Being an accountant or starting your own firm in accounting and bookkeeping requires good marketing to set yourself apart from your competition. You have to speak to your audience about what you do, what you focus on, and what differentiates you from others who do more or less the same job. In this episode, host Michelle Weinstein interviews the Co-founder and Managing Partner of Profit First Professionals, Ron Saharyan, about how to differentiate yourself as an accountant and having the right image and strategies to be more specialized and focused.
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How To Differentiate Yourself From Other Accountants With Ron Saharyan
We have a very special guest. Our special guest is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Profit First Professionals. He has over fifteen years of experience in managing organizational growth. He is a thought leader in business and cashflow management and is a popular speaker on the topic of profit. Before we dive in in this episode, if you want to learn the three proven strategies that a lot of accounting professionals use to fill their accounting practice with premium clients, learn how to be different, which we’re going to be talking about with our special guest, and get paid what you’re worth, then sign up for my free Masterclass at TheAbundantAccountant.com. You’ll learn how to communicate your value, how to collect those higher fees with confidence and get paid what you’re worth. I want to make sure that you subscribe and also, I invite you to leave a written review for the show. It always helps the show grow and I can see how I can continue to share the content that you love to learn. In the future, I will take your reviews and highlight it on a future episode of the Abundant Accountant. Let’s welcome our very special guest, Ron, to the show.
Welcome, Ron, to the show.
I’m excited to be here, Michelle.
I am excited to have you here talking about a topic that is important. Everyone talks about niching down and picking your niche. What do they do about themselves as an accounting firm owner or as I like to call them, accounting-preneurs? One of your favorite things to talk about is, how is different better? How can an accountant differentiate themselves from someone in their city or someone in their niche? That’s what I’d love to dive into and I’m excited to have you here. Before we start, can you share with everyone what is it that you created with your partner in crime in case someone doesn’t know you, which I highly doubt?
Thank you. Mike is the genius behind all of this. My business partner, Mike Michalowicz, author and entrepreneur, wrote several books. One of the books that he wrote is called Profit First. It’s in his second release. Mike approached me to build Profit First Professionals, which is a membership organization that supports the teachings in the book. Mike wrote the book and we built the company together to support it. Our mission is to eradicate entrepreneurial poverty.Profit is about putting yourself in a position to learn, to be good, to replicate, to scale, and to streamline. Click To Tweet
I am all about that probably because I should have read your book and known you a few years ago before I had to close a company that I had. Maybe if we read your book, we would have still been in business, but I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now. I’m glad I didn’t read it but it’s great to know. How can an accountant differentiate themselves from someone else even in their city or down the street?
One of the ways that we’ve done it and that we advise our members to do is how you name yourself. One of the problems is that when we name ourselves something that is of a generic label. For example, you come to me and we’re at a cocktail party and you say, “What do you do for a living?” If I said, “I’m a doctor. I’m a lawyer. I’m a football player,” based upon your experiences, you’re going to put me in a proverbial box without knowing everything that I truly do. That’s deadly because when you’re calling yourself just a bookkeeper, just an accountant, just a tax firm, the outside world looks at that as a generic label. They assume that you do generic work.
Any accountant can do accounting. Any bookkeeper can do bookkeeping. Any tax accountant can do tax. How do you differentiate yourself? The concern that I see too is that there’s a lot of companies out there that are helping accounting firms differentiate themselves. Everybody’s moving to the cloud. Everybody’s friendly. Everybody’s proactive. Everybody is using a lot of the same look and feel, but they’re still calling themselves an accountant and bookkeeper. What we suggest is something outside of the box, something that would enable that person to say, “What is that?” What we advise, what I do, if somebody says to me, “What do you do for a living?” if I said, “I own an accounting firm,” they’re going to put me in that box. They’re going to assume the accounting work that they’ve got in the past before.
If I were to say, “I’m a Profit First Professional. I’m a profit consultant. I’m a profit advisor.” Inevitably, the person starts to notice that difference and they say, “What is that?” That’s what we’re looking for. I’ll then say, “I’m sure you’re familiar with traditional accounting services and my firm is awesome at that.” Any accounting firm you work with should be awesome at that compliance. The real difference is how we work with our customers. I’m able to put a pathway, a front window approach to cashflow in front of the business owner, where one, the business owner is going to be paying themselves first. Two, I’m going to create a war chest of cash for Uncle Sam. Three, we’re going to have a focus on profit. You, Mr. or Mrs. Business owner, with that profit, you can pay down debt, celebrate the health of the company or you can hire.
