More Important Than Ever with Nick Cavuoto
On episode 64 of The Unique CPA, Randy talks to Nick Cavuoto about the importance of personal branding. Nick shares his own experience with transforming businesses’ marketing efforts, including Fortune 500 companies, and stresses the importance of building a connection with people.
Today, our guest is Nick Cavuoto. Nick is a speaker and entrepreneurial mentor, a personal brand expert who specializes in mindset, marketing, sales and transformational leadership. That’s a lot. Nick, welcome to The Unique CPA.
Thank you so much. I’m excited to be here to talk to you about some unique stuff, from an angle of somebody who is so grateful that he has an amazing CPA.
But it took a long time to find him, let me tell you what.
Well, that’s funny. I was on a podcast recording earlier today, and we talked about that, finding the CPA that’s right for you.
Because your CPA is potentially you know, there’s a lot of niche industries. There’s a lot of experts in certain areas, and probably something we’ll discuss today. But because we’re going to discuss branding, whether that’s personal branding, business branding, CPA firm branding, we’ll get into that. You’ll teach us all about this as we go.
But before we do that, let’s set the stage, and how did you get to be an expert in this, we’re give a little background so we know we can trust when you tell us what we’re supposed to do?
Yeah, absolutely! Well, some of you might trust me more with what I’m about to say, some of you might trust me less, So give me a shot either way, Okay?
So I was a preacher before I ever got into entrepreneurship. And for some people, again, that’s a great thing, maybe for the Midwest, for the Northeast, maybe not so much. I’m just having fun with it.
But the concept truly is that, you know, I started my career in understanding people, you know? Bottom line, I was focused on understanding the core of humanity and what motivates them, on truly, let’s call it a divine level. So be it in stages of awareness and consciousness, it starts very primal, right? And we’ve ascended to this place of intellect and intuition, and then like you get to that place of spiritual, or Maslow’s goes to a spiritual hierarchy.
And so I started there. So my experience has been top down, not necessarily bottom up in all ways, and certainly when it comes to business. But I started there build a church with a thousand, ten thousand people every weekend, so really understood event marketing, how to get people drawn in by a message, and also how to build a personality which the brand existed before the personality publicly. But truly, it was the other way around—when it actually started, you had a person who was really dynamic in what they did, and then they built an entity around it.
The problem is, most people stop at that point, and founders hide behind their logo, and they don’t focus on being the brand themselves. My business mentor, one of my best friends, Mike Kim, he wrote the book, You are the Brand. Amazing resource, and I would highly, highly encourage folks to check it out.
But I started there, went to the startup world—I was a classic disrupter, which today, we call Mavericks—make it a little less antagonizing, where I did some pretty epic things. I grew $25 million business by another $5 million in revenue in nine months, to come from five leads a month to 500 leads a month, and broke the entire sales and marketing organization of 13 people.
From there I went to Fortune 500. I managed over a billion dollars worth of products. I was handed every underperforming area of business and kind of pulled that organization, three months at a time. So by the time I hit month 11, just two months after that nine month mark, next business, same thing happened. I kind of got bored, because I’m like, “I’m here, I apply the formula, it works.”
So I’ve been doing this for a long time as an entrepreneur, you know, my first tax bill as an entrepreneur was more than my previous year’s salary, if that gives you an idea. So I have a lot of fun things to talk about and to learn, as we have this conversation. But certainly I figured out to have a really great CPA early on because of that, you know, minor error, let’s call it what it is. It’s pretty big.
So anyway, so I’ve done a lot of pretty awesome things in business with Microsoft, Pandora Paychex, which a lot of your peers probably are aware of.
And that’s where I had some of my biggest breakout success, was within a traditional company of people who are in finance.
Alright. Well, you definitely have met the unique side of the podcast here. Now let’s get to the CPA side of it. And obviously, that’s our audience. And let’s talk about the branding then, because that’s one of the major things you do, but it sounds like, you know, branding at a personal level, and then the business builds on that.
But before, let me set the stage. So in general, I think branding for CPAs is something that’s extremely important right now, and I’m sure it’s important for every business all the time. But CPAs and right now, and it’s probably going on a while, but are going through this transition, you know, “We’re not CPA firms, not just tax and accounting,” and they’re now advisory firms. You know, that’s you know, they’re starting to go to that. They’re they’re now an HR firm or they’re now an IT firm or they’re now in addition to tax and accounting. So brand is changing there. But that they are this HR, they are this It, they are this whatever, probably because somebody internally has become the, that’s their passion. That’s their expertise.
