Brandon Hall is the founder and CEO of The Real Estate CPA and Hall CPA PLLC. After being disenchanted with his career working at two of the Big 4 accounting firms, Brandon decided to shake things up. Most people who are frustrated with office politics and a rigid corporate structure would usually switch over to a less demanding nine to five, but not Brandon. With a passion to radically change the way traditional accounting firms work, Brandon decided to start his own virtual accounting firm. Brandon is an anomaly and his forward-thinking views of the accounting industry sets him apart.
Life in the 'Big 4'
Brandon graduated in 2013 from East Carolina University with a double major in accounting and finance. With the intentions of getting into the biggest city and the biggest firm possible, Brandon started his career in Washington D.C. at PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Early on, Brandon was frustrated with his work and the red tape involved with billable hours. He didn't understand how factoring in billable hours into a performance review was effective and eventually concluded that he needed to find a way out of the corporate world.
One day after being especially frustrated with his job Brandon googled, "how to get out of the corporate world" and rental real estate popped up. He stumbled upon a website called Bigger Pockets, a real estate social network, and began posting on the forum. He quickly realized there was a lack of content geared towards the real estate market and quickly became a thought leader in that industry.
The Breaking Point
The breaking point came early for Brandon. With only 3 months into his working career he realized the corporate world did not match his values. From adhering to unnecessary dress codes to schmoozing with partners, he realized there had to be a better way to achieve success. He tried switching firms to see if the culture would be different at another Big 4 firm which was successful for a while, but this work environment was not much different.
Brandon began creating content online geared towards real estate investors and stated working on his personal brand. Once he received CPA licensure he started taking on clients and began building his side business. He started working a few hours after work and it quickly turned into a second full-time job.
Cultivating Business Through Content
Brandon attributes the majority of the growth and success of his firm to his content.
"I curate a lot of content and post it in as many places as I can and that has been a huge driver for us."
It's difficult to convince potential clients to work with you when you're a 25-year-old CPA and lack experience. However, Brandon was able to overcome this by showcasing his knowledge and his competitive advantage though his online content.
"I never have to cold call anybody, they all come to me."
By focusing primarily on real estate, Brandon was able to specialize in a niche area and show that he is able to handle clients' needs. Since he is solely working with real estate clients he knows their problems before they are even brought up. This gives clients comfort in knowing he is competent and can answer their questions accurately.
Building the Firm of the Future
Another one of Brandon's competitive advantages is his focus on technology and efficiency. His firm is 100% virtual with no offices and several employees around the U.S. Since his firm doesn't have the overhead of a physical location, Brandon is able to invest heavily in technology to automate processes.
For example, clients have the ability to scan receipts that are automatically posted into their Quickbooks, saving both time and money. This time saver allows him to better service his clients and focus on value added outcomes.
The End of Billable Hours
Another radical concept Brandon is taking is his approach to billable hours. This might sound crazy for most accounting firms but Brandon's firm does not track billable hours or the hours its employees work.
"It doesn't make sense billing a client on an hourly basis, if you're doing that you're essentially lazy pricing."
Primarily, Brandon focuses on the value he is providing to his client and not the time it takes to complete a task. The value of a service provided to a multi-million-dollar client is going to be far greater than that of a smaller sized company, so billing by the hour doesn't make sense.
According to Brandon, if you focus on automating processes, reducing the time it takes to complete projects, and maximizing the value you create for the client then you'll always come out ahead. Keeping track of hours distracts from providing value, and having a results driven approach has solved many pricing issues for his firm.
Brandon's biggest advice to his younger self would be to ignore age and experience when it comes to the perception of providing value to others.
"Age means nothing when you're talking about delivering value. You can be 21 or 22 and deliver more value than a 50-year-old who's been in the industry for two decades."
Having more experience is important but it is not the driver of value, according to Brandon. His advice to most people in their early twenties is to ignore age because it can only hold you back.
Brandon has large goals and ambitions for himself and his firm. He would like to gross $10 million over the next five years and become one of the top 100 accounting firms in the nation. He would like to add more partners and continue to grow the firm using the same principles he used when he founded his business.
By creating a different work experience, Brandon is looking to revolutionize the accounting industry. He thinks he can attract CPAs and top talent who are dissatisfied with the big firms but still want to do what they love. With no more commuting, no more tracking billable hours, and no more navigating through office politics, Brandon's firm provides the ultimate work experience which traditional accounting firms may never offer.