Money Checkup Podcast

Episode 48: Finding the Right CPA for Your Business with Geraldine Carter

Geraldine Carter believes CPAs should do more than compliance. A great CPA, she believes, can act as a fractional CFO, offering cash flow forecasting and strategic support to business owners. She founded She Thinks Big Coaching and launched her podcast, Smart Strategy for CPAs, to do just that: Help CPAs establish themselves as key members of business owners’ teams, focusing on specific niches where they can develop expertise.  

On the other side of the equation, Geraldine encourages business owners to find the right CPA or fractional CFO as soon as they can afford to do so. Business owners need to understand their financials, but there’s no substitute for expertise. 

“If you want solid financial guidance, it’s incumbent on you to put in some sweat to find the right person. Do that work until you’re satisfied, because the cost of not having good numbers to use to make good decisions is a huge opportunity cost.” 

 If you want to spend 15 minutes picking Geraldine’s brain, visit shethinksbigcoaching.com/work-with-me to schedule a call. 

ABOUT THE GUEST:

Geraldine Carter is a business coach and the founder of She Thinks Big Coaching, where she helps CPAs create their own solo and boutique CPA firms. Previously, she was co-founder and CFO of Climate Ride, where her cash flow forecasting models helped the nonprofit raise more than $5 million for climate change efforts. Geraldine lives in Missoula, MT, where she loves mountain biking and spending time with her two children.

Social, website, book link:

She Thinks Big Coaching: shethinksbigcoaching.com 

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/geraldine-carter 

EPISODE HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Geraldine studied environmental engineering as an undergrad, then worked for 10 years at an adventure travel company. She relocated to Montana and co-founded Climate Ride with a friend, then began helping colleagues with their own business finances. That led her to found She Things Big Coaching, which helps CPAs launch their own businesses.
  • What business owners often need from CPAs is not simply day-to-day support, but cash flow forecasting — but they don’t always know how to ask for it and CPAs don’t always know how to offer it. 
  • Cash flow forecasting is the process of estimating where your business finances will be in the future if certain changes occur. It’s a critical part of business planning, but many CPAs don’t do it. 
  • Geraldine encourages CPAs to move from a “volume-based business model” to a “value-based business model” — offering not just compliance but accounting, forecasting, and tax strategy planning services to business owners in specific fields. Business owners are willing to pay for specialized service if the CPA has all of those skills.
  • The “accounting stack” includes low-level entry of transactional-level information, mid-level review of cash flow, and high-level forecasting. How those responsibilities are split up depends on the size of your business. 
  • As soon as a business owner can afford it, Geraldine recommends they hire a fractional CFO. Cash flow forecasting is crucial to business growth because it helps you spend the right amount of money, not too much or too little. 
  • Geraldine helps her CPA clients establish themselves as fractional CFOs. To fulfill that role, they need to be flexible, creative thinkers — something that she finds is often easier for people who come from a finance background rather than CPAs who are hyper-focused on compliance. 
  • To find someone who can work as a fractional CFO, Geraldine recommends starting with Google and performing the “sniff test” — are they truly specialists in what you do, or are they just marketing to you to get you in the door? Many CPAs do very little marketing, so Geraldine also recommends asking your network. Interview at least three different CPAs.
  • Business owners need to know their financials better than anyone else, even if they outsource cash flow forecasting and bookkeeping. 

WORDS OF WISDOM: 

“We’re often surprised that CPAs need business strategy, because they work with businesses and we assume they already know these things. But just like so many other business owners, we all wear so many hats, and we can’t be expected to know what all of those hats are supposed to be and how to do them.” 

“You can’t be an expert in oncology and pediatrics and oncology. That’s absurd. And yet in the accounting world, you have businesses that are as broad as construction, software, dentistry, manufacturing, and retail, and it’s absurd to try to be an expert in all of those things. Yet, in the industry, it is absolutely the norm for accountants to serve all of those business owners. It does everybody a disservice. The CPAs lose because they can’t charge what their expertise is worth, and the business owner misses out on expertise.” 

“Diversification is a great strategy for investing, but it is not a great strategy for your business.”

“I’m on a mission to help CPAs become virtual or fractional CFOs within niches so that they can provide not just cash flow forecasting, but expertise inside the profession to help you understand decisions in context.” 

“Anytime you’ve had the experience of starting and running your own business, you get it at a different level…. People who’ve had that experience and really get you are so valuable.” 

“The industry is shifting in this direction quite quickly, so there are ever-increasing numbers of CPAs and finance experts who are beginning to specialize and have deeper expertise. It’s just a matter of finding them.”  

“You have to be your own advocate when it comes to your financials. Nobody’s going to come knocking on your door looking for you as a client. If you want solid financial guidance, it’s incumbent on you to put in some sweat to find the right person. Do that work until you’re satisfied, because the cost of not having good numbers to use to make good decisions is a huge opportunity cost.” 

“The more niche you can get — it makes so many things so much easier. Your messaging becomes more clear, your target audience is so much more clear, sales conversations become so much easier because they effectively become pre-qualified, because you’re an expert in what they need and how to deliver it and you get great results, and as a result you can charge a premium.” 

“You need to have your finger on the pulse of what’s happening financially in your business.”

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If you loved this episode, here’s another I think you’ll enjoy: Episode 42: Creating a Mission-Driven Business with Brian Thompson

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