Welcome to another in a series of profiles spotlighting the 2015 Firm of the Future finalists. In this new article, we feature Lindsay Polyak of Knutson CPA, PLLC. Be sure to scroll down to see her video.
Elizabeth Joyce: Before we dive in, tell us about yourself and Knutson CPA.
Lindsay Polyak: My name is Lindsay Polyak. I am the sales and marketing director, and also one of the Certified Profit First Professionals, at Knutson CPA, PLLC, based in Southlake, Texas. We’re going on our sixth year and started with three employees. I have been with the firm since day one, and it has been exciting to see how we’ve grown to nine employees and refined our focus over the years.
In the past, we worked with hundreds of tax clients. We wanted to find ways to play a larger role in the businesses, churches and nonprofits in our community. Over the past year, we have honed our focus on working only with these types of organizations, serving them on a weekly and monthly basis. Because we prefer to have a close, impactful relationship with our clients, we now work with fewer than 100 clients and have a waiting list.
EJ: What sets you apart from other accounting firms?
LP: First and foremost, we are a results-driven firm. Our priority is to get our client work done rather than spend effort tracking our time. Our employees work where they want, when they want and put their focus on getting the work done. We use flat-fee, value-based billing so that our clients don’t have to experience any surprise invoices. This model of business puts us right where we want to be: on the same side of the table as our clients.
EJ: How are you able to maintain meaningful relationships with your clients?
LP: As we have refined our firm, we have developed three “promises” to guide our decision-making, when identifying new employees or clients. This focus adds another layer of authenticity to our culture. Here are the three promises:
- You really, really matter – We give the utmost respect to those we work with and serve. This also works the other way because we appreciate having clients who treat us like we really, really matter to their organizations.
- All cards on the table – We encourage our team members and clients to be open, honest and transparent in all situations. We don’t want to surprise clients with last minute charges. Likewise, we want our clients to be completely transparent with us. This allows us to build trust with our clients and empowers our firm to go beyond our day-to-day work.
- Own it – We take responsibility for our work, which is also part of our results-only work environment. We must “own” our work so that our clients are empowered to make better business decisions with the insight we provide them.
EJ: How do you decide what solutions to recommend to your clients?
LP: Questions … we ask lots of questions. We want to get to the heart of why the client started their business and the vision they have for it. For a lot of the people who come in the door, their goal is as simple as making their business work for them so that they can take home a good paycheck. For others, it’s growth and expansion. Our job is to discover where they want to go and craft a plan to help them get there.
EJ: What role does social media play in your firm?
LP: In addition to our website, we use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Many new clients come to us through our website and we use our social media channels to maintain our network. While we’re 100% in the cloud, we still find that word-of-mouth is most effective to find new clients. It’s important to not only have a network of potential business or nonprofit clients, but also to build relationships in our community. As a strategic advisor, our clients often come to us for more than just accounting and tax, so it’s reassuring for the client to know that we can refer them to another specialist, such as a banker or lawyer, reaffirming our position as a strategic advisor to our clients.
EJ: As a strategic advisor to small business clients, tell us about a time you helped a small business client overcome a challenge.
LP: One of our clients is a medium-sized family business that was struggling internally when they came to us. As part of their culture, they hold a monthly family business meeting where they discuss key issues. To better serve them, we tailored our services for them and regularly attended their monthly business meeting so that we can work side-by-side with the client to solve their issues. That one small time investment has yielded huge dividends by gaining their trust, respect and willingness to implement the changes we suggested. The company has since turned around and made a profit, and we are more of a partner now than ever before.
EJ: What advice would you give to a firm trying to become a Firm of the Future?
LP: Be intentional about the clients you serve. If you have clients that don’t respect you or the work you’re doing, they can be a drain on your firm’s resources and take a toll on employees. You don’t need to hang onto them.
But, when you work with people that love working with you, both on the employee and client side, it makes coming to work each day more exciting. For example, we decided to only work with clients that are also committed to our three values. When word gets around that your firm makes your clients feel important, your staff will feel important. This will empower you to continue to do amazing work for your clients and help your firm grow.
EJ: If you were stranded on a desert island with access to only ONE kind of technology, what would it be and why?
LP: Internet access. We couldn’t run our business and serve our clients without it. Internet-based cloud services are critical in serving our clients. We started our firm in the cloud and have the majority of our clients on QuickBooks Online. Our founder, Wendy Knutson, has always been an early adopter of technology and recognized that the QuickBooks Online ecosystem was the way to go. There are so many apps and integrations available, so we have a QuickBooks Online subject matter expert in-house to help us identify the best solutions for our clients. Utilizing technology is such a core part of how we operate that we look for new clients who embrace using technology in their businesses, too.
Editor’s Note: Click on the video below to see Lindsay Polyak’s Firm of the Future video.