Embracing the Practice of Referring

As the designated contact for the first call from people looking for accounting services, I talk to a lot of folks who have never engaged a CPA before but think they need one now.

It’s fun!  Usually I get to hear about people doing new and exciting things.  They’re starting a business or buying an empire, and they are looking for professional support.

While we talk, I try to find out what accounting services would help the person calling and how Sterck Kulik O’Neill is a good fit for them. Sure,  we’re looking for new clients.  But, we want people to engage us when it makes sense for them.

I’ve discovered new business owners — especially those who have never run a business before — often really have no accounting tasks for an accountant to do!  They say that someone told them they needed a CPA and they want to talk about financial issues.  So, we talk some more about what information they want.

When the business owner is looking for help setting up accounting systems, support in managing their finances, help doing due diligence for a purchase, or taking other action that has a spot for a professional accountant, I set up a meeting for them with a partner to talk about an engagement.

But, I also know that money is tight for new businesses.  If the owners just want to talk with an experienced person about what they’re planning, I offer them two options.

  • They can meet with a partner for an hour or more for a development consultation.  We work a lot with established businesses to grow their profits, and we can provide hourly support that helps someone just starting out.
  • They can contact their local office of SCORE. SCORE is a non-profit organization with offices across the country.  They provide a free one-hour consultation for new entrepreneurs and they offer many free or low-cost seminars on business basics.

I usually suggest that they go to SCORE first, even if it means we’ll miss a hour of consultation.

SCORE San Francisco logo

We want people to get good value for their money when we work for them, and SCORE’s price of FREE is a good one for a new business.  The advisors at SCORE can talk about their personal experiences, how they set up their QuickBooks, how they paid estimated taxes, and how they handled rent, utilities, payroll, and other nuts and bolts issues.

We are not in competition with SCORE, and I am happy to refer people to them when it’s appropriate.  In fact, SCORE is just one of several organizations and businesses I suggest to people when they’ve call us to talk about accounting.

I like that Sterck Kulik O’Neill doesn’t try to get everyone to sign up for their services.  When it’s a good fit, I’ll encourage a prospective client to meet with a partner.  And, I am happy to have the freedom to suggest more appropriate solutions when someone doesn’t need our services TODAY.

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