The Optimal Choice with Gale Crosley
Randy Crabtree is joined by Gale Crosley of Crosley+Company on episode 109 of The Unique CPA. Gale’s specialty is in driving strategic, organic, revenue growth for CPA firms, and she has been recognized for her influence and insights into the accounting profession by The Advisory Board, CPA Practice Advisors, Accounting Today, Inside Public Accounting, and more. Gale shares her insights through actionable principles any CPA firm can take now to improve its growth and profitability, and delves into just how strategic organic growth works.
Today our guest is Gale Crosley. Many of you, if not most of you, probably already know Gale by name, but in case for some reason you’ve been living under a rock and you don’t know Gale, Gale is president of Crosley and Company. She’s a consultant to CPA firms, probably mid-market or top 400 CPA firms is where she lives, so higher end as well. She spent many years working with technology firms from IBM to startups, but before that even she worked in public accounting, so she’s had quite an arc in her professional career. She is on everybody’s list out there, counting today’s top 100, just came out recently. She was on that for, and she can correct me if I’m wrong, I think 16 or 17 straight years now.
She was the recipient of the Advisory Board Hall of Fame Award. I’m going to have to figure out what that is, so I’ll ask Gale what that is as we go in. If you’re looking out there, you’ll see Gale on the list of people that you should know and you should be working with. Gale…
Welcome to The Unique CPA.
Hi! Thanks for the invite. How are you?
I’m doing well today. How are you?
I’m doing great. I’m sitting in Sedona, Arizona, so I’m having a great time looking at some mountains out my window right now and talking to you. What could be better?
There you go. You’re in your happy place, and I hope the audience is in their happy place today for this recording.
I hope so too. I’ve known of you for years. I honestly think we met at some point years ago in passing at some conference. I think it might have been a CPAmerica conference. That’s my thought. You’ve done work with CP America before in the past, right?
Yes. Actually, I’ve worked with almost all of the major associations and networks around the world, and that’s taken me also beyond the United States into doing work around the world. I do a lot of international stuff as well.
Nice. Does that mean you’re traveling international as well?
Yes. Yes. I’ve been, before COVID, Monday through Friday on airplanes and every now and again around the world. Because I love to travel and people will say, oh my God, I hate to travel. I’m not one of them. I’m a wanderlust. I’ve never seen a country that I didn’t like to be in, so that’s me.
I agree completely. People say the same thing to me because I’m pretty much May 1st through mid-December, I’m on the road. When it’s not tax season, I’m on the road. People are like, don’t you get tired of that? I go, no, I get to go out, one, to interesting places and two, to talk to interesting people. What’s better than that?
I know. I need to change the scenery just like you.
Yes. In fact, like I said, we’re in Sedona, Arizona right now. Now is my slow season, to spoil alert, we’re recording this in early January of ’23. This is my slow time and so on my slow time, I travel again, so I pretty much travel all year round.
Alright. Enough about my travel escapades and your travel. Just want to wrap this up, what we’re talking here, besides the travel is I’ve known you of you for years, met in the past, I think. When I started this podcast three plus years ago, you were on my list of people that I wanted to get on here and finally, our paths crossed a few months ago and we were able to make it happen. I really appreciate you agreeing to do this. I’m looking forward to this conversation today.
Thank you. Same.
Alright. Let’s start with who you are. I guess you probably get asked this all the time and that, but I think it’s such an interesting story, your story of starting a public accounting and then the path that you went down and how you got to where you are today and I think that’s very relevant, obviously, to the work you’re doing. So can you give us this kind of career arc path and knowledge gaining path that you’ve gone through?
