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How to Start an Accounting Firm

by Alejandro Russell, studioD

Back in the '70s and '80s, the "Big Eight" accounting and auditing firms seemed like they would control the industry for eternity. As time has gone by, though, the firms resolved to mergers, resulting in what is now known as the big four. The big four are not likely to get any bigger, and with the expansion of businesses, the demand for accounting services is growing, creating a demand for accountants who want to strike out on their own.

Identify an Entry Strategy

Most accountants and CPAs approach the starting of an accounting firm in several ways. The option of starting from scratch is attractive, but partnering with an established client, picking up part-time clients, or buying an existing firm are also available options. Starting from scratch gives you more control, allows you to begin without any legacy issues or past client-service issues, but also comes with certain challenges such as attracting capital and marketing your business. Purchasing an existing firm is an attractive option if the price is not too high, and you can also find a partner to share expenses and revenues.

Develop a Business Plan

Starting an accounting firm is like any other business initiative whereby you need to develop a business plan. This covers all the mechanics of your business as well as defining your vision, mission, core values, and goals, and who your target customers will be. Your mission statement, then, shows the method you will use to realize that vision. Your business plan should also indicate the marketing strategy you will apply in your firm and the projected costs and revenues. If you are trying to obtain financing from lenders, a business plan is crucial.

Office Equipment and Staffing Requirements

The office equipment requirements will depend on your office space. When starting an accounting firm, you need to develop strategies such as a shared office arrangement to enable you to cut down on operational costs. Staffing is also one of the critical components for an accounting firm start-up. Your goal should be to keep your head count to a minimum, while at the same time offering a competitive salary and benefits package to attract and retain quality staff.

Marketing and Development

You need to develop a marketing strategy for your accounting firm to establish a presence and an image for your business. It is important to maintain a website, to have an online presence for potential clients to find you. Joining your local chamber of commerce and any other business associations provides you with networking opportunities and also marketing support that is very helpful when it comes to pricing and selling of your accounting services.

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