And so let’s talk about the branding aspect and how they can help grow this business through branding, whether it’s the individual, or the business themselves. You lead us down the path to educate us here.
For sure. So I mean, I think I think at the end of the day, one thing that’s very easy for us to agree on as a thesis, that there’s never been a better time, there’s like, no better time. In order for you to be able to build a business that you want, doing what you love to do, that you’re passionate about, where you can truly help people, there’s never been a better time in history to be able to do that.
That’s true. I agree.
And so here’s the benefit, right? When we ask the question, “Okay, well, why?” We can look at geopolitical, we can look at global, we can do all that stuff. The bottom line is the internet. We have direct-to-consumer access, right? That is the number one highest disruptive thing that started the truly technological age, was interconnectedness. And it happens on the internet.
So what I’m here to say, is a very simple statement. But you are a personal brand, whether you know it or not. And the reality is because people know, like, and trust you, that’s why they buy from you. And guess what, if they don’t know who you are, they’re never going to buy from you.
So I’m here to help give some practical steps, some very practical things that your audience can do in order to help increase that know, like, and trust factor, so they can continue to build their legacy business.
Which is important in every industry, but a CPA, someone dealing with your taxes and moving forward in your finances, and everything, that’s a personal thing. CPAs, that trust factor is huge.
So I’ll say it again, the “know, like and trust”—is that, do I have it right or where did I miss?
Yep, no, that’s it, man.
Okay. Let’s get this down that path, then how do we do this?
Well, here’s the first step. You know, the bottom line is to understand that people are buying you. That’s your story, it’s your energy, and it’s your magic. And that might feel a little bit like woowoo for some people, so let’s get really practical.
Your story: Why you do what you do. The number one CPA that I want is somebody who has gone through the crap that I’ve gone through, right? Not your successes—not your highlight reel—no one cares. And guess what, that’s what everybody else says, “We have represented these many people for this many years.” Who gives a crap? It doesn’t matter. It’s too soon.
I like to translate the story to meeting someone for the first time. And let’s say you’re, we’ll use a single guy who’s 25, walks into a bar, walks up to a girl and asks her to marry him. She said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get your name.” That’s how most people run their businesses: Buy my crap, right? No one cares.
And in a savvy market—the US has the most highly educated, most savvy market on the planet—you have to evolve with the times. And if you don’t, you’re going to be dead in the water. That’s just the bottom line. And I’ve seen it happen time and time again.
So number one, when you’re looking at your story, your story has to do with the way that you’re connecting with your audience—the people around you. How many people listening to this podcast right now spend time responding to posts inside of a community Facebook group of affluent people? Even if it’s not about things that have to do with finance, how many of you do that? My bet is zero. 0.01% do that.
Here’s the reality I can tell you. In my community, in a very affluent area in Denver, Colorado, 1,500 homes, you know? I’ll give you just a quick little concept. Every home is over a million dollars. It goes up to about ten. Pro athletes, CEOs of major companies, the CEO of FedEx, his daughter lives here, okay? I’ve done over seven figures in my neighborhood since I’ve lived here in sales from those people, and I’m—literally in that environment, this is funny, you can’t just go “Hey, buy my stuff,” because no one cares anyway. So what do I do? I participate, I engage, I ask questions, I answer questions. When I’ve run into people at the pool in the summer, I have a conversation. I just closed a six figure deal just the other day from a guy who I met at the pool in July.
This is how business works. And I go back to what my grandfather taught me about business because he worked for Cooks Coffee Company. He was born in 1919. He went through business in the 40s and 50s. It’s all about having that interpersonal connection, belly to belly, shaking hands, having conversations. You can do that digitally, but you have to be willing to tell your story, which is you have to be willing to participate in the community, have shared experiences, be somebody who’s worth listening to, and also who’s worth hearing contribution from.
So one simple step that you can take—and I can give this resource, it’s the 13 types of content that every entrepreneur needs to create, CPAs included—number one is tell a transparent story that connects you with your audience. Last bookkeeper who I hired, who will probably be with me forever, here was her story: My dad was a plumber. And he spent his whole life being highly disorganized as a master technician, and he never could get his entrepreneur career to actually take off, because he can never figure out the financial part of his business. That’s who I want to work with. See what I’m saying?