Sure. I’m going to start with who I am and I’m a strategic organic revenue growth consultant and to mid-market, mostly mid-market CPA firms and as a result of that, I transform them into really high growth environments and the way that I got doing this was I came from many, many years in corporate America where I was with the best of the best and learned the best of the best about how to drive demand and how to strategically grow a company from startup all the way through very large organizations and when the dot-com bust happened about 20 years ago, I came back over here into CPA land and I saw that it was fertile ground, that the level of sophistication with growth was very low relative to corporate America and in that regard, it was individual contribution, banker breakfast, lawyer lunch, very tactical and generalist, you know, hang out our shingle for all comers and by the time I get done working with a firm, they don’t look like that at all. They look like not individual contribution but leader-driven team-based growth. They look like a very strategic capturing markets at a time versus one fish at a time and they’re super specialized so that they can compete in an environment where we have what, 44,000 CPA firms? And the reason why my message resonated was because of my past.
I started as a CPA with Arthur Anderson and Pricewaterhouse as an auditor. I moved from Cleveland to Atlanta so I was a Yankee in the south, a woman in public accounting back in the day and they kind of ran me off so after about a year of in and out trying to find my way, IBM, I wandered into their local office one day after, you know, leaving Pricewaterhouse and they said, well, we think you can sell. I said, excuse me, I’m a professional CPA, no!
And they came after me for about a year and then finally a year later, they said, listen, we can teach you how to sell, we can’t teach you how to be analytical and we need women to sell the big iron, the big mainframes which the cheapest one was a million dollars so I learned how to sell very large strategic solution, you know, long sell cycle stuff and the rest is kind of history. I went up through the food chain, the corporate food chain of sales management, marketing management, new product development management so IBM bounced me around and then I launched out of there into a lot of venture capital back startups, had my own company for a while in the mid 90s actually and as a result, by the time I came back over here, I had a tremendous experience from startup to very, very large and all the scalable pieces in between in the driving demand side of the house.
And so that’s how I ended up here and that’s the value proposition is to bring those best practices over to our profession to really get it, you know, going and continuing to improve, shall we say.
Yeah, I see that that’s an area where I think many firms and maybe I’m a little bit old in my thinking but maybe this is still the case, many firms do not have a plan on growth. It’s like, hey, there’s a client, let’s take it. Now, I think that’s changed a little bit lately just because there’s so many clients out there that people can be picky and choosy and they can hopefully firms are calling the herd every year too because there’s clients you don’t want to deal with but how did you, when you started Crosley & Company and it’s what, over 20 years now?
20 years, 20 years ago.
Okay, and you said that that was basically you were in tech and the dot com bubble was coming or came and was in the middle and I assume you were looking for probably the same thing you tell your CPA firms is look for this new path to business, this new niche you want to get involved in and obviously with your background being a CPA but how did you identify CPA firms was the group that needed your expertise?
Good question and I will say by answering it, Randy, that I eat my own dog food, so I don’t, I don’t foist on anybody anything that I don’t do myself and I call what I do a set of principles generally accepted growth principles and although like gap and gas are codified in one place generally accepted growth principles are not so I’ve codified them and I have these principles in them and I have these principles in the Crosley method and one of the key pieces is when you’re picking a market you look at several markets and you evaluate each of the individual markets and the market conditions in each and then you cut the squad so I had five markets that looked like they had potential and I evaluated all five and the CPA firms kept coming up on the list of the final candidates and finally the the other one that I looked at that came up on the finalist list was law firms and there was no question that the CPA firms had great market conditions and why do I say that? At the time they were moving from something called the product life cycle from stage two to stage three and the product life cycle is a very important principle about what you do when when a market is young versus it’s going gangbusters versus it’s maturing out versus it’s a fat cap shall we say and I saw that firms were moving or this market was moving from stage two to stage three which requires a higher level of sophistication because there’s lots of more competitors.
And so as a result of that I kept going down the path of evaluation I launched my first early adopter which was a $5.5 million firm in Atlanta and I used the early adopter to get to the next step which is the early majority and so using that concept I kept going down the road and it was like door after door after door thank you the lord above but it just the doors just kept opening and it was absolutely clear this is where I should be so and that’s what I you know what I teach my firms and it appears just in hearing you talk it is a passion and following your passion is awesome too and I think it seems like you learned that passion and found that passion many years ago and that’s awesome to see I would assume you agree yes but it did take many years to find the passion like this this was not like a lot of people in their road to success their road to what they love to do and success in my mind is you love to do it you’re good at it you can do it you know with your eyes closed it’s your god-given gifts and a lot of people never find that but I say that my word of advice is to continue to pursue that because when you find it you will know you will you do it I don’t want my clients to hear this you do it for free, right?
