Why Joining Peer Groups Pays Off For CPAs
When someone says, “that kind of thing isn’t for me,” I know they haven’t been to a meetup. That’s because meetups are for everybody, something they’ll realize when they get their first chance to introduce themselves at one. And, when local groups grow from just 4 or 5 members to 200+ members across several locations, the group’s influence can make big things happen. Take the annual Seattle Accounting Technology Boot Camps, for example, where this year brings big sponsors, such as Intuit®, to team up with local meetup groups on June 30th to let members duke it out, and then party it up, in a “Team QBO vs Team QBdT” presentational debate. However, it isn’t the trainings that keep the members coming back to their local groups every month, even during tax season, so what is it?
Experienced accounting technology experts running successful practices know that teaming up with newbies gives them access to information and perspective they don’t have. “Everyone learns from each other,” says Beth Damis, who’s been facilitating a peer support group for more than 2 years. When the introductions start, people see that they aren’t the same as the person next to them; their services may be similar, but they want different clients, different work, different rates, locations, processes, software and more. After the first time introductions happen, it clicks and they understand that what the group cares about most is you and how your practice. And, when your whole professional community is united, your individual practices thrive. If you pass on peer support because you are afraid of “rubbing elbows with the competition, here’s what else you’re “passing” on:
- Mentoring – raise your rate, streamline your practice, and avoid bad clients and bad investments in your time.
- New clients – Members pass along clients to each other, potential clients will contact your meetup group/message board and you can take on bigger projects by collaborating with other members.
- Mental health and personal growth – you need to get out, talk with people who do the same kind of work you do (they understand you) and build personal relationships that will continue outside of the group and provide support when you need it.
- Breaking news: software bugs and training events – the broader the group, the greater the net, so invite people to join your group that provide related services and develop related products.
- Learning about the newest technologies for you and your clients – your members can research and vet products and services together, and demand higher quality services from vendors as larger group.
Not convinced yet? Here are some real-life examples of professional growth through the competitive experience:
Beth Damis, Top 100 QuickBooks ProAdvisor®, says the experience of facilitating meetup groups has given her confidence to redefine her practice in a shift from accounting to software development consulting and accountant mentoring, fields that pay considerably more and allow her to share her passion for accounting with a larger audience. Her fellow meetup members have been supportive sounding boards during the transition.
Lorrie Jean Rarey, CPA, CGMA, and Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, runs her own CPA firm and facilitates a monthly meetup group. “After a month of managing my staff and my clients, I need a good laugh and some decompression time that’s just for me. No matter how I feel when the meetup starts, I feel energized when it ends.”
Martin Mertens, Bookkeeper and Meetup Group facilitator, started a Saturday meetup group at his office that sparked the idea for the June 30th “Team QBO vs Team QBdT” debate.
Gale Kirsopp is an Intuit Premier Reseller, and she’s required to attend extensive trainings on the QuickBooks product line to maintain her status as an IRP. Gale helps her meetup group members one-on-one to get her clients the best deals on software, and in the their annual “What’s New in QuickBooks” events, she presents the latest updates and information to the whole group.
Scott has depression and going outside was more than he could manage most days. Working from home was the only option for him, but it wasn’t getting him out and back to being himself again. He started with a meetup group training, where, in the midst of 100+ people, he could remain in his shell, until he won something big and had to contact the group organizer directly to get it! They became friends, and through her encouragement, he gradually began coming to the smaller group meetings and began feeling better most days.
Ingrid facilitates a somewhat wilder Meetup on Seattle’s waterfront. When she needed help getting her clients’ QuickBooks Online set up, she already had an Intuit connection. She’d met Intuit’s Madeline Reeves at Meetup earlier, where she heard about Intuit’s new Intuit Regional Business Development Team, made up of software and accounting industry experts who will work with our accountants and QuickBooks ProAdvisors at the local level to help them grow their success in the cloud. Ingrid contacted Madeline directly and got the personal help and support she needed.
Michelle Schmetzer, Business Development Manager for the Concur Advisor Program, joined a meetup group and soon found she had friends, and advocates, in the ProAdvisor community. She now has a much closer relationship with ProAdvisors, which gives her a huge advantage designing business development programs to meet their changing needs.
Why are ProAdvisors a good fit for peer support?
Peer support requires everyone to introduce themselves, saying who we are and what we do. “I do QuickBooks” doesn’t make us unique in a room filled with our peers, so we learn to differentiate our skills during our meetup introductions. What happens next? By clearly defining our QuickBooks practices we discover our skills and interests, and then our passion! Soon we are better, happier consultants. We no longer feel like we have to take every client that comes along whether we want the work or not, because we have a network to refer them to. Likewise we don’t have to learn every accounting program our clients what to switch to, instead we know someone we trust in our network to do that part of the job for us, and can keep our clients. “Specialization through cooperation” is our Group Motto and ProAdvisors who specialize are in higher demand.
How does peer support work?
“Peer support “ means that members solve problems on their own instead of bringing in “experts” to solve their problems for them. For example, a member asks for help resolving a rate or engagement dispute with a client or maybe a software integration challenge. Someone will share a related experience, some people will have had very different experiences, others will have entirely different perspectives, and some of the new people might ask a question no-one even thought of before, or know about a new tool that might help, but no-one with their head buried in the day-to-day work has seen or even heard of it yet. That’s how growth happens for everyone. The person with the problem has felt heard, but what really “works” is that everyone engages in “active learning” where every member participates and brings value to the table. That’s why people leave the meetups feeling energized!
Meetup.com got started in NY right after 9/11 to “use the internet to get off the internet — and grow local communities”. I really like that, and when you sign on to Meetup.com you promise to only use it for face-to-face meetings. It’s also really inexpensive (less than $200/year), your members can join for free, and it has very functional built-in tools:
- Calendar (tracks RSVP’s, no-shows, keeps history intact)
- Facebook Integration
- LinkedIn Integration
- Message Board (both private and public)
- Member Page (we use member profiles as our database for making client referrals)
Find a group in your area: Worldwide QuickBooks Meetup Groups
Editor’s Note: Want to start your own group? Contact Shelly Robbins for help getting started.