When we started our firm back in 1951, we built our success on traditional networking and referral relationships. As we evolved, we discovered that this form of practice growth would not sustain the level of growth that we desired. Instead, we needed to develop a more focused approach throughout our firm.
Using Revenue Groups to Focus
About four years ago, we created “revenue groups” to focus on driving growth in our real estate, construction, nonprofits and international businesses niches. These revenue groups:
- Are accountable for a portion of our firm’s annual revenue goals and creating new business
- Include a cross-section of our staff, managers and partners, responsible for driving new business in their area and is chaired by managers to help develop their leadership skills
- Meet monthly – or sometimes twice a month – to review their pipelines, discuss target accounts that individuals are pursuing, and plan meetings and events to help promote and develop the relationships that are the foundation of our business
The revenue groups have employed an event strategy that has been a key differentiator for our firm. Our goal is to bring people together that we want to do business with while providing educational and networking opportunities, deepening current relationships and having fun! For example, our construction revenue group has hosted a skeet shooting event for the past four years (a recreational activity where participants, using shotguns, attempt to break clay disks automatically flung into the air). They partner with an insurance agency to invite mutual clients to the event and then they have dinner afterwards. This allows our firm, the insurance agency and our clients to meet new people and further relationships with those whom they already know. Another example is our international group’s “doing business in…” events. Our last event was “Doing Business in Latin America” and we partnered with a law firm and banker and invited prospects and clients who are already or are considering doing business in Latin America. And annually, we host a firm-wide sponsored financial forum that has grown from 40 attendees seven years ago to now attracting 250-300 people. We bring in a great economist from Los Angeles, Chris Thornberg from Beacon Economics, who shares his (eerily accurate) predictions in a concise and fun 45-minute presentation and then we provide a lively social and networking opportunity with excellent food and wine. Our clients and referral sources look forward to this event every year, and it’s a great way to bring in prospects to learn more about our firm and what they can expect when they engage us.
While these events are a significant investment, they are the springboard for building the relationships that we are committed to with our referral sources, prospects and clients. We translate these fun, educational events into real business opportunities by identifying prospects to have lunch with and inviting them directly or requesting that our banker or attorney referral sources set up three-way lunches. Because of our relationships, the process to turn these prospects into new clients for the firm is often easier.
A Client-Centered Approach
Our commitment to relationships translates to our client service philosophy, too. Most firms say that they provide excellent client service but our approach is client-centered versus discipline-centered. In our client-centered approach:
- Each client is assigned a team that works on both the tax and assurance services for the client. If a specialized skill is needed they get assistance from that department, but most of the tax and audit work are performed by the client team.
- Our team members build a well-rounded knowledge across tax and audit and are aware of the whole picture for a client which adds value. They don’t pick a specialty until after being with our firm for five years.
- The managers and partners have a broader understanding of both tax and audit, giving them the confidence and ability to advise business owners as an advisor, which is the fun part of what we do.
I like to use a football analogy to describe our relationships with our clients. The first 50 yards of the football field is getting a client’s accounting and information system set up to deliver the information they need to run their business. The next 30 yards is focusing on the tax issues for the business, such as ensuring that they have the right entity structure and helping them coordinate the various tax entities to achieve maximum tax efficiencies. The last 20 yards is the end zone where you really provide the most value by managing the wealth they have accumulated, such as taking care of their children’s college plans, retirement, and succession planning. Our relationship with our clients spans their entire life and the life of their business. Because we provide the full range of services to our clients and have such long-term relationships, our clients turn to us first when they have problems or concerns. We are available and involved in so many facets of their life and financial needs that it’s a very intimate relationship.
My hope is that my clients would tell others that we truly care about them and their success. We try very hard to put ourselves in their shoes and ask, “If it was my money or my business or my children, how would I want it handled and how would I want to be treated?” Our relationships are our number one priority and we convey that in every interaction and through our genuine care and concern for others’ success.
You will score a touchdown with your clients when you truly provide services that span your client’s life cycle and business cycle. Make a list of all the possible services you could provide, challenges you can help clients tackle or goals you can help them achieve – and then prioritize the order and timeline in which they should be addressed to make the biggest impact for them. This will create a regular opportunity for you to be in touch with your clients and help them plan while uncovering new opportunities to service them. When you do, both you and your client will be in the end zone!
Marc Parkinson, CPA/PFS, is the Managing Partner of Petrinovich Pugh & Company LLP, a large firm with nine partners and forty-seven staff in San Jose, CA. For more information about Petrinovich Pugh & Company LLP, visit http://ppandco.com/.