“Your firm is only as good as your best clients.”
~ A wise past client (but we cannot recall who)
Who are your clients?
Periodically, it’s good to assess the state of your client list. You probably already know this, but let this column serve as a valuable reminder. A few great trigger events that might prompt you are:
- Your CPA practice has grown to be too busy.
- You are about to make a new, key-hire.
- You are unhappy with your margins.
One way to approach this is to ask your team to each identify their favorite five clients and also their five least favorite clients. Do any patterns emerge? Document them. What are the common characteristics of these clients? How could you have known this prior to accepting them as clients?
Good clients are reasonable, enjoyable, and lucrative. They are fun to work with and appreciative of the service provided. Often, the team feels like they are helping people so there is a sense of making a difference. In contrast, less desirable clients take energy and time from the team disproportionately. They are often overly fee sensitive and just negative in general. If you have clients like this, you really need to be asking yourself why! They take away from the overall service level of the practice. If you could move the time and energy away from them and onto the favorite clients, the following would result:
- Services for top clients WILL expand. By spending more time with them, special projects and referrals would help you build your practice with more of the clients that you want.
- Everyone on your team would be happier at work; especially the owners.
- Profits increase.
- Firm reputation gets better.
Do you have a client selection process?
At Poe Group Advisors, we developed a one-page checklist that we complete prior to sending out our engagement contract. If the client doesn’t meet our minimum score, we refer them elsewhere or offer to briefly consult with them on how to improve their firms to become more marketable for a later sale. It takes us about two minutes to complete and it has served us very well. If you are interested in learning more about client selection, see the offer for our free chapter of Accountant’s Flight Plan at the end of this column.
Do you actually follow your process?
I personally learned this the hard way. It’s super easy to skip this step. To protect me from myself, I set up an accountability step with my team. No one on our team can create a new engagement contract without our one-page client acceptance form…easy enough.
About Brannon Poe: Brannon is the founder of Poe Group Advisors and has been facilitating successful accounting practice transitions throughout the US and Canada since 2003. Brannon started his career in public accounting as an auditor with Ernst & Young before working for several years in auditing and tax preparation for the regional firm of Elliott, Davis & Company. He is the author of “Accountant’s Flight Plan: Best Practices for Today’s Firms” (published by the AICPA and CPA Canada), “On Your Own: How to Start Your Own CPA Firm,” as well as multiple blogs and the “Accountant’s Flight Plan” podcast.
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