Reprinted with permission from Accounting Today
The world is flat, according to the best-selling book by Thomas Friedman. He writes about technological changes that are linking people and breaking open business opportunities at warp speed. That’s certainly the case for forward-looking CPAs, especially those in mid-market firms. Just a few years ago it was unthinkable that a mid-size CPA firm could compete and win multi-location opportunities from prospects with operations outside of the U.S.
However, more mid-sized businesses now have operations around the globe. Additionally what’s changed is a result of client dissatisfaction with treatment or results from a larger firm. In other instances, regulatory-driven arm’s length relationships between auditors and clients have generated new interest in secondary providers.
How are successful players mining these larger, multi-continent, multi-firm opportunities? Two primary strategies: Looking for help from the international members of the CPA association they’ve joined, and mastering the mechanics of landing large opportunities.
Tactical and Practical
So how does a mid-size firm in Little Rock land a client with operations in Chile or Taiwan? To compete effectively on the world stage a couple basics apply. You need to manage the relationships – both with other firms who will be helping you land the opportunity, as well as with far-flung decision-makers and influencers within the prospect’s company – despite the air miles that may separate you. Here’s what’s involved:
- Identify the resources you’ll need and target precisely where and from whom the help will come. You’ll probably be working with other firms, both inside and possibly outside of your CPA association. Interview candidate team members, and create a pursuit team that incorporates needed proportions of technical skill, industry know-how and rainmaking. As you determine what you’ll need, you may have to lean on a remote technical resource and a separate remote relationship resource to get the job done. It’s important to identify where decision-makers are located, so that you can match relationship development resource where these skills are needed.
- Carefully manage critical details like time, language and currency differences that can railroad a perfectly good opportunity. Understand the in-place standards and guidelines and your compliance responsibilities vis `a vis vicarious liability and other legal exposures.
- Establish a communications infrastructure among the opportunity pursuit team members based on email, conference calls and other technologies. Email is especially powerful where multiple languages are involved. (Also, Skype, the internet-based voice capability, is ideal for connecting far-flung players.).
- As in all opportunity development, make sure you’re uncovering needs, rather than complying with requests, as you develop your opportunity. This is a function of effective due diligence strategies such as onsite visits. The Michigan CPA firm, Yeo & Yeo, recently won a hefty opportunity on multiple continents led by Business Development Director Mark Serra. Part of the strategy was coordinating a series of visits by remote firm members with the controller at each of a prospect’s overseas plants.
- Step up to the plate or find someone who can. Landing global opportunities requires an opportunity leader who drives the process. This is the person who must make sure you’ve covered the basics: identifying the influencers, determining the needs, establishing a value proposition, and creating a winning strategy.
Make It Repeatable
Like any task, managing cross-continent business opportunities gets easier when you’ve gained experience with a proven system. Now, go and compete. There’s more business out there than any of us ever dreamed possible just a few years ago. Dare to move beyond your geography – and your local competitors – and check out the world of opportunity that lies ahead.