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What’s your passion?

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October 7, 2013

Last week, my wife Colleen and I were on vacation with some great friends of ours from St. Louis, Michael and Lyn. As we were settling in with our provisions from the local store, I offered to make breakfast every day in our little timeshare kitchen. Lyn immediately asked me why I would offer this as I was on vacation; couldn’t the group go out to the hotel restaurant and save me the hassle and inconvenience? I replied that I enjoyed cooking, that it relaxed me, and that it was no burden—it was an opportunity for creative expression. Not to mention, I was truly passionate about cooking!

It got me thinking about how unique of a time it is in the history of our profession. In a 100-plus-year-old profession, there has never been a better time (or greater opportunity) to follow your passion. The career path for a young or experienced accountant is broader than ever before. The opportunity to specialize in niches, specialty consulting services, and sub-sets of compliance services appears to be limited only by your imagination. (In fact, I have a client that does invent new, proprietary services – and that’s his passion.)

A perfect example of the proliferation of niches in the last 10 years, are SALT and international tax services. These services had traditionally only been provided by the top 10 firms – until recently. Today, every firm in the Top 500 (and likely beyond) has clients that desperately need SALT and international tax guidance.

So, how do you determine your passion?  Start with an assessment of yourself and your clients. Which clients do you like working on the most and why? Which services do you enjoy providing the most and why? What size clients do you like working with and why? What industries are these clients in? What business characteristics do they have? What unique or special needs do they have?

Now ask yourself, how much time are you spending with these clients, providing these services? Is it 10 percent of your time? Surely you are miserable. Twenty-five percent of your time? Go fish. You can do better. Fifty percent of your time? Not bad, but that’s still 50 percent of your time being spent in areas that aren’t your true passion. Go fish. Seventy-five percent of your time? Now we’re talking! One hundred percent of your time? Congratulations – you won’t work a day in your life because your passion is your work. (Don’t stop there, though. You’ve learned a valuable lesson and there is someone in your firm who can benefit from it. Mentor someone on following their passion, serving as a living example that it can—and should—be done.)

Based on your assessment results, craft a plan that allows you to prioritize your time in your areas of greater passion. Seek opportunities to work on any clients at your firm that fit your passion parameters. Read trade publications and become involve in groups where like-minded individuals are present. Find referral sources that serve these types of clients. Ask partners in your firm who are spending 100 percent of their time in the passionate bucket how they did it.

And finally, don’t feel handcuffed by your current client base!  No, I’m not advocating you abandon any clients but, chances are, there is someone in your firm who would be pleased to take over some of the clients that aren’t within your area of passion. In fact, they may be within their area of passion. When I’m cooking, I’m not working because it’s a passion of mine. Think about the possibility of spending more of your time doing what you are passionate about – and think about how this would make you feel day-in and day-out about your “work.” I will bet it will feel much like I did last week when I created my recipe for jalapeno deviled eggs, drizzled with chorizo and hot sauce. Mmmmmmmm! That, truly, was a passion worth prioritizing!

Art Kuesel is the president of Kuesel Consulting where he helps CPA firms perfect their growth strategies and actions to drive revenue in the door. He can be reached at art@kueselconsulting.com or 312-208-8774.

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