But you can’t do it for free but you would.
Oh I agree completely, I probably five years ago now or it took me about two years but you know later in life I found my passion and it is like I do not work a day in my life right now I just haven’t look at what I get to do I get to sit here and talk to you I mean what could be more fun than that so yeah, so finding, yeah, finding your passion is awesome but it doesn’t happen overnight so like you said, in my story as well.
Alright so you mentioned that the generally accepted growth principles, which I think is awesome where—oh, GAP—there you go, I just looked at the initials. And so I think that’s great obviously working with firms too because we they like processes and procedures and principles and and and methodologies uh to be put in place do you want to go over that what are these generally accepted growth principles and how you instill them into these firms you work with?
Sure I’ll just give you a couple of them because just like GAP and GAS there are several, right? And I remember studying for the exam that we had to memorize them and that was painful. We had mnemonics and acronyms and all that stuff.
I can’t even remember that far back I have no idea what they were.
I took the Becker CPA course—
I did too.
I do remember, I go [fun-sounding acronyms].
I can’t even remember that!
Oh so, yeah well we both know and love Becker and thank god for them, right?
I actually took it—sorry Gale—I took Becker because one, I wanted to learn what they were doing, but two I needed more hours before I could sit for the exam. I don’t have an accounting degree, and I needed more hours and becker counted towards the hours and so one I figured alright, I’m prepping for the exam and I’m getting my hours so I can go in there and sit for it so—I interrupted, go ahead.
Well I’ve got a little story to tell you here is that I got a scholarship when I was a senior and they gave me college credits for taking the course while I was in college still and I sat for the exam before I graduated
So I did the same thing you did. We did it right.
And you can’t do that anymore can you I think you have to have your, do you have to have your 150 hours before you take the exam I think
Which is another thing.
Anyway, so these principles are as immutable as “debit left, credit right.” And a lot of accountants don’t know that. They don’t know that there are principles they don’t know what they are, and they don’t know that when you violate them it costs you. Now, you don’t go to jail because if you do a bad audit and the debits and credits you know don’t equal you know you you you could have a serious problem. When you violate these principles um on this on the driving demand side you just won’t grow. Now that’s painful but it’s not as painful as going to jail.
So a lot of firms will go or a lot of you know people I talked to as well I’ll just slide by that. But they truly, if you want to strategically grow and I say strategically and let me take a detour, strategic growth is the best kind of growth because it’s sustainable, it’s profitable, it is efficient, and it’s also the fastest growth—if you get the three elements of strategy I’ll come back to in a minute—it is absolutely the fastest growth and as I told someone the other day you can spend 10 hours and drive a hundred thousand dollars worth of revenue or you can spend the same 10 hours and drive five hundred thousand dollars worth of revenue—your choice
It’s kind of like um on the fulfilling demand side you have lean six sigma and that’s obvious to see, you know? Squishing processes down to their minimum required. But on the drive and demand side you have the same thing—if you follow the principles you’re doing like lean six on driving demand so you can drive exponentially more revenue in the same amount of time.
And because these these principles are as immutable as debit left, credit right, I’ll give you one of them which is when you are looking at how to grow this product life cycle I mentioned concept earlier is very important that if something is just brand new, you’re getting it off the ground, you have one strategy, strategic imperative. As you go through the fast growth part of it be it a market that you’re trying to get into like real estate or not-for-profit, or be it a service line that you’re trying to get into like opportunity zone credits or cryptocurrency services, whatever, then it goes through this fast growth path and your strategic initiative shifts from this imperative to this imperative to this imperative.
