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Who Makes the Best Strategic Alliance Partner?

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I’m often asked the following questions from advisors I coach: “Why do you place so much emphasis on working with CPAs and tax professionals? What about partnerships with attorneys, property and casualty agents, realtors or mortgage brokers?” My response is that forming an alliance with each of these different types of professionals can prove to be a profitable venture. However, in my experience, certain professionals make better partners than others for various reasons.

For the month of March, I’m going to focus on the pros and cons of working with each of these types of professionals as well as share with you concrete takeaways and insights on how best to partner with each. Due to the differences in expertise and types of client relationships each of these professionals have, I’ve found that each must be worked with in slightly different ways. Using the same approach with each type will almost always ensure mediocre results.

First and foremost, you need to understand that there is a big difference in the types and quality of relationships each of these professionals has with their clients. A perfect example would be to compare the CPA and the P&C agent. Both may serve the same demographic of clients, and both may have the high-net-worth clients you desire to reach within their respective practices. The difference, though, is how their business models work and how each approaches their clients.

“Most Trusted Advisor”

In this case, the CPA is often viewed as the “most trusted advisor” who clients pay by the hour for their expert advice and to keep them out of trouble with the IRS. The CPA is in many cases placed on a pedestal and looked up to as a fiduciary, someone their clients see as “looking out for their best interests.” The CPA also utilizes a built-in, naturally occurring client-relationship model. Clients must meet with their CPAs at least once a year to complete their taxes. As a result, a relationship of trust is developed naturally over time due to the ongoing and frequent communication.

Meanwhile, P&C agents tend to find themselves in a more commoditized business, where it often comes down to competing on cost. Clients of a P&C firm generally are not looking to their agent for “advice” as much as they are for someone to help them find the best product at the best price. The P&C agent is selling a product, or “protection,” compared to the CPA who is selling advice and knowledge. In addition, the level of relationship a client has with the P&C agent is oftentimes very transaction-oriented. For P&C agents aggressively growing their business in a high turnover environment comprised of online quote engines and geckos constantly offering to “save you more,” they often find themselves focusing heavily on acquiring new clients and growing more of a volume-based business.

So between a CPA and P&C agent, who then makes the better candidate for a strategic alliance? Well, it depends. It’s not always a matter of which professional is better, as much as which approach is better depending on who you’re working with. Many types of professionals can make great strategic alliances, as long as you structure the relationship appropriately, and with an understanding of their business model and client relationships.

Over the next three weeks, we’ll dive deeper into the differences between these and other professionals. I’ll give you specific insight into how to best structure each relationship depending on the type of professional you’re working with. Check back next week as we focus on how to successfully structure alliances with the different tax professionals including: the CPA, the enrolled agent and the accountant. Until then, check out our website at for more helpful content and valuable strategies.


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