It takes solid strategies and steps to grow a niche business, and Gale Crosley, president of Crosley + Co., shared some of her strategies with approximately 100 participants during a pre-conference session at the Forum for Women in Accounting here.

Crosley first realized the power of niches in the mid-1990s when she was implementing computer networks for executive search firms. As she saw revenue increase year after year, Crosley knew she was onto something.

She defines niches as distinct buyer groups, not particular services such as business valuations or forensic accounting.

Touching upon the struggle between billable hours and family, and developing business development and leadership skills, Crosley said finding balance is a constant struggle, especially for women. Knowing where to put energy can be challenging.

The first step is to figure out what services to provide, how the firm will get those services to the market - either through distribution channels or networking - and which prospects to target.

"Take a list of clients in an ecosystem and identify them by buyer group," Crosley said. "I know it's counterintuitive, but targeting smaller makes you grow bigger. .. Then target the ones you want to go after. If you want to start a niche for women buyers, then jump into that market."

The key to growth is orchestrating what Crosley called a "research call," a phone call to a contact or an existing client to say, "I'm growing and I need your help." The meeting, lasting about 45 minutes to an hour, helps gather information about a particular niche.

During the research call, Crosley said it's important to ask questions such as: what are the top three issues for someone like you; what associations are important; what publications do you read; who are the other thought leaders; and who else should I be talking to. Crosley also suggested writing down questions beforehand, taking good notes, identifying possible next steps and not leaving the conversation without two names to continue the research call process.

Crosley said she still makes two research calls a week to keep up with current issues and developments within the accounting field and to stay on top of what's happening in associations and publications. When she started her consulting business six years ago, she would make two calls a day.

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