$600,000 in New Business Added During the Depths of the Recession
Javier Goldin in Bethesda, MD
My interview this month is with Javier Goldin. Javier is a very well-spoken and articulate man, as you will see shortly. He has been able to grow from start-up to having a $600,000 practice over the past three years. Javier gives some great insight into how the NCI marketing program has made him so successful, despite the terrible recession we have been faced with. He also talks about the personal touches he has added to the program to enhance his success. Javier understands the tremendous importance of having and following a marketing program right out of the gate when starting a new business. He started with the Plan I seminar program and quickly upgraded to Plan II in order to make his dreams a reality. Read on to learn more about Javier’s amazing success.
Please tell me a little about your business background before you started your CPA firm?
I was in upper management in the Finance Department for a large multi-national firm called The Organization of American States. It’s about a $350 million a year company. I worked there for 23 years. Basically, what happened, is I had gotten to the top at a relatively young age and I had a choice of remaining there and getting a good salary without doing much or striking out on my own and finding something challenging.
So you decided to take matters into your own hands and start a practice at that point. Where did you go to school initially?
I have a bachelor’s degree in accounting and an MBA from George Washington University.
My father, Bruce, told me you’re a black belt in Tae Kwon-Do? He wanted me to ask you if you’re still training, and how has the karate training helped you in terms of being a successful business person?
I am still training, although the training is far less intensive now that I’m not a kid anymore. The answer to your question is, yes. How has it helped in business? You know, martial arts — and every sport to some extent — develops discipline and discipline is a very useful character trait as a business person. So has it helped? Absolutely, when you own a business you need a lot of discipline, consistency and patience.
It’s no easy task to start and effectively run and manage a business and I can see discipline being immeasurably important in that process. I know it has been for Bruce.
As a matter of fact, Bruce invited me to speak at one of the seminar a couple of years ago and we found the martial arts training to be a common denominator.
Yes, we like to have our successful clients talk about what they’ve been able to accomplish through the program.
So what I brought forth at that meeting was the result of a survey that had just been done by the University of Pennsylvania that tracked various Ivy League students to see who had succeeded as a business person. The result was that those who succeeded were not necessarily the most intelligent but, rather, those who kept at it, those who had consistency, patience and grit. It was a great study. So the moral of the story is that in business, although a minimum level of intelligence and technical knowledge is required, it is mostly about consistency, having clear goals, a business plan and following it.
Very true. That study brings to mind a quote from Calvin Coolidge: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.”
Were you doing any marketing prior to your relationship with NCI? If so, what kind of marketing were you engaged in?
We had taken the Plan I with you guys, and that was the first initiation into marketing our accounting services. We had implemented and we were actively executing Plan I.
So before the seminar you really hadn’t done any marketing?
I began the firm and immediately took the Plan I. The business plan included learning how to market. The marketing strategy from the beginning was to partner with a large national marketing firm, learn an effective system of marketing and then execute it.
I see. So it was part of the plan from the beginning. What was it that made you choose NCI? Do you remember when you were doing your research and looking at companies that could help you with your marketing?
I came to know NCI through a colleague, another CPA who had struck out on his own after leaving the corporate world. He had built his business with NCI, so it was on his recommendation that I undertook the NCI Plan I Seminar.
Can I ask you who that person was?
Yes, he just took Plan II program with NCI. His name is Miguel Zavaleta.
How much in billings did you have when you started the Plan II program?
I opened the company sometime in May 2007 and by the end of 2007, I had between $50,000 to $60,000 in billing. Then, in January 2008, I began Plan II. By the end of 2008, I was around $250,000.
Wow, that’s excellent. So, within one year you added close to $200,000 in new billings under Plan II. From there, where have you gone since the end of 2008 in terms of practice growth?
This year we’re going to be over $600,000.
That’s some tremendous growth at a rate of about $200,000 added per year.
Right. In addition I’m finalizing the purchase of a small firm so that will translate into a tremendous jump for the next year
What’s the size of the acquisition that you’re thinking about?
They have billings around $170,000. We are getting a good price and a great opportunity.
Do you still work with a CSR?
Interestingly enough, it’s the same CSR that NCI helped me hire under Plan II. He has been with the company for three years running.
Have you made any adjustments to the program now that you are three years into running it?
We have clarified and defined the services we are providing to a far greater degree. We have a buffet of services that clients can choose from. For example, when we talk about providing accounting services, it includes just accounting and compliance. It does not include tax planning. That is a different option that they have to choose. Tax planning is packaged with tax return preparation. I’ve gone to great lengths in parsing the services and that’s been tremendously helpful in boosting revenue. We have also added additional services like payroll, processing of payables, and business coaching.
What has surprised you most about the results that you’ve been able to achieve through the program, Javier?
If I had to point to one item, it would be the fact that it works in both an up and a down economy. It’s a technique that works in every economic cycle and does not need much tweaking.
That’s interesting, and obviously given the fact that you’ve been growing at such a tremendous rate over the past three years, it’s a testament to that fact as we’re in the middle of a terrible recession.
To be fair, we are constantly supplementing the program, trying different things. We are exploring social media, search engine marketing and increased networking. We have created new packages of services that are provided on an as-needed basis. These changes have worked well for us.
