July 2012 Edition

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Ideas In Motion:

David Hopkins: Play to Your Strengths for Business Success

By Scott H. Cytron, ABC

Meet David B. Hopkins, CPA, and founder of
D.B. Hopkins & Associates, a full-service firm with offices in Wadsworth and Akron, Ohio. David’s work in international and regional firms gave him the experience and know-how to create a practice that offers a professional, yet very human touch to the way he works with his clients. I sat down with David to find out more about his background, his approach to client service, and how he is able to continually build and maintain his practice.

Scott Cytron:
With your own website and
another site focusing on healthcare, you have what we refer to as a “branded” approach to creating visibility for your firm. In what ways has this branded approach helped you recruit prospects and retain clients?

David Hopkins: I consider a branded approach a vital component of any marketing effort. It lets your customers and employees know who you are and what to expect. Branding creates a visual image of your firm that you reinforce through client service and interactions that you have with people whether they are clients, employees, prospects or recruits. The main challenge is getting your “brand” out there. Once it is established, a brand by itself can open doors to opportunity.

David B. Hopkins, CPA

However, a brand that is not nurtured and carefully maintained can actually be detrimental. At that point, doors of opportunity close or you may never even know they were there. Ultimately a “brand” will be established by your actions, whether good or bad, along with your visibility in the marketplace.


Scott Cytron: How did your niche in healthcare come about?

David Hopkins:
Northeast Ohio has several strengths and a big one is healthcare. It makes sense to specialize in serving the needs of healthcare providers in our area. I have years of experience providing accounting and tax services to healthcare providers, and understand their specific needs and issues. It always makes sense to play to your strengths; by providing services to the healthcare industry I am playing to the strengths of myself as well as Northeast Ohio.



Scott Cytron: What kinds of software are you using in your practice, and why did you choose these providers over others?

David Hopkins:
We are basically an Intuit® shop, meaning we use QuickBooks® and Lacerte® for tax preparation and Lacerte’s Document Management System as our file cabinet. Your main choices for integrated solutions are limited, but all are powerful and can be expensive. At the end of the day, the deciding factor was QuickBooks and its integration with Lacerte and DMS. Since we recognized that QuickBooks is a key market offering to small businesses, it just made sense to stay within the Intuit brand of products.


Scott Cytron: Some CPAs and accountants believe QuickBooks is too basic a program to adequately serve their needs. As a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor®, what is your response when you hear this?

David Hopkins:
QuickBooks can be as simple or complex as you would like it to be. It is very flexible and can do more than most people realize. Whereas it does have some limitations, and is probably not appropriate for large businesses, it is hard to beat at its price point. Most small businesses will never fully utilize the full capabilities of QuickBooks and frankly they don’t need to.


Accounting software is a business tool and decision makers need to know when to use the right tool for the job. To me, this argument sometimes sounds like the debate between Windows and Mac users. At the end of the day, the technical and software competence of the individual using the software is at least as important as the software itself. The old adage of “Garbage in, garbage out” is especially apt when it comes to accounting software.


Scott Cytron: In what ways has technology helped you serve your clients in more efficient ways?

David Hopkins:
Technology, and specifically the correct application of technology, is vitally important to today’s service providers. Technology, correctly applied, provides security and time efficiencies for our clients as well as for the firm. For example, by using QuickBooks remote access, there is no need to travel to the client to review their QuickBooks or to ask the client to back-up the QuickBooks file, create an Accountant’s copy and mail it to us. We simply schedule a time with the client, remote in to their desktop via a secure connection and perform the work. We only have access to the QuickBooks file and no other files on the computer. It is convenient for the client and saves them time and money. We also utilize a file transfer portal that is secured via encryption right from our website for large files that a client may need to get to us. These are just two examples of how technology helps us better serve our clients.


Scott Cytron: The Ohio market is crowded with many accounting practices. What makes your practice different from others?

David Hopkins:
You are absolutely correct that the Ohio market, and specifically Northeast Ohio, has a high concentration of middle-market CPA firms. This, actually, is a strength, along with healthcare and polymers, of Northeast Ohio. The real differentiator for us has been bringing large-firm expertise and resources to small businesses at a small-business price point. There are certain services we don’t provide – and we don’t try to be all things to all people. For those who need the additional services we don’t directly provide, we have key partnerships or relationships with service providers who do. We know that we can bring great value to small businesses at a great price point.


Scott Cytron: In addition to branding, how else do you find and keep clients?

David Hopkins:
Since it is a crowded market, you have to shine just a little more to be noticed. Keeping clients is about service and value for fees paid. Bad service or poor value for fees results in lost clients. Great service and value for their money results in happy clients, and happy clients stay with you. New clients come from many different sources, referrals from clients and from within my professional network. Internet marketing has been important as well as targeted print media. Networking events as well as public speaking have also been effective. I can’t point to any one strategy or venue, rather I believe it is some combination of all of the above. The important thing is to get out there. You’ll go broke waiting in your office for your phone to ring!


Scott Cytron: What’s been the most surprising thing about owning your own practice?

David Hopkins:
The amount of time it actually takes to run and grow the practice. The time you spend being a technician — actually performing client service work — is vitally important but is no more or less important than the time you spend on growing the practice and on administrative functions such as billing or developing staff or on work process systems. How you spend your time when not performing actual client work has as much to do with your success, if not more, as anything else.


Scott Cytron: If you were stranded on a desert island, what one technology would you want to have with you? Why?

David Hopkins:
The one technology I would want is a hand-operated water maker. Deserted islands, especially in the tropics, are notorious for a lack of fresh water — and you can live a long time on bananas, coconuts, fish and crabs if you have fresh water. A water maker would permit you to live long enough to be found. Any business technology would be basically worthless in a survival situation. Think about the movie Castaway starring Tom Hanks. In the movie, his character is carrying a beeper and upon washing up on shore, he checks it just to watch water pour out the bottom. In a survival situation, your priorities are shelter, fresh water and food. And, as glamorous as a deserted island sounds, if you are actually stranded on one, it is, in reality, a survival situation.


About 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 info:
Scott H. Cytron, ABC
Cytron and Company
Phone: 214-647-2611, ext. 150
Email: scott@cytronandcompany.com
Website: www.absolutecytron.com


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