selling his car and downsizing his house in order to establish his business. I know those famous laws of Murphy. Examples include:

  • Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
  • Nothing is as easy as it looks.
  • Everything takes longer than you think.

I just didn’t really believe they would apply to me. After all, I did my homework. I didn’t go out on my own until I had work to get me going. I had a plan. I had support. I was realistic, or at least I thought I was.

Lesson 1:  It just takes time. You can do all the right things and it still takes time.

People were encouraging. I subcontracted to a friend. A former colleague published my articles and helped me hone my writing. My wife was (and is) patient. My brother, who has been in sales all his professional life, had some great tips: Get out there; meet people; tell everyone about your accounting practice; and be enthusiastic. You never know what contact with what person will result in success.

I had successes and some excellent months, but it’s a roller coaster. Circumstances change quickly, and Projects can come to a sudden end. You can have a wonderful meeting with a prospective client, and then wait months before the other person decides to act.

Lesson 2:  Success is lumpy. Even when you’re successful, you have to keep promoting.

Finally, I began to like it. Even though I was working evenings and weekends, it felt like freedom. I realized that no opportunity turns out the way you think it will. Some “sure things” fizzle, but on the other hand, some “write offs” turn into unexpected success. When you keep the hopper full of a number of opportunities, you’re not so worried about letting one or two go. I quit doing a line of work that was taking up too much of my time for too little money and focused on better opportunities.

Lesson 3:  Starting your own firm helps you develop as a person.

So, now I offer a range of services that include implementing / updating accounting systems, month end accounting work, supervising the bookkeeping, preparing financial reports, forecasting and analysis. My clients range from national firms to owner-managed, from charities to soap making. And, I love it!

Bottom Line:  If I had to do it all over again, I’d do it all over again.