For most accountants, jumping into the world of entrepreneurship is a great way to maximize their learnings and earn more money. But starting your own accounting firm may be a bit complicated and confusing, especially in this time of pandemic and economic recession. Joining Michelle Weinstein once more is Nellie Akalp of CorpNet.com, who shares the many lessons she learned from transitioning as an entrepreneur in the world of accountants. Together, they dissect three important questions that can help build a successful accounting firm with a clear goal and effective marketing strategy. Nellie and Michelle also discuss the most common pain points that hinder people in their profession from accessing their full potential.
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The Right Process Of Starting Your Own Accounting Firm With Nellie Akalp
This show is where accounting professionals like you come to learn the most efficient and powerful ways to grow their firm, sharpen their sales skills and have consistent increasing revenue. We cover topics from sales, networking, handling objections, negotiation, pricing, finding those ideal clients and how to get rid of the ones that don’t suit you, and how to set those boundaries so you can stop giving away your time working for free, putting yourself on sale, and start to get paid for the value and the worth that you bring to your clients. You’ll learn tips and strategies, as well as know others from personal interviews from successful accounting professionals. This show will show you exactly how to create the firm and life of your dreams full of abundance.
We have a very special guest. Our special guest has been here before on the show. She works with accountants, bookkeepers, EAs and other professionals to streamline the business incorporation and compliance process. Her company is called CorpNet and she offers professionals the ability to incorporate with the compliance services to allow their clients to grow. It’s all the paperwork and legal documents that you would need in order to help your clients incorporate their C corps, S corps, etc.
Before we welcome our special guest to this show, if your accounting practice is not where you want it to be, I totally get it. Many of the accounting clients that come to me are feeling frustrated, stuck, overwhelmed, and almost onto the point where maybe they want to get a job. On this episode, we’re talking about three different ways on what and why you should consider thinking before you start your own accounting firm. For those of you that have found, you’re not charging enough, you’re not charging what you’re worth, you don’t have a solid sales system in place, and you only want to work with those high consistent paying clients, then you’re in the right spot.
I have some information to get into your hands to help you position yourself as the expert to become that high–quality client magnet so you get those types of great clients and have clients say yes to paying you what you’re worth and not balking at your fees. If you’re wanting to build an accounting firm and feel confident about selling high–value services and being that personal concierge firm, then head on over to TheAbundantCall.com. You’ll book a call with myself or my colleague, and together we’ll explore and discover what opportunities there are in your firm that you can make shifts for right now. The only request I have is that you’ve had your firm for at least two years before we chit-chat. If that’s you then head on over to TheAbundantCall.com. Let’s welcome our special guest on the show, Nellie. Welcome, Nellie, to the show.Listen to your clients and serve their needs. There's always a solution to a problem. Click To Tweet
Michelle, how are you?
I am great. It is wonderful to have you back here on the show where we talk all things abundance, growth, sales and all that fun stuff. For anyone that maybe hasn’t read our other episode, can you share with them a little bit about your background?
Thank you again for having me back on. It‘s such a pleasure. For those of you who haven’t read my previous blog with Michelle, my name is Nellie Akalp. I am CEO and Founder of Corpnet.com. CorpNet provides the most comprehensive, cost-effective services when it comes to any type of business formation and compliance filings in any of the 50 states. We worked with a lot of accountants, business professionals, financial advisors who represent clients. We can help you help your clients when it comes to any type of business filing you need. Whether it’s incorporating a business, setting up an LLC, or if you have clients who have an existing business who want to keep it in compliance, we can help with all of that and anything else.
For everyone that is an accountant, so that is all of you reading, if you want to check out her services, you can. Now we are talking about an important topic. It’s going to be a great discussion. For those of you that don’t know, I’ve got a great story I’m going to share. Buckle up, put your seatbelt on and hold on tight because you’re going to be like, “Michelle, I’m surprised you’re still here now.” With Nellie, we’re going to talk about some of you might be in a job still. Some of you might be thinking, “I want autonomy. I want to work for myself. I want freedom. I want flexibility. I want all that stuff that means abundance to me. I want to start my own accounting firm.” You’re like one foot in on a job and one foot out, or maybe you got laid off and are job hunting, but you want to do it yourself and you’re thinking, “How the heck could I do this in a down economy?”
