The Modern CPA Success Show: Episode 62
In this episode, Jamie Nau, our host and Summit CPA's Director of Accounting/Virtual CFO sits down with our COO and Co-founder, Adam Hale and the President of Precision Business Strategies, Larry D. West III to talk about a new platform called Clubhouse.
We also talk about how Larry was able to narrow down on a niche and how understanding his audience helped in growing brand awareness and becoming a thought leader in this untapped social media platform.
Jamie Nau: Hello and welcome to today's podcast. I'm very excited for today's guest and topic. This is an area that I've just kind of heard about recently, but Larry's going to expand into it, but before we go down that path, I'm Jamie Nau. I'm your host for today, and I'm joined by Adam Hale, and Larry West, who is the president of Precision Business Strategy. So very excited for Larry to be on the show.
Larry D. West III: Hey, thanks for having me and hello to all the listeners out there.
Jamie Nau: So, let's just get started with the basic stuff, Larry. I know you're one of our course people, tell us a little bit about your firm and what you guys do and kind of your niche and how you got started.
Larry D. West III: Yeah, absolutely. So our company, Precision Business Strategy is really a consulting firm primarily. And so we work across a couple of different areas, the primary being accounting and finance, and more of the CFO style structure for the clients that we work with. And we niche down specifically in the real estate space amongst a few others, but mainly in the real estate space, working with private equity funds, real estate syndicators, as well as those short-term rental space that are doing phenomenal things. We got started in 2021. I spent the bulk of my career working for traditional CPA firms and then made the decision around the summertime to step out on my own and start my own firm. And it's really one of those things that the entrepreneurial bug and itch was there. But also there was a just a drive to step out of what we see with traditional CPA firms and step more into that CFO and strategic advisor role. And so that drove a lot of it and we'll talk about this a little bit more, but we did a lot of work on clubhouse to really get our brand and name out there. And in the fourth quarter of last year was where we really started to hit the ground.
Adam Hale: You think about real estate, was that one of those things that you were just, you had a lot of experience working with the other firm that you were at and then decided to kind of take it from there? How did you figure out how to find people that would need the CFO service and to be able to afford it?
Larry D. West III: Yeah. So, you know, I've been in love with real estate for a long time and it started just on the aspirational side of, you know, how do I figure out how to get a couple of single family rentals, and make this transition over to the passive side and start to build out that portfolio. But when I dive into that it expanded way beyond just a couple of single family rentals. I started to learn more about the multi-family and the commercial side of real estate. And man, it just took off from there. The idea of a syndication and pulling those funds together is attractive within itself. But then just the inner workings of understanding everything from you know, investor relations and how you do that to cap tables it’s a different type of fundraising models. And it's the complexity that draws me to it. And that's where I really fell in love and then starting to work with some clients in that space and seeing that it's more than just, you know, putting funds together they're going to acquire a building. It’s one of those things that when you know, you know and when I started to drive down that rabbit hole to real estate I fell in love with it. And aspirational, it's a space that I get into personally, but then on the other side it was ripe with opportunities from the business side, because most people think single family rentals, that's all that happens in that space. But when I started talking to fund managers and syndicators, there were so many gaps that traditional firms just weren't filling. And it was like hey, this is a space that we can jump into.
Jamie Nau: I hear a lot of people that go down the path that you went down, you know, I've talked to a lot of people in person or listen to podcasts where they're like, I'm just going to own a single family home and I'll rent it out. And then it's like, I'm going to go to nominal three. And then it's like, wait, I can do a commercial builder or I can do a larger building that has 10 units in it. And so I've heard so many people go down that path. So I think you've really hit an area that is very ripe for a lot of people.