Mm hmm. Yep. That’s funny, because I have that conversation all the time—that scenario that you just said about your bookkeeper is, hey, her father, he probably had a passion for what he was doing. He didn’t have a passion for bookkeeping. And that was not. And so that’s why you find somebody that does. And that’s what you did in your situation, you find someone that has that passion.
I stumbled upon her! Had no idea. It was through a friend of a friend. And then I saw her stuff on LinkedIn or, I mean, it was just very simple. You have to be willing to engage the audience. You have to be somebody who can contribute, have something to say, If you tell a transparent story, you go to the next step, which is really simple, and you find an opportunity to share a common belief or value.
Yep. So yeah, I probably do not comment as much as I should. But I post a decent amount on LinkedIn and I’m very slow when it comes to Twitter and, and even TikTok we’re looking at doing now. We have a marketing team that we’re gonna do all these things. But what I do notice is there are a specific group of people that comment a lot on my posts and their names stick with me. So it’s like, “Okay, I know this person, I’ve seen this person, this person is actively engaged in the things that I am, you know, passionate about, because I’m talking about them on LinkedIn.” And so yeah, I agree with that completely.
Yeah, and I mean, that’s the first thing is your story. And that’s just really based on who you are. And people want to do business with people. That’s my other thesis is that people are the world’s most powerful brands.
I mean, let’s think about the election. Right? You look at the 2016 election, right? You look at that scenario of mass disruption, where someone can come in who’s not even in the same industry, and win it. Why? He’s built his personal brand for 40 years, 50 years, right? You know the name. It’s involved when someone says “the trump card.” Like let’s think about how powerful it is if your name becomes a common phrase, that’s personal branding at its finest
Alright, how do we get Crabtree to be a…my name to be a…
That’d be amazing!
Yeah, that’s one thing we’ve done as well, is I think we’ve, without knowing exactly what you’re saying, what we’ve done is is really started marketing “me” as a brand. But I’m really passionate about what we do when it comes to specialty tax. I’m constantly educating people on those areas, in new research and write articles for different organizations, we got the podcast, putting together virtual conferences, and so it’s the company and the company’s really the reason. But people know me as the company, and I think we’ve probably done what you’re saying even though I mean, Tri-Merit Everybody knows as well, but inside that everybody knows.
I’ll tell you a unique video that would be a great concept for this with you guys. Waka Flocka okay, he’s a rapper.
This is this is how I want to bring it down to a very human level for your audience. Waka Flocka is a rapper. He was on a podcast talking about how he diversifies his company structures that he learned from Trump himself. How he diversifies though his company structures legally in order to offset taxes. That is not something that’s ever taught to entrepreneurs. I paid $108,000 the first year in federal taxes, the first year I became an entrepreneur. Now everyone’s gonna want to contact me and be like, “I’ll be your CPA right now.” Don’t worry, guys, I fired that guy, and when I said what happened? He said, “Well, I didn’t know you’re gonna make that much money.” That is a worst case scenario! That’s a worst case scenario. I’m learning more from a rapper on freakin’ TikTok, or on YouTube shorts, than I am learning from an actual professional. And to me, that gets me fiery, because it’s like, that’s, though, the power of somebody who is sharing information as a personal brand, a rapper, or someone who’s a true expert, who’s not even educating, because they’re not participating in their community.
So I just want to like lock this concept in of going like, “Okay, so if I want to be somebody who’s worth following, if I want to contribute,” the best, the number one, at least in this time frame that I’ve seen, are people who are showing how to diversify your actual corporation structures in order to have proper channels of wealth distribution for yourself, and doing that the right way so that you can offset some of these things that as entrepreneurs, we deal with.
The most videos that I get from my friends who are entrepreneurs in interconnected, shared platforms, through messenger, are all those types of videos. It’s the number one hot topic of everything right now. I know that because I’m a consumer as well as a practitioner, and I’m asking all of you to do the same thing—to be a consumer as well as practitioner. Yes, they need to know your story, but they need to understand your magic, and this is part of the magic. What’s that one disruptive idea or one thing that you can show the audience that they need to know that no one else is talking about?