A lot of the business owners that I’ve recited this to had said, “I’m not getting that.” Here’s the thing, Michelle. I would have never had that opportunity to say that if I said, “I own an accounting firm. I own a bookkeeping firm.” The advice also is to not necessarily be clitchy or a fad name. We don’t want to be the social media accountant. We want to be able to speak to our audience, whether it’s calling yourself a profit advisor or a strategic financial consultant. One of our mastery members mentioned something. He’s a financial guide and what he does is he maximizes the assets of a business owner. The number one asset being their company. He does accounting and bookkeeping.
For you personally, how did you differentiate yourself when someone asks you, “Ron, what do you do?”
I say, “I’m a Profit First Professional.” That’s exactly what I say, because if I said, “I own a membership organization.” They’re going to be like, “What is this, some kind of $0.99 thing? What are you, a gym?” What are you, multilevel marketing?” Things like that. I would never have the opportunity to share what my passion is, which is helping small businesses succeed. I don’t lead with, “I own a membership organization.” I don’t say I teach accountants, consultants or financial advisors how to be more consultative. I say, “I’m a Profit First professional.” They opened it up and I say, “I work with accountants and bookkeepers to help them stand out in a crowd, put more money in their pocket and help their customers achieve the goals that they’re looking for.”
It’s important because we have to speak to our audience, and if they’re not with Profit First yet, you can still change what you say to somebody. It’s an instant way to differentiate yourself from someone you knew down the street. What’s the other way? What’s another differentiating way that an accounting professional can do with what they’re doing to increase their profits for themselves?
You touched on it earlier and that was niche specialization. I love niche specialization. It’s something that I’ve taught in the other industries that I’ve worked with. The story that happened a couple of years ago, even before Profit First, I had the flu and it wasn’t that bad. I was complaining to my buddy Joe and he’s like, “Ron, go see my general practitioner. He’s right down the road from my house.” I’m like, “Joe, I’ve got a cold. It’s not like I broke my leg or anything like that. Why am I going to drive six hours to see your general practitioner?” He’s like, “I know, but they’re great.” “Guess what? I’m not going to go for it. I’m not doing it.”
Had I had a heart problem and said to Joe, “Something’s wrong with my heart. I was talking to my general practitioner and they told me to seek out a cardiologist.” Joe said, “Ron, remember I had my heart attack and I used cardiologist Sue. She’s the best thing since sliced bread.” Even if Joe was in California and I’m in New Jersey, I’m might get on that plane and fly to California. I’ll definitely pick up the phone and have a conversation. The beauty of that and switching to that cardiologist versus general practitioner or specialist versus general practitioner is that when you become specialized, you stand out in a crowd. When you become specialized, you’re able to attract people with problems that’ll go out and seek your advice. You’re known as the guru in a particular industry. You’re able to attract the type of customers that you want.
On the other side and how it helps an accounting firm or bookkeeping firm, this specialization, industry-specific, it’s an easier way to scale your organization. The general practitioner solves the general needs of the public. They build their business right off of what comes into the front door. They’re not paid a premium and when there’s something wrong, they have to refer that person to a specialist. Additionally, they have to learn all the different things that are going on in the medical world, the different viruses, the different medicines and all this different stuff. They’re constantly being educated and re-educated. They’re handling different cases at different times and they’re serving the general public, but they’re not a specialist at anything and that’s difficult.
When you’re a specialist, you’re going to be solving similar issues in general over and over. The cardiologist is seen as somebody who has the crystal ball, “I understand this. A couple of my patients had this, no problem. I’ll be able to do X, Y, Z, P, D, Q.” People seek out those specialists for their experience and here’s the beauty, they will pay a premium for that service. Those that pay a premium for services and products tend to treat it better. They want to make it work. If I’m flying out to California and the cardiologist says, “Ron, you’re lucky you don’t need surgery, but you need to change your diet. I want you to call this food company. I want you to work with this personal trainer,” I’m going to do it.
Yeah, you are because cardiologist Sue told you so.