Adam Hale: Well not just that, I mean, I think the space that I think that you're running in is definitely underserved and overcharged in a lot of instances. I mean there's like a lot of big firms they'll charge a ton of money to these people, like putting that kind of stuff together, which kudos to you because hopefully that means you get a piece of the action, and they're very smart people, but they don't really give that white glove service that as a VCFO, you can deliver which is really cool. I think that's really unique. And the fact that I'm sure these people love you whenever they're able to work with you and see that you can handle everything, you know, as far as like investor relations and then just overall structure. Then advise them on what other people are doing. I mean, most of these folks are probably pretty sophisticated, but they still like to know what's going on with everybody else and know how operations work. They can trust you. I think there's a lot of power there that allows you to focus more in on. And I know you're doing some speaking engagements and that kind of stuff, but as Jamie mentioned you know, we heard clubhouse, I know you work and talk with our marketing director, Kelly and she keeps bringing up clubhouse and I got four kids. I'll be honest with you, the only thing I'm thinking is like Mickey Mouse clubhouse. Like that song is in my head right now. So get that out of my head and tell us a little bit about clubhouse and how that's been working and what's our all about.
Larry D. West III: Yeah, absolutely. It is one of those social media platforms that has a ton of potential. And it's different from say Instagram, Facebook where those are really based around written communication, as well as video. And we know everyone's making a huge push into the video space. Clubhouse is different in that it's all audio. So, you know, there's no written communication. There's no video, everything is audio. And if you could imagine being able to step into this virtual space. That's almost built like a customized conference where you can step into sessions about any topic that you can imagine. Everything from very professional items in terms of business, how to build a business, how to work with your workforce, and all these other things into ancillary stuff about relationships, and the strategy behind having a good relationship. Everything that you can imagine. But for us in this professional space, there aren't a lot of tax professionals or strategists that are on there. Talking about the things that they know. And that's where I had a chance to step in just as an early adopter and get on there and talk. And the funny thing is, is if I did a video on Instagram or a video on Facebook or something like that, I've got to make sure my lighting is right. I got to make sure, especially if I'm going live, I don't screw up the script and all that other stuff. With clubhouse I can literally roll out the bed, open the app. Nobody sees me. It's all audio. I just woke up 10 minutes ago and I can hop on clubhouse and you know, fix my hair a little bit. But that that's the fun thing. You don't have to get ready. You could do this thing in your PJ's. And the whole idea is if we're going to position ourselves as subject matter experts and really talk about the stuff that we know there's a wide group of people out there, national and international that want to know this stuff. That presents tons of opportunity .
Jamie Nau: So similar to Adam, when I read clubhouse, I was thinking of the Mickey Mouse clubhouse song as well. So I had to get my head off of that as well. I guess explain a little bit like what it looks like, how it works again. I was researching it prior to this. What I'm really curious about is how do you find the right topic and the specific place where people are looking? How narrowed down do you get?
Larry D. West III: Yeah. So they have this thing called the hallway and that's when you first open up the app, you're in the hallway and think of it comparable to your newsfeed. When you opened up some of the other apps, it just shows you who's all on there and what conversations are happening. And you scroll through there based on your preferences and you find rooms that are specific to what you want to hear about. And you can go into those rooms when you first enter the room, you're going to be a part of the audience. And so you've got a core group of folks on stage here in the audience, and you're listening to people talk about a particular subject. And the cool thing is you can raise your hand to be pulled up on stage. And when you come up on stage, depending on how the room is structured, you could either add value and talk about things from your perspective as a subject matter expert or ask questions if you want to learn something specific from the experts that are on stage. And so what I did when I got on was there were tons of rooms about real estate, specifically how you get into real estate, real estate investing. How do you get into wholesaling? How do you raise funds? All of these different topics. And so I'd go into those rooms and I'd listened for a moment, but the moment a tax question came up, I'm raising my hand and I'm jumping on stage and adding value because I saw that as my opportunity. There are virtually no, I shouldn't say no, but there are very few CPAs and accountants that are on that platform. And it was an opportunity for me to shine. And you know, I think in our field, we get very, very nervous about giving out strategy and I think people misconstrue that as giving direct advice and the compliance that goes along with that. So I started to adapt this phrase before I spoke every time. This is not specific tax advice for any one individual. We're just a bunch of friends talking on clubhouse, and I'm giving you the ideas for you to take back to your tax professional and see if that works for you. And if it doesn't, well, I'd love to have a conversation to see if you and I could work together and then go into my spiel. So, you know, I've put that little disclaimer out there and then share ideas on like hey, if you're going to do things like that, these are the tax implications of doing it. And you may want to consider other things, like how do you exit a property appropriately? What really is a cost segregation study? How the heck do we understand depreciation? All things that we know that we take for granted that those folks just found a ton of value in and that just blew my following up.
