Welcome to another in a series of profiles about the 2015 Firm of the Future finalists. In this new article, we spotlight Greg Barton of Gregory D. Barton CPA & Associates. Be sure to scroll down to see his video.
Elizabeth Joyce: You serve a wide range of clients from small- to large-sized businesses, both in the US and internationally. Tell us about your diverse client mix and how you serve their different needs.
Greg Barton: At Gregory D. Barton CPA & Associates, our business clients range from the one-person show to the multi-national corporation. We get to know the business, its needs, areas of potential growth and where we can best help. Our clients ask us for advice outside of the financial area, letting us know they trust us to work for their best needs. Plus – we’re fun!
EJ: As a Firm of the Future, is there one pillar you identify with most, and why? Reminder, pillars are: Getting Online, Being a Trusted Advisor and Get Connected.
GB: We love getting connected and being on the cusp of change. Our clients know we have the latest data. They trust us to guide them.
EJ: What apps do you use for your own business, and how did you discover them? Which app do you recommend most frequently to clients, and why?
GB: We find the credit reporting apps the most beneficial right now. Clients are growing, and need finance alternatives and the latest credit ratings. This is key for us to recommend financing avenues.
EJ: What is your firm’s number one goal for 2016, and how do you plan to achieve it?
GB: Take great care of everyone, while expanding the base of people we serve! We want to expand our client offerings to take advantage of our staff’s skills. We are always looking for members to join our team. We’re also looking to move our home office into a larger space, as well as bring newly acquired firms into our culture model, which is open, bright, colorful and fun!
EJ: Will your technology “spend” increase for the next 12 months, stay the same or decrease? Explain why.
GB: Increase. We’ve recently added two additional locations and created our own secure [collaboration] cloud. We have staff working at our offices, from home and across the world. As we acquire firms in other regions, our technology needs will also expand.
EJ: We understand your firm enjoys using social media. How do you benefit from participating in social media (Constant Contact, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and blogs)?
EJ: How do you find new clients, or how do they find you? Have you gotten a new client through social media? If so, explain?
GB: Our best resource remains great client referrals. We focused our ad campaign for tax season this year on pay-per-click (PPC) – we get a great deal of traction and bang for our buck pulling in new clients.
EJ: How do you find the balance between marketing and run-the-business type work?
GB: Task sharing of like minds. The management team focuses their strengths on specific regions. This allows for one vision to carry through all areas.
EJ: For accounting firms not yet using social media, what would your advice be to help them to take that first step?
GB: Jump in and get involved! Most already have a personal Facebook page – create one for the business! Set up a Twitter account, follow people and learn how it’s done. It’s not intimidating and its fun! Clients love when we share and the interaction builds better communication.
EJ: Tell us about one of your small business customers, how you met them and describe a business challenge that you’ve helped them overcome.
GB: We have a new client, recommended through a current client referral, who opened an art gallery. He had checked our website, Facebook and Twitter. He had the artistic resources, yet no idea where to start from the business end. We helped him determine which QuickBooks® version worked best for his needs, created his chart of accounts, an inventory control system and trained him on using the program. We helped him set up bank accounts, a line of credit for working capital, applied for and obtained credit cards – the whole financial arena. We’re also helping him by recommending grant writers so that his artists can obtain funding. He trusts us to guide him – in all arenas.
EJ: In your Firm of the Future video, you talked about your office environment and the occasional margarita party (fun!). Why is company culture important to you?
GB: Accounting is a serious business – you’re dealing with people’s money. Why can’t it be fun and show some whimsy? We are professional and present ourselves in a fun way – we don’t have to be stuffy to do great work! We invite clients to our Margarita Fridays, to our Open Houses, and charitable and other events so they can see what we do outside of accounting and tax work.
EJ: Think of your favorite client. Which of their traits would you like all your clients to have?
GB: Open lines of communication about anything. Our favorite clients become friends. We talk about anything from their financial future to their kid’s aspirations, and the best red wine — the whole gamut. They appreciate our input on all things because they know we care about them.
EJ: What do you think the accounting industry will look like 10 years from now?
GB: [It will be] much more virtual. The Baby Boomers are retiring in droves, leaving the Millennials and Gen Xers to form a new path for our industry. Technology will allow for much more intimate contact from anywhere on the globe. The future is exciting!
Editor’s Note: Click on the video below to see Greg Barton’s Firm of the Future video.