If the cardiologist said, “Ron, we’ve got to get you in there. We’ve got to do the stitch. We’ve got to open you up,” I’m going to do it. I’m going to sign right away. I’m not going to go back and I’m going to say, “Let me talk to 3, 4 other cardiologists necessary. Let me see what their bids are.” Try to negotiate with the price.The colossal entrepreneur focuses on putting their efforts in serving their very best customers. Click To Tweet
What do you think about negotiating on price? Let’s touch on it a little bit because I love this topic. A lot of times we use the medical term, but people say, “They have insurance.” Even though some of this stuff isn’t covered highly.
The specialist doesn’t take insurance. The cardiologists, the world’s best, don’t take insurance. Regarding price negotiation, I do not offer a more favorable price than what I presented to you. I’m a fan of the subscription-based model, three-tier pricing. If one price and services aren’t a fit, you can drop down to this other one. You can drop down to this other one if you want as well.
Another differentiator right there. If we’re going to talk about three, that was a bonus one.
I’ve got another one down the road, but that’s okay.
You got a couple of bonuses.
That’s what it’s about, it’s putting yourself in a position and to learn, to be good, to replicate, to scale, to streamline. Having dropping your price, the easiest thing to say is, “It wouldn’t be fair to my current customers that are paying this investment. I do not have any more favorable pricing.” It’s simple. Many times when I’ve said that, people say, “No problem. Let’s move forward.”
If you stop talking, don’t interrupt, then people enroll themselves in working with you or choosing cardiologists Sue.
Exactly, that’s why I love your programs. The power of the pause, you got to give them an opportunity. Another thing, whenever you drop your price, you’re setting a precedent. Every time, maybe there’s a consulting opportunity or an ad hoc project comes up, they’re going to try to knock you down again. If you hold firm the first time, you’re conditioning them to not ask you to drop your price the second opportunity.
What’s the third way that they can differentiate from cardiologists Sue versus the general practitioner that’s six-hour drive away?
This is a difficult one. That’s changing how you view your business and what your mindset is. There are two types of entrepreneurial mindsets out there. There’s the ordinary entrepreneur and then there’s the colossal entrepreneur. I’d like to share the differences. The ordinary entrepreneur is defined as the entrepreneur stuck in the time for money. The trap of trying to grow by working harder, “If I could only get that one bigger client or if that company will buy me, I have a few more hours in a day and I’ll be able to do this.” That’s all BS. It’s not true and it’s not going to happen. The colossal entrepreneur is defined as the entrepreneur who has a scalable business that can grow to any size or quality they want without them needing to work harder. You don’t have to be a billion company to have a colossal mindset, but you do need to change that mindset from being ordinary to colossal. One of the things is how do you know if you’re an ordinary entrepreneur?
I definitely was an ordinary one with my last business. We all are at some point when you’re first starting out.
Absolutely, you’re nailing it. We end up putting our efforts into serving anybody we can. The squeaky wheel and the most demanding clients get our time. We’re in the business constantly trying to fit what’s broken. We don’t even have the time to improve the business. We believe that working and working is how we’re going to get there. That’s not necessarily the right mindset. The colossal entrepreneur focuses on strong customers. They put their efforts into serving their best customers. He builds systems and methods that streamline these working processes.
At the same time, they’re always seeking ways to remove what is not working. If you got a PITA customer and they’re sucking up so much of your time, the ordinary entrepreneur is going to pick up the phone, call them back, help him and get over it. The colossal entrepreneur is going to say, “Enough is enough. I’m terminating that relationship.” They want to get rid of that squeaky wheel. They want to get rid of that PITA customer. They want to replicate those that are in their top 10% and that’s going to be key, replicating those. How you do that is by being different, by differentiating your name, having a niche focus, having a different mindset. In my opinion, those are the three most important things.
I’m 100% in alignment. I am proof in the pudding, that type one entrepreneur of being ordinary doesn’t work. I would say that pretty much to anyone who has seen some success in me. I’ve interviewed many people and they all say the same exact thing. What’s the other bonus way that an accounting-preneur or someone who’s thinking maybe about starting their own firm can differentiate themselves from someone else, that last thing you want to share?Being different and being more targeted in your marketing is going to help your start a business in accounting and bookkeeping. Click To Tweet
Different is better, the look and feel of your business, of your social media, how you answer the phone, having everybody in the organization towing the same way. When you’re starting out, a lot of ordinary entrepreneurs start out marketing with a broad-based watering system. They’re spraying water all over the place. The extraordinary entrepreneur is going to be focusing their initial marketing efforts. They’re doing the research. They have a genuine interest in the industries they want to serve. They’re spending the time reading the books. They’re spending the time listening to podcasts. They’re finding those influencers and they’re not spending the time shotgunning messaging stuff all over. They’ve created a targeted market getting campaign that is speaking to a specific business owner.