As you’re reading, we’re in the second quarter of 2021. We’re in that timeframe. 2020 was a complete disaster for a lot of people. Even though for all of you, it was busy with all the PPP, EIDL, laws, changes, election, you name it. We’re going to talk about maybe four reasons, 3 or 4, why now is the best time to start your own firm if you’ve been thinking about it. Nellie, what do you think for someone who’s been contemplating starting their own accounting firm. They’re sick of putting in all this time and effort for working for somebody else. They realized in 2020 that having a job isn’t so secure anymore. As you can see, a lot of businesses closed, people got laid off. Who could have ever predicted that? When you work for yourself, it’s a whole different ball game. Why in a recession or why in a down economy or why on the up and out of a down economy would it be great to start your own accounting firm?
Personal story here for myself, I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I started my first company right out of law school. I never worked a day in my life with my first company. It was so easy to start it and immediately start making money. I sold that company, took some time off and then started my second company in a recession. I feel like starting a company, especially right now in this economic climate that we’re in for accountants, starting your own business, going after your own accounting firm, and taking control of your own life in this economic climate, in my opinion, would be the best thing you could do for yourself.
As a financial advisor, in my opinion, you are the next closest thing to any entrepreneur, and entrepreneurs right now need accountants more than ever. Why? Because they’re coming to you looking to you for financial advice as far as, how do I manage this money that I’ve received as an SBA disaster loan? How do I manage all these disaster funds that I’ve received? Now it’s time for me to start thinking about paying it back. The SBA is asking for all this documentation. As an accountant, you’re in the best position to start your own firm because you can not only position yourself as a trusted advisor, but you can also position yourself as a one-stop-shop to your clients. Your clients who not only need these services but are looking to one person where they can have that person handle everything for them.
In my opinion, it’s the best time for you to go after your own business dreams and start your own firm and why not now? You’re getting more and more clients coming to you. We, as a document filing service, where we’re specializing in starting businesses for people, are seeing a 100% growth over month with people, in general, starting their own business because there is no security when you‘re working for somebody else.
There are a lot of accountants that realize that. I‘ve talked to a few. They’re like, “I was in a firm and I got laid off.” Some of them went and embarked on starting a firm. Entrepreneurship is way different than having that “security” even though a lot of people in 2020 realized there is no security. With entrepreneurship, you get to create whatever you put in. If you’re working twelve-hour days for somebody else right now, what would happen if you work twelve-hour days for yourself?
To point out one other thing is that with all of what Nellie’s saying, people need you now more than ever. They don’t know what to do with this SBA stuff. They don’t know what to do with EIDL. They don’t know what to do with PPP. I’m one of them. I’m already taken care of, so no you can’t contact me because I’m not needing an accountant right now, but there are a lot of people like me. We want to focus on what we’re good at.
If I can spend 99% of my time doing this show and helping all of you create your sales processes in your firm and double revenue, or have 100% month over month growth like Nellie, that’s all I want to do. I don’t want to do anything else. For those clients that are trying to do it themselves, think about what it’s going to cost them in mistakes. This is a prime opportunity to do this because 2021, the deadline might be in July again or maybe it is in July. I’m not sure what’s going to happen.
My guess is it’s July. All this nonsense and paperwork, most entrepreneurs, 99.9% of the ones I’ve met don’t like paperwork. It’s a great opportunity to get new clients. Here’s the funny thing, your business grew, my business grew. A little personal story Nellie, I don’t know if I told you, or if you’re reading this and you’re an accountant, you’ve been reading my blogs for a while. I went to Peru with my boyfriend. We went for our birthdays. On March 15th, they told us we had 24 hours to get out of the country.
We got of the country. We had an escape through Bolivia, got to Miami on March 18th, and made it home. I’ve been here ever since. In that month, I made $2,000 or something like that. It was like, “What am I going to do?” If you’re in a job, you don’t experience that. You still get your paycheck every couple of weeks. For an entrepreneur or if you have your own firm, that’s like it’s time to put the pedal to the metal.
To fast forward and to keep that story slightly short, I’ve had my best year ever. I can’t even believe what happened this 2021. When you own your firm and in a down economy and in a recession, this is when the most millionaires and billionaires are typically created because 97% of people will contract, go backwards, sit on the couch and watch Netflix, kick their feet up, “I’ll wait this out.” Where 3% will say, “What opportunities can I do? How can I pivot my business? I’m grateful. I didn’t have to pivot much. I was already remote, online, etc.” How I meet a lot of you, we go to events. There was no QuickBooks to connect. There was no Profit Con. There were none of these events that we all see each other at so I was like, “What am I going to do?” I had the best year I’ve ever had. I did a 180 shift and that’s the opportunity that’s available to you in this down economy.