Here, I’ll give you guys a great start—everything they didn’t teach us in school, and they taught you in university. Start there.
And educate, educate, educate. And break through ideas, use maps, draw things out, show different illustrations. You’re a true expert, leverage your superpower. Don’t be like me, be like you.
So in this situation, then the this is where I think CPA firms are growing more anyways. And you know, when I started in public accounting, a long time ago, where are we at? I don’t even know. Thirty something years ago.
Nah, you’re not past 29. Right?
Exactly. I was proud to be a generalist, but as a generalist, there’s really no area of passion you have other than taxes in general. But being a specialist now, I mean, there’s that passion there, and I’m communicating that all the time, and I see that happening in CPA firms in general. They’re not so much the generalist, and they are the specialist in whatever industry, potentially the industry or potentially, it’s the portion of the tax code they’re experts in.
And when they do that, they get that passion. And when they get that passion, they get that knowledge. And when they get the knowledge, you’re saying, get that information out there, so people see that passion and hear your knowledge and find and see that you’re a thought leader in the industry and then start capitalizing on that. Am I getting that right?
Yeah, dude, a hundred percent. And here’s the deal. I’m gonna say this in love, but in a powerful statement: Don’t ever tell an entrepreneur—I’ve mentored over 500 entrepreneurs, personally, okay—and yes, I look young, I am young, but I spent a long, long, long time in this game.
Eh, I didn’t think you look young.
No that’s good. I’ll take it. I got a little gray in here.
So here’s the deal. Don’t ever tell an entrepreneur, “that’s not my job.” It goes against their value system. That’s what happened to me. When I talked to the first gentleman who was working with me it was based on “Well, I didn’t know you’re gonna make that much money.” And when I asked him diversification strategies, he kind of told me to talk to somebody else about it. Now, he’s been in the industry for probably forty years. In my opinion, it’s not that he lacks the competency. He lacks the care.
The best marketing strategy ever, is to give a crap. So if you want to have high retention accounts, when there’s a simple question, just even say, “Hey, Nick, if there’s anything that you’re thinking about that has anything to do with your finances, resources, planning, here’s a 15 minute call link. You know, just feel free to book on it whenever. I got a couple slots that are open.” And you send it out to your clients who are like your high net worth clients, or people who have a ton of connections, people who are really good people, that you want to have around for a long time just show like an ounce of effort.
That’s for me the, thing that I never got. And now I have that, and I’m like, “Oh, it was just that this guy didn’t really care.” And to me, that’s an ultimate fracture. Because as entrepreneurs, we’re committed to the highest version of who we are in doing our greatest work. And come hell or high water. If anybody gets in my way of doing my greatest work, they’re going to get bulldozed.
So that’s just not a way to build with high performing people. It’s not a way to build a relationship that’s going to last by saying, “Well, I didn’t know.” It’s like, that doesn’t work in my world. If I told my client that it sure as hell is not going to work in this relationship, I can promise you that.
Okay, so I think I took us different directions from where we’re going.
It’s good, though! It’s good. It’s good. They’re gonna love it.
So to get to I guess, to get back on that path. So we are using the internet to market to get your expertise out. And then so what next?
Yeah, so first of all, you’re sharing stories, you’re gonna share stories, you’re gonna create common bonds, that’s what I’m looking for you to do. They’re called bonding actions, common bonds. And marketing is a psychological principle. It’s not a marketing principle. Why? Because when you meet somebody who’s gone through something you’ve gone through, you immediately like them more, because you feel like they know you more, because they’ve been through things you’ve been through, right?
So number one. Number two is your magic. So that’s what I’m saying is showcase your unique expertise to the freakin’ world. “Here’s the number one thing that most people don’t know.” IP is currency. If you know something that you feel like your audience doesn’t know, or your peers don’t know, share it. Why? Because that is actually more powerful as an influence, like an influence currency than anything else on the planet.
So if you want to hoard all your bananas, like Donkey Kong, and not share with the world, well, how did that play out for kids who play in the sandbox who wanted to play by themselves and didn’t want anyone to play with them? Not so well. So the concept is share your unique magic. Don’t hide it, don’t put a bucket over it, share it to the world, because that’s what the world deserves. And you’re going to earn a lot more clients that way , so share your magic.
