[IMGCAP(1)]As a manager at a CPA firm, I am constantly looking to expand my network in search of developing new opportunities for my firm.

In the past, I would attend networking events hoping that other CPAs in public practice would not be in attendance. I feared what would happen if my professional contacts developed relationships with other CPAs. I managed my professional contacts in two hands —on the right, CPAs, and on the left, everybody else. In managing my professional contacts with extreme caution, I found that I was not able to really help either the CPAs or the other professionals. I was always guarded rather than open, relaxed and looking to make a difference with the skills in which my firm and I excel.

Over the last several years, I found there should be no fear of our local competition. Not only should I not be afraid of these other practitioners but I should be focusing on them as some of my best sources for qualified referrals. As I have learned, accountants specialize in an assortment of areas. Not only do we specialize in varied areas, but the way we approach out work differs based on our individualized personalities.

At the basic level some of us love tax and others love auditing and accounting services. But as I further drop down into the CPA subcategory that you fall in, we can eventually find an area of practice that you need and that I can perform, which you don’t want to do. And upon finding that differentiation, all of a sudden the referrals flow.

In order to manage these referral opportunities, I have classified my contemporary CPAs in the following four categories. Each one is unique, with a distinct need. One is not better than the other, just different. Consider reviewing your accounting peers to identify how you can work with them most efficiently!

* The Partner: They know what they do…and they understand what I do.
As discussed above, even if you don’t want to believe it, every CPA has a niche. Whether you recognize it or not, you are good at something and you struggle at other projects. You love tax projects and hate audit projects. Whatever the task is that you dislike (or would prefer not to focus on) can be absorbed (and most likely performed at a higher level) by the CPA who enjoys that type of work. Your partner has clients and performs a variety of tasks for them. Of these services, some are completed proficiently and others could use a little assistance. Go offer to help! Partner up! You do more of “X”; I will do more of “Y”. At the end of the day, we will be happier doing the work we enjoy and most likely have expanded our revenue base together.

* The Anti-Delegator: They already have a client base that they are too busy managing.
You thought you were busy, just meet this guy! 80+ hours a week, preparing journal entries on ledger sheets like it’s 1985! This CPA has a great client base that he has developed over the last 30 years of his career, but at the same time, he never figured out how to delegate to lower levels. Not only did he not learn how to delegate, but he never learned about the efficiencies that come with leveraging technology. This CPA has a number of clients who need a number of accounting, tax or consulting services that this CPA just does not have the time to work on. Give him your business card, advise him that you don’t intend to take over his practice but rather provide a different service to his clients that desperately need it.

* The Admirer: They recognize the value of my work.
You have developed a great relationship with this CPA. You appreciate what he/she does and they appreciate what you do. You both have thriving practices that do similar work. You have always talked about working together in some capacity, but have not found the right opportunity. Well, here it is. Your admirer has a conflict of interest on a project that he/she would normally perform and succeed at if it was any other client. But the conflict leads to the perfect referral!

* The Classmate: We speak the same language.
One of the most difficult parts of closing with new clients is that, the client doesn’t understand what you do, why you do it, and how it will benefit their business. But, with that being said, your classmate knows what you do, why you do it, and how it will benefit their client's business. In this scenario I am advising you to communicate with other CPAs in public practice to have them offer your specialty services (in which they lack the knowledge) to perform for their clients. You aren’t competing with your classmate since this is a new service that their client would never receive had they spoken directly to you. Your classmate is your friend, not your competition!

Now that you know the buckets of referring CPAs, go find them, develop a relationship with them, and figure out how you can grow your business, their business, and the client's business all at the same time. Oh, and if you were wondering how I could help you? I work with CPAs to identify new opportunities for the growth, leadership and development of clients and accounting personnel. I’ll gladly let you take over my responsibility of reviewing the tax returns sitting on my desk!

Adam Blitz, CPA, is a tax and consulting manager at Wiebe Hinton Hambalek, LLP in Fresno, Calif. Along with his CPA, Adam has a Masters of Arts in Leadership Studies from Fresno Pacific University. Adam authored a thesis entitled, "The Leading CPA—the value of the leading CPA." Adam is focused on working with his clients, colleagues, and industry professionals in enhancing the value of the CPA. For additional information, he can be contacted at Adamb@whhcpas.com or via Twitter @getblitzed.

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