One other thing, Nellie, and I’d love to hear what you think about this, but as far as leads go, because in order to start a business, you need to have clients and prospects to talk to. For the record, I do not do lead generation, but I have two friends that do. They’re great once you know how to convert your leads. Most of all of my clients I’ve worked with are inundated with leads right now because so many people need help with the SBA loans, the EIDL, the PPP, and maybe those 1 of 2 are the same.
Imagine all the other stuff that’s going to be needed with everyone who filed unemployment. There are going to be a ton of people that not only were laid off, but now are starting businesses. Now you’re going to have an uptick in other entrepreneurs out there where you could put packages together. I had one client, Dave, who did $40,000 in revenue between March and June of 2020 doing PPP consulting packages. It’s endless opportunities. What would you say, Nellie, the second thing that’s important to think about before you open up your own firm, but that’s powerful in this down struggling economy if you can separate yourself and be that top 3%?
The secret sauce to it is knowing what the need is out there and trying to create a service that fills that need. I love using personal examples because I feel like people connect with that. When COVID hit, we, just like you, were concerned as, “What’s going to happen? Are we going to continue to get business formation and filings requests?” As an entrepreneur, I am very quick to pivot, and the need that I saw out there is all these SBA disaster loans that are coming out, and people don’t know how to go about applying for them.
Immediately we put up content and application forms to assist, not only accountants for their clients, but even the end–user, the entrepreneur themselves as to how to apply for these disaster loans. The response was phenomenal. The response was so overwhelming that at one point we had to shut down the service because we did not want to upset our clients by not fulfilling their orders. An answer to your question, you need to see what the need is out there and listen to your clients and serve their needs.
There’s always a solution to a problem. For example, for those of you who are thinking about going after your own business streams, and if you’re working somewhere and trying to set up your own accounting firm, think about what you’re doing right now in your situation working for another company. What are the pain points that you’re seeing with the clients that you’re dealing with in working for a large firm and how those needs are not being met? Maybe extracting from that and creating a more personalized concierge-type of service when going into business for yourself.
I love the personalized-concierge approach because if you guys haven’t read the book, you should probably pick up the book, Influence and read it, by Robert Cialdini. In the first chapter, he talks about a great story. It’s about these, topaz or rocks. When you read the story, you’ll understand why being a premium concierge accounting firm can make you a lot of money with very little clients. Understanding those pain points is cool and crucial. If you’re wondering, “Michelle, how do I figure out what their pain points are?” This is the secret sauce to understanding pain points. I’m going to say a couple that might resonate with you. It’s about, what does that person complain about? Whatever they complain about or call you about frantically, and they’re frazzled, that is a pain point that you could have a solution for.
If you’re in a job, you could think about, “The people and clients that are calling this accounting firm who I’m working with, what are they complaining about?” For accountants, to put it in perspective so you’ll know what I’m talking about, a lot of you complain that you feel like you’re walked over like a bulldozer because you give away information for free to clients and then you don’t get paid for it. Three years go by, you’re fed up and then you’re like, “How do I get them to pay me for that work?” You can’t go back and charge them because you shot yourself in the foot.
You feel like you’re trampled over like a bulldozer and taken advantage of. I’ve heard that a lot of times. If that resonates for you, that is an example of a pain point. I said, “I have a solution for that,” for accountants. Another type of pain point, and Nellie, I’d like to hear maybe 1 or 2 pain points that you hear as far as, like the document requests. I know you have a lot. I want to give the accountants one example from you just to be honorable of their time.
Another pain point that I hear from a lot of you is, “Michelle, I have a master’s degree. I have a CPA. I’m a profit first professional. I’m a certified tax coach. I’ve done all this education and the clients don’t even want to pay me $1,000 or $2,000. They think I’m so expensive.” You feel like you’re worthless. They don’t see your value. I hear that one all the time. I created solutions to help you solve that problem. Instead of that problem, it’s, “I have clients paying me $30,000 and they’re not even blinking an eye.” Through your solutions that you could help your prospects with, that’s how you could do that. What are the things and pain points that you’ve seen on your end, Nellie, like the biggest one? Let’s give one example for the sake of time.
