By: Garry Pagaspas, CPA
As each of us are aware, our CPA profession in the Philippines comes with professional ethical considerations such as on dealing with advertising and marketing our services and qualifications. We had our marketing subjects in the academic curriculum that is more applicable to commercial dealings than practice of CPA profession so for CPA practitioners and firms, getting new quality clients is somehow a challenge that applies not only in the early stage of our practice, but moving forward as we grow our practice, or least, keep it afloat.
In starting our own firm, we had this very same challenge on how to get new clients and this has actually been a continuing challenge that we, if not almost all of us CPA practitioners would deal with accordingly. Personally, we started practice with no name as nobody in the industry but somehow grow our practice to what it is now and would continue to struggle until we reach our target size. Accordingly, in this article, let me share my personal thoughts, if not experience, on some ways to get new quality clients for CPA practitioners in keeping with professional ethical standards. This may not be an all-inclusive list but hope you get something out of it that you can adopt for your own firm or practice.
1. Put on a decent website for your practice
Modern online world put everyone on equal footing for vast opportunities and it is up for us to get into this. As humans, we only have few hours a day in a week/month/year to work while your website works online 24/7 year-round showcasing your credentials, your relevant achievements as professional, your services, and all other things about your practice so much so that our prospects worldwide and clients could visit at their most convenient time. With a more advanced functionalities on websites, you can add a chat box or messaging module that they can send inquiries and concerns directly to your personal accounts that you can deal with on your most convenient time. You can as well maintain a blog or vlog for useful resources and for anything about your practice that could be of interest to them. In the process, you can get new clients through your website, at times, unexpectedly.
Of course, this comes with a cost – web development, domain, hosting and maintenance but benefits could outrun such cost in this modern online age. Notably, there are more freelance web developers that you can hire for a less costly web development.
2. Get a membership with international accounting association or network
Becoming a member would entail some qualifications and documentations to ensure that your delivery of services is at par with the standards of the international association or network. With these, your practice gets more credibility on such standard that you carry in dealing with your prospects within and outside the organization. Of course, cost is also a factor for joining fee and membership dues that would vary from among them.
With this membership, you get new clients from referrals of the association or network directly or from co-member firms with respect to their clients abroad with Ph existence or prospective operations. In other words, they are marketing your services 24/7 year-round abroad without you knowing it and all you have to do is to give your best quality service as soon as opportunity comes so they would get back with more referrals. The good thing is, most of them would prefer to hire a single firm for their professional firms – set them up in Ph and they would also have you for payroll, accounting, tax compliance, and etc. so much so that we adopted the concept of “one-stop-shop” for professional services to foreign investors for almost all their needs to include HR services, corporate housekeeping, and Ph visa for expatriates, among others, with full consciousness of ethical limitations.
Notably, there are more other corporate consulting firms/groups and accounting firms abroad with no Ph representation that are constantly looking for Ph partners, formally or informally, for their existing clients with Ph set-up or those of their clients or prospects setting-up in Ph. Challenge is on for you to have them and reap the benefits.
3. Be active with organizational membership (professional and non-professional)
Our professional organizations like PICPA and ACPAPP are most recommended for your practice as your active dealings could transform to new clients, on top of other benefits. Active participation with your membership could widen your area, for new opportunities and for personal benefits – being updated, getting to know colleagues, developing connections, and etc.
On personal experience, some new clients are referred by co-member firms/ professionals from these active participations. In same manner, membership with other organizations like charity organizations could give you referrals for new engagements from co-members and others within the circle on top of your personal satisfaction from being involved with charity works and projects.
4. Actively participate in professional social media groups
Social media in our modern world plays an important role on our practice and opportunities could be endless, depending on how you position your practice. This means that you need to put on a professional social media account with your brief profile on practice. But of course, you have to be mindful of our professional ethical considerations on advertising.
When we were starting our practice, I have been very active online – participating with discussions related to practice, promoting our online materials with these groups, and joining other more activities such as meet-ups and charity works. This reminds me of yahoo answers, of question-and-answer platforms on websites, and of LinkedIn groups, among others where I heavily worked in the past. These proved to be useful for our practice as it positioned our online presence in better ranking in the industry and had been continuously a source of new clients.
5. Keep in touch within your circle
As soon as you put-up your practice of profession, new of it would spread as wide as possible within your circle – family, relatives, batchmates in school and in review, previous workmates, colleagues, and the neighborhood. Notably, wherever there is business, there is a need for us practitioners and for all we know, some of those within our circles are into business or have within their circle who is into commerce that would need our services. Keep in touch with them in a way or another, and in whichever medium you can reach them for you may not know, there are just new clients waiting to be in your pipeline.
6. Maximize your client base for other services
I remember an Indian national operating a BPO in the Philippines who related to me that he makes it a habit to visit each of his clients at least once a year for a short chat. In this way, he come to know more of his clients, business plans, and many other things and at times, new opportunities are developed – new work or deeper trust or new referrals from his client’s circle.
For us, adopting the concept of “one-stop-shop” for foreign investors is leaving them a good mark as at times, they prefer dealing with few trusteed service providers so every time they need anything, their first recourse is to contact us for some insights, if not for quotations. In the process, we develop new engagements from existing client base.
7. Power up your personal credentials
As professionals, we offer our personal credentials so enriching it could transform to new opportunities – new clients. Be an author of articles and publications, be a resource speaker on topics related to your practice and you could showcase your qualifications and capabilities to colleagues and prospects.
8. Keep a good circle of friendly firms and practitioners
Personally, we should keep them as allies instead of being competitors. Remember, independence delimit our professional practice so friendly professional interaction with other firms and practitioners could lead you to new clients – their bookkeeping clients as your audit clients and/or vice-versa. At times, they would have opportunities they could not fill in for various reasons – no extra capability or simply, no extra time for them, so they would simply refer you to the work. In these instances, I would recommend your high ethical standards against encroachment. Personally, I would just work on the referral and would alert the other firm/ practitioner should the referred client require other professional work outside the referred engagement. Trust is a great factor here so always be on guard.
Same concept runs with other professionals like lawyers. Litigation lawyers would sometimes need independent CPAs for their court cases – e.g. CTA so having them could be a good source of new clients. In same manner, your clients may need some legal works that you could refer them so you develop a symbiotic relationship with colleagues and other professionals.
As it says, “no man is an island” and our practice is a living example of this. In practice, you cannot be an island so you need to maintain and continuously improve a credible profile, actively show your capability to deliver quality service to clients, and interact to gain new quality clients. We are not a retail store where neighborhood would simply and easily come to buy their needs.
To grow your practice means to be pro-active in your dealings and clients could come from everywhere and anytime so the more interaction you make, the more opportunities you could possibly have that could convert to more new quality clients.
The above ways may apply to you on a case-to-case basis and you can just choose based on your preference as to resources, time and effort. It would seem that the more of those ways you can apply, the better are your chances in getting new quality clients.
Garry Pagaspas, CPA is a currently the Managing and Tax Partner of G. Pagaspas Partners & Co. CPAs (member firm of Allinial Global, 2nd largest accounting association worldwide based on International Accounting Bulletin’s 2021 released survey) based in Makati City with Global Outsourcing office in Kalibo, Aklan. For CY 2022, he is currently the VP Professional Development of ACPAPP Cavite Chapter and Member of ACPAPP Academy. Views in this article is personal to the author, not equivalent to a professional opinion and does not represent that of the organizations he is connected with.
N.B. Similar article originally published at Manila Times – ACPAPP Corner edited to conform with their standards.
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