A Perfect Match: Choosing Referral Partners that Add Value
Today’s CPAs serve as true partners and trusted advisors to clients, becoming intimately familiar with each client’s growth, plans, and struggles. This means that when the need may arise to augment in-house services, most CPAs won’t partner with just anyone. Many CPAs are wary of recommending consulting firms, concerned that an unsuccessful engagement might damage the client relationship. No matter what type of referral partner is being considered – financial services firm, insurance firm, 1031 exchange firm, cost segregation provider, or any other – the CPA firm must do their research and carefully select someone they trust to take care of their clients.
I’m not really comfortable with the idea of a referral partner. Why can’t we keep things in-house?
Depending on the nature of your firm, maybe you can. However, as the tax code gets deeper and more complex, it’s becoming difficult for all but the largest firms to have every necessary expert just down the hall. For example, cost segregation is a specialty service requiring knowledge of construction methods, engineering, and the Internal Revenue Code for fixed assets including applicable Tax Court cases and Revenue Rulings. The concept of accelerated depreciation may seem simple, but depreciation law and building technologies are anything but. A detailed, defensible cost segregation study can only be performed by an experienced engineer, and most CPA firms don’t have the volume to justify keeping those niche resources in-house. Partnering with a qualified cost-segregation firm like Capstan allows a CPA firm to provide a value-added service without keeping engineers on staff.
What will the right referral partner (RP) do for my firm?
The right RP will provide new services and financial value to your firm. The ideal RP will collaborate with you in a way that increases profitability and enriches your client relationships, with minimal time invested on your part. Client satisfaction and retention will increase, and the ideal RP will make the process easy for you, while strengthening your position as trusted advisor.
What makes an ideal referral partner?
- Trustworthy: The CPA must implicitly trust the RP to take care of the client, while respecting the primacy of the CPA/client relationship. The ideal RP understands that his role is to augment the CPA’s expertise and to strengthen the CPA’s relationship with his clients.
- Capable: The ideal RP is a skilled subject matter expert with appropriate experience and certification. For example, the American Society of Cost Segregation Professionals (ASCSP) certifies its professionals with the CCSP designation (Certified Cost Segregation Professional.)
- Accessible: Good communication makes a good RP. Frequent, transparent communication between the Client/CPA/RP that defines goals and roles, is key to success.
- Adaptable: The ideal RP will tailor their level of engagement to your preference. In general, clients aren’t one size fits all, and you want an RP that can and will customize their approach. Some CPAs prefer that RPs act like an extension of their staff, while some prefer that RPs be decidedly behind-the-scenes players. Some firms want to be involved every step of the way, while others prefer to just be copied on the final product. Whatever your preference, the ideal RP will follow your lead, instituting a process that meets your needs and aligns with your culture. At Capstan we create a “unique method” for each client and tailor as needed.
- Consistent: The ideal RP will make sure that their entire team understands the collaborative process and will stress the importance of the relationship through onboarding and education. With the right RP you can look forward to consistent process and outcomes every time, knowing that you and your preferences are valued.
- Candid: The right RP will be candid about what’s best for a client’s bottom line. For example, sometimes at Capstan we’ll tell a client that a project is simply not a good candidate for cost segregation. The right RP isn’t in it to sell something, anything, but instead tries to suggest strategies that will create a successful outcome. When an RP occasionally says, “I wouldn’t,” it means that you – and your clients — can feel confident proceeding when they say, “Let’s do it.”
- Upstanding: The ideal RP will stand by their service. At Capstan this comes in the form of no-cost audit protection.
Finding the right RP for your firm might not be easy. You might have to kiss a few metaphorical frogs. But it’s worth investing the time initially to find the right partner, and you’ll know when you do — they’ll make you look great, make your clients happy, and make the whole process easy.