The biggest one right now that I see is with accountants who are getting inundated with business formation and compliance requests, and not having the time to research the required information that they need to keep their clients happy and service their clients. How you get around through that pain point is number one, align yourself with a reputable business filings partner, where you can outsource this service and still remain a trusted advisor to your clients. Not only are you going to look much better in the eyes of your clients. Why? Because your clients are getting the service they need, they’re getting it faster, accurately and quickly. Another pain point that we see right now, which is huge, with the onset of COVID, is more and more accountants are finding that their clients, as a result of being remote, are having to find employees in other states and the whole process of state tax registrations.
They might not even know they have that pain point.
Going to a lot of the remote accounting events that’s happening through webinars and Zooms, we’re finding that for us solving that pain point for our accountants has been a big indicator of why our business has truly quadrupled in size in the last three months. It’s because we’ve indicated a pain point where these accountants are representing clients who are now needing to expand their businesses in other states or having employees remotely in other states. Hence, as a result of having nexus in those states, they need to register for tax registrations. The accountants are scrambling around, trying to figure out how to do this. CorpNet being a solution provider and providing them with this service had made it very simple for them. For those of you accountants who are thinking of going into your own business, this is an area whereby you can immediately start offering state tax registration services, by aligning yourself with a company like ours. In my opinion, you’re going to be inundated with clients.
You make it easy. What do you think the third most important thing is that an account would need to think of, that maybe they haven’t thought of right now before opening up their own accounting firm and starting their own accounting firm in this down economy, uncertainty, fearful everyday life that they deal with. You might be going to your accounting firm job right now, or your corporate finance job, or you might be an internal CFO somewhere, and you’re like, “I wonder when I’m going to get the two-week notice.” What’s the last thing you would say that they should be thinking about before starting their accounting firm?Abundance means doing the things you are passionate about. Click To Tweet
You have your plan. You have your business plan. You know you’re going to go for it, you know the what, the where and the question becomes how. The last thing you want to think about is now that you’ve decided to go in for your own business, how are you going to attract these clients and how are you going to market to them? What’s going to be your marketing strategy? Which in my opinion, these days, it’s so easy. Are you going to pay for it? Are you going to put up content? Are you going to do it through webinars? Are you going to do it through podcasts? Are you going to do it through a series of Facebook ads? What is your marketing plan? That would be my third recommendation because marketing is huge. Even if you are going into business for yourself and you have the plan. You know how you’re going to advise these clients and service these clients. You know what the product or the offering is going to be, you need to have a plan as to how you’re going to attract the clients and how you’re going to get more of those clients.
My two cents on marketing because marketing is very different than sales just to make that differentiation clear on the front end. For all of you, even if you start working with five clients, if you wanted Michelle’s top–notch secret marketing plan, this is how simple it is. You don’t need to hire anybody. You don’t need to spend any money. You need to get five businesses or help five big clients, do a great job, and get a testimonial or review.
Also, if you read the book, Influence, he’ll talk about social proof. Social proof is the most powerful form of marketing that you could do, especially if you’re starting. If you get five clients to pay you, let’s say $10,000 for annual work, and a lot of the accountants, and some of you that I work with, you’re charging your clients $1,000 to $5,000 per month. You could do one-time engagements. You could do monthly revenue, but let’s say you did five clients at $5,000 or $10,000, that’s 50,000 in revenue. You get a great testimonial. You create a Google review account. You create a Yelp account. You start posting those reviews there on how you’re unique and different.
Being that personal concierge firm, go all out, be the most expensive premium CPA firm, and we can talk about this in a different episode on why. Watch and try it. Even if you don’t believe me, try it while you’re still in your job and see what happens. The referrals that you’re going to get and the social proof from helping five people because when you only have five clients, you have a lot of time to work on them.
You can give them your all. You’ll be very different than a lot of other accounting firms than some of you might feel like you have stacks, that paperwork in front of you. You’re behind the eight ball. You’re overwhelmed. Maybe you’ve taken on too much business at not enough revenue so you’re like swimming upstream. This is the way to combat that from the get–go. Knowing how you’re going to first start out and I know that all of you reading go to five businesses right now.
