Five Steps to Your Dream Practice

Yesterday afternoon, during our weekly Member Call-In, a member from Seattle asked a question that many of you are asking right now, especially those of you north of the Mason-Dixon line:

“During tax season, knee deep in tax preparation, I dream about relocating. If a tax coach started in a new town, what five-point plan would you recommend to establish a new practice?”

After the call, I got to thinking just how appropriate that question was, especially now in the middle of tax/cold/flu season. Is there a formula for building a dream practice?

The question is relevant whether you’re actually interested in relocating or not. While many of our members are just establishing their practices, many more are looking to reinvent existing practices that have grown haphazardly over the years. What does it take to build that dream practice?

Here’s my five-part plan:

  1. Decide What You Want to Do. The first step is to decide exactly what sort of work your dream practice involves. Do you like preparing taxes? Compiling financial statements? Consulting with business owners? Duking it out with the IRS? Managing investments? You also want to think about what you want your practice to look like. Do you like hiring and managing staff? If so, you can leverage them to build volume and offer ongoing services like payroll and writeup. If not, perhaps you’ll be happier with a “boutique” practice, serving a smaller number of higher-value clients.

    Regardless of your preferences, or how you manage your practice, if you don’t like the day-to-day work you do, you’re not going to wake up energized to do it.

  2. Decide Who Values That Work. Your next step is to target a market that wants and values the work you want to do. We’ve talked before about the value of targeting markets. My point here today is choosing one that wants and values the work you want to do—not just a one that’s easy to reach or pays the bills.

  3. Craft a Message to Attract That Market. This one is easy. I don’t care if you’re looking for business owners, professionals, young families, or retirees. They all hate paying taxes. I don’t care if you’re in a red state, a blue state, a border state, or a swing state. They all hate paying taxes. I don’t care if they’re black, white, young, old, or my friend’s kid with the hangover I wrote about last week. They all hate paying taxes!The only challenge, such that it is, is customizing your message for your target market. You’d focus on different skills and strategies for real estate agents than you would for retirees. So you need to understand your market’s unique challenges and frustrations. Make them feel the pain of wasting money of taxes they don’t have to pay. Then offer yourself as the remedy for that pain. That’s how you attract clients.

  4. Figure Out How to Present That Message. This is the hardest step. Once you’ve targeted your market and crafted your message, what’s the best way to deliver that message to your target market? Is it large enough to merit direct mail? Do they congregate in groups, like chambers of commerce or trade associations? Can you reach them through networking groups like BNI? Test as many ways as you can to reach them. Measure your results to see which ones give you the ROI you need.

  5. Work It, Baby! Implement Step 4 and work your plan until you reach your goal. In the words of the immortal Greek philosopher Nike: “Just do it!”

I wish I could give you “one thing” to use over and over until you build that practice. (Actually, I wish I could sell it to you—I could charge a fortune!) But in the real world, it’s not that easy, for you or for me.

The good news is, if you do your homework—decide what you really want to do, target the right market, and craft the right message to attract them—then Steps 4 and 5 become just a numbers game. You’ll “work them” knowing you’ve positioned yourself perfectly to attract the clients you want to work with and given yourself the best shot at winning them.

Are you frustrated with a knee-deep pile of tax returns right now? Are you dreaming of reinventing your practice? If so, don’t just nod your head, put down this article, and resolve to do “something” about it later. Grab your calendar, now, and schedule a time to review it right after “the season.” (I say Monday, April 20, at 3pm your time. Seriously.) Invite your spouse, your staff, or whomever you “brainstorm” with to discuss it with you. Plan to listen with an open mind. And see where that discussion leads.

You’ve all heard Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” If you really want to build your dream practice, you can’t settle for business as usual. Getting there might not be easy—but you can do it, with the right plan and the right support. And I know that once you do it, you’ll be glad you did.