“I turned to BuildYourFirm (www.buildyourfirm.com) to help develop the firm’s website, social media strategy and coaching in practice management,” Scott said. “This helped me create a website and a platform for providing fresh content, business-focused articles, planning tools and calculators that visitors find useful, and which can lead to them seeking the firm’s services.” The site also includes portal functions that allow him and his clients greater collaboration options, including securely transferring files and accessing documents.
Another key element of the website’s design was using strong search engine optimization techniques. SEO is essentially the science of online marketing, helping to make the site more likely to be found near the top of search results to a target audience. In Scott’s case, this is small and mid-sized businesses in particular industries that are around the Philadelphia area. When they perform searches using key phrases that involve accounting, tax and business consulting, there’s a good chance his Kregel & Company CPA website will be among the early results. They also use more traditional forms of marketing, including direct mail.
Has this strategy worked? The proof is in the books: Since its founding in mid-2009, the practice has grown to more than 50 business clients and more than 120 individual returns, with the bulk of revenue coming from tax planning and compliance. The firm, which now has a staff of four full- and part-time professionals, also serves clients from outside the area, including remotely managing the U.S. accounting operations for an Australian company. This growth is not without its own challenges, however.
“At first, when you’re the only one in the firm, you own every client relationship and all outreach. But as the client load builds and you add new staff, it can be difficult to transition some of those day-to-day relationships. But this is essential to smart growth, since it frees up time that lets me better manage processes and workflow, which leads to greater productivity and a better service and value to our clients.”
In addition to the firm’s online marketing and social media strategies, Scott’s technological savvy has led to the use of many web-based programs that allow for remote access, and he uses triple-screen monitors. He sees great opportunity in developing the practice with cloud-based technologies. The firm scored a 248 on the Productivity Survey (www.CPAPracticeAdvisor.com/productivity), a free online tool from CPA Practice Advisor that helps firms assess their use of technology and workflow processes.
The online technologies he uses for work and marketing his firm also help him to spend more time with his family. “When I want or need to, I can stay and work from home or stay connected while traveling to visit out-of-town family. With the software and technology in place, I usually spend about 25 to 30 hours actually in the office.” Much of his time is spent with clients or working from coffee shops, and the actual amount of time he spends “working,” depends on how you count it, he says.
“Every time you’re in a conversation with someone, you’re projecting something about yourself and the firm. I am very aware of these interactions and work hard to communicate a warm, relational and professional image in each occasion. And I’m always checking email, researching and keeping up with strategies, and using social media. Night, day, all the time. It’s a pace and lifestyle that works for me; it’s how I’m wired.”
Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, where his father was managing partner in a CPA practice with 50 staff members, Scott met his wife Amy while the two were at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. The two soon settled in Pennsylvania while she was finishing a graduate degree at Lehigh University. Scott later earned his Masters in Taxation from Villanova University in 2002.
When he and his wife aren’t chasing down or transporting their three children, ages 3, 8 and 10, to various events, they like to travel, including visiting family in Michigan, Florida, Minnesota and Missouri. Scott is also a marathoner, having competed in seven full 26.2 mile events, with a best time of 3:02.
“Being a CPA is an important profession that is rewarding. I am having a blast seeing other innovative CPA firms begin to shape our profession in ways that make smart use of technology and provide greater confidence and peace of mind to small business owners. We can focus our energy on strengthening the close relationships we have with the people who are running businesses and help them build and realize their dreams for their businesses. That’s an important role that goes beyond just business, but into personal trust and friendship.”