Figuring out how to start something and growing it is often a struggle for many solo entrepreneurs who want to move out of their current jobs and start their own business. Talking to accountants, agents, bookkeepers, and those who are doing part-time CFO, Nellie Akalp dives deep into the process of scaling your own accounting firm. As a CEO of CorpNet.com – a trusted resource for Business Incorporation, LLC Filings, and Corporate Compliance Services in all 50 states – Nellie has the wisdom to give your business that competitive advantage. She shares the things an accountant must possess to differentiate themselves from everybody else and the three ways they can scale their accounting firm without adding overhead.
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3 Ways On How To Scale Your Accounting Firm Without Adding Overhead with Nellie Akalp
Welcome, Nellie, to the show.
Thank you for having me, Michelle.
Thank you so much for being here with us. It is an honor to have you here. Before we get into this show about how to scale an accounting firm, how do you scale without increasing overhead, which is the big thing of what we’re going to talk about? Can you share with everyone a little bit about your background and what is it that you do?
I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to be on your show and sharing my story with your audience. My name is Nellie Akalp. I’m an entrepreneur by trade. I’ve been an entrepreneur most of my life. I am currently the CEO and Founder of CorpNet.com, which is a business filing service catering to any and all professionals, accountants, CPAs and entrepreneurs who want to start a business. If they have clients who want to start a business or maintain current business and keeping it in compliance. We provide services in all 50 states.
I started my journey of entrepreneurship back in 1997 with my first company. I grew that company and scaled it to where it was doing nearly $1 million in gross sales per month. We had the blessing and opportunity to be approached by a publicly-traded company. I sold that company for quite a large sum of cash in 2005. I took some time off to focus on our then growing family. Before I knew it, my non-compete was up. I was too bored, too young and frankly too passionate to take on early retirement. I decided to start all over again and get back into the same exact industry in 2009 with my company, CorpNet.com.If you don't provide unique services, chances are your clients are going to go to one of your competitors who are. Click To Tweet
For the accountants reading, CPAs, enrolled agents, bookkeepers, the people that are doing part-time CFO work and maybe someone who is in a corporate position in an accounting firm looking to quit, jump ship and start their own business. One of the biggest challenges they have is how do you scale your accounting firm? What are the steps and processes for that? I know you have your law degree and you never practiced law. If you were to put that entrepreneur hat on as an accountant, as the firm owner, maybe even a solo accountingpreneur as I like to call them, what is the first thing you would think about if you were in their shoes to scale their accounting firm?
I would want to definitely differentiate my accounting firm from my competitors and give my customers more reason to rely on my expertise. That’s the first thing I would do. That’s the first key to having a competitive edge and opening up the door to scaling your business in any profession you are. As an accountant, as a CPA, as someone who’s representing clients in my opinion and myself being a small business owner, my accountant, my CPA, my financial advisor is my next go-to person after my husband. They’re tied to the money. You have to take care of your money. You have to be cognizant of your finances. That person, a CPA, an accountant, an enrolled agent and your bookkeeper is your go-to person when you’re running a business. If you’re in that position where somebody is relying on you, you better be a one-stop shop to them. You better position yourself as a trusted advisor to them so that they’re coming to you for any and all aspects of their needs when it comes to their business.
You were saying that one of the main things that an accountant should do is differentiate themselves. Can you go into a little bit of depth? What are the five things that an accountant should look at when they’re looking? How do they differentiate themselves from everybody else? You said that they would be a one-stop shop and they need to be the number one trusted advisor and go-to person after your husband. For a lot of consumers like me and you, working with accountants and professionals, we give them all of our trust with our numbers and our finances. What are a few things that you would say that would have an accountant differentiate themselves?
One of the things in my opinion that they should do and consider is maybe getting engaged with their clients earlier in the startup phase. For example, if their client wants to start a business, maybe getting engaged a little bit earlier in the startup phase so that they know what’s going on with that business, possibly assisting them with any type of entity formations, business licenses, permits, anything they need to get that business off and running. Make sure their clients have their i’s dotted and their t’s crossed.
