Maintaining healthy client relationships is important for CPAs, particularly when their tax clients need some help with their tax planning that may require outside expertise.

Alex Sonkin, a partner at the Lombardi Group in Carlsbad, Calif., works on helping CPAs connect with financial experts who can be trusted to be reliable partners, but not steal away business. His group, which has developed a system called Perfect Client, holds an annual event called the Advanced Tax Planning Institute where CPAs can hear firsthand from some of these experts. The next one is coming up in early November.

“We’ve been doing it now for about six years,” he said Wednesday. “What makes it unique is it’s the only event where they have leadership and relationship coaching and training for CPAs. With most CPA and CPE events, there’s a lot of technical stuff done by very technical people, going into tremendous minutiae. But this event is maybe 40 to 50 percent leadership and relationship training. What we do is invite the top specialists in the country, who speak about their strategies.”

The specialists discuss how CPAs can identify situations where their biggest clients may be in trouble and need an expert in areas such as business valuations. “When they have a client situation, especially one of their best clients, a lot of times they’re very fearful, for good reason, about directing this guy to some third party’s office,” said Sonkin. “In our office we have advisors who have been trained to work with a non-referral based model. We spend about four months out of the year, and we’ve been doing this for about 18 years, sourcing and finding the very best specialists in the country that most financial advisors don’t really deal with. We work with different groups to handle captive insurance, ESOPs [employee stock ownership plans], cost segregation. If a business owner wants to go public, where does that CPA go for help, or if he needs a business valuation or some really dynamic tax planning? We’re sourcing the country for the top law firms that are tax planning specialists. We want to find the very best so we make sure the CPAs in the room get access to all of those resources. We’ve had to evolve from financial advisors and financial planners into managing the information flow from CPAs and then coordinating calls and meetings with these specialists.”

The next Advanced Tax Planning Institute runs from November 3 to 5 at the La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, Calif. For more information, click here.

“What the CPA really wants is to control his client relationships, which is what we enable them to do, and at the same time deliver really good ideas to those clients without having to trust someone else and screw up those relationships,” said Sonkin.