CPA firms are in the midst of a succession planning crisis that will continue until the retirement of Baby Boomers joins Y2K and other issues on the ash heap of history. A paltry 20% of first generation CPA firms make it to the second. The primary roadblock: ineffective or non-existent succession planning and leadership development.
Of all the traits needed to develop young professionals into effective partners, business development is on everyone’s short list of critical skills.
To address this issue, we talked with Art Kuesel of Kuesel Consulting, a firm that works with CPA firms in the areas of marketing, business development and leadership. Art teaches marketing skills to young professionals at his Business Development Academy.
Why is it important to learn business development skills?
Many firms today require new partners to bring in revenue on an annual basis. The sooner potential partners start on this journey the easier it will be later in their careers.
When it comes to bringing in business, some say you have to be born with these skills and it cannot be taught. Your thoughts?
I believe it absolutely can be taught. It’s a process that requires numerous steps in the right order to be successful – just like an audit, tax return or business valuation.
What’s different in the way business development is taught today compared to techniques used in past years?
It starts with building meaningful client relationships, followed by a strong referral source network while building awareness for your knowledge and expertise, and then effectively navigating the sales process. Just last week, I heard of a firm that lost a sale to a competitor not because of lack of experience or price – but because they were not effective at the sales process.
Art Kuesel’s Business Development Academy is designed for supervisors, managers and new partners, especially high potential young professionals. The Academy consists of six half-day sessions between July and December. The program is offered in Chicago Riverwoods, Chicago Loop and Minneapolis. Visit Kuesel Consulting:Business Development Academy or contact Art: 312.208.8774 or firstname.lastname@example.org
How do the attitudes of today’s young people toward bringing in business compare to previous generations?
I don’t see much of a generational difference. The sooner young professionals engage in client relationships and business development, the better they will be at bringing in business as they grow in their career, and the sooner they will see results.
What is the biggest challenge holding CPAs back from effectively bringing in business?
First, one has to be willing to step out of their comfort zone and try new things. Second, one needs to be willing to invest enough time in business development on a consistent basis. Finally, one has to recognize that it takes a while to bring in clients. There is a long runway of effort before new business materializes.
How can these obstacles be overcome?
There is a formula for success that includes effort, time, confidence building, and a supportive firm. There is investment that will be required before a return can be expected. It’s usually a multi-year journey to go from someone who has never brought in business to someone who does on a consistent basis.
You founded the business development academy to teach cpas how to bring in business. What does your program focus on?
Client relationship building, cross-selling, referral source development, networking, developing a powerful personal brand and excelling at the sales process
CPA Firm Succession Planning: A Perfect Storm is a must-read for firms that want to focus on keeping the firm independent This book addresses ►how to assess your existing staff, ►leadership development, ►MP transition, ►governance structure needed to remain independent, ►client transition, ►partner buyout plan, ►partner buy-in plan and other issues.