For myself running a consulting business on the side, I often see a lot of my clients coming in telling me that they had to go to a lawyer to get their business set up and oftentimes, they look to the accountant for these services. In my opinion, the first and foremost products and services that accountants can offer without increasing their overhead and enhancing their trusted advisory services are becoming engaged with their clients earlier in the startup phase of their client’s business. Offering them services such as entity formation filings, business compliance, filing business registration filings so that their clients are not looking elsewhere for these services.
Entity formation does have a lot of impact on taxes, but getting engaged with clients on the front-end phases, going through permits and business stuff and dotting all those i’s and crossing the t’s, as business owners, we don’t want to do any of that. You are creating credibility as a trusted advisor. Are there anything else that you would say would set them apart as far as the differentiation factors go?
When a client looks at you and truly can count on you when it comes to any aspect of their business, whether it’s entity formations, whether it’s licensing, whether it’s tax registrations. For example, a lot of clients that we work with nowadays have a business that requires them to have employees to place their employees on the payroll. In my opinion, there are a ton of services that accountants, CPAs and bookkeepers can offer that they’re not offering. They can align themselves with a trusted partner that can provide these services whereby their clients are not looking elsewhere. For example, if a client comes to a CPA and is like, “I need to set up my business. I need to make sure my business is not only set up in one state but I can do business in states X, Y and Z as well.”
It’s much better for that CPA to be like, “I can take care of all this and X, Y and Z for you.” Instead of telling the client, “I can’t assist you. You need to go find a lawyer to assist you with this.” Once that business is set up, that client’s going to need payroll tax registration and state unemployment registration if they are having employees. If they’re conducting their business in multiple locations, in a specific state or specific counties, they’re going to need business licensing and permit. How nice would it be for that professional to tell their client that they can take care of all of it for them? Not only initially but in the years to come and throughout the lifetime of their business. That’s the key here. That’s what we’re talking about is maximizing a firm’s revenues by not only looking at your client base and what you can do to increase revenues with your client base. Attracting a new set of clients by offering services that you may not be providing now that can attract new clients to you. If you don’t provide these services, chances are your clients are going to go to one of your competitors who are.
They’re going to get it somewhere. I always say that, “If you’re not able to service them or you’re not able to enroll them in your services and help them, they’re going to go get help from somebody.” Let’s go back into how an accountant, a firm owner, a solo accountingprenuer can scale their accounting firm without adding additional overhead and thinking outside the box. I’d love to give them three new ideas. If they don’t offer services that are unique and a little different, even if they partner up with an attorney or do the entity formation or work with an outside payroll provider to offer the services. Even if they don’t want to do it themselves, there’s always a way. What are three ways that an accountant can scale their accounting firm, but the trick is not adding overhead? They’re a solopreneur or they’re in a corporate position. They’re about to start their own firm. What’s the first way that you would recommend on how to scale their firm without adding overhead?
Natural Extension Of Service
The first way is a natural extension of what they’re already doing but not offering the service is adding incorporation and business filings to their line of services and why? It’s because accountants are in a critical position whereby they’re the ones who are advising their clients as to what business structure their clients should form and which business structure has the best implications for them. The next natural question or path for the client is to ask the CPA, tax professional or whoever it is, “How do I do this?” Why not offer this particular service yourself to your firm and have a reputable provider do all the backend fulfillment for you? As a solopreneur, if you’re a one-man show having clients, you can align yourself with a trusted backend resource that can provide all these services to you.Oftentimes, businesses forget about the pot of gold that they already have. Click To Tweet
As an accounting professional, you put your name, your brand, your logo on the service and send it to your clients. In addition to that, you can charge and increase that price to your clients. Charge them for a service that not only they need but they’re going to want and they’re going to want you to do it for them. They don’t want to go to a lawyer. I’m talking to you firsthand because I went to law school. While I was in law school, I was working in an attorney’s firm. Although I never practiced law one day in my life, when I was going through law school, I had the opportunity to work in law offices to get some experience under my belt. Lawyers charge upwards of $2,500 if they’re trying to incorporate a client. That’s truly not necessary. It’s a little bit overkill.
