Episode 20 - The Accounting Titan with Anomaly CPA’s Greg O’Brien
May 30, 2023 •TaxPlanIQ Support team
There’s a widely held belief that to build a successful accounting firm, one must begin by acquiring an already existing practice. Greg O’Brien, a former CCA coaching student, challenges that notion, and has proven that idea wrong with his success record. Greg first met Jackie Meyer in 2019 at a conference. Though he was originally resistant to the idea that coaching would help his firm, he soon discovered it was a necessity. “After starting my business I quickly realized that the days of sitting at my computer by myself were gone. If I was going to operate a successful business, I needed help.” Greg started his firm from the ground up just a few years ago - and they are projected to bring in around $3 million in revenue this year. How did he do it? Let’s find out!
One of the first decisions Greg made was to invest in his business by signing up for the Certified Concierge Accountant Coaching program; and he saw immediate results. Now, he encourages all new CPA’s to do the same thing:
Seek help from day one so you don't fall into the trap of becoming a compliance only firm. It becomes easy to shut your eyes and just put money on the table. And the next thing you know, you get 500 1040’s at $400 a piece, right? And it’s going to be miserable and difficult to unwind that. A healthy margin for growing a large firm should be somewhere between 30 and 40 percent. And I learned that through coaching. Also, take the coaching seriously. It will only work if you have discipline and implementation.
Another practice that Greg brought into his firm was that of a subscription based model:
I looked a lot at subscription services like Netflix and Amazon. What keeps people subscribing to these services? They are always adding something new. We have to incorporate that same model into our businesses, otherwise we are just taking a fee and dividing it up into 12 monthly payments. That’s not going to keep people subscribing in the long run. The important aspect to this, is that we must add value without taking up our team’s time. At the end of the day the client cares about value. Not just the value of their ROI, but also the value of the business you are providing. Are they learning? Are they growing? Is there success present? The clients want and expect these things.
This subscription based model created a unique aspect of Greg’s firm: the education of their clients. Every week, they publish strategies to their clients and send them an in-depth knowledge based article. It starts with a video, and includes a link for further information about the strategy. They also develop a guide about how to implement the specific tax strategy. “We do all of this every single week. Our clients are now responding saying, ‘Hey, we love it. Give us more. Give us more.’ This satisfies the need of having clients who want a touch point often.”
In addition, they add value and education to their services by providing client-only experiences with expert guests. “We make a webinar exclusive for our clients. And we sell it when we are selling our services. We tell our clients they will get weekly exclusive content, monthly group chats, and quarterly strategy meetings, all with different experts. And people find a lot of value in that.”
Another important strategy Greg has implemented into his firm is their response time to clients. One of the biggest complaints he has heard from clients who came from other tax advisors is the inability to get in touch with their accountant. “I’ve heard of people waiting weeks, even months sometimes, before a response is given. We implemented a 48 hour response time. All clients will receive a response to their questions within that time frame. You can win a client for life just by communicating properly.”
Greg credits his initial success in selling tax plans to the use of the TaxPlanIQ Software. It has enabled him to show ROI and also helps him include a guarantee of the client’s satisfaction. His firm also pursues implementation of the concierge system. “We walk very closely with the clients through the process so they feel guided and equipped the entire time. It's a true concierge system - we make the phone calls when other sources need to be brought into the planning process. We set the meetings and make it happen.”
Greg utilizes 18 US staff and 6 offshore. He is a big proponent of bringing in off-shore workers. He currently has 2 in India and 4 in the Philippines. He expects his staff will grow to about 30 by the end of the year. His firm works exclusively with digital business owners, entrepreneurs and real estate professionals. Greg states that many CPA’s underestimate the value of doing year-round tax advisory services. “Many people simply complete the tax return and leave a lot of money on the table by not doing year-round monthly tax advisory services in addition to the client accounting. A lot of people make the mistake of just leading with accounting and throwing in tax. But I recommend leading with both.” This business model has allowed them to keep the client count down and the revenue high - and also makes tax season much more bearable!
When asked for some words of advice for listeners, Greg says being a constant learner is key. “I think one of the biggest things is just to be a constant learner. And even if you are at the point right now where you're feeling overwhelmed, there's always a way to pivot. Also, don't learn just from tax and accounting people. Learn from other successful businesses.” Greg also spends a lot of time on podcasts and books. He keeps a running list of podcasts that he listens to every single week. Greg mentioned that he is reading the book “100 Million Dollar Offers” by Alex Hormozi. Jackie has read this book and endorses it as well. There are many important tips within the book about how to add new clients and revenue in your business without discounting your prices.
Greg encourages others to attend conferences - and not just CPA conferences. “You should be going to the dental conferences or the doctor conferences. Be the odd one in the room! That's where you're gonna develop more business.” Greg believes his success in creating new ideas for his firm comes from his desire to continue to learn. He encourages others to constantly ask questions of the experts, learn the best practices of others, and tweak them to perform in your firm. Listen to podcasts and interviews of business industry leaders. Write down important points and good ideas for use in your own firm. Additionally, he suggests moving away from listening only to those who are in accounting and tax. “Often, accounting firms are not well run from a business perspective. Instead, look outside the accounting industry to successful entrepreneurs and learn from their ideas.”
Greg also emphasizes the importance of mental health rituals. Tax season is often very stressful for a variety of reasons. Greg suggests intentionally scheduling time to do something you enjoy every day. “I try to work out every single day, to get outside even though it's miserable here in Boston right now, just get outside and work out. At the end of the day, remember that it’s not the end of the world if something goes wrong.” Greg encourages others not to become too stressed and overwhelmed by the work. “I used to be someone who got super stressed out about crazy client emails back in the days. I would freak out. And now I've learned to calm down. It's just a human interaction. If they're upset, that's their problem, right? Don't take everything so seriously. It took me years to get to that point and it's not perfect. But I think it's really important. You can't live in that constant firefighting mode.”
Lately, Greg discusses the importance of networking. “I just love getting with other accountants and learning. ‘Hey, what's working for you? What's not working right? Here's what’s working for me.’ It's like, you can take a little bit from everybody, and then you have your own special sauce. And when people ask, ‘How did you come up with this idea?’ I'm like, I really didn't. I took it from this person or this podcast or this entrepreneur, right? And that's how you form your identity.”
We want to thank Greg for taking the time to share his thoughts and ideas with us! We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world.
To learn more about Greg and his company, visit http://www.anomalycpa.com/
To learn more about Certified Concierge Accountant Coaching, visit us here: https://www.certifiedconciergeaccountant.com/
If you are a successful accounting firm, owner or influencer who would like to be on this program, please visit jackiemeyercpa.com to apply. Please share this on social media and rate us so we can continue our good work. Join our Facebook group called Accounting Firm Influencers, or connect with Jackie on most platforms under Jackie Meyer, CPA. Thanks for being accountable to transforming our industry today.