Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Be an Expert!

Last night I had the pleasure of spending time with James Hickey, a managing partner at Tatum (rockin' CFO talent), and Nicole Ward, a fellow Board Member at ArtPoint and colleague of James.  Both are great people, super nice, uber motivated and well connected (for good reasons). 

We talked about a lot of fun stuff but at some point the conversation went into CPA firm partners and their Biz Dev efforts.  James explained that frequently partners will ask him for an introduction into a certain industry where "they'd like to be (and are not)."  What followed from there was a discussion around if these CPA partners want companies to recognize them as experts, or "go to" people, in a certain field, they have to establish themselves there first.  We gave credit to their ambition to recognize where some of the hot markets are and their desire to be there.  We concluded that without having the perception of being an expert, they're not going to be successful in developing clients.

So how does one become established as an expert?  In his book The Four Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss outlines some very simple techniques.  The first is to join organizations in the field you want to be in.  So, for example, if you want to provide services to the music industry, join the Blues Music Association or the American Federation of Musicians.  This one step will immediately open doors.  Next, get quoted or published.  Peter Shankman has told me that he founded Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to level out the playing field in journalism.  By doing so he's created a huge opportunity for people to become recognized in and associated with their field of expertise.  Next, attend related trade shows.  Simple.  Easy.  Of course, there's the whole social media field of blogging, tweeting, etc. that are great vehicles to establish credibility as well. 

What I've failed to mention thus far and is perhaps the most important, is to actually BE an EXPERT.  "Fake it 'till you make it" will only get you so far.  If you say you can deliver the goods, you better be able to actually deliver otherwise you'll quickly develop a reputation...and not the kind you want.  Do your research.  Ask lots of questions to people who are already established in the field.  Partner on some projects with them.

The context of this discussion is not limited to CPAs and their firms but is applicable to all businesses.  Motivated entrepreneurs are consistently looking for ways to grow their business and enter new markets.  By following some of the above suggestions, these entrepreneurs can establish themselves as experts and successfully evolve their businesses through strategic growth.

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