Adam Wolf walks the walk at Grassi & Co.

Adam Wolf is the type of guy you'd want to bring along to a networking event or have as a guest at a dinner party. He's got a plethora of stories to tell, is a fast (and smooth) talker, and naturally knows how to bring people who would benefit from each other together.

Not to mention, he likes wine.

We recently caught up with the busy director of marketing and business development for CPA firm Grassi & Co. and he shared a few tricks he's got up his sleeve.

Firm: Grassi & Co. CPAs & Success Consultants

Location: Lake Success, N.Y.

Length of time with firm: 3 years

Age: 36

Extracurricular activities: Golf; reading fiction, history and business books; and wine

How it all began: Several years ago, I was networking for my next opportunity after having worked on my own consulting for two years. A contact of mine introduced me to a CPA firm that was looking for a marketing director. My focus had been more on the PR side, but this opportunity opened up a range of new avenues to pursue. I interviewed for the position, I liked the firm, they liked me, and I entered the world of accounting marketing.

The interesting thing is that I was not at all looking to join a CPA firm. While I had a background doing work for professional services firms, I was more interested in working at a law firm. As things turned out, however, marketing an accounting firm turned out to be incredibly interesting, primarily because we handle so many different types of businesses and facets of their industries.

Philosophy on business development: Our managing partner, Lou Grassi, describes it as "a contact sport," and I agree. It's about being in continuous communication with clients, referral sources and other thought leaders in your industry niches. The more market intelligence you can gather, the better positioned you'll be to identify opportunities.

The key to our approach is having the conversation revolve around the prospect and their issues. A prospect buys for their reasons, not yours, so saying, "We've got the best audit practice" or "Our people know taxes" is just not a sufficient value proposition. It all stems from listening intently to the prospects' concerns and, based on that listening, crafting a message that includes not only what you do, but also how it helps them.

Biggest misconception about accountants: That all accountants are boring, unsociable people. The partners I work with at my firm certainly are not. In fact, many of them are very engaging, dynamic people.

Favorite part of the job: I love the diversity of having so many different types of projects working simultaneously. Leading my team and empowering people to learn and grow is very rewarding, as is developing a project, seeing it to completion and landing a new piece of business. Of course, there is also the joy of working with a group of 15 partners.

Most challenging part of the job: Juggling so many projects is both a blessing and a curse. It keeps things exciting and new, but it's an enormous challenge at the same time. Working with so many diverse personalities can be a test as well.

Describe a typical day: I'm in a lot of meetings with partners to go over various opportunities that are in the pipeline. My role is to be the coach of opportunities. They would come back from a meeting or plan to go to a meeting and we'd discuss the things they should look to accomplish, the key questions they need to ask, the next steps. Almost every day I'm writing one thing or another, or I'm on the phone talking to people like you.

Your leadership style in one word: Delegate. It's all about best utilizing the talents of the folks on your team and leveraging resources. If someone with less experience can get a task done, then they should do it. People should be deployed in such a way as to realize their maximum potential.

How you're different: I can't speak to what other people bring to the table. One of the things that helps me do a good job is the ability to connect with and relate well to different kinds of people. In accounting, there's a lot of good technicians out there, there are plenty of people who are skilled. Take an area like creativity - I'm probably far from the most creative person, but if you get a creative idea, it's not any use to you if you can't sell it effectively or get buy-in. That's what I think I do exceptionally well - build a consensus among a diverse group of people, get people to buy into the ideas and get their support to get things done. That's not a skill that every marketing director has.

Secret to keeping clients happy: The first thing that comes to my mind is communication, because you have to stay close to your clients. How do you stay close? By being in touch with them regularly. I hear from prospects that they only hear from their accountants when they have to come do the audit or when they do the tax return. That's not how we operate. We're in touch with clients, minimally, four times a year. We actually have in-depth, formal meetings with them four times a year. So, we can understand what's going on, what's coming down the pike, [and] we can help them plan. That's where we really add value.

The other thing with communication is, [when] things come up, challenges, problems, if you are in communication, it's much easier to deal with things than have it sprung on someone at the last minute. If we're not in touch with them regularly, they could be dealing with a problem and by the time we hear about it, it's too late, it's already become a big issue.

(c) 2009 Accounting Today and SourceMedia, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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