Sailing to New Horizons
John Davis, CPA, Bonita Springs, FL
For this month’s success story we decided to take a slightly different approach and interview someone who has only been running the program for a few months. The idea was conceived to show people considering our marketing programs that it does in fact work, and work well, during the current economic recession.
The CPA that is being interviewed today is John Davis out of Florida. John was a partner in a large practice in New York . He had the desire to relocate to sunny Florida but his partners didn’t want the branch office. John was faced with a decision, leave behind his lucrative position as partner in a large firm and start a new business in a new state or stay where he was, safe and secure. John took the plunge and is already on his way to growing a million dollar practice, even during this recession.
Chris: John, you were a partner in a large practice in New York , can you go into a little bit about why you made the decision to leave that business and come down to Florida and start your new practice?
John: Initially I actually wanted to open a branch office of my firm in New York , but my partners didn’t want the Florida office. I knew I wanted to relocate so the only choice I had was to retire from that firm and then start fresh down here. After learning about New Clients Incorporated I was positive and confident that that was the best way for me to grow my business quickly on a relatively short time-line.
Chris: Given the current economic climate out there how would you categorize your success so far after four months of running the marketing program?
John: Through the program we are picking up about one and a half clients a week for the bookkeeping services. If you include the people [secured] through the program who only want year end tax returns done, we’re[doing] two clients per week. Two clients per week in this economy, especially for the summer time. The biggest problem we’ve run into is people say, we like what you’re offering, we just don’t have the money right now. So we’re confident that once [tax] season starts and the economy turns around that we’ll start to grow at a much more rapid rate than two clients a week.
Chris: Absolutely, but so far given the situation you’re happy with the outcome thus far?
John: Yeah, I mean Duncan (my salesman) came in with two clients this morning and I’m signing up another one this afternoon.
Chris: What have you found with regards to the marketing program John, to be the most rewarding thing so far?
John: Well, I have one cold-caller who’s been with me since the beginning she has been absolutely wonderful and we’ve gotten to know each other quite well. It’s also been rewarding to help people down here in a bad economy and actually give people work give them a job and an opportunity to succeed. I think all-in-all it’s been rewarding too, in this economy, to be one of the few businesses who are actually hiring people.
Chris: That’s definitely a great thing to be able to provide, especially right now where so few people are hiring. It’s good to give those opportunities and to get something back in return.
John: Yeah, and the real plus side to starting this business in a bad economy is I got some really terrific office space for 2/3′s of what it would have cost me three years ago. And of course the people as I mentioned, I got much higher caliber people than I could have when the economy was robust.
Chris: Absolutely, we’ve been seeing that in all of our recruiting recently, the quality of the people and the number of the respondees to the ads is just through the roof because there are so many people out there looking for jobs. Specifically, there are many people within sales related industries that are looking for work, so we’ve been seeing that quite a bit. There are a lot of good deals to be had too, like what you found with your office.
John: I’m on a major highway. The firm name is on the front of the building in very large letters. People joke with me and say, nice of them to name the building after you (laughs.) Which is wonderful, I thought the best I could ever do down here was to have someone walk inside of an office building and see my name on a directory. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d ever have a building with my name on it on a six-lane highway.
Chris: Practically a Billboard for your firm.
John: Practically a Billboard, and then shortly after I leased the space the city decided to put a traffic light right out there. So now people actually have to stop.
Chris: How would you rate the NCI marketing training for the seminar that you attended?
John: I would definitely recommend the training. I know there are people at the seminar that I was at that decided they wanted to do their own program where they actually didn’t go through the Plan 2. It would take an awful lot for somebody to do all this on their own. I have a great CSR, Duncan and really a terrific staff. Jane is doing cold calling for us. Linda is my accountant that’s working with me now I just can’t imagine [doing all this myself] with everything that we’re doing. I can’t imagine going out there and being my own salesman and not having a CSR. Making my own sales calls on time and then to try and figure out all the things that we called you and Pete Borelli for many, many times and I can’t imagine starting this business without that guidance.
Chris: It’s definitely a challenge trying to do it all on your own. We have clients who are successful at it, but to a point. And then it comes time to step up to the next level and get a sales person because you just don’t have the time to keep doing it all yourself, so I think that approach works for you to a point. Would you say the NCI training you received helped you transition from the bigger corporate clients you were dealing with in New York to the smaller clients you’re working with now?
John: Well, I think so, of course with the practice I had in New York we had a lot of small clients too, but we didn’t do the bookkeeping. Most CPA’s including myself in the past, kind of looked down on bookkeeping and payroll tax returns as things that are beneath our professional standards. But bookkeeping is really a great service for a business owner and along with that we’re getting an awful lot of CPA type work that goes along with the bookkeeping [including] IRS issues, obviously tax preparation, tax planning, so the bookkeeping is really just a lead to get you in the door. From there you do all the services you would normally do anyway, so the real plus there is you’re actually doing something monthly and getting paid monthly instead of just the year end work.
