Top Secrets of a CPA Start-Up
In the suburbs of Washington, D.C., an ex-Army intelligence specialist is breaking the mold for accounting firms and inventing new ways of doing business. Here’s what he’s doing.
March 8, 2010
Maybe it’s the four years he spent in Army intelligence at the Pentagon. Maybe it’s the influence of a CPA uncle in San Diego. Maybe it’s the entrepreneurial father who, as a part-time magician, established a Guinness World Record for fire-eating.
But 30-year-old CPA Brian Wendroff wants to break the mold for accounting firms.
In his version of a CPA firm, the four-year-old Wendroff & Associates in Arlington, Va., is modeled more on the strengths of a technology company than a traditional professional services firm. In his firm, he’s working on the kind of new product development, speed to market and customer feedback loops employed by the best software developers. In his mind, he’d rather be less like a KPMG and more like a Microsoft.
“Like a software company,” he says, “we’ve got to come out with upgrades every year, new versions with features that the customer tells us they want to see.”
So far, Wendroff & Associates LLC of Arlington, Va., may only be on version 1.1. But for a young firm, that’s not bad. From a book of business starting with ads on Craigslist and energetic networking through BNI, Brian Wendroff now counts seven accountants and two interns in his firm, plus his brother Darren, who manages marketing and communications. The firm is doubling in size every year. “The Web is our number two source of leads,” says Darren, “right behind client referrals.”
Together, Brian and Darren Wendroff are working to innovate every aspect of how an accounting firm works. Take just five examples of their leading edge strategies:
It wasn’t always this way. When Brian first started the firm, he admits his fees were set too low and he was attracting the wrong clients. Today, fees are set to cover overhead and salaries, plus enough to plow back into the business. And the firm is now getting the right kind of clients — the kinds who want more than just bookkeeping or tax prep, but want and need strategic services.
The proof? Wendroff says, “Nearly every company we worked with last year grew through the recession.”
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN: Wendroff & Associates isn’t the only firm pioneering new techniques and strategies. What’s working at your firm? Tell me and we’ll share the best ideas. E-mail Rick Telberg.
Copyright © 2010 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission. First published by the AICPA.
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