You have to stay sharp and fresh and I think change is a good thing when it comes to that. With marketing, a lot of it comes down to trying different things and carefully tracking your results, and making adjustments accordingly. What were your major concerns before you upgraded into the Plan II program, or if it makes more sense, before you signed on with the seminar program?
What every businessman is concerned about: will the investment pay off? This is always the greatest concern.
What has been the most challenging aspect of the program in the three years that you’ve been running it?
I think the most challenging aspect has been the need to integrate the marketing to the processing end of the business. There have to be processes in place to make everything run smoothly. This is a seasonal business, so if you bring five clients in any one month, the challenge is how do you integrate them in such a way that nobody falls behind. It is the integration of the marketing with every other aspect of the business; making sure all the new clients are taken care of.
If you can’t deliver on the promises that your sales rep makes, then you’re probably not going to have that client very long.
Right, and if you have a few clients coming in at the same time and they happen to be large, then it’s extremely challenging. It’s a lot of work all at once, especially when you factor in back work. Getting the client set up and getting to know them and their business is a lengthy process.
That’s definitely one of the more challenging aspects judging by the people I talk to. Conversely, what have been the most rewarding aspects of the program for you, Javier?
I would point to a couple of factors. One is that it works in every economic cycle, as we discussed. This is very comforting; you have a system that is time-proven. The other aspect, which is more specific to Plan II, is the fact that it was a very personalized and customized approach to teaching our company how to market well. With the Plan II, one of the greatest advantages is that you have someone from NCI who comes to your office for a length of time and takes you step-by-step through the process. That adds a tremendous degree of confidence. It’s one thing to take a class; it’s an entirely different thing to have someone here who is coaching you.
Absolutely, that’s certainly a big selling point of Plan II is that one-on-one interaction with our senior account executives who have a lot of experience both in selling accounting services and training others to sell those services.
That’s a great thing that you guys did, it really appeals to the more psychological aspects of the business rather than the merely technical and it’s very important to make that distinction.
You guys are technicians so a lot of the time I think the marketing side in a typical accounting firm gets a short shrift, which is a mistake. You need to market no matter what business you’re in.
I agree completely. Any accountant who does not understand that this business is about selling shouldn’t be in business. It’s that simple. One should be selling all the time.
I feel like it gives you peace of mind having that system in place, where if you need to replace some lost business or grow to the next level, you have the means and tools and structure to do that. How has the success of the program improved your overall quality of life?
One of the main concerns that we all have is financial stability and security. The more the business grows, the easier one can breathe and concentrate and enjoy other aspects of life. To be able to place one’s financial life in the proper context by virtue of the growth of the business is just a tremendous thing in life. You don’t have to worry every day about where the next dollar is coming from because you know the business is doing well. The point I’m trying to make is that the more the business grows, the more your life improves because financial concerns are not first and foremost.
Having that financial security provides peace of mind in knowing that your financial needs are being met. That’s something a lot of people are struggling with right now and when you’re struggling there, it bleeds into all the other aspects of your life. Ironically you can’t put a price on that peace of mind you have when your bills can be paid easily every month etc.
One final question. In talking to accounting firms all over the country, we know that a lot of them are worried about spending money due to the recession. Everybody is scared and hesitant to make any real changes to the status-quo before things get resolved with the economy. How would you categorize the return on your investment from the marketing programs you’ve invested in with NCI and how would you counsel those firms that are tightening their purse strings?
When we sell our accounting services, we tell everybody that this is not a luxury; it’s an investment. Every business must have accounting services or else their chances of growing and succeeding are greatly diminished. Inversely, they’re greatly maximized once you have a CPA on your side and the financial infrastructure that we can provide. Similarly, marketing is an investment, not a luxury item. Every company should have a marketing budget in every economy. Granted, depending upon the economy, you can choose different mediums for the marketing and invest different amounts. But marketing should be an ongoing budget item in every company. If you observe the well-run companies, the largest companies, McDonald’s, Dell, Apple, the marketing never stops. You get marketing year-round, regardless of how the economy does.
Massive amounts of money, time, effort and staff are devoted to marketing in those massive successful companies.
Right. For example, Dell is currently not doing great and yet still invests tremendous amounts of money in marketing. The advice is that marketing is a budget item that should be on every business plan just as accounting should be.
Very well said. I imagine it’s safe to say that you are pretty pleased with your return on investment at this point?
I’m very pleased with the return on my investment. I would do it again if I had to do it over.
Beautiful. That’s all I have for you, Javier. I must say, you are an incredibly articulate gentleman and it’s been a pleasure speaking with you.
Thank you, it has been my pleasure. Thank you for calling on me and asking me to talk about my company.
Can you just sum up your feelings about NCI and our marketing approach?
NCI has refined a marketing technique that is time-tested and I would recommend any other accounting firm to invest the money in a technique that works.
Again, thank you so much for your time, kind words, and insight.
Chris Clark is the oldest son of New Clients Inc. founder and CEO Bruce Clark. He has worked as a Senior Account Executive at NCI for the past four years. During that time he has presented at the Practice Development Seminar on Internet and E-mail marketing and he also plays the prospective client during the seminar role play sessions. Chris also edits and contributes to the NCI newsletter, New Client News.