From the Dec. 2006 Issue
When it comes to his small business owner clients, Christian Brim speaks their
language. Not only because, like most CPAs, he is also a small business owner,
but because small business is more or less in his blood.
Several generations of his family have been small business owners, including
his father, who ran an oilfield services company. In fact, oil may also be in
Christian’s blood, with his father, grandfather and several other relatives
working in and around the field. Christian had other ambitions, however, and
struck out on a different path.
His first thought was engineering or applied mathematics, but after entering
the University of Oklahoma, he changed his major and eventually graduated with
a degree in accounting. Then, after passing the CPA exam, it was off to the
professional world where Christian worked in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa offices
of Deloitte & Touche. After three years there, he just didn’t see
the large firm environment as a good fit, so he struck out on his own. In addition
to his CPA credentials, Christian is also a Certified Management Accountant
At about the same time, one of the largest global non-U.S. firms was looking
at the North American market and opted for a franchise approach. Christian took
one of the first franchises in the region and, over the past 10 years, has grown
Fiducial-Oklahoma (www.FiducialOK.com), a financial and tax consultancy, from
zero clients to a staff of about a dozen with offices in Oklahoma City and Tulsa
and about 300 business clients, ranging from service and manufacturing companies
to retail and wholesale concerns. Additionally, there are several hundred individual
clients who are primarily related to those businesses.
With the strong growth of the practice, Christian is quick to point out that
the success they have had is because of the team approach they have in their
practice and not solely because of himself. “Everyone here is an expert
at what they do, so everything we have accomplished is because of the efforts
of our whole team,” he said, “not because of one individual.”
Although the practice is a franchise of an international firm with backend
support and processing centers, Christian and his staff manage and perform all
of the services for their clients with none of the data leaving their control.
And instead of using the company’s proprietary software, Fiducial-Oklahoma
has implemented a single integrated accounting suite that includes secure client
access portals and remote, “virtual office” capabilities. This technology
has simplified the interaction between the firm’s primary office in Oklahoma
City and its additional location in Tulsa, which is run by Christian’s
younger brother and partner, Nathan Brim. The methods and technologies the firm
has implemented earned the practice a Productivity Score of 385, which is well
above the national average and exceptional when compared to the firm’s
regional peers. More on the free Productivity Survey is available at www.cpatechadvisor.com/productivity.
Fiducial-Oklahoma’s core clients and those they actively prospect, are
generally businesses with around 10 employees and revenues in excess of $1,000,000,
similar to his practice. But even with that in common, he says that it is sometimes
difficult to get those entrepreneurs to understand the importance of strategic
planning and effective capital management. Additionally, getting them to adapt
more effective business processes can be a challenge. “As a business advisor,
of course you want to see your client succeed, just as a parent wants his children
to succeed,” Christian says. “And if we lose a client because they
have outgrown us, well, that is as much a sign of our success as it is of theirs.”
Of course, getting them to adapt can be a big part of whether a business lasts.
“Accountants as a whole are resistant to change, but our firm has succeeded
because we’ve adopted the right technology,” Christian said. “Other
small business owners are also often hesitant to change, especially when it
comes to technology. But as we’ve rolled out client portals and other
systems, those who’ve tried it now see the great benefit to them and their
business. It’s just a matter of getting them to look for, and recognize,
that there can be a better way of doing things than how they’re doing
In addition to offering planning and consulting, the practice also provides
traditional write-up, bookkeeping and tax compliance services, as well as full
payroll processing and QuickBooks consulting. They have been very successful
at bundling their services, resulting in very few single-service clients. “We
want it all or nothing,” Christian said, regarding potential client work.
As much as Christian loves his practice and being a small business owner,
he doesn’t let it govern him, either in what aspects of client work he
performs or the hours he keeps at work. “There are a lot of things in
accounting that I don’t like,” he said. “That’s why
I don’t really think of myself as an accountant.” Fortunately, he
says, the parts of accounting he doesn’t like to do are the same things
that his brother and wife Stacey are very good at. Stacey, who has a background
in human resources and business administration, has recently joined the firm.
One of the more commendable attributes that Christian possesses is his ability
to leave work behind at the office, something not many entrepreneurs, whether
accountants or other small business owners, are often able to do so easily.
Sure, he once used his country club membership as a place to take clients and
prospects on the weekends, but he discontinued the membership because now the
hours after 5 p.m. during the workweek as well as the weekend are family time,
not client time.
The time is now mostly spent on soccer games, basketball, school functions
and the many other activities that Christian and Stacey’s three children,
ages six to 12, are involved in. Aside from spending as much time as he can
with his wife and kids, he has a few other interests that keep him occupied.
Of course, being an alumnus of the University of Oklahoma, he is a big fan
of Sooner football and basketball. Also, a resurgent interest in his Native
Choctaw heritage has driven him to start learning the language. He and his family
are also active in their church and with Skyline Urban Ministries, a group that
provides meals and clothing for the homeless and less fortunate families in
Oklahoma City, including a coat drive for area children.
Christian and his family are also able to occasionally get away on vacations,
most recently a dual-purpose trip to Orlando where Christian attended a technology
user conference but spent seven days with his family beforehand visiting the
many parks. “I got blisters on my feet in places I didn’t know could
get them,” he said.
They also have recently been to Taos, New Mexico, and he and Stacey traveled
more extensively prior to becoming parents. They hope to take their children
to Europe “when they get a little older and can appreciate it.”
At only 36, retirement should be a far away thought, and while perhaps the
word retirement is, a mid-life change of career is something he sees himself
enjoying. “I’d really like to coach high school football and teach,
maybe history or physical science.” Ordinarily, this would seem a big
change for an accountant, but remember, Christian doesn’t consider himself