Number three has to do with your energy. You guys can already probably feel for me my energy goes like up, like really fast, and I can maintain that for a really long time. I’m powerful, exciting. I’m ambitious. I want to do great things. I’m audacious, say crazy things, do crazy things. It’s just wild that they work. Why? Because my belief matches that as well. Be somebody who’s worth spending time with. Be somebody who’s a driver and not a drainer. This is a huge thing. I take entrepreneurs through this exercise all the time: “What’s draining you? What’s driving you? Bottom line. Tell me, what is it?” And you’ll bet that things draining them are in far greater proportion than the things that are driving them. Be somebody who is driving other people towards a positive direction, somebody who’s worth being around.
That sales and marketing engine than I do, it’s through LinkedIn. Having a conversation with the CEO in Denver, he runs one of the biggest companies in Denver, asking him for feedback on something and he’s like, “You know what, dude, we should just grab a beer some time. That’d be awesome.” I wasn’t expecting that. And you know what he said? “I just love your energy. You just seem like a pretty awesome person to be around.”
I couldn’t have asked for that opportunity in a sales call, be a human being, have great energy, enjoy the people you’re around and drive them towards something greater. Those are the three reasons of why you need to build a personal brand—the three steps you can take. And I promise you, if you guys do this stuff, it’s going to be revolutionary.
But the thirteen types of content that you need to create—this is not formulated, this is like literally you just go into it and steal it, okay?
Number one, is you’re sharing transparency. Number two, you’re showcasing values. Number three, here’s an example: You’re showing lifestyle. How you live, how you practice what you preach. Don’t go in for the kill so early. Spend time nurturing and creating community and people will buy from you.
The main reason why I have this message is because there’s so many people who are spending time going, “I know that I need a personal brand, but I don’t know what to do. I’m just kind of in that process of waiting.” Know like, and trust is the connection point of humanity, and content, creates relationships, relationships will then develop the proper trust, then trust drives the revenue that you need for your company.
So if you’re having a revenue problem right now, you have a content problem. And you have a relationship and trust problem, because you’re not meeting new people. This whole COVID situation where people have been locked in their houses for two years? It’s kind of created a problem, especially if you’re not developing new content and developing new relationships online.
Yep, you got it. Alright. So that’s the path, then. That’s what we need to do. Now, obviously, we simplified it.
Those are three of the seven steps: You got your personal story, you got your platform—which has to do with your content creation, where are you creating content, what are you doing—and the last one in that in my seven steps of personal branding, the third one is your positioning. And that’s just how you’re positioning yourself in the market, which has to do of course, with your magic.
You don’t need to have fifty ideas to market. You need to have one idea to market one big idea, attach the story and give them the freakin solution, and it’s game over. The equation is very repetitive. $200 million in revenue that I’ve done for my clients. This is not something that is like, you know, this, this is not voodoo magic. We’re talking about very practical steps that you can take for your business. And in addition, over a billion views online through other people doing this same exact methodology and approach.
So this is not hogwash, or snake oil, or just some, you know, weird concept from me. This is tried and true, perfected processes that help you get your greatest leverage in the marketplace to do your best work.
Okay. So, to summarize, and I know I didn’t want to go into all 13, and all seven and all everything, which is fine, but just I guess, in simple terms, a CPA getting this brand out, getting this message out, and you’ve said it a couple times, but it’s you know—
Know, like, and trust factor.
Know, like and trust, make it memorable obviously.
There you go man.
I haven’t heard down here. Be fun to be around, but get that knowledge and expertise, share it. And so CPAs really, if you are in a firm, and you’re the expert at one aspect of your firm, you know, let that expertise show through, somewhere or another. Let that knowledge show through, but do it in an exciting and fun way. And then well, you don’t have to sell because people know what to come to you. You’re the expert. They’ve seen it. And I simplified that. But is that am I on the right path, or?
You are Randy, and the concept is this: You know, my heart breaks for guys or gals in the industry have been like, “Man, I’ve been doing this a long time I have a good book business, I don’t really need to do more.” If you’re not complaining, I can’t help you. That’s the bottom line. You don’t want growth and you’re not motivated by growth in the season in your life. And this message probably really turned you off. That’s totally fine, because it’s not for you.
