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On June 26, 2012, the THRIVEal +CPA Network held our June community call. The title of the call was “In the Trenches.” The basic idea behind the call was how do we as firm owners or future firm owners, balance strategic long-term planning for our firms versus paying the bills, or as most THRIVEal members would say “buying groceries and diapers.” How do we balance building the firm that we want against building the firm that we must have right now in order to keep the firm’s lights on? This is a very important topic and one that has been chewed on many times by various THRIVEal members as we attempt to figure out how to build our “Firm of the Future.”

Perhaps the biggest issue at play in the whole discussion and in many THRIVEal related discussions is the issue of “what is our WHY?” Why do we do what we do? Why do we work with the customers we have and why do we hire the team members that we have? Our why should be the central, focusing, and driving force behind each and every thing that we do. The issue of why is where this discussion started and ended.

Part of the issue of client selection and firm development revolves around where in the “growth cycle” we are as an individual and as a firm. If we are at the beginning stages of growth in our firm we may be forced to take on customers that are less than “ideal” for our long term vision, but that will help put bread in our babies’ stomachs today. Whereas, those who are in later “maturity” stages of the “growth cycle” may have the ability to be more selective with their customers, and may be able to pick and choose their customers with a little more scrutiny.

I think that a major problem faced by us “younger” CPAs is the whole issue of wanting to emulate exactly what we see happening in the more powerful and wiser firms run by our mentors and coaches. The reality of the situation, however, is that most of us are not in a place where we should even be looking at these larger firms as a role model for how we should currently be operating our firms. I think that we should look at these more experienced firms in order to learn what did and did not work as they were growing-up, but we should not hold ourselves to the same standards they live by right now, as we are working on starting up our firms.

During the discussion, the topic of big-firm versus small-firm was mentioned as well as the topic of being a generalist versus being a “micro-niche firm.” As firm owners and future firm owners, we need to have a clear vision in mind for the type of firm that we want to build. We have to decide if we want to serve ten $10k clients, or one-hundred $1k clients. We also have to decide if we want to serve everyone no matter the industry or income level, or if we want to make ourselves exclusive by creating a niche in an underserved industry. While these topics were discussed at some length during the call, not one single answer emerged as the “right one.” The reason for this is simple: we all have a different idea of what an ideal firm looks like. We all have individual dreams and goals. We all have a different Why. We are all building a firm, and in the long-run, I think that each and every firm will look different from all of the rest. I think that this is great – I like individuality, and I think that each member of THRIVEal will be able to build something that truly makes them excited about serving their customers each day!

We just have to take the time to have fun as we go through the ups-and-downs of firm development. We need to learn to roll-with-the punches of life and truly put our hearts into building our dreams. Nothing comes easy, especially when it comes down to feeding the family, but the one thing that I know is that as a member of THRIVEal, you will be FORCED to work towards your dream. You will be required to be building towards perfection and when the time comes for you to jump into your “Firm of the Future,” the community will be there holding the net to catch you if you fall. Trust yourself – build something that can change the world.

Michael Elliott is a member of the THRIVEal +CPA Network and is a member of the Cliff Jumpers tribe. You can follow Michael on twitter at @GeaugaCPA.


All THRIVEal Community Calls are available to our tribe members as recordings in Yammer.



Community Call, Guest Post
  • On 06-27-2012 at 3:36 pm, Kevin McCoy said:

    Well done, Michael! I can’t wait to hear the recording of the call, it sounds like a great conversation.

  • On 06-28-2012 at 6:57 am, Michael Elliott said:

    Thanks Kevin! It was a great call and a must-listen!

  • On 07-03-2012 at 11:59 am, Barrett said:

    Good word, guest blogger.

    I think the same can also be said for anywhere where we are different. Some of us are farther along the virtual scale, and some are farther along on the client services scale, and some are further along the social marketing. Anyone who jumps into Thriveal and tries to implement everything at once will quickly get discouraged.

    Thankfully, for the most part, we have kept a community of encouragement and empathy. Most of the frustration I feel is made up in my own head, not imposed upon me by any outer force.


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