How CPAs Can Go Global
by Sean Stein Smith, CPA, Rutgers School of Business-Camden –
July 19, 2017
Increasing revenue, attracting new customers and business, and engaging more with existing customers provide businesses with much needed top-line growth. Increases in customers and business options result in increased profits and cash flows. This all sounds good, and is ultimately the goal of any entrepreneur, but there is often a market that is overlooked by CPAs.
Whether we are advising our clients and potential clients, or simply trying to expand our practices and businesses, the international marketplace offers a tremendous opportunity. It is important to note, however, that while the international market is, by default, larger than any single domestic or national market (including the regional New Jersey or U.S. market), there are certain obstacles that can trip up even the savviest entrepreneur and businessperson.
After even a cursory review of news headlines, social media channels and professional updates, it is abundantly clear that attempting to start a business overseas, or even expanding to a national presence, presents a host of challenges. First is the fact that not every international market has, or even recognizes, the CPA credential. This will have ramifications for practitioners seeking to expand practices overseas, and practitioners providing business advice to clients undergoing an international expansion. Second, the increased uncertainty surrounding the state of global business conditions adds layers of potential complexity that are virtually impossible to accurately interpret. Going global to a specific market or trade region may, at first, seem like an opportunity only to be upended a short time later due to headline events.
International business practices and trade policy are not the focus of this article, however there are resources available, such as the World Bank Group’s Doing Business rankings and the U.S. Commerce Department (export.gov), which provide a good base to start gathering information on doing business internationally.
The third hurdle facing those seeking to expand internationally is a lack of awareness on how to approach marketing and brand building on a national or international scale. Attracting new clients, building new business with existing customers and expanding market share require upfront investments and continuous maintenance over time. Going global, for that reason alone, is something that seems out of reach for many, but there are methods and practices that can be used to help jumpstart these efforts. Before diving in, however, it is important to remember that even the most cost-effective tools still require effort, maintenance and commitment.
Everywhere you look, read or even hear, it is clear that technology is rapidly becoming integrated into every aspect of business, including business development and business growth. When applied to a global expansion, the potential benefits of being technology savvy are clear. Cloud computing, which is basically just outsourcing your server purchasing and maintenance, provides an excellent stepping stone and opportunity for CPAs with global ambitions. Ease of access from virtually anywhere, lower IT costs, and improved data security for you and your clients are just a handful of the benefits that come to mind with cloud computing. This enables you to work concurrently with clients across the country, or across the globe, with ease of access and confidence that your information is secure. Even better is that with increasing amounts of business conducted on mobile platforms, the ability to communicate and deliver information across distances is easier than ever. For example, and if you are willing to put a little bit of effort into the process, you can service clients anywhere by offering a suite of advisory services in addition to your current core business offerings. Even something as simple as building out an online presence with a website or social media can help CPAs expand business and offer new business services across state or even national lines.
When the term social media comes up in conversation, it is usually met with a combination of groans, eyerolls and confusion. Adding to this confusion is the reality that, for the most part, CPAs are not usually regarded as experts when it comes to social media, but that is no reason why it should not be included in your toolkit. The staples of social media, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, are free to set up, free to upload content to and can provide you a global reach without having to leave your office. When setting up social media accounts, especially for business and marketing purposes, keep the following in mind:
- Have a headshot and brief bio ready. There are few things worse than a social media profile with no biographical information or a picture. How are potential clients supposed to know who you are?
- Imitate the best. Find a person or organization that has a social media profile of which you are envious, and try to emulate what they have done.
- Automate if possible. Posting and engaging with other individuals and organizations on social media can rapidly consume a tremendous amount of time. With a few quick searches, a host of tools will come up that will help you automate, streamline and better manage your social media campaign.
Every business needs high-quality quantitative information in order to make better decisions, and CPAs are well positioned to provide these services. Expanding business, even overseas, is often a top priority for practitioners and entrepreneurs but can appear daunting at first glance. With a little bit of technology and social media added to the mix, however, the challenges can shrink while the opportunities and possibilities grow larger. Business is global, accounting is global, and your business can be global.
Sean D. Stein Smith
Sean Stein Smith, CPA, DBA, M.S., M.B.A., CMA, CGMA, is an assistant professor at Lehman College. He is a member of the NJCPA Content Advisory Board, Student Programs & Scholarship Committee, Emerging Leaders Council, Nonprofit Interest Group and Accounting & Auditing Standards Interest Group.
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This article appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of New Jersey CPA magazine. Read the full issue.