FOR CPA (certified public accountant) practitioners and firms, getting new and quality clients is a challenge that applies not only to the early stage of the practice but also moving forward. We started as a nobody in the industry but somehow grew our practice to what it is now. Accordingly, let me share my personal thoughts, if not experience, on ways to get clients in keeping with professional standards. This may not be all-inclusive but I hope you get something out of it:
Set up a decent website. As humans, we only have a few hours a day to work while a website works 24/7 year-round, showcasing your credentials, relevant achievements, services and all other things about your practice. With more advanced functionalities, you can add a chat box or messaging module. You can maintain a blog or vlog as well for useful resources and anything about your practice that could be of interest.
Of course, this comes with a cost — web development, domain, hosting and maintenance — but the benefits can outrun such. Notably, there are freelance web developers that you can hire to reduce the cost.
Join an international accounting association/network. Becoming a member will entail some qualifications and documentation to ensure that your services are at par with the international association or network's standards. With joining, your practice gets more credibility. Cost, of course, remains a factor.
Membership can get you new clients from referrals of the association or network or from co-members with respect to clients abroad with a local existence or prospective operations. The good thing is most of them will prefer to hire a single firm — set them up in the country and they will also hire you for payroll, accounting, tax compliance, etc., so much so that we adopted the "one-stop shop" concept.
There are corporate consulting firms/groups and accounting firms abroad with no local representation that are constantly looking for Philippine partners, formally or informally, for existing clients.
Be active with organizational membership. Professional organizations like the Picpa (Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants) and the Acpapp (Association of Certified Public Accountants) are most recommended as active dealings can transform to new clients. From personal experience, some new clients were referred by co-members. In the same manner, membership in organizations not related to accounting can also lead to referrals.
Participate in professional social media. Social media plays an important role in our practice and the opportunities can be endless.
This means that you need to set up a professional social media account but, of course, you have to be mindful of professional ethical considerations regarding advertising.
I was very active online when we were starting our practice, participating in discussions, promoting online materials and joining activities such as meet-ups and charity work. This proved to be useful as it positioned our online presence to a better industry ranking. It remains a source of new clients.
Keep in touch within your circle. As soon as you put up your practice, news of it will spread within your circle — family, relatives, school and review batchmates, previous workmates, colleagues and the neighborhood. Wherever there is business, there is a need for accountants and for all we know, some of those in our circles may need our services. Keep in touch one way or another; you may not know it but there may be new clients waiting to be in your pipeline.
Maximize your client base for other services. I remember an Indian operating a BPO (business process outsourcing) in the Philippines who told me that he made it a habit to visit each client at least once a year. He came to know more about his clients and at times new opportunities were developed.
For us, adopting the "one-stop shop" concept for foreign helped as they prefer dealing with trusted service providers. Every time they needed anything, their first recourse was to contact us for insights, if not quotations.
Power up your credentials. As professionals, we offer our personal credentials so enriching these could lead to new opportunities and new clients. Write articles, be a resource speaker and you showcase your qualifications and capabilities to colleagues and prospects.
Maintain a circle of friendly firms and practitioners. Friendly professional interactions can lead you to new clients. At times, they may have opportunities that they cannot fill for various reasons so they simply refer you to the work.
I would recommend against encroachment. Personally, I would just work on the referral and alert the other firm/practitioner should the client require other work outside the referred engagement. Trust is a great factor here.
The concept holds with other professionals like lawyers.
Litigation lawyers sometimes need independent CPAs for court cases. In the same manner, your clients may need some legal work done that you could refer to them.
In practice, you cannot be an island so you need to maintain and continuously improve a credible profile, actively show your capability to deliver quality services and interact to gain new and quality clients. We are not retail stores where anyone can simply walk in and easily buy what they need.
Garry Pagaspas is the managing and tax partner of G. Pagaspas Partners & Co. CPAs, a member firm of Allinial Global, based in Makati with a global outsourcing office in Kalibo, Aklan. He is currently the VP for professional development of Acpapp's Cavite chapter and a member of the Acpapp Academy. The views in this article are personal and do not represent those of the organizations he is connected with.