MONTHLY CHECKLIST SERIES
The Right Way to Start a Practice
Deciding to strike out on your own isn’t easy, but if you’ve already made up your mind to take the plunge, consider the following recommendations. Gleaned from practitioners’ experience, they could tip the scales in your favor.
FIND THE RIGHT CLIENTS
Be prepared to take the first step in establishing a relationship with referred clients. Don’t expect them to contact you; probably no more than one in three will.
Recognize that developing a relationship with a potential client can be a slow process, requiring constant reinforcement and personal contact, especially if he or she already has an accountant.
Avoid accepting undesirable clients just to keep busy. Instead, invest more time in practice development or CPE.
Before you take an assignment, be sure you can complete it properly and on time.
GET FAIR PAY FOR YOUR SERVICES
Discuss fees openly before beginning an engagement. Don’t leave a client with questions or doubts about them.
Never manipulate your billing structure or fee policy to obtain clients. Excessive writeoffs and “low-balling” seldom lead to profitability.
Realize that clients occasionally may dispute your charges or billings. Try not to take it personally.
CARE FOR YOUR CLIENTS
Be aware you may not be able to personally meet all your clients’ needs; in some cases, you might not have the required skills. Instead, collaborate with qualified professionals whenever it would better serve the client’s interests.
Have confidence, however, in your knowledge and talents. Many CPAs put themselves at a disadvantage by underestimating the extent to which clients value their services.
Take advantage of guidance available to beginning practitioners. The AICPA ( www.cpa2biz.com ), various state societies and many individuals within the profession are willing to help.
BE TRUE TO YOURSELF AND YOUR CAREER
Accept your findings if, after careful analysis, you conclude that having your own practice isn’t right for you. Rather, find the role or niche that suits you best—it’ll be the shortest and surest path to personal and professional fulfillment.Source: Management of an Accounting Practice Handbook, AICPA, 2001.