THE INITIAL IDEA
SASBA was born out of my frustrations with the CPA profession.
After going into business for myself and developing a successful CPA firm over three years, I probably should have been content. However, I began feeling frustrated and wondered if I was truly making a difference in the lives of my small business clients. I realized my fees were more than my clients could really afford; moreover, they did not even understand the reports the CPA profession required me to give him. Further, clients weren’t receiving vital financial and business consulting to help them succeed in their businesses.
I decided I was going to revolutionize accounting for small businesses by providing meaningful financial records at an affordable price. More importantly, I was going to be able to provide the financial and business consulting services those clients needed at no additional charge.
So I created a business that allowed my clients to gain control of their personal finances to become financially independent.
FROM CFOTODAY TO SASBA
In late 1989 I had something to prove. My idea of providing accounting services to small businesses at affordable rates was well accepted – but everyone told me I couldn’t make a living if I charged the low rates I wanted to charge. They said my idea wouldn’t work.
So I set out to prove them wrong.
Not only would I build a local accounting office using this concept, but I’d create a national accounting franchise called CFOToday.
Although CFOToday was very successful – it became the 2nd largest accounting franchise in America and was rated as high as 250th by Entrepreneur magazine in their annual issue of the Entrepreneur 500 – I saw challenges with the business model which I did not believe could be overcome. These challenges included the effect of the internet, the arrival of QuickBooks, and limited franchisee prospects to allow the explosive growth all franchisors desire.
It was clear that our products and services were not the problem. The main problem was the franchise model itself – upfront franchise fees, ongoing royalties, changing the name of the practice, etc. No accounting franchise has been able to develop a conversion franchise model similar to that of Century 21. With that in mind, we started looking for alternatives to the franchise.
We have come up with what we feel is the perfect model for the accounting profession. We put the pieces together to form SASBA – Society of American Small Business Accountants. We kept the best of CFOToday (support, training, systems, etc.) and eliminated the rest (upfront costs, ongoing costs, name changes, long term contracts).
This model is based upon some of the highly successful businesses in this new economy (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.) that offer free value-added products and services and then make revenue from premium products and other sources such as outsourced recordkeeping and training.
SASBA will now be able to attract CPAs and accountants with an existing practice and clientele – who will then be able to implement (with no out-of-pocket costs) the products, services, and systems that were developed by CFOToday.
WHAT WE CAN DO FOR YOU
I couldn’t have developed SASBA if I hadn’t first gone into business for myself and experienced the ups and downs of a career as a CPA.
After receiving a Masters degree in Accounting in 1973, I began my career with Price Waterhouse in the auditing department. Looking back, I think I knew even on Day 1 that auditing was not what I wanted to do with the rest of my career. Though I enjoyed the atmosphere at PW, my desire to go into business for myself and to be my own boss grew stronger every day.
Maybe you’ve heard the old saying about national accounting firms: “The good quit, the bad get fired, and the mediocre stay and make partner.” I hope that means I was “good,” because I quit and returned to my hometown of Tallahassee, Florida to start my very own CPA practice.
It was an exciting time. You can probably relate to the excitement of renting an office, buying new furniture, setting up that tax library, etc. I enjoyed telling family and friends about the decision.
But if you were like me, you either took money out of your savings or got a home equity loan to finance the initial start-up costs.
I was not prepared for what happened next – my first day of work. I can remember it like it was yesterday, because the realization that I had no clients, no work, and no income hit me like a ton of bricks. And the only thing worse than having no clients was having no marketing strategy to acquire new clients. At the time (early 80s), one of the problems facing Florida CPAs was a law which did not allow CPAs to have face-to-face solicitations for accounting services.
For the first time I thought, “What have I done?”
However, I went on to build the fastest growing CPA firm in the history of Tallahassee. You may be thinking I’m a great salesman, or had great contacts, or picked up a big client. The answer is no, no, and no. I am not a great salesman. In fact, I hate rejection, I don’t like talking on the phone, and I don’t like starting conversations with strangers.
So how did I do it?
I sort of stumbled into the solution for my problem of gaining new clients, which became the inspiration for SASBA’s Referral Marketing Plan.
Shortly after starting my practice, I ran into an old friend who was a manager with New York Life. He knew I was knowledgeable about taxes, so he asked me if I’d be willing to teach a small group of life insurance salesmen a course on taxes so they could pass the tax section of the CLU program. I had more time than I did clients, so I happily agreed to help.
I bonded with all 25 salesmen and became good friends with most of them. However, of the 25 salesmen, probably 15 to 18 never gave me a single referral. Maybe five or six gave me a referral every once in a while. But one or two, it seemed, woke up every morning thinking, “Let me see if I can pick up a new client for John today!” I called these salesmen my “advocates.”
Now at this point, you’re probably saying, “But John, I don’t know anyone from New York Life.”
Don’t worry. This is one of the reasons for the Referral Marketing Plan. Our objective is to help you find at least 10-15 “advocates” to help you build a referral system that will provide you with a consistent flow of new clients – and it starts with your existing clients!