How One Firm is Helping Bring Jobs and Money to the U.S.
From the May 2012 Issue.
In real estate, one of the main mantras is, “location, location, location.” With remote technologies allowing greater communication between accounting professionals and their clients, the physical location is gradually becoming less important, at least for some practice models. There is another axiom, however, that still applies to virtually any type of business: Timing, timing, timing.
In retrospect, perhaps timing isn’t all that critical, either, as long as you know what you’re doing. In 2005, after working at small and large regional firms for nearly ten years, including in the international taxation department of a 120 member practice, Joey Brannon, CPA, found he had the resources, the opportunity and the courage to open his own practice, Axiom CPA, P.A. (www.axiomcpa.com) in the Gulf Coast city of Bradenton, Florida.
Fortunately, his specialty didn’t focus on real estate or construction-focused clients, because within the next year, the mortgage crisis hit Florida with a vengeance. However, the economic downturn did open up opportunities for international businesses exploring opening U.S. locations. Since he had strong experience in this area Joey’s, the new firm quickly thrived and he hired his first staff member within weeks, and another less than six months later.
Joey’s strategy for the practice started with the name. “Self-naming a firm can limit your growth and eventual exit strategy,” he said. “This may or may not be what I do for the rest of my career, so having a distinct name for the practice makes it easier to add additional partners, or to sell it when the time comes.”
He initially started with a client that he’d worked with at his previous firm, buying the client from that practice and transitioning from the hourly billing model to a value-based structure. Today, Axiom has a full-time staff of four serving a client base of more than 80 businesses. In addition to Joey, they are business manager, bookkeeping and payroll expert Patty Crunk, financial analyst Mandy Richardson, and Robbie Harvey, a recent graduate of the University of South Florida who will be sitting for the CPA exam soon.
Through mobile and remote access technologies, notably his iPad and laptops, the firm could be completely virtual but does maintain a physical office in Bradenton. Although he notes that he often never meets some of his clients in person and not many clients actually come to the office, “a physical location still adds credibility and permanence in the eyes of both clients and firm staff.”
In addition to using remote technologies within the practice, the firm generally prefers clients that are using SaaS or hosted accounting and business management systems, because that enables Joey and the staff to have real-time access to business data. This results in better planning and realization of client goals, and with a corresponding use of portals, they have better and more efficient client communications. For those not already using such systems, clients are referred to local ASP provider Sun Coast Business Technologies (www.suncoastbiztech.com).
With this strong focus on technology and workflow practices, Axiom scored a 422 on the Productivity Survey (www.CPAPracticeAdvisor.com/productivity), a free online assessment tool for small firms that helps measure and benchmark their use of technology and workflow processes.
Axiom specializes in business consulting and strategic planning, tax and compliance, and virtual CFO services. These advisory roles are especially valued by the close to one third of the firm’s clients that are international concerns, for which Joey and his staff help develop and manage their wholly-owned subsidiaries here in the States, along with tax compliance issues that foreign companies have little experience with.