There’s a restaurant you like. There’s a dry cleaner you might go to. Not right now, you probably don’t go anywhere because you don’t need your clothes dry cleaned. There are five businesses that you frequent that you could help them and even work with them. When I started my whole business, I helped ten of you pro bono. For helping you and creating your sales system, I got a testimonial. Those ten testimonials have created massive amounts of revenue for me over the last few years of doing this.
That’s another option. They have these SBA loans. They have PPP. They have EIDL. They need a second set of eyes. You’re the most trusted advisor. Those are your top three things to think about before jumping ship from your corporate job, your corporate finance job, or maybe you’re a staff accountant at an accounting firm. You’re sick of putting in time for somebody else. You want to have that autonomy, the freedom and flexibility to work remotely. That’s another benefit we didn’t even talk about, but no need for a brick-and-mortar office anymore. Take what you’ve learned from us, put it into action and create the firm of your dreams. Nellie, I have one last question for you, not about your business. What does abundance mean to you?
To me, abundance means doing the things that I love doing and I’m passionate about and finding passion through it. As a natural result, also being able to create the money that comes from it so that I can live the lifestyle that I want. For me, abundance has never been about money. It’s about doing the things I love and I’m passionate about. I’m passionate about being on this interview with you because there is so much opportunity out there that we’ve touched upon. I can take myself and my business as an example.
I am in an industry that is so saturated. When Michelle talks about five clients, I truly believe in what she says and it’s doable. It’s not only doable, it works. It is a method that works because I’m in an industry that I’m faced with multiple 800-pound gorillas as competitors. When I started back with CorpNet after selling my first company, I started this company, not only in a recession but coming into a market that was completely saturated where it was hard for me to get in because there was a barrier to entry.
You probably are thinking, “Everyone has an accountant.” Yeah, but they don’t have you. Let’s end it with that because that is the differentiation. People are buying you. They‘re not buying anything else. We’ll talk about that in another episode, talking about why they buy you versus you don’t want to be seen as the commodity. We’ll dive into that in the future. Nellie, I want to say thank you so much for being here with us on the show again. It was an honor to have you. I’ll see you all in the next episode.
Thank you all so much for joining us here on another episode of the show. To recap it, if you’ve been thinking about, “I want to do this. I don’t know when.” There is never a good time to start a business. I can’t work for anybody else. I would probably go crazy. You know a little bit about me or have read the blogs for a while, I did have a job at an accounting firm. It was called Moss Adams. Some of you might even work there. I always found myself going on the meetings to the lunches and the dinners, and with all the partners. I was like, “This is a lot more fun than doing all the paperwork.”
I was on the financial analysis side. I worked with the M&A team a little bit. It’s ingrained in us that having a job is a good thing. I had a 401(k). I had a paycheck. It wasn’t much. After three years of that, I said, “This isn’t cut out for me.” I resigned and two weeks later was my last day. I don’t think I’ve had a regular job since. For all of you who are thinking, “There’s never a good time.” There’s never a good time to work with me. There’s never a good time to start an accounting firm. For accountants, you always have a deadline. There’s March something, April 15th, now a July 15th, October 15th. There is always a deadline and never a good time.
Think about that, maybe list out your top three when you’re going to make that jump, if that’s what you want to do. For those of you that have had a firm for a little while, but you’re not too stoked on where it’s at, a lot of the accounting clients that come to me, you’re feeling frustrated, stuck, overwhelmed and tired. What I’ve found is that you’re not charging enough. You’re not charging what you’re worth and you don’t have a solid system in place. If you want to explore and get to the truth about some of the holes that you have in your firm and in your business, then what I recommend is to head on over to TheAbundantCall.com, book the first slot that you see because time is of the essence, and there’s not a lot of it with me or my colleague.
If you are committed to building a firm so you have confidence in your sales conversations, can do it with ease and spend more time with your family, and have that abundant life full of passion like what Nellie was talking about and what you’ve always dreamt of. I don’t think you all started a business thinking you’re going to work 12, 16 hours a day. Let’s explore that. Head on over to TheAbundantCall.com and book the first slot you see. We can learn and discover what’s possible. I look forward to talking to a few of you. Have a beautiful day and I’ll see you in the next episode.
- Previous episode – 3 Ways To Scale Your Accounting Firm Without Adding Overhead with Nellie Akalp
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.
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