Case study – Joshua Lance, CPA, CGMA
Background: Joshua Lance, CPA, CGMA, is managing director of Lance CPA Group, a virtually remote CPA practice based in Chicago, Illinois. The 17-person firm provides accounting and tax services to craft breweries and digital agencies.
Problem: Lack of work/life integration
I worked at an accounting firm in a role that required me to travel a lot; I was constantly on the road and not with my family. At some point, I decided that type of job wasn’t what I wanted any longer.
Solution: Start a virtual firm
I established my own firm, Lance CPA Group, as a virtual firm so I could work from home, be with my family, and use existing technology to work with clients and expand our reach. I opened the firm in February 2015.
Why it works
Our firm has been successful for several reasons:
We focus on two specific niches — in providing accounting and tax services to craft breweries and digital agencies — so we don’t serve clients in a particular local area. That’s been critical to our success, since it means that location doesn’t matter.
We were working with a lot of younger clients who were actively using technology in their own companies. They were receptive to the idea of working remotely and doing things in real-time using cloud-based technology. They weren’t solely focused on going to a CPA’s office. Everything we can do and what we need to work with our clients is all accessible via browser. That's a huge benefit for us.
We did have some clients who wanted to meet in person or didn't understand why we didn't have an office. But we had a very clear and defined niche and sense of who we wanted to serve and how we were going to serve them. We decided to stick to our path and that worked really well for us. We realized we just weren't going to be the right fit for everyone, and that was okay.
Being virtual has not prevented us from maintaining great client relationships. You do get face-to-face interaction in video calls and you can have a lot of interactivity with a client. Clients are happy to jump on a quick call or share screens in a meeting so we can discuss issues online. The technology saves them time since they didn’t have to leave their offices. We also can do some automation through integrations and make their lives easier as a result. We have clients from around the country whom I’ve never met in person, but they feel they’re being well served.
We’re very proactive. We do regular check-ups to see if we are meeting expectations and delivering value. If they email us, within 24 hours we’ll email or call them or jump on a video chat, depending on the situation. It’s critical to be responsive, and easy to do in a remote environment.
Recruiting is a huge part of what makes it work for us. It's hard to find good and talented staff, and when you are limited by geography it’s even tougher. We have been able to get the best and brightest staff in locations all over the country.
Visit www.aicpa.org/digitalforward for additional resources.