Vikram Rajan

The CPA Equation

Where do you stand?

September 19, 2011
by Vikram Rajan

As a CPA, you may be branding your practice separately from yourself. No matter how big or small, your firm’s brand will color your personal brand. After all, isn’t that your last name on the door? It is therefore vital to elevate your practice’s brand by becoming a Branded Expert.

Your personal brand is comprised of three elements:

  • Competency;
  • Character; and
  • Charisma and is focused by Community perception.

In short:

  • Competency = your know-how.
  • Character = your inside values and outside demeanor.
  • Charisma = attractiveness (in simple terms, people skills and confidence).
  • Community perception is how your market sees you.
  • Too many disparate audiences = fuzzy brand perception.
  • One market lens = clear and sharp brand.

Remember: you may fire the branding irons (marketing materials), but the brand that matters is the one that burns in their brains.

Personal Brand Innovation

Personal brand innovation occurs through your Competency and Character. Thought leaders exhibit Competency Innovation by adding to their field’s body of knowledge. This can be done through research, studies or simply through neologisms. Wikipedia defines, “A neologism is a newly coined term, word or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use, but has not yet been accepted into mainstream language. Neologisms are often directly attributable to a specific person, publication, period or event.” For example, Clay Christensen’s famous neologism is disruptive innovation. Thought leaders are taxonomists, categorizing and classifying the world around them.

How many copyrights, trademarks, titles (and URLs) have you coined? How often do others use your phrases? The more words you coin and others use, the better it is for your brand. Conversely, as neologisms gain mainstream usage, attribution is often lost. Aspirin is a classic example.

Character Innovation, in other words, is your personal style. To paraphrase Sting, “A recording artist’s responsibility is to have a signature sound. Whether you like the song or not, you should instantly know it’s them.” The same can be said about your looks; e-mail me for my article, “What Are Your White Wires?” Of course, your image governs your personal brand. A great definition of character is “who you are when nobody is looking.”

Your brand is also governed by your beliefs, values and hobbies. The causes to which you dedicate your time and resources shape your brand perception. When I help CPAs write their professional bios, I prod them to include a bit of their personal values that isn’t “motherhood and apple pie.” What distinguishes you from the inside? Truly, your obscure (if not, eccentric) passions showcase your sense of innovation.

How would a caricature of you look? If someone were to imitate your speech pattern, dress style, sense of humor and other mannerisms, what would they do? The more obvious, the more branded you are.

In the TV show, Seinfeld, remember when Seinfeld bought that expense suede jacket? He didn’t think it “was him.” Kramer retorted, “that’s more you than you’ve ever been!” You need not be fake, just be a refined version of who you are.


Your language and style may not be fully branded (or “packaged”) as yet. Start by reflecting on the italicized questions above and note this thumb-rule: What you repeat is what you brand. Repeat your neologisms. Repeat your style. No need to rinse; just keep repeating. Then, practice being a Branded Expert.

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Vikram Rajan helps CPAs author blogs, newsletters and LinkedIn updates through the phoneBlogger.net program. Read more marketing ideas at his PracticeMarketingBLOG.com.

© 2011