There are probably hundreds of thousands of them out there. If you’re going to be focusing on the landscaping business, there you go. You tailor your marketing, your collateral, your website so that if somebody in the green industry receives your marketing collateral, they go, “This has the look and feel, it has maybe the tracker on it. It maybe has some solar panels.” It’s like a safe zone and using the lingo that they use in this content is equally important. Knowing that, “How do I handle this system, this process?” that’s where being different is going to help a startup business in accounting and bookkeeping, by being a little bit more targeted in their marketing versus marketing everywhere for anybody.
I’m curious because they get asked a lot of times, for accountants who might be reading, if they had to choose one route for marketing, what do you recommend from what you’ve seen?
LinkedIn is good. LinkedIn and Facebook participation. I’m going to loop it in to social media. The difference with social media isn’t just putting posts out there and hoping people will follow. It’s participating. If you want to serve construction companies, join a construction group in LinkedIn, join a construction group in Facebook, participate. Write an article that says, “These are the top ten things to do from the accounting perspective if you’re a DIY construction person.” Something that will provide them with familiarity and you start to build that network. You start to build those relationships.
The social media is a great way to do it. It can be low cost. I’m not saying just buy $1,000 every week on Facebook ads and send it to every landscaper out there. Bootstrap it, use what’s free, ask to interview these influencers. You say, “Michelle, I love what you’re doing with sales. I’d love to interview you to talk about how sales can help the accounting industry.” You’re doing all of this and that’s why you’re walking the talk. You’re doing what you’re teaching. It’s these little incremental steps. If we have a different mindset from the beginning and we want to be that extraordinary entrepreneur versus the ordinary, these are the steps that we’ve both taken to help our companies be successful. We’re sharing it because we believe a rising tide lifts all boats.
It does and that’s a great way to end the show, a rising tide lifts all boats. Thank you so much, Ron, for being here with us. It was such an honor to have you.
It was a pleasure being your guest and keep doing what you do, Michelle. Good stuff.
What an amazing episode with Ron. As you all know, what’s that one thing that you can do to change maybe how you’re naming yourself? Maybe go from that generic label into something a little bit more specific that speaks to your exact audience of who you’re trying to help and serve. Maybe that’s one of the things that you can put into action. Maybe you’re focusing on your niche specialization, similar to how I did.
I have another podcast called Success Unfiltered and it’s mostly for the general population of entrepreneurs. In October of 2018 is when I launched The Abundant Accountant podcast because I specifically work with accounting professionals who have been in business for over two years, who are struggling with their sales conversations. They are sick and tired of not getting paid what they’re worth and giving way too much information for free. That was my niche specialization that I brought here. You can do that exact same thing in your business, let’s say you’re working with restaurants or you’re working with dentists.
The third thing that you could focus on is changing how you view your business. He talked about those two types of entrepreneurs. I was definitely that ordinary entrepreneur. I was always fixing what was broken. I was always not thinking proactively but being reactive. What are the 1 or 2 things that you will put into action? I would love to know. If you’ve enjoyed this episode, please do take a minute to go to iTunes and leave a written review so we can help other accounting-preneurs like yourself grow a successful firm and get past some of these challenges that we deal with on a daily basis. The reviews do help the show grow in iTunes and help get into more people’s ears. Thank you for following. I’ll see you in the next episode.
- Profit First Professionals
- Ron – LinkedIn
- Mike Michalowicz
- Profit First
- Profit First Professionals
- The Abundant Accountant podcast
- Success Unfiltered
- iTunes – The Abundant Accountant podcast
About Ron Saharyan
Ron Saharyan is co-founder and managing partner of Profit First Professionals. Having built multiple companies in the staffing industry, Ron leads Profit First’s membership of world-class accountants, bookkeepers and business coaches who guide entrepreneurs to the highest degrees of profitability.
He has over 15 years experience in managing organizational growth, is a thought leader in business cash flow management and is a popular speaker on the topic of, you guessed it, profit.