This month’s success story interview is with Matt Jad, CPA based in Denver, CO. Matt started his practice in the middle of 2015 after a long corporate career. Like many of NCI’s clients, he wanted to have the opportunity to chart the course of his own venture instead of answering to someone else for the rest of his life. He didn’t want to take the risk of starting his own practice without a solid marketing program in place though, so he went with an NCI Plan 2 program from day one. A wise decision as it turns out! Matt is 18 months into his first practice and he is already up to at least $270,000 in annual billing. During the interview Matt offers some advice for those considering the NCI program and those currently running it. He also talks about his feelings on the program and what he has struggled with during the process.
Tell me about your accounting background and what led you into owning your own practice.
I graduated from Denver University in 1985 with a Bachelor of Science in Accounting. I became a CPA about 15 years ago. I had worked in the corporate structure for more than 25 years and was a CFO for about 15 years. I decided to do something for me that I can own and where I would be able to make my own decisions. Working for someone else is good and the corporate structure is an excellent environment but for me it was something I could do for so long. I wanted to have the flexibility of making my own decisions as to where the business would go. So I decided to open my own CPA firm. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about for years and years and I finally “took the plunge," as Todd [Steinberg] says, and decided to do it.
You position yourself much better for retirement as well by owning your own business which becomes a valuable asset you can sell.
When did you start your business and how much growth have you developed since using the NCI marketing program?
I started in July of 2015 with no clients and as of the end of 2016 I think we’ll be at about $270,000-$280,000 in annualized billing. It’s been good. It was a struggle the first few months but it pays off in the long run.
I think that goes for starting almost any business, it generally takes time to develop and turn profits. So within about a year and a half, you’re very close to reaching NCI’s guaranteed billing amount of $300,000 in new annualized billing.
What were the deciding factors behind your decision to start your business utilizing an NCI Plan 2 marketing program?
I had considered NCI for a number of years. You had a long running ad in The Journal of Accountancy and NCI has been providing marketing services to accountants for many, many years. For me, when a company has that kind of consistency, it speaks for itself. NCI seemed to have one of the best track records in the marketplace and that’s why I decided to work with you because your system is more reliable, it’s proven fact and it’s been up and running for many years. I’d rather work with a company I can rely on and call for support at any time rather than go with a company that might be a fly-by-night company or one that goes out of business unexpectedly.
What was your biggest concern before you made the decision to do the Plan 2 program?
One of my main concerns was, am I going to be able to make money right away? I was unfamiliar with starting my own small business, it was uncharted waters for me. Now I think that if someone goes into business thinking they will be making money from day one, that’s not a good expectation. So that was one of my main concerns, jumping into something I had not done before.
What has been the biggest challenge for you in running the NCI marketing program to this point?
The biggest challenge for us was hiring the right staff, specifically the appointment setters. The appointment setting position is a tough position, it’s the first step of the whole program. Getting the right people to be on the phone for that many hours a week and who can schedule appointments consistently is tough. We had to go through a number of different appointment setters before we found the right one and even after that, we were able to maintain that for a year and a couple of months and then she had to leave the business. It’s a high turnover position, so that is one of the biggest challenges.
Appointment setting is definitely one of the most difficult aspects of the program but it’s also crucial and beneficial once you have it working, as you know. What advice would you offer for someone considering growing their accounting practice?
The main advice I have is that you cannot be over-prepared. Starting from scratch like I have, there are a lot of things that need to be in place to establish the entity. You might think you are prepared but there are so many variables and transactions that need to take place in order to have the company up and running. It’s very difficult the first few months and you need to be prepared for that. The other advice I have is, don’t just take on any client that you come across. From my perspective in the Denver metro area, clients who’s fees end up below $200 per month can be high maintenance and it’s not worth the time and energy of my staff to handle them. That of course depends on the geographic area, the cost of living in Denver is relatively high. So be selective on which clients you pick up when you are getting started, find out what that threshold is for your business.
That makes sense, we always recommend to our clients that they set a monthly minimum fee that they are not willing to go below. Like you pointed out, this minimum will vary depending on the location and also on the accounting practice. What advice do you have for other clients like you who are running an NCI marketing program or who are about to begin one?
My advice would be to stick to the program without making changes to it. They have to persevere throughout all the obstacles they might encounter. Always have a positive attitude and view on things going into the program. Never look backwards and think I could be making more working for someone else, you have to think about the long run. You have to give the program time for it to work for you and to generate cash flow. Don’t think of an immediate return but instead focus on where you are going and what you are building for the future.
That’s great advice, stay focused on the mission at hand and having a successful business will always beat working for someone else in the long run. What are some of the larger monthly accounts you’ve been able to secure through the marketing effort?
I have a few accounts that pay us $700 per month. $750 per month is my highest paying client to date.
What about back work, what are some of the larger back work amounts you’ve collected to bring someone up to speed with their bookkeeping work?
We were able to collect $4,000 and it only took a few meetings to walk out with a check for that amount.
Shifting gears, you had mentioned earlier that you chose NCI because you wanted a trusted advisor who would be there for you when you needed support, can you talk a little bit about what your support experience has been like with NCI?
The support has always been there. Whenever I need any questions answered I feel free to call Todd or yourself to get them answered. There are also the weekly coaching calls provided by NCI for the first six months of the program so the support is there when needed. At the same time after about a year or so in the program you have to figure it out for yourself and find out what works for your entity. A year into it you will be able to figure out what needs to happen for you in order to make this profitable.
Our successful clients tend to tailor the marketing program to their own way of doing things over time but it’s very important not to get ahead of yourself and try to do that before the program is succeeding as intended and designed. Can you sum up your feelings on NCI and our marketing program?
I think overall the program works. I think it needs to be tweaked just a little bit for people’s unique situations. You need to be able to tweak it and tailor it to your needs, to your specific needs and location. Overall, I think it works and I recommend it to anyone who wants to start a CPA firm instead of just going on their own, utilize the NCI program fully and at the same time tailor it to your needs to get the most out of it.
That concludes the interview. I’d like to thank Matt for taking time away from his busy schedule to do this interview. All of us at NCI wish him all the best moving forward.