John Borrowman, CPC
Borrowman Baker, LLC
It should be no secret that long-term success in the BV and Lit Support profession is tied to your ability to generate business. One of the most common questions: Where do I start?
No better way to answer that question than to hear from young BV professionals who are making the shift from being a doer to a doer/seller. A special thanks to Nathan DiNatale of SC&H Advisors in Sparks, MD; Janae Castell with Woodrum, Tate & Associates in Tulsa, OK; and Josh Hedrick with KraftCPAs in Nashville, TN, for taking time to talk with us.
Was there something that tipped you over the edge and made it clear that you needed to learn to be a doer/seller?
DiNatale: When I started with SC&H, they were very supportive and encouraging of young staff to sell. Since we were a young firm, everyone was encouraged to network and make contacts. Starting a new CPA firm is very hard, and so was creating relationships with new prospects and clients.
Castell: The biggest push for me was being in an environment where I had someone that mentored me in that type of mindset and how to do it, how to more or less find what you’re good at and what value you provide, and look for ways to help people.
Hedrick: Security in my position. I went through a layoff. And through the layoff, I realized that the one way to create job security was to be able to pay for your seat.
Was there an early success of some kind that made you think, “Maybe I can do this after all”?
Castell: I put myself out of my comfort zone in some ways that were not even in valuation. I got into a Chamber of Commerce sponsorship campaign, for example, and figured out that I can do sales and can talk to people. I don’t consider myself a sales person. I didn’t like doing “sales” type things. In putting myself in these situations, I felt like if I failed it wouldn’t impact my job as much. I felt a little more OK about being turned down.
Hedrick: Not really. Prior to doing BV, I was a banker. I made the transition from being a true salesman to being a “doer” partially because I got burned out on selling. So, I always knew I had that capability but I was not necessarily comfortable with my technical expertise. As a banker, it was my job to sell.
DiNatale: As a smaller firm, we had a national presence in State and Local Tax services to Fortune 500 companies. I would make cold calls to companies with locations in Maryland trying to get 5 minutes with their CFO. I called a large home goods store endlessly, leaving messages through three CFOs until I finally got to the one CFO who would let me look at their tax returns and make a pitch for our services. As it turned out there was no opportunity. But it was a win for me to just get in the door after a long streak of calls. It was a lesson to keep calling until you talk to someone and they say “No, I’m not interested.” Even then you can still stay in touch through emailing an article or whatever it may be.
Was there any particular reading and study you did that you found helpful?
Castell: I think any books on conversations, like “Crucial Conversations” would be good. I’d suggest any reading about a strategy about what to go after, or what kind of business development to pursue. “Good to Great” isn’t really a sales and marketing book, but it gave me some strategy for how to go about what would be most valuable in finding the core of what I could be most good at.
DiNatale: I found that any of the valuation literature that was out there was helpful to growing my career. I would read any book I could get my hands, especially the nationally known valuation authors like Trugman, Pratt and Zyla. I didn’t really read any sales oriented books. I spent more time practicing meeting new people and networking at local events. The main thing was that I had the drive to do it.
Hedrick: I could not point to any. To me it’s just a matter of after you’ve looked at hundreds of valuations and prepared hundreds of valuations under someone else’s name, you being to feel more and more comfortable with what you’re doing. Making the shift starts with becoming comfortable with your own technical knowledge.
What was the hardest thing for you, personally, in making the shift to a doer/seller?
DiNatale: Having enough confidence to say “I’m really good at what I do.” I remember early on doing a really good job, but not being confident enough to step on the stand and testify in cases. There was an internal push of support that “You can do this. You have the expertise, here.” But, it was really just maintaining that inner confidence to go forward and get that first case, or do that first engagement on your own … once that confidence comes … it’s easier to step out and say “I’m doing these things”. And that made it a little easier to get up in front of people when you have some experience.
Hedrick: I guess over time I’ve become increasingly comfortable in the doer role. One of the reasons I left banking was to leave behind the selling mentality. I enjoy doing, rather than selling. It’s still my favorite. You have to sell, however, to have long-term success in the profession.
Castell: Juggling. It’s hard whenever you’re changing from just doing the work to getting the work, doing the work and being a manager. Figuring out how to get it all done has been most difficult. I also made the transition as I was starting my family, so that made it harder because my time outside work was limited.
What advice do you have for someone who is ready to dip a toe in the water, but isn’t sure where or how to start?
DiNatale: I would do a few things. Use social media. Build your brand. Get involved. Have focus. Social media is huge now. Advertising your articles and engagements you’ve completed, special projects your firm has completed, etc., just to get your name and face out there so people know who you are.
Hedrick: Build your circle of influence. Get comfortable going to events. Make connections outside of the projects that you’re working on. That would be my main advice.
Castell: I would find a mentor. I would look for somebody that is really respected, either in the community or in the profession. It doesn’t have to be someone you might not think of as a salesman, because some of the best salesmen don’t come across as salesmen, they’re just good at taking care of people. Then, I would shadow that person if they’ll let you. Talk to them about how they talk to people and how they approach making a name in the community and make themselves a resource.