And if you know that, for example if you’re trying to drive revenue in an audit practice it’s it’s over in fat cap. So the things that are important the strategic imperative is to drive innovation and efficiency. If you’re trying to get something brand new off the ground, like SPACs, that’s not what you’re trying to do—your strategic imperative is to get early adopters. So if you know where you are and you know this principle you can go make a beeline for it and that’s one example of a generally accepted growth principle.
So real quick based on what you just said there when you say early adopters, you’re saying early adopters within a firm or you’re talking about early adopter clients that you need to go after—what do you mean by early adopters?
Yeah, early adopted clients in other words get out in the market and who’s going to be your first, you know, early adopter client that you’re going to work with. And then there’s a set of principles around how you do that as well so the principles you know kind of go down all the way pretty deep into each of these areas.
Okay and then you were just going to expand on two others?
Yeah. There are two other principles that are equally relevant. One is something that I call the revenue segmentation matrix. And what that means is that when you are taking a firm that already has revenues and it’s not a startup you you take a big matrix in the sky and you put all the revenues of all your industries in the columns, and all the revenues of your service lines in the rows, and you populate that matrix and see what the contribution to the total is. And that informs where you might go in the market and what you might do in it.
And also, when you’re a larger firm and have, you know, five or more partners, then you assign different partners to different chunks of the revenue. And this is the first page of the playbook for really growing and scaling the firm. Because see before that everybody just has their book of business and that’s all they care about and you roll up the the revenue, you know, and at the end of the year and say this is what we we did. “Now y’all go out there and just go 10 percent or whatever.” But when you move to the matrix model you’re moving to leading growth not just doing it. And you’re moving to each person owns a business unit and the strategic direction and financial health of a chunk of the revenue of the firm and that is so foundational as a generally accepted growth principle to scaling your firm and usually at about five million is where this hits as a requirement. And then you can take the firm all the way up to billions with this particular principle.
Alright. Five million per segment or five million overall revenue for the firm?
Five million overall revenue for the firm
That’s what I figured. Okay.
That’s pretty much when you start when it starts breaking down the old model of, you know, everybody just go out and sell, you know, make rain, this is when it starts to break down and you can’t scale it very well. And some firms try to continue on tough.
Right. Yeah and so you need a leader of these—let’s say when you’re saying these segments, this is a niche, right? I mean this is you know we’re the transportation niche or we deal with restaurant niche or that that’s what you mean by the the segment within the the revenue within the firm?
It could be a segment of revenue that’s a column or a segment of revenue that’s a row.
So it’s the audit row, it’s the tax row, it’s the tax credit row, it’s the you know it’s the whatever row it is. And so yes and the job is the same whether it’s a row leader or a column leader and I stay away from the term niche, because niche connotes a specialty that is not your standard garden variety like audit or tax. And this applies equally to audit and equally to tax as it does to a particular niche. And so I found that “niche” has all kinds of baggage associated with it as a term therefore I say segment. I’ll go into firms, “Oh they’ve got the niches covered but what about 80 to 90 percent of your revenue that’s in audit and tax?” Oh we don’t need to do anything with that. Um, excuse me! You know those are not on autopilot!
We’ve got to do something with them or they’ll become long in the tooth and irrelevant.
Alright, so we got the segments and then we got the services that could—
Yeah and it’s a revenue segment it’s a segment that’s a column or a segment that’s a row—it’s a revenue segment, yeah, not a market segment.
And they cross paths, and then you figure out where we’re doing the audits for that?
Okay! You’re teaching me. I figure if you teach me you’re gonna be teaching other people. And I always say niche although I know some people say “neesh” as well but you say segment maybe I’ll maybe I’ll adopt “segment,” although I’m not sure I can. Alright: revenue segment.
Let me ask this question then: so the segment, let’s assume, and again we’ve got segments and we’ve got the up and down, and we got the side to side, and intersections, and when you’re going in and you’re looking at this and seeing where revenue is coming from and where it should be and what the profitability is and everything that you’re analyzing there, is there a point where you go in and you say hey, you have this segment but look at what it is this is not there’s no profitability here, you’re not doing well in here you don’t have any expertise in here, do you go in and say hey let’s dump this segment? Or is that something that happens?
