How Bovard CPA Group found its perfect balance

“We do not aspire to be the largest CPA firm in Chicago, but we do aspire to deliver services that rival the largest firms. We like to say that we offer large firm expertise at small firm prices.”

That’s how John Bovard describes Bovard CPA Group, the accounting, tax and consulting firm that he founded four years ago.

  • Location: Chicago, IL

  • Services: Full-Service Accountancy

  • Years of operation: 4

  • Number of employees: 7

  • Karbon customer since: 2017

A failed American Dream

John first started exploring a career in accounting based on advice from his school counselor. “She told me, ‘well you’re good at math, so how about accounting or engineering?’ ” John says.

But he drew the most motivation from his uncle. “He realized the American Dream by starting a carpentry business with a partner who handled the accounting,” John says.

“But 18 months later, my uncle found out that this partner had been embezzling every dollar. He lost his home and went into financial ruin. It was at that point that I realized; even though I don’t know exactly what I want to do, I know I never want that to happen to someone else.”

Helping others who put everything on the line

John spent the bulk of his career working in a top tier CPA firm. Four years ago, he decided to set up his own firm and “went from working with hundred million dollar plus businesses to much smaller ones.”

“I realized that they all wanted to know what their fee will be, and that it will be the same every month. This allowed them to compare an outsourced solution with the cost of an internal function.”

With this knowledge, John implemented a fixed price model and eliminated accounts receivable and a lot of the traditional problems that he experienced in larger firms.

And with each new client, he told the story of his uncle. Something that he still does today.

“I remind every client what can happen if their business fails,” he says. “That's what really drives me. I started my own firm because I wanted to really give back to the community.”

I wanted to work with small business community entrepreneurs — people who are putting everything on the line — and give them access to the same financial tools and resources that large businesses have.
John Bovard, Bovard CPA Group

The non-negotiable for choosing technology

Even though he came from a large firm with all its resources, John still experienced struggles with technology. So he knew that he had some careful decisions ahead of him to select the right tools. But he had one non-negotiable.

“From day one, I was only interested in cloud-based solutions,” John says.

“Coming from a large firm, I saw lots of issues with technology. There were always conflicts between different hosted technology and lots of finger-pointing. So I was adamant that we would be different.”

Two tools that John chose early on played a particularly significant role, and helped lay the foundations for what Bovard CPA Group has now grown into.

The two single most important decisions I made when launching my firm was to use Intuit QuickBooks Online and ProConnect Tax Online for accounting and tax, and Karbon for workflow.
John Bovard, Bovard CPA Group

The flexibility to prioritize what’s important

Like a lot of Chicagoans, baseball is a big part of John’s life. He is a committed White Sox fan, but due to his chosen profession, he always had to to miss one of the most exciting times on the calendar. Recently, that changed.

“Like every accountant, I’m always busy from January to April,” he says. “But I was actually able to go to spring training for the first time.”

“I went to Arizona without interrupting my work. I could attend games and work around them, whenever and wherever I needed to.”

Choosing 100% cloud-based software has also given John the flexibility he needs to prioritize what’s most important to him.

“I learned early on about the importance of making time for your family,” he says. “In my previous role, the hours were extremely demanding and I didn’t have any free time.”

“But after starting my own firm, I was able to coach my son’s baseball team. When people found out I was an accountant they wondered how I had the time. But my family is important to me, so I made time.”

“The cloud has given me so much freedom. It’s easy for me to find a balance and make time for my family. I can go to practice or a game, and can go back to work at home or in the office later if I need to.”

A single source of truth for information

Another advantage of choosing cloud-based solutions like Karbon and QuickBooks is the efficiency John and his team gain with apps that integrate with each other. 

“It’s always a big challenge working with lots of different technologies, so we prefer products that work together,” he says.

“The way Karbon works with Office 365 is a great example. People are amazed that we’re not operating in Office, but it’s all integrated into one seamless solution.

We’re not constantly switching back and forth between things because it’s all in Karbon.
John Bovard, Bovard CPA Group

The clients of Bovard CPA Group also benefit from John’s approach towards technology. He takes advantage of automated tools to improve his team’s timeliness and the overall client experience. This extends to what has traditionally been a challenging task for accountants—collecting information from clients.

“Getting information from clients was always a big issue,” John says. “But we automate this in Karbon now, so we just set it and forget it. What we need comes in, all without us doing anything or upsetting the client.”

Never sacrificing personal service

Although John automates many of his firm's processes to make things more efficient, he makes sure that his clients always get the high level of service promised by Bovard CPA.

“Technology allows you to make processes so efficient that you can almost eliminate all human interaction. But that can be a problem for any long-term relationship. So we make sure we balance that and still give each client highly personal attention.”

Karbon assists in providing this level of service, helping the entire team stay on top of every client relationship.

“Karbon gives visibility over valuable information, including every email with a client from across the team,” John says. “So that let’s me know what’s going on in their lives.”

“The information I can see in Karbon helps us provide that more personal service. We work with lots of clients, but I always know what’s going on when I speak with one on the phone, or pay them a visit.”

“I really believe that is key to maintaining a relationship long-term and gaining more referrals. We can automate some things, but maintaining that personal touch is so important.”

The personal touch is a reminder of why John continues to help clients and grow Bovard CPA at a rapid rate.

“What really excites me is when a client lets me know years later how impactful the story about my uncle was to them,” John says. 

Working with those business owners and helping them achieve their goals is what keeps me going. Those clients remind me why I do what I do.
John Bovard, Bovard CPA Group

Results

  • Average client fee increased from $500 to $1,300 per month

  • Monthly recurring revenue increased by 600% in 3 years

  • Continued growth, without sacrificing their service provided to clients

  • Greater flexibility to enjoy travel, hobbies and family time


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