A Great Practices Feature
Firm Profiled: Lawhorn CPA Group, Inc.
Jason Lawhorn, CPA.CITP, president & CEO of Lawhorn CPA Group, Inc.
Change Begins at Home
Jason Lawhorn is a small firm owner with a big vision — to expand the Lawhorn CPA Group brand cross country. After transitioning his firm to a virtual environment a few years back, he realized the potential for significant growth.
“With a virtual system in place, scalability was unlimited,” explained Jason Lawhorn, CPA.CITP, and president and CEO of Lawhorn CPA Group, Inc. “We were no longer confined by geography and time. We could set up shop anywhere.”
Soon after adopting new technology, Lawhorn realized the need to update and standardize his firm’s existing processes. By standardizing workflow across all tasks, it not only increased efficiencies in his own firm, but also offered a blueprint that could be duplicated in firms acquired by Lawhorn CPA Group.
“When we first implemented Thomson’s Virtual Office suite, things were a bit clunky,” Lawhorn began. “But it wasn’t because of the technology; it was because our processes were outdated. We thoroughly evaluated our procedures and updated them to work in harmony with the technology. You can’t shoehorn in new technology and just expect efficiency to improve.”
With standardized processes in place, efficiency was at an all-time high. This allowed Lawhorn to also replace the firm’s hourly billing model with value pricing. “When your firm runs at peak productivity, you are well positioned to charge based on the value of your services. It’s a model I highly recommend to all firms willing to implement a standardized and streamlined system.”
Around the time he was taking his firm virtual, Lawhorn recalled reading an eye-opening article. It stated that more than 75 percent of all licensed CPAs will reach retirement age in the next 10 years. Based on this statistic, Lawhorn saw both an opportunity to expand his firm through acquisitions and preserve this massive brain trust.
“With so many practitioners coming up on retirement, who will be there to teach the troops of young professionals? That was my first thought,” Lawhorn recalled. “My second thought was: How can we preserve this pool of experience?”
In response, Jason and his partner (and father), Jeff Lawhorn, devised a plan to expand their firm cross-country while also extending the professional lifecycle of pre-retirement tax and accounting professionals.
The Plan — A New Business Model & Brand
With the home firm running like a well-oiled machine, Lawhorn was ready to launch his expansion plan. The first step was to re-brand. Formerly Lawhorn & Associates, PLLC, the firm was renamed Lawhorn CPA Group, Inc. The new name served to re-establish the small firm as a larger incorporated entity. It also set up the Knoxville-based practice as the Parent, under which acquired firms are co-branded.
Jim Greene CPA, PC, located in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, was the first firm branded under the Parent name. The firm is now marketed as Lawhorn Green CPA Group, Inc.
“Applying the new name and logo creates consistency with our brand and promotes cohesiveness among firms in the Lawhorn network.”
Beyond smart branding tactics, the naming convention also supports Lawhorn’s unique business acquisition model, which he described as “subsidiary dual-ownership.”
“What we have developed is a very different model for firm acquisition. It’s not about just buying a firm and taking over the client base. We want owners to maintain an interest in the firm, help us grow it, and stay in the profession so that expertise is not lost.”
Lawhorn recognized early on that most practitioners don’t really want to retire altogether. Most would like to continue working with clients at a higher consulting level, but find themselves consistently weighted down with administrative and compliance work.