Julio Garcia Grows His Accounting Practice Through Bilingual Business Focus
Sometimes, a great idea hits you square in the face. When Julio Garcia began to think about how to differentiate his CPA firm from other firms, he came face to face with one of his most unique qualities: he speaks English and Spanish.
Sure, being bilingual is not revolutionary - especially in Texas - but in Julio's case, the concept became his own differentiator to find and win new business. By marketing his practice to English- and Spanish-speaking prospects, he not only demonstrates his financial acumen; he shows he was a true business partner.
Julio is a partner in Alonso & Garcia, a Dallas, Texas-based firm that also has an office in Miami, Fla. As a result of how his practice developed, or as a survival skill necessary to grow his firm, Julio admits owning your own firm and finding ways to make it grow was tough-going at first.
"In Miami, there is a large population of bilingual CPAs and little or no competitive advantage to being bilingual. In Dallas, the population of Spanish-speaking CPAs is just not as large, and there's a continuous influx of Spanish-speaking immigrants and Spanish-speaking foreign investors. They demand tax and accounting services, and feel more comfortable if they can discuss these in their native language. Once you establish a solid segment of clients who seek Spanish-speaking advisors, the referrals become almost a foregone conclusion; those business owners tend to have relationships with other business owners who seek the same profile of advisors."
Julio adds that the literature in his firm's direct mail campaign is in English and Spanish, "and we're working on replicating our website in Spanish and on search engine optimization for targeting Spanish-speaking business owners."
Alonso & Garcia provides accounting, business advisory, tax compliance and consulting services in many industries, including real estate, telecommunications, import and export, mortgage banking, money service, medical professional, and employee-leasing. Julio's current target audiences include small service-based businesses in the DFW Metroplex, business owners of Hispanic descent, clients with IRS resolution issues and international tax clients.
Julio started in the profession with Andersen, then moved to telecommunications and technology industry companies about a decade ago at the peak of the Internet/telecom bubble.
"I was looking to quickly become an integral part of an explosive business," he recalls. "Back then, the gap between compensation packages in public accounting firms and industry were skewed in favor of industry for professionals of three to seven years' experience. In hindsight, that gap was just a market-driven temporary distortion that has since narrowed or even inverted in some cities."
Julio also soon realized that even if he attained positions in industry, he'd constantly have to be, "either looking over my shoulder or looking ahead for the next opportunity. The most secure way to reach both professional and financial independence would be to hang my own shingle."
Around that time, Julio's current co-partner, Domingo Alonso, "reached critical mass" at his Miami-based sole proprietorship and asked Julio to come aboard. From April 2002 through December 2006, the firm hit 25 percent annual growth in revenues and more than doubled its book of business.
Julio started work in A&G's Florida office, but a major real estate client soon became involved in several projects in Dallas. Julio assisted in several complex transactional, legal, tax, accounting and property-management matters related to both Miami and Dallas properties. AS a result, Julio relocated to Dallas, travelling occasionally to Miami to manage other clients. Along the way, he was able to manage the rest of his workload from Dallas by using remote access technologies. When business in Texas fared better than in Miami, and Julio's responsibilities for the major real estate client were complete, he helped launch the Dallas-area office for A&G in December 2008.
"Some believe you don't have to answer to anyone when you run your own business," Julio says. "That's only half true! I have to answer to my clients each and every day."
Communicating with varied clients in all ways - from social media to email newsletters - is vital. In addition to advice, counsel and services provided by Build Your Firm, Julio uses Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to post about tax, accounting and general business matters. "Lately, web-based strategies such as site placement, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising and social media generate close to half of our leads," he says.
Julio takes pains to understand how clients in different niches also need different styles of service. Real estate developer and investor clients, for example, are generally more demanding than consumer service and professional service clients due to much higher capital requirements, more structured delivery of services and less flexible deadlines. The typical consumer service or professional service business is run by the owner or professional himself, and self-funded with fewer financial reporting requirements.
At the end of the day, understanding your professional limits and the kinds of clients you can serve is a best practice.
"I have clients from all walks of life: blue collar, white collar, affluent and working class. I always try to treat each client with the same respect and professionalism. Domingo once told me that you never know where the next referral could come from - think hard before you brush off a prospect or pass up a meeting with someone who may not be looking to hire you. It's not uncommon for me to have cultivated a prospect for 12 to 18 months, undergone several meetings that have generated no revenue other than goodwill, and then have them finally engage and become a profitable client of the firm."
By Scott H. Cytron
About the Author
For more than 20 years, Scott H. Cytron, ABC, has worked with CPAs and accountants, providing public relations, marketing and communications services. He is a frequent contributor to industry publications covering professional services industries, including accounting, healthcare, legal, financial planning, collections and debt, and high-tech. Contact him at [email protected] and visit his blog, http://www.absolutecytron.com/.