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How CPAs can bounce back from client loss

THERE'S a common misconception that public practice is a retirement haven for CPAs. The narrative goes something like this — you grind away in the corporate world, collect your pension, then leisurely set up an office as a sole practitioner. But this one-size-fits-all view simply doesn't hold water.

Take me, for instance. Fresh out of college and with three years of solid experience in an audit firm under my belt, I took the plunge into starting my own practice. It wasn't a post-retirement move. It was a calculated leap I was ready for. Now, after weathering the storms of running my practice for seven years, I can tell you one thing — public practice is no walk in the park.

Sure, I leveraged the knowledge I gained from my previous role. But relying solely on past experiences wasn't enough. There were bumps in the road, like losing clients. But with each hurdle, I came out stronger, learning valuable lessons about resilience and business development.

As a practitioner, I have had my fair share of client wins... and losses. Let's be honest: losing a client can be a blow. But here's the thing — it's not the end of the world. In fact, it can be the beginning of a new and exciting opportunity for your firm. Here's why. Client departures, while frustrating, can be an impetus for growth. It forces us to take a step back, analyze what went wrong, and identify areas for improvement. Did the client leave due to a service gap? Was there a personality clash? Understanding the reasons behind the loss allows us to refine our approach and ensure it aligns with ideal clients.

Think of it as a chance to shift gears. Maybe it's time to explore new offerings that better cater to a different market segment. Perhaps it's a call to revisit your client experience strategy to ensure it's reaching the right audience. So, the next time you lose a client, don't despair. Find your north star. Losing a client can be a wake-up call. Take this opportunity to reconnect with your core purpose. Why did you become a public practitioner in the first place? Was it the satisfaction of helping clients thrive? The intellectual challenge of complex problems? As the owner of my practice, I have the autonomy to chart my course and build a team that reflects my values. It's incredibly rewarding to mentor and witness the growth of accountants as they develop into seasoned professionals. Refocusing on your core values will help you navigate difficult times and stay true to your vision.

Here's the secret weapon — open communication and a clear vision. After losing a client, we don't wallow. Instead, we gather for a team stand-up session. It's a chance to revisit our shared goals and establish new objectives for the practice. Together, we discuss improvement areas, focusing on client acquisition, professional development, and client engagement.

Why is this so crucial? Setting clear goals serves a dual purpose. First, it allows us to analyze the client's loss objectively. We might identify gaps in service offerings or communication styles that contributed to the departure by revisiting our objectives. Second, clear goals provide a renewed sense of purpose. They remind everyone, myself included, why we're passionate about public practice and the value we bring to the table. Instead of dwelling on the past, look ahead and envision a successful future with your team.

The life of a public practitioner can be demanding. Long hours, looming deadlines, and the pressure to deliver top-notch service can leave us feeling drained and burnt out. But what if the key to a successful and resilient practice wasn't just about crunching numbers but also about taking care of ourselves? Many of us remember the Latin phrase "mens sana in corpore sano" from our college textbooks — "a sound mind in a sound body." This ancient wisdom shouldn't be relegated to dusty textbooks; it should be a guiding principle for every practitioner.

Remember, a thriving public practice isn't built on the backs of overworked and exhausted individuals. It's built on a foundation of well-being, where both our minds and bodies are fueled to perform at their best. By taking care of ourselves, we create a ripple effect — a more resilient, motivated, and ultimately, more successful practice for ourselves and our clients.

The truth is public practice can be an incredibly rewarding career path, and it's not just for those nearing the end of their careers. It's a chance to build something from the ground up, to test your skills, and to forge your path. So, if you're an ambitious CPA with a thirst for independence, don't wait for retirement. Public practice isn't just a rocking chair for seasoned accountants and might be the perfect place to start your journey.


Michael S. Lipura, chapter president of the ACPAPP Southern Mindanao, wrote this article. He runs his own accounting firm, MSL CPA & Associates, and is the director of operations at Behind Numbers Consultancy. It's important to note that the views expressed in this article are his own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of either his firm or ACPAPP.

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