Eric Zetterholm, Asheville, NC
For this month's interview we chose Eric Zetterholm who is based in Asheville, NC. Eric signed up for our Plan 3 Client Processing and Acquisition (CPA) in April of 2008. He had just opened his practice and wanted to get off to a strong start. Having done plenty of research on NCI he decided the Plan 3 program was the way to go. Utilizing the program during a down economy he was able to grow a new start up business $120,000 in only the first twelve months. Read on to learn more about Eric’s experience with NCI.
Chris: How long have you been in business and where were you with the practice when you decided to implement the NCI program?
Eric: Well, we had actually opened our doors with the implementation of the NCI program. I had gotten licensed about a month before I came to NCI.
Chris: Okay, so you were a brand new start-up. What were the deciding factors for you to undertake the NCI Plan 3 Program?
Eric: I had done a lot of research on different marketing approaches and [the NCI program] certainly seemed to make a lot of sense. That [notion] was verified by the folks I met with and talked with. I did some background and reference checking and that kind of thing. The people I talked to all agreed it was a good program and that [NCI] does what they say they’ll do.
Chris: You obviously did your due diligence. What were you doing before you opened your CPA firm?
Eric: I was in real estate development.
Chris: And how much billings have you added since starting your practice and marketing with the NCI program?
Eric: As I said in my email to you, we did $120,000 in our first year in business. We’re projecting relatively modest growth for this year in terms of new clients, [the total will be around] $180,000.
Chris: Are you surprised by the results of the program so far?
Eric: I was surprised by how well we did in the first year; I wasn’t expecting the results to be as good as they were.
Chris: Did you lose many clients this year due to the economy?
Eric: We didn’t lose many clients; the only ones we did lose were the ones that closed their doors. We have quite a few restaurant clients and I think we’ve lost three that went out of business. Quite frankly, two of them shouldn’t have been in the business in the first place (laughs.)
Chris: That makes sense, owning a restaurant is a tough proposition and if you’re not cut out for it in the first place it won’t last long. What was your biggest concern before you did commit and sign up for the NCI program?
Eric: My biggest concern was finding the right people [to do the marketing.] We did the Plan 3 program so your [Senior Account Executives] came in and did the setup for me. Right out of the chute, the Client Service Representative we hired just hit the ground running and did a good job for us. [He had] good training, I can’t say enough good [things] about what [NCI] did for me in terms of the setup.
Chris: Thank you, Eric. Getting the right marketing team in place and then training them properly is really the key. What has been your biggest challenge running the program?
Eric: The biggest challenge has been keeping the appointment setters motivated and attracting good people for that position. The other challenge has been trying to figure out when the right timing is to bring on a second bookkeeper because were at the point where we’re going to have [bring someone on] very soon.
Chris: Eric, what advice would you give to someone considering a Plan 2 or Plan 3 program?
Eric: My advice is to look at your market. One of the great things about Asheville is that we have a lot of people who have sold businesses and come here to start new ones. I think that contributes to our new business lists being as strong as some of the larger markets like Charlotte. Beyond that just jump right in [with the program], just do it.
Chris: We’ve found that most markets will support a Plan 2 program but there are some areas where it just isn’t feasible. Seeing as you are in a smaller market it makes sense to check first. As part of the Plan 3 program you attended Duane Gravley’s Advanced Processing Seminar. What prompted you to go for Plan 3 and that processing training?
Eric: Well, I was coming out of industry for the last 20 years and hadn’t ever really been on the management side of a CPA firm. So I wanted to [learn from someone who did have that practical experience] and just figure out what works and what doesn’t, rather than try to reinvent the wheel.
Chris: What would you say you gained by attending the Advanced Processing Seminar?
Eric: I gained about six months of [more efficient work] (laughs.) I think it would have been a lot more difficult for me to implement [the marketing program] and to make things go as smoothly as they have with our clients [without the knowledge gained at the APS.] We were able to implement things that I learned at the processing seminar right away. It was just really a smooth operation right from the get-go in terms of getting all of our clients worked on in a regular and timely basis. [The APS] also really helped out as far as training new employees coming in as well.
Chris: Have you had an opportunity to call Duane for support on any processing issues?
Eric: I’ve called Duane on a couple of issues, I don’t remember now exactly what they were but he was always very helpful and willing to talk to me. I understand that he’s stepping down, is that right?
Chris: Yes, his last live seminar is coming up in two weeks in Orlando, FL. He will still support his processing program clients after that time however. We also have Duane’s seminar recorded in a home study version as well that will be available after his last seminar in January. Do you have any advice for someone considering the Advanced Processing Seminar?
Eric: I would say if you [don't have experience] managing a CPA firm or a professional services firm that what you learn during the two day processing seminar will help you greatly in managing the day to day affairs of the office.
Chris: Thank you Eric, my final question is just to ask you to sum up your feelings on New Clients Inc. on our programs, our staff and just your overall feelings on the experience of working with us.
Eric: All of my contacts with you folks have been very professional; you guys have always been very helpful. I know my CSR has attended the weekly coaching calls and they always said that was really helpful. So I would encourage others to take advantage of what you guys offer and just jump in and do it.
Chris: “Just do it,” that’s Troy Patton’s favorite saying at the seminar as well. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this interview with me.
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.