Most accountants want their clients to succeed, but few take it to the same heights of understanding and advocacy as Roanoke, Va., CPA Micah Fraim, who looks to elevate local small businesses to the next level by helping them with marketing practices, utilizing their tax funds, and breaking down complex topics.
"I am on a mission to help local Roanoke businesses truly flourish by helping them to take the stress out of tax time and show them how to harness to power of revolutionary accounting and marketing practices," Fraim writes on his site. "We strive to be the go-to CPA practice for small-business owners looking to step up to the next level and take control of their finances."
Besides his accounting expertise, Fraim is an accomplished writer, and he uses his skills to spread his message to his clients and to small-business owners in general. He penned his first book, "The Little Big Small Business Book," back in 2015; his contributions appear in Forbes, MSN, and elsewhere; and he maintains his own blog, featuring helpful infographics explaining recent tax news and updates.
We recently talked with Fraim to discuss what attributes can make a truly different CPA or firm, and how "taxes aren't everything" when it comes to clients.
What are, generally, some of the “revolutionary accounting and marketing practices” you advocate?
We’ve found that most small-business owners are operating somewhere between five to 30 years in the past when it comes to their businesses, and this largely skews towards the advances in technology that they are not yet embracing – at least before they speak to us. People are still using paper ledgers and spreadsheets – and if they are using an accounting software, they are not utilizing all of the capabilities. There is a tremendous amount of information that can be input into your books (and thereby a tremendous amount of information that can be extracted from them) if coded properly. A spreadsheet will allow you to do your taxes, but it’s never going to provide you the insight for tax planning and business decisions as the other tools will.
It’s a similar story on the marketing side: People are still inclined to run TV commercials, run radio ads, send mailers, and buy space on billboards. And there’s nothing wrong with those. Especially if you are running major advertising campaigns, they can be valuable tools. But they pale in comparison to the much more targeted options of the digital side. But we find that people do not understand those options nearly as well, so they shy away from them.
Do you feel that your clients are getting more progressive in how they handle their tax work? What are some trends you’ve been seeing from small-business owners in recent years?
Aside from how clients communicate and deliver their documents (again, more and more of them are sending things electronically), the biggest thing we are seeing on the tax side is that more people want to do tax planning. This has been especially true after the new tax legislation. With everything shaken up and the new layers of complexity added on the business side, clients are realizing they cannot afford not to hire us for consulting work throughout the year. It used to feel a bit like pulling teeth getting people to come in for planning and strategy. Not anymore.
As someone who’s constantly interacting with small businesses, what are some of the bigger issues that accounting professionals who deal with similar clients should be paying more attention to?
We’re accountants, so taxes are always going to be our focus and primary area of expertise. But taxes aren’t everything: I think a fair number of us need to take a step back from our spreadsheets and look at a client’s entire business. The more we understand and have a pulse on the business itself, the better we can advise on what makes sense overall. A maneuver might be a slam dunk from a tax perspective but horrible by other metrics.
What do you hope will change in the profession over the next decade?
In speaking to new clients about their experiences with their previous CPA, I’m always a little disappointed that the relationship often seems to be transactional and limited to tax return prep. I’m hoping that more accountants start emphasizing an advisory role and ongoing relationship with their clients. There are few advisors who could provide more value.
For more on Fraim, head to his site here.
"Accountants to Watch" highlights standout members of the profession who are striving to push accounting forward. If you or someone you know would like to be considered, send a submission to AcToday@sourcemedia.com with the subject line "Accountants to Watch."
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