Yes, certain things matter, and certain other things don’t. like what matters is are you profitable but what doesn’t matter is do you have any expertise that’s not relevant which is like what do you mean? What I mean by that—
—that’s my face!
You know when when Sox came out, Sarbanes Oxley? None of my firms had any talent in it. With cryptocurrency, nobody had any talent in it. ESG, nobody has any talent in it. That’s not a market condition. So my point about this is you step back from the matrix and you say okay our industries are the columns our service lines are the rows you step back and you say okay now where do we go? I mean literally you were on the edge of it when you were talking about the crosshairs there. Where you go is where the market conditions are best. It has nothing to do with what we’re good at or want to sell—the market doesn’t care what we do and the market doesn’t care what we want to sell. The market only cares what the market cares about.
So one of the big shifts in in mindset that I work with firms on is to to change your thinking from, I’m looking at the from the inside out what do we have let’s go find someone to sell it to, to the outside in, which is let’s look at the markets and find out what they want, compare it with what we have, and see if we have it or don’t have it and if we don’t have it get it. So when we do that, some of the principles involved or how do you look at the market from the outside in and compare the markets so that you know what happens is our leaders come in we sit down and we say aha, that’s a hot spot that’s a hot spot in the matrix, and these are all cold spots.
So the hot spots are the intersections of an industry and a service line where the market conditions are excellent. So maybe we have four hot spots in the matrix and that’s where we put our resources now. That’s where we put our focus and our time and our energy and our financial resources, and we have everybody on the same page because now we’re a football team. We’re not just a bunch of golfers like we used to be going out and playing the course by ourselves and bringing in, you know, a fish. We are now a football team and now we’re all together on the same page and Susie says yes, but I’m in not-for-profit CAS and I need it because the market conditions are so good, and Joe says yeah, but I’m over in banking with audits and yeah, but there’s nothing going on there the market is crowded the the conditions are horrible, it’s all tied up with our competitors, and Susie’s over there saying let me let me give you the data on you know, CAS and not-for-profits.
And so as a result we start putting the monies where we need them put, and what Joe really needs is he needs machine learning and AI embedded in his audit so that he can launch some consultative services in it, right? So it doesn’t—I’m not bashing audit by the way they all have uniquely you know situations and market conditions that could or couldn’t be very good or bad.
Right. And I know your history as audit I was never an auditor I did I did not enjoy it, I love tax, so I know you wouldn’t be bashing audit because that’s a that’s where you grew up in accounting right?
I knew it and I loved it and you’re right I still think it’s wonderful.
Yeah. I have, for some reason, that was never a passion of mine and I got out of audit as soon as I possibly could and I got into tax and been there ever since.
Alright, so okay those two principles—great—you said there was a third that you wanted to talk about? What would be that next principle?
This is one of the most important principles also, which is when you’re devising a growth strategy there are three elements of strategy. And I see business plans that are 25 pages long and they don’t include these three elements of strategy. And it’s very simple, everything rolls up under one of the three, okay? And they relate to that matrix I was talking about so if you think about the rows on the matrix the service so that’s what is the service that’s one principle or one one element of growth strategy. And then the other element of a growth strategy is the column—the industry. So who are you selling the service to?
Think of three circles. The service here, the who are you selling it to, the targeted buyer group here, and in the middle is a very important circle called the distribution channel. Now what is the distribution channel? It’s how you and buyers find each other in great quantities and it could be really weird, odd, out of the box, for example in St Louis, the Catholic diocese was a channel into our buyer group. In Detroit it was trade mission trips that were done by the Chamber of Commerce. In Chicago I had one which was a divorce planning guide in the litigation support area. I mean, it can go anywhere in any direction if you keep to the—it’s a way that you and buyers find each other in great quantities.