Chris: That’s a big part of our philosophy, you get the clients in through the write-up door because you can sell that year-round, they all need it year-round and it’s monthly so it generates good monthly cash flow for your business and keeps you growing throughout the year. By natural extension you’re going to be able to cross-sell other services to that client base. Because once they know you and trust you it’s a heck of a lot easier to sell them another product vs. someone who doesn’t know you from Adam.
John: Yeah, that’s absolutely correct and we’re selling other products, we’re selling merchant services, low-cost credit card processing services, we sell pre-paid legal services and financial services. We’re selling all three, and sometimes we sell somebody on merchant services and then they become an accounting client. So it goes one direction or the other, you never know which direction it’s going to go, but handling the multiple lines of services has really been beneficial. Which I think all goes along with the bookkeeping, I mean you get into the books, you see the credit card statements you look at the fees and you know you can help these people save money. I mean I quoted one to a client where I’m saving him over a thousand dollars a month in credit card fees.
Chris: Exactly. There’s a lot of opportunity when you have a large base of clients to cater to. You can always come up with something else that they may need and will benefit from. You had mentioned some support from Pete Borrelli. Has that been really beneficial to you, in terms of working with Pete and any questions you or Duncan have had?
John: Yeah, Pete’s been wonderful, and any time we call him, if he can’t talk to us right away he gets back to us in a timely manner and spends as much time with us as we need, and it’s really been beneficial to us. For example just last week we talked to Pete about an issue that becomes a problem late in the year. As you well know part of the program is the backwork, backwork being the work that needs to be done [to get the client’s books up to date and move forward.] Well towards the end of the year in September/October where we are now backwork becomes a much bigger number because there [are] more months. And people are saying to themselves should I really pay you all this backwork money when I can hire you in January and not have all the backwork? So we were having a difficult time finding ways to explain that sufficiently to the clients that that’s bad thinking, that there’s flaws in their thinking, but we were having a hard time explaining that to them. But Pete helped clarify how we can explain that a little easier.
Chris: That’s a good example. John are you surprised by the early success that you’ve had so far?
John: I am to a small degree, only because I knew that, from all the research that I did, if I followed the program, it was going to work. I believe that with all my heart, and that’s why I’m only surprised a little bit, because I really believed in the program.
Chris: You work the program and the program will work for you. It’s a saying I’m fond of, and I think it’s absolutely true. It’s hard work to grow a business but it does pay off if you stick with it and obviously you’re a testament to that.
John: Yeah, it does pay off.
Chris: Where do you see the practice in the coming months and years?
John: I initially thought that I only wanted to take it to a half a million dollars, because I wanted something that I thought I could manage pretty easily. I realized shortly after I got into the program, that there’s much more work involved than I thought and I know now that along with a partner that’s going to work it as hard as I am, that we can easily take it up to a million dollars in three years. So that’s kind of where I’m sitting at the moment, but that’s where I want to be in three years, a million dollar practice. We’ll see how that goes, some of that’s going to be recurring income from the credit cards, and the financial services, and the pre-paid legal. But the majority of it will be from the bookkeeping and accounting tax practice.
Chris: What advice would you give to someone coming from a similar situation to yourself, coming out of a bigger firm looking to start their own business? Or just in general to somebody who’s considering using this marketing approach to build a business?
John: I would say definitely go to Philadelphia and take the three day class. From there you’ve got to believe in the program. If you don’t believe in the program it’s not going to work for you, just like anything else. But do enough homework that you can find a way to believe in the program. Just follow the steps that [ NCI has] laid out and you will be successful.
Chris: Excellent, is there anything else you want to add, anything about the NCI organization, the marketing approach?
John: Just very positive, Bruce has been great whenever I’ve called him. [Support through you and Pete has been great as well.] As a matter of fact when I first opened my practice I was in some temporary executive space the week that Pete was in doing the hiring. My landlord who was an attorney, and had been around a long time, he was just kind of sitting back and watching the whole situation. [He was] watching the people lining up in the waiting room for the appointment setter interviews, and the CSR interviews. He made a comment afterwards he said, you know I’ve never seen anything go so smoothly with so many people and be so organized as that did. I mean all I could see was from the outside but did you end up being productive and getting good people? And I said I absolutely did. The way you guys have this program down, as far as the interview process, when you first get the phone call you screen the people there and then when you make the final decision. Then Pete left me with the file for the appointment setters as far as if someone left which would be the next group I should look at and which ones I should never look at again. He just did a great job of leaving me totally organized in the personnel department.
Chris: Thank you for the kind words and for your time, John.
You can contact John Davis, CPA at (239) 444-5945
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.