How to Compete with the “Big Boys”

TaxCoach members tend to be lone wolves. That doesn’t mean you work alone – most of you have at least some administrative staff, and several of you run big offices with a dozen or more working on the premises. But very few of you work for the large local firms, the 50-person firms that so many business owners look up to as the “gold standard” of accountants.

Those big independent firms – ranking just below the Big Four and other national firms in local presence – have worked hard to build their reputations as solid, trustworthy, and safe to do business with. Who could fault a CFO or business owner for choosing Arthur Anderson (at least, until Enron)?

TaxCoach members operating smaller practices understand they can’t compete on size or offer the same sort of credibility. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t compete. They just have to find a way to outmaneuver the bigger firms. And that’s certainly possible. Remember what happened when that asteroid hit Chicxulub, 66 million years ago? The dinosaurs died off, and the tiny little mammals scampering around underfoot grew to dominate the earth.

So how do you compete? It’s easier than you think. Remember the “magic question” we tell you to ask all your prospects? Just try it with the “big firm” clients:

“When was the last time your stuffy big-firm CPA came to you and said ‘Here’s an idea I think will save you money?’”

The answer will probably be the same as when you ask anyone else’s clients: “never.”

At the risk of overgeneralizing here, big-firm tax pros tend to be very conservative – more interested in reducing risk and eliminating liability than they are in reducing taxes and eliminating waste. That cautious attitude manifests itself in less proactive planning and advice than clients think they’re getting.

The white-shoe firms offer smaller clients another disadvantage. Most of the work is performed by entry-level staffers who don’t have the expertise or experience to offer the sort of proactive planning that lies at the heart of TaxCoach. (Many of you may remember being that entry-level staffer yourself!) Worse yet, the tax prep work may be outsourced to foreign staffers who wouldn’t be in a position to offer proactive planning even if they wanted to!

So the key to competing against the big boys is the same as competing against anyone else – demonstrate superior value by showing the client how much you can save them!

Here’s a comment from yesterday’s Member Call-In that hits the nail right on the head:

“This tax season we have picked up several new clients from some of the bigger firms in our area. This is due to my books, seminars, and the reputation we have for taking the time to explain things to clients in a way they can understand. This has resulted in some very nice new clients/tax plans! They are excited when I tell them I think they are overpaying their taxes. I then ask the new client when was the last time the big firm shared ideas with them on how to save money on their taxes. They always say – ‘never.’”

Diane Gardner, EA, CTC
Rathdrum, ID

And here’s a similar story from a member who left a three-partner firm when his own desire to add proactive planning hit a brick wall:

“Today, 3/16/2016, is the 6 year anniversary of CincyTaxCoach. Thank you Ed, Keith, and Lisa for the support, encouragement, and friendship. Thank you to the TaxCoach members who have assisted along the way as well.”

Mike McCormick, CPA, CTC
Cincinnati, OH

There’s no reason you can’t compete with the biggest firms in your area – even the Big Four. Your prospects already know that you’re different. You just have to show them you’re different in a better way, and you’ll be delighted with the results you get.