Then you have the combination: think of a combination lock where you have three digits on it, the service, the channel, the target—10-15-22— and that is the service, the channel, and the target that is unique for that row and column, you know intersection. And what happens is that when you find these elements of strategy, SCT, service channel target, that’s when you unlock the safe of strategy and revenue starts flowing because that is the framework for it. And when I go into a firm that they don’t have any of this, by the time I’m done we may have five, ten, twenty, I don’t know how many combinations, but we know what the strategic combinations are not. If you’re one digit off, you won’t grow.
So it’s not—if it’s not a 10-15-22, well maybe you thought it was a 9 and it’s not a 9, it’s not 11 it’s exactly a 10. They want cash management services in their restaurant chains and the way you get into them is through you know the National Restaurant Association, and what you do with the National Restaurant Association is you don’t do a booth and then you know go sponsor something—that’s tactical. We have channel alignment which is another hole, we don’t have time for that today.
But the point about it is it’s service, channel, target. And if any of you see my website,
crosleycompany.com, you’ll see right on the home page or maybe it’s the first tab one of my clients saying SCT drives what they do it drives the growth of their firm and they they got it it’s like okay, they got it. It’s like debit left, credit right.
So I’m gonna I want to expand on that real quick, but before I do that I’m gonna go into a story of what one thing we did and I want to get your opinion on this. It’s similar to what you just said but when you’re in there and you’ve got this matrix and you’re looking at things. Do you find that hey, it doesn’t matter if we have this expertise in this industry or this service, but this is an area where there is growth—we should look at adding this service or adding this industry. Is this something? Or we just have an employee that’s so passionate about this industry, because it intersects with some of our services, let’s bring this industry in. Is that part of this consulting you do when you go into firms?
Yeah, Randy, and it happens all the time.
That gets me to something else—I always have models. Think of a three-legged stool and strategic growth is the seat. There are three functional elements: marketing, sales, and what you’re talking about, which is innovation. So innovation is part of it always, and sometimes you don’t have to innovate very much, you just have to customize what you do for a particular buyer group. But sometimes the evidence from the market input is so compelling that you must evaluate it.
And in your world for example, a few years ago, opportunity zone credits, right? OZ credits came out, and I was working with firms on evaluating it and it turned out that they were very popular in certain geographies, and not so much in others and very popular in certain industries, right? And not so much others. And that was a perfect example of the intersection of we have an OZ credit potential—that’s a row—and we have no revenue in it today so we had zeros across the line but we had about eight industries and we looked at every single industry and said “aha, that’s the industry.”
And so that was the hot spot, that was the intersection and now we launched OZ Credits, this was a firm of mine in Kansas, and the and the conditions were excellent in Kansas for OZ Credits, and it was in a particular one or two you know industries and so that’s a great example of how that happened.
Let me give you our example then and tell me if I’m on target here. Two years ago, in fact my two-year anniversary of this is in two days—big changes that happened in the Employee Retention Credit now we’re a specialty tax consulting firm or service firm. And this was a brand new… service… I think I got that right because ERC we didn’t do it before we didn’t and as a side note anybody listening knows that I am getting on my soapbox a lot about Employee Retention Credit because there’s so much misinformation out there on that and I think everybody understands at this point we’re a firm that does this correctly—we don’t promise everybody. I had to put that disclaimer, anytime you say Employee Retention Credit right now I feel like you have to put this disclaimer that no, not everybody qualifies, let’s make sure.
Alright. Bottom line is so this new service, this, we have you know if we look at the the columns and the rows, there’s a lot of intersection, I’m sure of industries we work with and would qualify. But from a channel, the channel would be what we ended up doing as one of the ways to get into this was tied in and you mentioned earlier in your example, the National Restaurant Association—perfect, perfect candidate for the Employee Retention Credit. So ended up, we became members I’ve done five or six webinars for them, I’ve been on their podcast, we were part of their education group where we give back to their group.
And so I think in that scenario it just that helped us a lot now that’s been, you know whatever, 10 percent of our revenue in ERC maybe came from that, but that’s a big number. But so from that, it’s the service is the ERC, the channel is the National Restaurant Association, the targets are restaurants in my—I’m just trying to educate myself—am I on base with what that’s, with what your plan is there?
