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How to originate over $100,000 in new fees every year

All partners and partner candidates in small and midsized CPA firms are very aware they need to originate new business each and every year. Some are very successful at this aspect of the business; others not so much.

Many of those who are not very successful at originating new business haven’t developed the necessary skills to be effective at the task. As a result, it isn’t an awful lot of fun. To help partners and partner candidates with their responsibility of originating new business, here are four “tips” and “hooks” that will enable you to easily originate over $100,000 in new business fees each and every year. By the way, depending on the nature of a firm’s practice, $100,000 in new business fees a year is not a very lofty goal. In fact, it is a low goal for midsized firms in financial centers and major cities where the goal usually is about $250,000 a year in new business fees for the most effective partners in firms in those locations.

Presented below is a summary of the four “tips” and “hooks”:

1. It starts with building relationships with those clients who usually are the best source of new business. You probably won’t be able to build meaningful relationships with all your clients. There can be age differences and the like that become obstacles. So find those clients who you can relate to you and who can relate to you. Go to lunch with them to discuss business challenges and obstacles and see if your firm’s observations and solutions would help them. Inevitably, your conversation will shift to your lives outside of the office. That’s an opportunity to get to know each other beyond purely a business relationship. Perhaps go out to dinner with them and significant others. Or try a round of golf if that works for you. These are great relationship builders.

Here is your “hook”: While you are building your client relationships, make sure you are servicing your clients with high-quality compliance and advisory services. When it’s appropriate, ask your clients if they are happy with the services you provide. If they say yes, let them know you have a responsibility to build your own business and that you would appreciate an introduction to another business owner or CFO who might need a quality CPA.

2. While your clients are the best source of new business, attorneys, bankers, wealth management advisors and investment bankers are also great sources for potential referrals. Start first with those advisors who work with your clients. You should find these professionals easy to talk to as you have a common interest — the same client(s). Find out who these professionals are, reach out to them, go to lunch together. Find out what they particularly enjoy and what they have to offer your clients. At the same time, make it a point to tell them what you and your firm are particularly good at, what you enjoy and how you might be different than your competition. See if your personalities mesh and if you have other common interests. And again, go to dinner with your significant others or try a round of golf if that works for you.

Now here is your “hook”: Let your potential referral source know that you are very aware that, just like you, they are responsible for building their business and you will do your best to identify opportunities within your client base to refer them into. All you ask is that they keep you in mind when they are talking to their clients. If they have a need for a quality CPA, you would welcome an introduction.

3. While many small and midsized CPA firm partners and partner candidates don’t think about other accountants and consultants as potential referral sources, give them some serious consideration, particularly those who are partners or partner candidates at either larger or smaller firms. Many times, larger firms have an opportunity for a new piece of business that doesn’t meet their firm’s new business criteria. Rather than waste the opportunity to make “hay,” they will refer that opportunity to another CPA at a smaller firm. Same goes for smaller firms. Oftentimes, smaller firms don’t have the skills or credentials to handle a complex piece of work and, when this happens, there is an opportunity to refer that work to another CPA firm. You want to be top of mind when these opportunities arise.

Here's your “hook”: Let your potential referral source know you are very aware that, just like you, they are responsible for building their business and you will do your very best to reciprocate when the opportunities present themselves in your client base.

4. Smaller CPA firms are also sources for potential acquisitions or mergers, which of course are a new business origination of a different sort but nevertheless just as important, if not more so, than a piece of business for a new client. That is why we suggest that it is particularly important to get to know who is out there. We just don’t know what the future holds, and many times relationships with partners at smaller CPA firms can eventually lead to an opportunity for a strategic transaction.

The “hook” in this particular situation is obvious. If a smaller firm is struggling with growth, profits, talent and/or leadership, and your firm can provide a solution to the smaller firm, you are creating a “win-win” situation for all involved. There are few things more rewarding than identifying a potential transaction that eventually gets consummated.

Hopefully these “tips” and “hooks” will help you unlock the key to being successful in originating new business each and every year. And while $100,000 in new business fees might initially sound daunting and an impossible goal, it really isn’t. Consider the cost of doing business every year. There isn’t a year that goes by where you don’t need to reward employees a compensation adjustment. There isn’t a year that goes by where you don’t have an escalation in your lease commitments. There isn’t a year that goes by where you don’t have to enhance your technology. As an owner, these things help you focus on the need to originate new business.