This interview is with Kevin Lawson, an NCI Plan 1 Practice Development Seminar attendee who has doubled the size of his practice in only two years using what he learned.
What were your gross billings when you started the marketing program?
I had just bought the practice, I bought the practice in August of ’07 and then took your class in June of ’08 so I went through more or less one tax season in the practice before I went to your program. And we were at about $257,000.
And what were some of the deciding factors involved in your decision to attend our practice development seminar?
I had always wanted to grow the practice. I never had the intention of sitting around and waiting for clients to hopefully come in the door. I knew we needed to be proactive in going out and getting clients, not reactive and getting clients as they came in. One thing that I really liked about NCI ‘s program is its simplicity, you find people who have a need for the service, go to them and tell them what you do and of the thousands of potential clients that you contact you’ll get some of them, it’s a specific percentage.
It is a numbers game.
Very much so.
How much new business have you added since you implemented the NCI program?
We’ve nearly doubled in two years. We’ll do about $450,000 this year.
Have you felt the effects of the economy at all, have you lost some clients due to that?
Sure yeah, we lost about 10 or 12 clients who went bankrupt or simply couldn’t afford our services.
But you had the ability to replace those clients with the program?
We already have. Anyone who’s gone out of business we’ve already replaced.
Following the Plan 1 seminar approach you’ve been doing the selling, are you enjoying that process?
I love that process, that’s the part I love about this business. The part I love most about being a CPA isn’t sitting behind a desk doing tax returns. What I love is meeting and talking with my clients, whether it’s existing clients, finding out how we can help save them money, business planning, tax planning, strategies for the future that’s the part I truly love. And when I’m talking with new clients, selling new clients it’s that same discussion, where are you going in the future, how are you going to get there, what are your goals, what are your objectives and how can we help you on the tax and accounting side?
It’s a relationship building business.
Yeah, and a lot of that technical discussion is conceptual but it relates to their business and we start showing them how we can save them some money and how we can structure the business so that it meets their needs. We take their financial information and translate it into a story; nobody cares about just the numbers. I have people tell me all the time, I hate accounting; I want nothing to do with it. I love those people. Because they’re the ones who look at this P&L and don’t get it, my job is to convert that P&L into a story.
What would you say was your biggest concern before signing up for the seminar?
Part of my concern was if we bring in all this new business how will we handle it? We ultimately decided look, let’s bring it in and then we’ll figure it out when it comes along but it hasn’t been nearly as difficult as I thought it would be. It’s not growth that happens all over night, it’s growth that happens over the period of six months, a year, two years, three years¦ And as business comes in you figure out who’s going to do it. Most of my job is review and tax review and client relationship and again I’m not the only one who has contact with the client we use the team approach on that.
I was going to ask, could you elaborate a little more on the processing? Because I know a lot of people do get concerned about that, bringing in all this new business, are we going to be able to keep up. What has that been like for you, processing, integrating these new clients into your firm as they come in steadily?
The first month I meet with the client, I spend a lot of time with them and go through the client checklist of what we need the client to provide. That first month with the client I do a fair amount of the accounting and work with the staff person that way I’m familiar with it. I expect to spend more time in that first three to six months because I want to cement that relationship. After that initial period most of the client contact is with the staff accountant. If we need anything I’m not the one emailing or calling the client, the staff accountant does that.
My role then becomes that of a strategist, doing general tax planning some of the more high level stuff. We do fully compiled financial statements. We make the client a big binder, with our red sailboat logo on it. The logo is on everything. The binder gives them a place to put the work we do which is normally pretty intangible. You have financial statements and most people file them away and never see them again. Our clients see our red folders and that big binder in their office. It’s also a way to add value to an intangible, by using the folders, using the binders, and we have a canvas accounting bag, these things create a tangibility that the service alone lacks.
That makes a lot of sense, adding tangibility to a service like that. What has been your biggest challenge running this marketing program?
Telemarketers are weird [Laughs]. We’ve had to treat it with the mindset that look we’re going to have to hire a bunch of them and they’re going to come and go and that’s just part of life.
That’s fairly typical. If you go in knowing that I think it makes a big difference.
Well Todd and Troy* were pretty up front with how that process works, and I talked to a couple of other CPAs who had run the program, one actually was only a few miles away, Gary Vick. He’d run the program and he was telling me about the pros and cons. Todd referred someone to me last week and we spent an hour talking about it. But I was pretty aware of what that process was going to entail, for me it comes down to time, how to run a firm, manage a firm and go out and sell because it’s an out of office experience. You go out and see a client at their office and it’s taking away from time spent doing the work that needs to be done here in the office. We’ve kind of gotten to the point where I need another me.
That’s the thing with the Plan 1 approach, the do-it-yourself method, time can become an enemy and clearly that’s happening for you now but you’ve managed to double your practice in three years so it’s bound to happen.
So what advice would you give to someone who is considering attending our seminar?
Quit worrying about it and just do it , like the Nike slogan, Just Do It. Because what happens is you have clients who die, clients who go out of business and you need to find a way to grow your practice and the NCI program works, it absolutely works. You just follow the system; you don’t have to invent the system because it’s already there. New Clients Inc. has created the road map and all you have to do is follow it.
No reason to reinvent the wheel.
I’m not smart enough to re-invent the wheel; you guys did that for me.
Well thank you, we appreciate the praise. And how has your quality of life improved since you undertook the program?
[Laughs]¦ It’s probably gotten worse, I’m working more.
I’ve heard that before, but it pays off in the end I promise.
Well, you know I figure you work your tail off for a number of years and then you end up falling more into the Duane Gravely approach and working 20-25 hours a week with a better quality of life but you have to get there first. You don’t start at the end.
It’s a simple system but it’s not easy, you have to put the time in, you have to put the effort in but if you do you get rewarded. No one ever said building a successful business is easy.
And that’s the stage we’re at, you need to work first.
Well, is there anything else you wanted to add or maybe sum up your feelings on the program on Todd and Troy and NCI and just let me know how you feel about everything that you’ve received so far?
Troy* has been a huge inspiration, it’s not a matter of hearing somebody say here’s what you can do, it’s a matter of hearing what somebody has done. For me, being able to see what somebody else has done and learn it from them so I know that the work that I’m putting in now is worth it. It’s not always easy, because you go out on appointments and you have people saying no and it gets kind of frustrating. Then you kind of realize that if I go on three more I’m going to get three more clients. It’s just a matter of following the program and it works, and it’s not just for me. Look at all the other guys that you have doing testimonials for you. Look at a Bob Mason; look at a Troy Patton* and Gary Vick who’s literally two miles down the road from me. He grew his practice; he’s pretty much not using the program any more because he grew to a point where he was happy. I think that’s great. You have to define what you want for your practice then you need to figure out how to get there. I don’t want to be a sole proprietor for the rest of my life I want to be a big enough firm to be able to leverage myself through my staff and work less. I really owe you guys the growth that I’ve had, it’s been a huge help to me to come and see what other people have done, know that it works and trust that it works and it has worked.
*Editor’s Note: Troy Patton is one of NCI ‘s most successful client's to date having built a multi-million dollar firm using our Plan 2 program and he formerly taught the NCI Plan 1 Practice Development Seminar.
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.