So far good. however the thing that I didn’t hear—the thing that I didn’t hear is the strategic alignment with NRA, National Restaurant Association. The thing that I I would say if we if we rewind the clock back a couple of years you may or may not have done this you talked about what you did, but I didn’t hear about the channel alignment that you cultivated.
So I’ll give you an example right now from one of my firms we’re cultivating a channel which is in the architecture and engineering space. And we found an association similar to that, and what I told the segment leader is, I want you to go and interview the executive director and the chairman of the board of that association, and find out what their top issues and problems are.
And a very live example from New Jersey was in the technology space many years ago when I said the same thing to the leader, and he said, well, we’re just going to do a booth at a conference and yada yada. I said no no no. Sit down with the executive director and tell me what is the top thing on their list. And when he did he found out that the issue was that the colleges in New Jersey were not graduating programmers with a programming language that the CEOs of the tech companies wanted. So they wanted “Ruby on Rails” programmers and the colleges were were graduating like C++ programmers or whatever. And so when he talked to the executive director she said so we’ve got to do something about this.
So they got their heads together and they executed a strategy to do several things—to help her with that problem—and also to help us get what we wanted which is find buyers in great quantities so you can see as that alignment happened it wasn’t a booth at a conference at all.
And so what I didn’t hear from you and I don’t want you to give you everybody your secret sauce—
—No, this is great.
But that is exactly—and I have one other example if we have time for it that’s pretty good.
Oh yeah. I have eight more hours today so we’re good.
This one was—I love this story of channel alignment it came out of Birmingham, Alabama it was a six million dollar firm at the time. And we identified the dental niche as having excellent market conditions so now, here we go finding our trying to find our channels. One potential channel was a provider of goods and services to the dental space and that was Henry Schein. And Henry Schein provides equipment and supplies to—they’re one of the top two at the time Henry Schein and Patterson Dental were the two—we sat down with the vice president of sales from Henry Schein for the southeast and said, so what is the top thing on your list? We want to sell a bunch more equipment. That’s what we do, I’m on quota. And we want to sell it this year versus next year, because quota ends you know the year ends 12/31.
So as we’re talking we find out that oh by the way, and this was when we had accelerated depreciation and you could take it you know and really prosper from it—we said to the VP of sales, and this is my segment leader, well do you know about accelerated depreciation and if you sell a hundred thousand dollar piece of equipment your, dentist can put now up to twenty five thousand dollars in his pocket and he goes what? What?!
And so here’s a beautiful example of channel alignment. So we know how to do this, and we need to get into all the dentist’s offices so the VP of sales says I’ll tell you what, I’m going to get all 40 of my salesmen together we’re going to bring you in you’re going to present to them and you’re going to make an offer that you will sit down with them in any of their dentist offices and talk about this and we did.
And we were in every dentist office in the southeast right and about oh a month later Patterson Dental’s VP of sales called us and said hey, we heard you’re doing that over at Henry Schein, can you do that for us? And we said of course! And that, my friend, and I, you know we have two more incredible channels that came out of this—one is an association and the other one was the Birmingham Dental School— that we just went to town with this. And so that’s what I mean by channels of distribution.
it’s easy to do a booth at a conference and do sponsorship but this is what I’m talking about.
Yep. Yep. Alright. so this is why you’re out there because you know these things, and I am so bad at the process, procedure, following rules, and that’s why everybody else in our company does that and I just get to go freelance. So you’d probably say hey we need to get rid of Randy when you came in and looked at our—the way we handle things!
No, I would have said, I can teach Randy a lot of stuff and take him to even better than he is even better five times the revenue in the same amount of time.
Yeah, and I believe you actually could—it’s a matter of if I will listen or not. That’s where we might have a problem.
That is true, that is true.
So I’m at this point I am set in my ways, and honestly we are a very quickly fast growing company, we’re listed on Inc magazine as one of the 5000 fastest growing private companies last year—I think that a big—and this is my ego showing through, a big part of that has been me the last three years the last five years probably but man I probably could do a lot better with that if I had Gale following me around and telling me where to make changes and fixes so we might have to talk a little deeper on that.
