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Secrets of Success from Blackman & Sloop

Are you familiar with Blackman & Sloop, CPAs, P.A.?

It’s an accounting firm in town.  They have a nice office over in The Exchange at Meadowmont.

 

They’ve been around for almost forty years; and now have about forty people on the staff working with clients across the state.

If your business isn’t celebrating that kind of success yet – maybe not celebrating any success at all, I hope this story will provide a few tips and perhaps a bit of encouragement.

After getting certified, Bill Blackman and Jim Sloop worked for a few years in various large accounting firms in the state.  Then the two of them decided they wanted to open their own firm.  Bill suggested Chapel Hill since he had gone to Carolina.  

Thinking it would be better to open a firm in a larger town; their parents weren’t in favor of this idea.  At the time (1973), there was only one accounting firm in Chapel Hill.  Perhaps that was enough.

But Bill and Jim opened up in Chapel Hill anyway. Their office was in the then relatively new NCNB Plaza on Franklin Street.

Their space had two offices, a file room and a reception area.  But no receptionist. 

Bill and Jim got their desks, chairs and phones all set up.   They had file folders and intake forms ready to go.  They had their adding machines and typewriters all plugged in.

They decided to have an open house on opening day.   There was plenty of room for this in the reception area since there was no receptionist.  They borrowed a card table and set it up.  On it they put a big pot of coffee and boxes of doughnuts from The Sweet Shoppe, a bakery in High Point, owned by  Jim’s parents.  There.  All set to greet their visitors.

No one came.

No one except Mrs. Wilson, secretary for Gordon Battle whose office was next door.

She came several times.

And a few family members stopped by.

Can you imagine how discouraging this must have been?

Maybe their parents were right.  Maybe Chapel Hill WAS too small to support another accounting firm.

Or – you may be thinking there was a problem with their advertising.  If so, you are right.  They didn’t do any.  And that’s because at the time, advertising was against professional ethics in the accounting profession.

Bill and Jim overcame whatever disappointment there was, pushed through the real and imagined parental I told you so’s and decided it was important to get out and about in town and meet people.  Problem was – they were afraid to leave the office because…what if a potential client came by? 

Thirty-four years later, Bill and Jim told this story to a group of thirty-five partners, associates and staff members who had gathered at the Aqueduct Conference Center for a planning retreat.     Just a few minutes before, the two had announced to associates and staff members that they would be retiring from the practice the following year.

WHAT?!   Bill Blackman and Jim Sloop of Blackman & Sloop were retiring?  What would happen to Blackman & Sloop with no Blackman and no Sloop?

I’ll get back to that in a bit, but first…besides eating leftover doughnuts, what did Bill and Jim do between opening day and retirement day to get enough business to need a staff of thirty-five?

Here are a few pointers from Bill:

• Many people think this is a numbers business.  It’s not.  It’s a people business.
• People don’t do business with you because they think you are a good accountant.  They do business with you because they like you.
• Get out and get to know people.
• Have lunch with everyone in town.
• Keep your name on the tips of their tongues.

They must have done a lot of these things.  And they must have done the work well.  Because they developed an excellent reputation.  AND they must have done a good job of hiring, training  and coaching people; and making them feel good about the work they were doing because many of them have been there twenty, even thirty plus years.

Photo credit: Blackman & Sloop

So – back to the future of Blackman & Sloop with no Blackman and no Sloop.

Through all the training, mentoring and succession planning, there was not just one but five partners highly prepared to carry on as if nothing had changed.

Under the ownership and direction of these five partners:  Joan Pharr, Andrea Woodell Eason, Carla Daniel, Neely McLaughlin and Robin McDuffie,  the firm has continued to thrive as an organization focused on internal and external relationships, client service, contribution to the community and environmental stewardship. 

Hats off to Bill Blackman and Jim Sloop for building not just a business, but a business that could carry on without them.  That’s a rare legacy that has and will continue to benefit Blackman & Sloop clients and staff for years to come.

The rest of us can benefit as well.  From the many good business reminders they shared in this story.  From the mental image of that card table full of coffee and doughnuts sitting in a reception area with no receptionist and no one to eat the doughnuts.  And from the reminder that it was not the end of their story.

But it is the end of this one.

copyright 2012 by Business Class Inc

You can read more about Blackman & Sloop right here.

Got any stories to share about tough times or good times in business?
Please share them with me by email.

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