Duane Gravley, CPA, MN

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As many of you may be aware, Duane Gravley has been working with NCI for the past five years providing training on how to effectively manage a practice. We thought it would be nice to feature him in our Spring Issue 2002 of New Client News so he could share with our readers some of the elements of his success.

Duane graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1969 and went to work for Ernst & Young one of the Big Eight accounting firms. After five years he was transferred to Brazil where he spent five years as a manager in the Soa Paulo office and five years as partner in charge of the Rio De Janeiro office. During his stay in Brazil he helped develop a bookkeeping aspect to the practice and realized when handled properly, how profitable it could be. After 10 years in Brazil, Duane transferred back to the U.S. where he was partner in charge of small business development for the Minnesota office of Ernst & Young.

In 1986 Duane decided to go out on his own and started his practice in June of that year. Duane comments, “I felt I was a former partner in the Big Eight so getting clients would be no problem. I met and had lunch with every banker and attorney in town and in five months I had two clients to show for my efforts and those clients came from me calling small businesses, not from the bankers. I knew I needed help.” Duane saw an ad in the Journal of Accountancy for NCI, and called. “I was probably the easiest sale you ever made, as I knew I needed help in marketing my services.”

Duane signed up for our Client Acquisition Program, Plan II, and attend the seminar in November 1986. “We started marketing in December and signed up 13 clients our very first month. For the next five years our goal was nine clients each month and we hit eight per month.” While Duane’s initial growth was good, his profits were not. “We just couldn’t get the work done profitably at the fees we were charging and I didn’t know if the fees were too low or my bookkeepers were too slow.” It was at this point when he devised the compensation package he now teaches at NCI’s Advanced Processing Seminars. The new incentive package for his bookkeepers created faster work-flow and greater profits, he knew he was on to something. I asked Duane about his greatest challenge. “Early on it was getting new clients set up and completing their backwork. Also finding and keeping qualified people. Once I learned how to recruit the right people and then delegate properly, the bookkeeping part of the business took care of itself. That allowed me time to take care of the tax and consulting end of my practice.” When asked about the highlights of his practice thus far, he said, “When I reached $1,000,000 in billing in my eight year that was a great moment.”

In closing, I asked Duane what pearls of wisdom could he impart to our readers. “Hiring, training, motivating and retraining bookkeepers and the willingness to delegate work were key factors in my success. Once you put in the initial hard work to develop the business, you won’t have to work as hard and you’ll have the freedom and financial resources to slow down and enjoy life.” Duane we couldn’t agree with your more. I think we can all take a lesson from Duane in this area!

You can contact Duane Gravley at (952) 890-9564.