Thank you for the compliment—thanks so much.
Yep! Alright Gale, this has been awesome, I want to keep going for another two hours because there’s so many more questions I wanted to ask, but I think we need to probably start wrapping it up. Before I go to one final question, do you want to try to give us a wrap up on things that we talked about today?
Yes. I will tell you that today we look at organic growth and say “Oh my god I don’t need
any of that, I don’t have enough people.” But the reality is that we want to keep one eye on the present and one eye on the future, because the year-over-year growth percent over the last 30 years looks like a roller coaster in our profession. And these times will not last. And when you come up from the grindstone one day and say, oh my god, you know, what happened? You’re going to want to not be caught flat-footed.
So keep an eye on strategic growth—if you say I don’t know where to start we’ll go to our website I have 160 articles up there you can read about it for the next year. The principles are all in there I wrote a book called At the Crossroads, and it’s the difference between—it’s a fable between two firms, one that’s just on fire with growth, and the other one that’s doing okay. So yeah, get yourself continuous improvement.
Yeah and that’s one thing that I wanted to expand on today—you mentioned your articles and you recently had one in Accounting Today where you had a line in there that I love that, “Flux is everywhere in our profession. Firms are buffeted by the headwinds of talent, technology, and transformation.” And man that’s a lot in there that I think we could spend another 45 minutes talking about how we deal with all that and I’d love to so maybe you and I are going to have to schedule another one of these because when I read that it’s just stuck with me, it’s like yeah let’s talk about that.
Please, invite me back. I would really enjoy it.
Alright well before we wrap up, one final question that everybody has to answer is, hey obviously I can tell your passion about what you do you’re great at what you do the success I think probably speaks for itself you probably have a bunch of stories that you can show and talk about with what you’re doing and and how that passion helps. But besides the passion for what you do business-wise, what do you do outside of work that you just love doing? What’s your free time, what do you keep your mind sharp with by not having to think about the growth strategies all day long?
Well, my passion is athletics. I’m an athlete and my husband says I’m an athlete in my mind, but I really am an athlete. I love to run—that’s my favorite, favorite passion of all. I love to swim, I’m a golfer, I do pilates, in my repertoire of snow skiing and water skiing but I have to cut the squad, so basically running is number one, swimming is in there as number two, and my constant challenge is which sport do I want to engage in today? So I love that. When I have time, I’m a classical piano player and so I’ve got two pianos at home and so I tickle the ivories every now and then when I’m when I’m at home and have time.
Wow. Okay so that’s great to see. So far there has not been one person I’ve asked that question that does not have a passion that’s outside of work so I’m glad that you have that. There’s one person that I don’t know how he has time to have a passion outside of work, because I think he works non-stop, but that’s great to hear all those things.
Alright, before we let you go and you’ll be I think you mentioned it already but let’s get a final how if people want to get more information you know the 160 articles or look you up on, you know LinkedIn or your website, where can they reach out to you?
Yes, absolutely, all of the above. So they can find me in those places.
Alright well Gale I really appreciate this—like I said, this has been three plus years in the making in my mind, so I’m glad my mind, my idea of having you on came to fruition and actually, you reached out to me on on another subject so I was glad when you did because this was great. I had a great time today.
Thanks Randy. I did too and thank you audience for your listening, having your ears on this podcast and we appreciate it.
About the Guest
Gale Crosley is a leading growth consultant to hundreds of large, and large-thinking CPA and accounting firms worldwide. The founder, owner and president of Crosley+Company, she combines a highly successful consulting portfolio with over two decades of experience in technology companies ranging from startups to IBM, as well as early years as a practicing CPA.
Gale is an in-demand presenter for international accounting associations, networks and alliances. She was recently the recipient of the Advisory Board Hall of Fame Award and has been selected as one of the 10 Most Recommended Consultants in the Inside Public Accounting “BEST OF THE BEST” for 16 years, and one of the “Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting” by Accounting Today for 15 years.
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.