Six More Steps to Building Strategic Alliances with CPAs - Part Two

A proven approach to creating rock-solid alliances

By Jonathan Powell

Key Takeaways:

  • It’s decision time. If working with a particular CPA firm seems like the right move, ask for a precommitment to design a strategic action plan.
  • Create a plan that spells out both the ideal goals and the minimum acceptable goals of the alliance.
  • Gain commitment from all stakeholders to ensure success.
  • Execute on your plan, and keep all partners on task.

Part two of a two-part series

Alliances with CPAs can mean great things for your business. If you haven’t yet done so, read part one of this series—it explains the first six steps in CEG Worldwide’s 12-step process for building successful alliances with CPAs.

This week I’ll explore the final six steps in the process that will enable you to partner with top CPAs in your area.

Step 7. Make a decision and close the exploratory meeting. At this point, you’ve conducted your exploratory interview with an ideal CPA alliance candidate as detailed in part one of this series. If working with this CPA firm seems like the right move, ask for a precommitment to design a strategic action plan for forming the alliance and working together. If the CPA agrees, determine whether there are others at the CPA firm with whom you should talk (those who would be part of the final decision-making process). Schedule individual meetings with each person.

Step 8. Identify opportunities to work together. Gather the balance of the information necessary to complete a strategic action plan. In preparation for the meeting(s), review the CPA’s responses to your questions during the first meeting, identify any core themes and modify the follow-up questions as appropriate. I have found that the meeting is much more effective when you interview each member of the firm individually, as group dynamics may limit the responses to your questions to answers from only the most powerful or vocal members.

Since you want to uncover all the opportunities and obstacles, you want to hear from all those who will play a role in your strategic alliance. Typically, you should allocate an hour for each interview and conduct as many interviews as you can in a single day. Your goal is to expose the opportunities, objectives and expectations for the future that you and your potential CPA partner may have in common. In particular, focus on what a strategic alliance could accomplish over an initial time frame of 12 to 24 months.

Step 9. Draw up an action plan. First, delineate both the ideal and minimum goals for the strategic alliance. Typically, goals are expressed for the CPA firm in terms of revenue, and for your firm in terms of the new assets under management that you acquire. The ideal goal is what it takes to make a very successful program over the next 12 months. The minimum goal is what must be achieved in order to continue the relationship. These goals will focus both you and the CPA firm on your joint efforts. Next, write up the strategy and identify each party’s responsibilities.

Step 10. Present the action plan. Meet with your potential partner to present your plan. Review the overall plan, strategy, goals and steps you’ll take to reach those goals. Discuss short- and long-term expectations. Review expected revenues and expenses and how they will be shared. As you present the plan, look for leverage points and opportunities that were not explored in the initial written plan.

Next, modify the plan as needed in response to feedback from the principal or to remove any parts that the principal does not feel comfortable presenting to the rest of the group. Then present the modified plan to the senior management group.

Step 11. Get a commitment from all stakeholders. Many brilliant plans sit on the desks of strategic alliance partners, but are never executed because they lack a clear commitment from all stakeholders. It’s not at all unusual for different partners in a firm to initially fail to agree on (or even effectively communicate about) a proposed strategic alliance plan. For this reason, be sure that all stakeholders are included in the process so that you can address and satisfy any concerns they present.

Step 12. Implement the strategic alliance plan. As soon as you achieve consensus on the plan, execute it. It is extremely important to have some successes early on in order for all stakeholders to remain committed. So work closely with a point person from the strategic alliance to ensure that this happens.

Constantly refer back to the plan and schedule ongoing meetings at an appropriate interval (such as twice a month or monthly) to make sure that you continue to implement the activities outlined in the program. Report successes often to all stakeholders to build and sustain momentum, and be ready to fine-tune the plan as you proceed.

As you move ahead, it’s useful to understand that some CPAs hesitate to act quickly. To accelerate the process, you may have to help the CPA firm through this uncomfortable transition by reminding them of how they can be successful through your strategic alliance. You must be patient in your dealings with the firm and yet very deliberate at the same time. Do that and you’ll achieve the results both firms want.

About the Author

Jonathan Powell is a managing principal at CEG Worldwide, LLC in San Martin, California. Working with many of the nation’s top financial firms, he enjoys helping financial advisors transform their professional and personal lives by implementing CEG Worldwide’s research-backed principles.