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Clients often have a long list of what they’d like in an advisor. They want someone they can trust, someone they won’t mind visiting regularly, someone who will know their finances as well as the names of their kids.

Fortunately, most people already have their dream advisor. Unfortunately, it’s their CPA — and that means he or she is rarely equipped to help with some of life’s biggest financial questions.

John Azodi wants to change that.

As the head of Azodi CPA & Investments in Kansas City, Azodi saw his business boom after getting licensed and offering financial and insurance services to his tax-preparation clients. In fact, in 2012, he was the No. 1 producer for Elite Wealth Advisors’ CPA group.

See also: CPAs and advisors: Can’t we all just get along?

And now, hoping to convince other CPAs that the combination business model is a winner, Azodi is running “CPAs as Advisors,” a program that teaches other accountants how to replicate his success — and serve their clients better in the process.

Becoming an advisor

Azodi got his start as an accountant in 1982, when he graduated from college. He worked for several small accounting firms at first and then left to start his own firm in 1991. In 1994, he added 401(k) administration services to his business and started learning a little more about managing investments.

“I got really exposed to the investment side of the business without really getting paid for it,” he says. “In my opinion, that was the best thing that ever happened to me. I could look at the investment without thinking, ‘Okay, what’s the commission on this?’”

When Roth IRAs appeared in 1998, Azodi started talking the plans up to his tax clients while working on their returns. Excited, they’d say, “Okay, let’s go ahead and do this,” but Azodi wasn’t licensed and couldn’t help them. He did, however, refer them to other advisors he knew, thinking they would just go there to set up a plan. They didn’t.

“When I talked to them a year later, only two had actually opened a Roth,” he says. “The major reason for most of them was that it was a new person, a new relationship; it was inconvenient to them.”

Azodi saw an opportunity, but after years of building relationships with brokers through the 401(k) side of his business, he was reluctant to jump in.

One night, when he was agonizing over whether he should get licensed, his wife turned to him and asked, “Who are you working for?” The answer was, of course, his clients. Azodi stopped worrying and became an advisor.

Today, Azodi offers not only Roths but also annuities, life insurance and long-term care insurance products. “Some firms specialize in just one product,” he says. “My specialty is what’s best for my clients and what makes the most sense. How can you do one thing, sell one product or two products, that fits everybody?”

In that same vein, he serves a broad spectrum of clients and doesn’t target a specific market or class. “If someone comes here and wants to open something for $100, I open it for them,” he says. “If you’re willing to help yourself, I’m willing to give you my attention.”

Most of his clients come to him for taxes first and gradually become insurance and investment customers, but that doesn’t happen by default, he says. The secret lies in how he treats his clients. “I talk to them, find out what their need is, and I give them a solution,” he says.

Azodi also hosts client appreciation events, usually seminars with a meal, where clients are invited to come eat and learn about Roth IRAs or 401(k) rollovers. Not only does this help Azodi mine his existing clients, but it also serves as a source of new prospects, as those clients can bring friends and family members along with them.

It’s a strategy that’s worked well for him. Azodi’s busy firm now has four full-time employees, 600 clients, and handles 350 returns each tax season. He’s hoping to open a second location soon, and if that one’s as successful as the first, he’d like to franchise his business model and open agencies across the country.

Educating others

On top of all that, Azodi has also kept busy lately helping other CPAs follow in his footsteps.

Three years ago, he wrote a book about Roth IRA myths and went to his broker/dealer to talk about how he could promote it. That led to a conversation about how he could help other CPAs replicate his own success, which is how Azodi wound up traveling the country, giving seminars to fellow accountants and advisors.

So far, Azodi has talked to about 800 CPAs and other producers through his CPAs as Advisors program. He’s taken on 20 personally for mentorship, providing them with additional regular training sessions, a booklet and CDs with forms, letters and scripts he has used. In exchange, Azodi receives an override on their sales.

While Azodi has a good success story to tell, not all CPAs have been receptive to the idea of becoming full-fledged advisors. Many don’t want to be seen as salesmen, Azodi says. Others ask questions about conflict of interest, which Azodi says is only a problem if the CPA is also auditing his own work or behaving unethically.

“If you look at what’s best for your client, you won’t have a problem,” he says. “If you do what’s best for you, then you have a problem.”

Mostly, Azodi speaks to a lot of CPAs who are unsure they’d have the time to add investments and insurance to their business mix — a problem he understands. After Azodi ramped up his own insurance and investment sales, he cut back on the payroll business he’d previously been taking on because it was time consuming and less profitable. And when he gets a really complicated tax case, he’ll refer it out to one of the accounting practices he’s established a referral relationship with.

But he says adding advising services isn’t about spending more time with clients; it’s just about using the time you already spend with them more efficiently. When he would finish a client’s tax return before, they’d spend the remainder of the hour-long appointment chit-chatting. Now they use that time to go over insurance coverage and investment performance.

“It’s a hard thing to sell to CPAs because they’re busy during tax season,” he says. “But you’re not spending more time; you’re just accomplishing more. I have learned how to take that time and turn it into a productive hour.”

For accountants who don’t believe him, Azodi says that’s okay. As he sees it, CPAs have three choices when it comes to helping clients with the insurance and investment side of things. They can get licensed and help clients themselves, as Azodi has done. They can get licensed and split the business with an advisor, either to lessen the workload or learn the ropes. Or finally, they can just educate themselves on investment basics, find an advisor or two they trust and refer their clients out to that person.

Whatever accountants choose to do, Azodi just wants them to be prepared to help their clients with more than taxes.

“The problem for most CPAs is that people think we know everything,” he says. “Either you need to learn it and do it yourself, or you need to be educated and work with an advisor who you know and trust to do what’s right by your client.”

For more on CPA/advisor relations, see:

Interview with a CPA

The professional alliance: 4 success stories

Ask for introductions, not referrals