Tracy Crevar Warren

Whatís in Your Firmís Stimulus Plan?

Practical steps to move you beyond the crisis.

March 9, 2009
by Tracy Crevar Warren

In good times, CPAs don’t focus on how to grow their practices when their success loses steam or worse if a crisis occurs. “It’s much the same situation as when your team is winning baseball.” said Alan Sobel, managing partner at New Jersey-based Sobel & Co. “No one questions success. But when you start losing, you carefully analyze every decision you make.”

Beyond Doom and Gloom

Although we have entered one of the toughest economies to date, it doesn’t mean that CPAs can’t continue to achieve successful growth. It is hard to believe that you can actually grow in bad times, even as you are constantly barraged with messages of layoffs and bankruptcies. The good news is that “yes, you can” prosper in difficult times. CPAs just have to be more disciplined, deliberate and creative about how you approach it.

“This is the time when our clients need us the most.” said Rick Solomon, CPA and CEO of Ran One Americas. “They need advisors with a positive attitude and the confidence to help them look at their financial picture with a critical eye. Fear and paralysis must be replaced with decisive action from CPAs in order to capitalize on the opportunities that exist today.”

It all starts with a growth directive — a simple plan to drive our actions.

Does Your Firm Have a Stimulus Plan?

“We had a growth plan in place prior to the downturn, but we took immediate action to adapt our plan to what was happening in the marketplace.” says Tom Ogden, director of Business Development at Chicago-based Balasa Dinverno Foltz.

“Luckily we did not wait for the economic crisis before we developed a plan to foster continued practice growth in our organization.” remarked Sobel. “We developed a new growth plan this summer to capitalize on the already successful initiatives we had in place. We also named a principal to oversee these strategic growth initiatives. Our timing could not have been better.”

According to a recent survey conducted by The Crevar Group, many firms have put plans in place to spark practice growth in this new economy. More than two out of three (64%) surveyed firms indicated that they have stimulus plans in place, while less than a quarter (21%) indicated that they did not have a plan in place for the new economy. Join the survey.

What’s in Your Firm’s Stimulus Plan?

“We are continuing on the path we outlined this summer, but with an even sharper eye.” says Sally Glick, principal and chief growth strategist at Sobel & Co. “It is important to look closely at everything we do to ensure it fits into our growth picture. This includes doing a better job of leveraging opportunities, connecting the dots between marketing and new business, continued niche development and fostering the next generation of leaders,” she added.

“We started with a 100-day action plan that focused on getting face time with each of our clients by year’s end.” said Ogden. “We made a decision that we would sit down with each of our clients. Not only would we address their concerns, but we would help them take a critical look at their specific situation and identify potential opportunities for them to capitalize upon. Other key components of our plan include retaining new talent, expansion through referrals and providing practice growth coaching to our professionals.”

The survey also revealed the key components in which most firms’ stimulus plans fell:

  • Strengthened client service
    • More contact
    • Do a better job of being a “trusted advisor” (see related story in this issue)
    • Provide additional counsel/services to meet needs resulting from economic downturn
    • Reduce commodity threat
    • More educational offerings — seminars, Webcasts, podcasts
    • “Crisis center” resources and Web sites
  • Expanded/reallocated service offerings
    • Outsourcing
    • Turnaround
    • Bankruptcy
    • Debt restructuring
    • Forensic accounting
    • Cash management & budgeting
  • Staffing
    • Retaining new talent, while others are eliminating it and/or not filling empty positions (see related story in our sister publication, AICPA Corporate Finance Insider)
  • Continued/enhanced niche development
  • Better analysis and litmus tests for spending
    •  This includes marketing

  • Creative, less-expensive alternatives for traditional marketing tools
    • Electronic versus paper
    • Webinars
    • Podcasts
    • Blogs
    • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

  • Proactive business development initiatives

    • Retaining business development professionals
    • More focused initiatives
    • More face-to-face meetings
    • Continued referral development
    • Better tracking

Has the Economic Crisis Changed the Way You Approach Practice Growth?

“The economic crisis has made us realize we can only control some things and we need to do a better job at what we can control.” said Ogden.

“These tough times have reminded us to be more razor-sharp in our practice-growth efforts and in the initiatives that we select to be involved.” remarked Glick. “We have to be smart about growing our practice, something we should have been doing a better job at all along.”

Here’s what some Business & Industry firm leaders and marketing directors had to say in the survey:

  • We are MUCH more focused on practice growth. We realize that our clients are going to be looking for a lower-cost provider and because of this, we need to focus on larger prospects that are also looking to reduce costs, without losing the expertise they need.
  • We are being more conscious of the commodity-based services and taking advantage of compelling events to market and win new work.
  • Having a plan and sticking to it, forging ahead, with a steady and consistent move forward, not allowing the news wave of the day throw us off track, nor discourage us.

It’s Not Too Late to Get Started

Don’t be discouraged if you haven’t developed a plan to stimulate growth in your firm. It’s the perfect time to get started. With a little extra effort right now, you will be well on your way to achieving the success you are looking for. Start today. Make it your best year ever.

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Tracy Crevar Warren, president and founder of The Crevar Group, advises professional services firms striving to grow and maximize performance. She is an author and frequent speaker on various growth, business development, and marketing topics for local, regional, national, and international audiences. Warren can be reached at 336-889-GROW (4769).