Having a relationship with a law firm or with an attorney is a great referral source, number one. Number two, they probably won’t charge you $2,500 if you keep bringing in business clients. It’s an extension of what they’re already doing. Nellie has a service that you can also use to make it a little simpler because I know a lot of you don’t want to give legal advice. This is a tax planning opportunity for you and a great opportunity to be that trusted advisor because if you’re not going to do it for the client, they’re going to go elsewhere. Nellie, what’s the second way someone could scale their firm, their practice to grow but without adding additional overhead? What’s another unique thing?
Going Back To Existing Clients
I’m huge on going back to my existing clients. I love to maintain contact with my existing clients. The first key was going and adding new services and trying to attack new clients. The second way is going back to your existing client base, touch with them. Businesses forget about the pot of gold that they already have and in my opinion, that’s key. If you want to increase your firm’s revenues, start creating a way to maintain and keep in touch with your existing client base. It’s simple. It’s zero overhead. One way to do it is sent out a newsletter. You can send out a newsletter if you have a new piece of information that’s coming out.
Accountants and CPAs are in a perfect position with all the ever-changing tax laws going around with the JOBS Act. There’s something coming up new every day. There are many ways that a professional can maintain contact with their existing client base. The thing that a lot of people forget is that by maintaining contact with your existing client base, that person may not have had you in the back of their mind. When they see right up front, they’re like, “I need to do this. I need to reach out to them,” and hence, another way that they’re going to reach out to you. This is your existing pot of gold that you’re dipping back into to increase your firm’s revenues without adding additional overhead costs. It’s simple. You can sign up for MailChimp.
MailChimp is free. MailChimp is an email service for our audience not knowing what that is, that you can export your client email list, import it in there. It’s literally free for up to 3,000 emails. Check it out. There’s no affiliate program on that. I used to use it. I had an upgrade. I use ActiveCampaign now. It’s a great system too or maybe part of your CRM. If you have one of those in your firm, it might have something great in there. I totally agree with going back to your existing client base. It is your pot of gold. What I’ve learned from working with many accountants and even in my small groups and stuff is that we are neglecting the most important part in our businesses, which are current clients. What’s the third thing and third way that you can think of, creative outside the box on how to scale their accounting firms without adding additional overhead?
Proactivity is the third one. The key is being proactive with your clients. For example, the best time is getting proactive with your clients whether it’s existing clients or new clients and doing some planning for the upcoming tax year. Clients will look at you as more of a trusted person. You’ll gain their trust. They’ll respect you professionally where when you’re being proactive with them. Not only reminding them of critical filing deadlines and due dates when it comes to their corporation or LLC or any type of business structure their business may be formed on there, but it also in their mind helps them feel like you’re reducing their risks of being audited in any way.
They can also be helped in ways where, for example, if you have a client that is trying to scale, maybe help them position themselves in a way that they can attract investors and raise capital. Here’s the bottom line is when you become proactive with your clients in all aspects of their business, whether it’s entity formations, whether it’s business compliance, whether it’s their business licenses, registrations, making sure that they have all their i’s dotted and their t’s crossed. Ultimately, your clients are not only going to come back to you, but they’re going to start referring more clients to you. Proactivity is the key here as my last tip.
That is an important tip. When we are bogged down with lower value work, compliance work, that’s where we can’t focus on the pot of gold and we can’t focus on the productivity. Thank you so much, Nellie, for joining us here on the show. It was such an honor to have you.
Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure sharing my story with you and your audience.
About Nellie Akalp
Nellie Akalp is a passionate entrepreneur, small business expert and mother of four. She is the CEO of CorpNet.com, a trusted resource for Business Incorporation, LLC Filings, and Corporate Compliance Services in all 50 states. Nellie and her team recently launched a partner program for accountants, bookkeepers, CPAs, and other professionals to help them streamline the business incorporation and compliance process for their clients. More info at: CorpNet.com/partners