Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Howard’s Inner Circle, No. 5: Holistic vs. Silo Business Development

When I became editor-in-chief at Practical Accountant a decision was made that shaped the editorial coverage of the magazine for the many years that I was there. The decision was to primarily focus on regional accounting firms, not just those in the various large cities, but throughout the country.

The reasoning was they were reacting best to the significantly changing business climate. Yes, the managing partners and partners of these firms provided the leadership, but what was different from years past was that non-CPAs were playing increasingly more important roles at these firms.

That is why readers saw so many marketing directors on the covers of Practical Accountant. Because of the increased competition and the need to attract business beyond traditional tax and accounting engagements, firms relied on marketers to: develop brochures and other marketing materials, create and publicize a firm brand, formalize the proposal process, get client feedback, accumulate and analyze marketplace information, assist on niche development, focus on new client and staff attraction, create sophisticated client relationship management systems, and help design dynamic firm Web sites.

However in the last few years, I have noticed a disturbing trend, many seasoned and highly respected marketing directors are leaving some of these regional firms. These firms appear to view marketing primarily as a cost center and support operation and have decided that a lower-cost maintenance mode is possible since the primary work of those marketing directors is done.

I believe that is short-sighted and CPA-myopic.

Contrast these firms to others that view and groom marketers to become business developers. They often formally make the marketer a firm principal ensuring they play a key, direct role in executive decisions. I expect these firms will also be transforming their marketing operations as revenue centers advising some firm clients directly on marketing or acting as consultants and advisors to assist in the clients’ marketing decisions.

These enlightened firms understand that the CPA-rainmaker approach is no longer enough. They follow a team approach, work at firm buy-in, and follow firm governance procedures that ensure a more holistic, although still CPA-centric, approach to business development.
© 2010
The above is from the fifth issue of the newsletter, Howard’s Inner Circle, which periodically appears on the blog, “Instigator” at http://howardwolosky.blogspot.com/. It may be reproduced in full if that fact is stated and Howard Wolosky is credited as the author.

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