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On Your Own!: How to Start Your Own CPA Firm, 2nd Edition


Going solo doesn’t have to be a game of trial and error. Careful planning can make it one of the most rewarding decisions of your accounting career. Now in its second edition and revised by author Brannon Poe, this book leads new solo practitioners through each stage of creating your own firm, bringing your vision to reality, and nurturing your practice to make that reality a success.

Follow each of the book’s five parts as it takes you chronologically from start to success. Each chapter is rich with strategies as well as stimulating follow-up questions that will help you define your goals and plans, drawing you to careful consideration of important factors such as:

  • Creating concise mission and vision statements
  • Establishing goals, standards, attitude, and skills that reflect a successful practitioner
  • Anticipating financial needs
  • Defining family involvement
  • Shifting from employee to owner
  • Understanding potential stumbling blocks
  • Advancing your practice with a specialty
  • Deciding whether to buy a practice
  • Choosing a form of organization for your practice
  • Building client relationships
  • Keeping a focus on the future
  • And much more!

Brennon Poe is a licensed CPA with nearly 20 years of professional experience and the author of The Accountant’s Flight Plan. An experienced intermediary with a singular focus on accounting practice brokerage, Brennon has a unique ability to help creatively integrate information to develop clear-focused plans. He helps clients implement these plans to achieve their most important goals.

Brennon began his career in public accounting as an auditor with Ernst & Young before working for several years in auditing and tax preparation for the regional firm of Elliott, Davis & Company. Subsequently, Brennon became a shareholder in a privately held, family-owned business and a founding shareholder in a successful start-up manufacturing company. This breadth of experience − with companies large and small − has helped Brannon excel in efficiently and effectively facilitating hundreds of successful practice transitions.

Brannon makes his home in Charleston, SC, with his wife and three children. Away from the office, he enjoys competitive racquetball, boating, and fishing.

Introduction to the Second Edition 1

Introduction to the First Edition 3

Part I Why Start Your Own Practice? 5

1 Making the Decision 7

Control 8

Financial Gain 8

Lifestyle and Family Support 10

Entrepreneurial Spirit 11

Personal Growth 11

Questions 12

2 Creating Your Vision 13

Freestyle Writing 13

Concise Mission and Vision Statements 14

Developing a Mission Statement 15

Developing a Vision Statement 16

Practical Uses 16

Questions 17

3 Profile of a Successful Sole Practitioner 19

Academic and Professional Experience 19

Well-Defined Goals and Standards 20

Work Skills and Habits 22

Communication Skills 23

Positive Attitude and Professional Demeanor 24

Questions 25

Part II Early Decisions 27

4 Critical Considerations 29

Managing Time 29

Anticipating Financial Needs 33

Addressing Competition and Economic Determiners 34

Initial Client Base 34

Shifting From Employee to Owner 36

Family Involvement 36

Understanding Potential Stumbling Blocks 37

Insufficient Client Base 37

Partner Mismatch 38

Practice Acquisition 38

Questions 38

5 Generalist or Specialist? 41

The Changing Accounting Field 41

Beginning as a Generalist 43

Advancing Your Practice With a Specialty 44

Industry or Service Specialty? 45

Defining Your Target Market 46

Questions 47

6 To Buy or Not to Buy? 49

Advantages of Buying a Practice 49

Matching Considerations 51

Risks in Buying a Practice 52

Risk Number One: Employees 52

Risk Number Two: Client List Weighted Toward One Major Client 53

Risk Number Three: Buyer Apathy 53

Finding a Practice to Buy 54

Striking the Deal 54

Facilitating the Transition Between Seller and Buyer 56

Maintaining Objectivity 57

Questions 57

7 Which Form of Organization for Your Practice? 59

Sole Proprietorship 59

Partnership 60

Loose Association (Office-Sharing Arrangement) 61

LLCs, LLPs, and Professional Corporations 62

Practice Continuation Agreements 64

Questions 65

Part III Setting Up a Practice 67

8 Choosing an Office Location 69

Locating to Serve Your Target Market 70

Working From Your Home 71

Executive Suite Rental 73

Renting Individual Office Space 75

Determining the Amount of Space Needed 75

Defining the Necessary Amenities 76

Determining How Much to Pay 76

Questions 77

9 Financing Your Business 79

Developing a Business Plan 80

9 Financing Your Business--continued Forecasting Your Financial Needs 81

Revenue Goals 81

Estimating Initial Key Costs 82

Living Expenses 84

Borrowing Money From Conventional Sources 85

Borrowing Money From Unconventional Sources 86

Postponing Going Solo 88

Questions 88

10 Operational Issues 89

Measuring Important Results 90

Staffing Your Practice 92

Furnishing and Equipping Your Office 94

Using Technology to Your Advantage 95

Developing Personnel Policies 96

Anticipating Quality Control Needs 97

Establishing Good Life/Work Balance Habits 97

Questions 99

Part IV Practice Development and Client Management 101

11 Building Your Practice 103

Marketing 104

Converting Clients From Your Previous Firm 104

Website Promotion 105

Social Networking 105

Traditional Networking 106

Capturing Referrals 107

Direct Mail 107

Telephone Marketing 108

E-mail Marketing 108

Writing and Speaking 109

Publications 109

Seminars 109

Sales 110

Questions 114

12 Building and Nurturing Client Relationships 115

Engagement Letters 116

Pricing Services Properly 117

Difficult or Undesirable Clients 118

12 Building and Nurturing Client Relationships--continued Handling Concerns About Scope of Services 120

Managing Clients When You Make a Mistake 121

Being Choosy About Clients 123

Pricing, Billing, and Collections 126

Making the Most of Client Meetings 126

Generating Referrals Through Your Best Client Relationships 129

Questions 130

13 About the Price 131

Creating Expectations 131

Overcoming Fee Resistance 133

Controlling Your Own Efficiency 135

Client Circumstances Affect the Value of Your Service 137

Deciding on the Specific Amounts 137

Special Concessions to Start-Up Businesses 138

Questions 139

14 Getting Paid 141

Require Upfront Payment 142

Managing Accounts Receivable 143

Questions 145

Part V Anticipating the Future 147

15 Staying Sharp--Nurturing Your Development 149

Professional and Technical Reading 149

Continuing Education 150

Conferences, Meetings, and Seminars 150

Professional Organizations 151

Other Forms of Professional and Personal Expression 151

Questions 152

16 Been There, Done That--Advice From Successful CPAs 153

Epilogue 157

Appendix Page

A Engagement Letters 159

B Sample Business Plan and Loan Proposal 177

C FAST-PLUS Exercise 189

D Client Evaluation Questionnaire 195

E Lease Checklist 199

F AICPA Resources for Sole Practitioners and Small Firms 205