Building a successful technology practice doesn't need to be intimidating, time consuming or costly for a CPA firm. In fact, with careful planning and analysis, the addition of appropriate technology services can enhance your existing practice and generate additional revenue.
The most efficient way to get started is to ask the following:
- What is the nature of our firm?
- What are our existing capabilities?
- Who is our client base?
- What services would be most appropriate for that client base?
The nature and scope of your technology practice for the first couple of years should be completely compatible with your responses to these questions. Remember that you, as a CPA, represent a respected confidante and advisor. Focus on your existing clients by determining by individual evaluation who is in need of, or may already be searching for, automation services. If you have planned properly, you will have both the individuals and other resources to accomplish these automation projects, and your up-front investment for staff training and marketing expenditures will be minimized.
Your technology practice should be a reflection of your firm. For example, a small firm of less than 10 professionals may not have the staff to support a dedicated technology practice. Along with a sole practitioner, a small firm might best be served by a strategic alliance with an independent technology firm or individual contractors. As the service provider, you can then decide how to introduce personnel and bill for these services.
Your technology practice should also be a reflection of your client base. If your clients are mostly individuals or small businesses, concentrate on learning and supporting low-end accounting and financial software packages. Stay focused and don't concern yourself with trying to become familiar with too many packages. Rather, position yourself to offer a unique and desirable service you can comfortably bill clients for. For example, consider becoming a QuickBooks Certified Professional or gaining another technology related certification. Obtaining a certification will enable you to provide authorized implementation and/or training services for a specific technology. If you select this approach, choose your vendor wisely, paying attention to the quality of the product, commitment to the marketplace, market share, and the up-front cost to become authorized in your chosen product line.
If your clients are larger manufacturing or distribution firms with more sophisticated or specialized needs, a similar analysis holds true for high-end accounting and financial software packages. Before committing your technology practice to a specific package, thorough research is essential. For more expensive packages, you also may be required to purchase a dealer reference library, maintain a minimum annual level of sales, and attend certain certification programs at your own expense.
When researching a more expensive software package, look for flexibility and the ability to integrate directly with outside third-party applications.
Lastly, your technology practice should be a reflection of who you are. Are you an experienced computer professional as well as a CPA? Or are you a computer novice who simply doesn't want to miss out on an opportunity? The main benefit of building a technology practice is to provide your clients with services they already want and need. Initially, marketing might be an announcement to your existing clients, outlining the formation of the new technology group, along with some carefully chosen networking. The ultimate success of your technology practice will be a reflection of your ability to follow through with the services you offer, and that ability will depend upon a correct assessment of your individual capabilities in combination with the strength of your strategic alliances.