Initially, Bill was a sole practitioner, and his early clients were directly in the primary specialties he’d developed over his career, managing corporate taxation, including FAS 109 and FIN 48 accounting for a few large companies, one a $500 million publicly traded medical services enterprise. He soon branched out into offering tax and accounting services to smaller, owner-managed businesses, partnerships and individual taxation.
His practice grew quickly, no doubt a result of his extensive large company taxation expertise with the large firms and his co-writing of a book with Bill Russell, which was published annually by KPMG/Prentice Hall/RIA from 1994 until 2000. He continues in an educational role by giving annual tax updates at the North American Petroleum Accounting Conference and through CPE classes for the Professional Development Institute.
Having this kind of experience in a small practice was valuable. “I have the perspective of working for a large international accounting firm with big companies, but I enjoy working for a small firm that provides lots of personal attention to my clients. My tag line is ‘Big firm experience, small firm attention.’”
Bill knew, however, that building a successful accounting firm required more than retaining a couple of large clients who might restructure or bring outsourced functions back in-house. It’s the eggs in one basket principle. But having essentially only worked for global firms since his graduation from Baylor 20 years earlier, the other areas of practice were more challenging.
“Coming from a big firm background, I didn’t really know how a small firm operated in terms of day-to-day client service, technology, management and other issues. So I built the firm the way I thought it should be and turned to a network of peers in other specialty areas that help each other by sharing practical experience.” This network holds monthly roundtables, drawing up to 70 professionals, who discuss various taxation areas, technology and practice management guidance. The CPE-eligible events are organized by Lonnie Morris, a CPA from nearby Plano.
His belief in networking also extends to his online life, which led him to be an early adopter of social networking tools and blogging. “Twitter is finally becoming more mainstream among accountants, which is really helpful to small practices because it gives them the ability to expand their expertise,” he said. His Twitter name is @TaxMan45; his blog is at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“When I was at the large firms, we had resources throughout the organization that we could turn to for advice on virtually any accounting or taxation matter. But small firms traditionally haven’t had that kind of instant accessibility, until Twitter and other social networking sites grew to allow rapid collaboration between users with different specialties who are not in direct competition with each other. So now if a potential client calls up and needs an NFP audit, something I don’t necessarily have expertise in, I can reach out to my local and online peers for guidance.”
Bill is also a technology and gadget lover, in general, having long followed jkontherun.com, which was one of the early mobile technology blogs. His current favorite toys include his iPhone 4 and iPad, which he uses with a MiFi personal wireless hotspot and LogMeInIgnition to remotely access his office computers and client work.
“I know I work a lot already, and these remote tools allow me to work even more, but part of enjoying your job is having fun while you do it, and for me that means having a fun computer and apps that keep me entertained and active.”
With one daughter now working as a petroleum engineer and the youngest starting college at the University of North Texas, Bill is able to spend more time with his wife Liz, who also works with him at the practice. The two enjoy spending time at what Liz calls their “lake cottage,” which is located on Lake Cypress Springs in northeast Texas, an area that has limited wireless accessibility, giving him time to unplug with fishing, boating and playing the guitar. The family also gets together for vacations, most recently to France. “We took the girls to Paris in June for a big old-fashioned ‘Griswold family vacation.’ It was a hoot.”