But for the people who do want to continue to grow, and even if they’re at that 30 year mark in business, and maybe they experienced a drop because of COVID, or are not getting as many referrals as they used to, there is a concept for you here that’s very strong in order for you to not feel like you’re losing your talent, your ability, your significance, your certainty in the world. And that’s what I’m really trying to drive to.
A personal brand is essentially the vehicle of me helping people do their greatest work. And what breaks my heart is when I know that there’s people who want to continue to do that, but they keep asking the question “ho?.” They’re asking the wrong question. They need to ask the question, “who?” Who can I learn from? Who can help me? Who can give me some type of step by step process?
So I guess in a kind of rapid bow on the whole thing: If you know that you need to get kind of back out there, and you need to build a personal brand, that you need to do more of these things on social media to grow your business. My question is, what the hell are you waiting for? What’s holding you back? Creating a personal brand is absolutely the key to success in any business. And it happened in politics, it’s happened in business, it’s happened in any vertical. And that’s allowing people to get to the point where they can know like, and trust you and then connect with you as a person, an individual person. When they know who you are, when they know what you stand for, they’re going to be so much more likely to do business with you.
So personal brand at its core thesis, gives people a reason to believe in you. And it’s going to show them that you’re the authority in your field, that you’re someone who’s worth following, and as you continue to do the work of planting the seeds, as our buddy Jim Rome would say, a long time ago, you know, “Throw the seed, cast the seed, don’t chase the birds when they take the seed.” Meaning if you post something and no one interacts with it, don’t just quit.
As your personal brand grows, so will your income. If you want to learn more about how to do this sequentially, I’m a much better systematic writer than I am communicator at times. Because I like to go with the energy, and where it’s driving.
Well, I vary all different directions.
There’s 13 different types of content. I’ll give that to you guys. Again, it’s just a simple Google Doc, you can just go read about it really quick. And get those first steps running.
So people that want to find out more, then, how do they get ahold of you? What’s the best way to get more information?
Yeah, my website, NickCavuoto.com. You can also find me on social media: Nick Cavuoto on every major social platform. So feel free to hop on over my website or on social and make sure you come say hey.
Well Nick, I appreciate you being on here. I completely agree with everything that you say. I honestly could spend the next ten minutes talking about how I think we’ve done exactly what you’re saying. Probably not exactly—you’d probably correct me at places. But you know, what we’ve done over the last, you know, we’ve been in business fifteen years, the last five years where we spent more time and effort on what you’re saying, you know, we’re up 800% in that time.
Interesting. There you go.
Yeah. So it works. And anybody that wants to find out more, reach out to Nick, you can actually always reach out to me and just ask what we’ve done. But I’ll get you in touch with Nick as well. And I thank everybody for listening, and thank you, Nick for being here.
You bet. Thank you so much. Appreciate you.
Nick Cavuoto on Twitter and LinkedIn
About the Guest
Nick Cavuoto turns today’s top talent into legacy entrepreneurs by leveraging their personal brand to dominate the “attention currency” of their audience.
You’ll find him featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Gary Vaynerchuk’s blog.
Meet the Host
Randy Crabtree, CPA
Randy Crabtree, co-founder and partner of Tri-Merit Specialty Tax Professionals, is a widely followed author, lecturer and podcast host for the accounting profession.
Since 2019, he has hosted the bi-weekly “The Unique CPA,” podcast, which ranks among the world’s 5% most popular programs (Source: Listen Score). You can find articles from Randy in Accounting Today’s Voices column, the AICPA Tax Adviser (Tax-saving opportunities for the housing and construction industries) and he is a regular presenter at conferences and virtual training events hosted by CPAmerica, Prime Global, Leading Edge Alliance (LEA), Allinial Global and several state CPA societies. Crabtree also provides continuing professional education to top 100 CPA firms across the country.
Schaumberg, Illinois-based Tri-Merit is a niche professional services firm that specializes in helping CPAs and their clients benefit from R&D tax credits, cost segregation, the energy efficient commercial buildings deduction (179D), the energy efficient home credit (45L) and the employee retention credit (ERC).
Prior to joining Tri-Merit, Crabtree was managing partner of a CPA firm in the greater Chicago area. He has more than 30 years of public accounting and tax consulting experience in a wide variety of industries, and has worked closely with top executives to help them optimize their tax planning strategies.