[IMGCAP(1)]A couple weeks ago I wrote about QuickBooks and how we became the largest QB consultants in New Jersey along with receiving a few clients with very substantial fees. I’ve gotten some calls asking about them and what we did, so here is a description of three of them.

The first client is someone that called asking to spend only one hour with us. At the time our minimum was five hours. We figured we would do him a favor and we told him the hourly rate if he would come to our office. He was a very nice, well-dressed man and spent the hour. He called us about a month later and asked if he could “buy another hour.”

We discussed this among ourselves. We decided that even though it wasn’t what we wanted to do and was somewhat disruptive, we would consider it in the realm of a pro bono job, so we made the appointment. About a month later he called and asked if he could come over right away. But he didn’t say what it was about. My partner Peter Weitsen handled the call and said, “OK.”

When the client showed up, he handed Peter a $500,000 check he received from an investor to prepare a business plan and asked Peter how he could get started. Later that day we had him set up in an office suite with a bank account and were on our way to preparing his business plan. We helped him hire staff and develop incentive and benefit plans. In effect, we became his back office. Our fees were quiet substantial until he was able to add the right staff, more space and much more investor funding.

A second client called Peter responding to our classified ad offering QB consulting. She asked if we could send someone to enter her transactions and catch her up. After a short discussion, Peter decided to send one of our top staff people on the last Saturday in March (an extremely busy time) on a hunch. This led to us becoming the entire back office for a company with over $20 million in investor capital.

The person who called was the controller, and things were moving so fast she did not have time to hire and train a bookkeeper, so she reached out to us. Once we had our foot in the door, we started preparing monthly financials, cash flow projections, and high-level stock option consulting and modeling for later-stage fundraising. Our fees grew accordingly.

A third example is a call Peter received from someone in New York wanting to switch to QB. Peter asked if I could see him when I was in Manhattan, and I made an appointment to see him two days later at 1:00. This was to try to get a five-hour assignment for one of our staff accountants. I walked out at 5:00 with a hefty retainer to help him sell his business.

It seems he had a meeting the following afternoon with a principal from a venture capital firm that wanted to buy his company. After some time with the client, it became evident he did not have a clue what to do. He needed me to “represent” him at the meeting and guide him through the process. The meeting went very well, but when I started to put together the “book” it seems his “audited” financials were all wrong and his accountant did substandard work. It was easy to explain this to the client, especially since the accountant admitted it to me.

We then had to reconstruct three years of financials to present to the buyer. I got heavily involved in the negotiations, recommended an attorney to the client and eventually the deal closed. Needless to say, this was a one in a million situation and we were able to fully rise to the occasion. P.S.: We never set up QB for the client.

These are three situations that came from the QB ads looking for a five-hour consultation and a foot in the door for us to try to get a small business client. There were others, and they fell primarily into the situation of the second illustration where we became an outsourced back office for the clients.

Unintended consequences and all by luck, but we were alert and able to take advantage of the opportunity.

[For tax season, Edward Mendlowitz is offering readers a special bonus in this week's column with a document you can download at this link containing a series of checklists that he keeps handy at his office during busy season. —Ed.]

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner emeritus at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz (published by CPATrendlines) and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition” (published by the AICPA). Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or emendlowitz@withum.com.