Adam Hale: Yeah. Wow. So, have you kind of graduated to the point where now you're giving those talks or are you still just kind of being the participant and making sure you're kind of, I don't really want to say trolling people, but you're in those rooms making sure that you're kind of that person where you're the main speaker and you're heading up those topics?
Larry D. West III:So I created my own club called precision tax planning. We have a couple of thousand people that are a part of that club. And so sometimes once a week, or as we have time we'll host rooms and we'll create whatever we want to talk about. And this could be a bunch of different topics. Here are a couple of KPIs that you should measure as a real estate investor. Here are five tax strategies that every real estate investor needs to know. So when you think about traditional marketing, they tell us that these are lead magnets, right? To give out value and content. Well, for us a lead magnet becomes the room and we walk in there with a couple of things that we want to talk about, but our strategy has been to drive QA, let people come up on stage ask their questions and get specifically to the heart of what they want to know about.
Adam Hale: How long are those sessions?
Larry D. West III: They are short. Ours usually run as short as 30 minutes. I've had some rooms that have run two and a half to three hours.
Jamie Nau: I know when we present, sometimes the questions just keep rolling in. I could totally see myself and Adam, talking for two, three hours, just because of the questions and how much we talk.
Adam Hale: I talk a lot, which is true. I'll own that. Education has always been our best resource, you know, in terms of marketing. We're not scared to give away free advice. You're always going to have the people that wouldn't do it themselves. But framing it like you said, it's not specific to you but here's some things to think about. And then the vast majority of the other people are going to come to you and say hey, don't you do this? And it's like, well of course I do. I can help you with that. And then sometimes we get a bunch of referrals from people that were in the room that say, nope. Not for me. I got this stuff locked down, but Larry, it sounds like you could use their help, you know? And so you'll get referrals that way which is super cool. But I guess my question is, if I wanted to do that and I just put like Summit CPA group as my clubhouse name, how would they know that I want to talk about ABC? You know what I mean? Wouldn't you want to name your room like real estate, because are you getting a bunch of people that come in there asking you about what the itemized deduction changes are for 2022? Like, are you getting a lot of that stuff because it's just broadly labeled as tax?
Larry D. West III: So when we run those precision tax planning rooms, we do get a couple of people that flood in and they ask questions that aren't specific to real estate. And depending on what the topic is, because we get to moderate the room, depending on what the topic is, sometimes we'll go ahead and answer those questions, but then reiterate that this room is specifically about this. And folks respect that. So they have an option to either stay and listen, or they have this button on called quietly exit or quietly leave. And so they can just leave that room and go into another space that talks about things specific to them. But I do think there's a lot of value and naming things specifically. And there are actually two sides to it. One, it's personal branding and how you show up in these other rooms. So I spend a lot of time in the real estate rooms. So inherently, when you look at my follower base, a lot of them are real estate folks. So even when I run rooms, real estate folks are going to flood in there because they've seen my name associated with it. But on the other side, when you're just getting started, yes, I think specifically you can niche down it and name your room to attract folks that are specific to that niche. I caution folks that not making the mistake of assuming that their target audience is an old clubhouse, because I think you'd be surprised that a lot of folks are now, me being in the real estate space, I'm going to name a couple of folks that are big in that area, but I think this is true across all industries. So Grant Cardone, which love them or hate them, very big name and attractive name in the real estate space. We're often in the same rooms together. Now I'm not suggesting that he knows exactly who I am, but we've shared the stage. We pass conversations back and forth. And I've got clients that are really close to Grant and fly on the jet with Grant. But being a being associated with folks like that, that are in these spaces that you would otherwise never meet or have the chance to get close to is a huge, huge opportunity. So if there are people with a large follow, listen to see if they're on clubhouse and be in rooms with them. Join the stage with them.
Adam Hale: Wow. You're asking a lot of accountants. You want us to actually like raise our hand first of all, we don't have to be on camera. So we get to hide a little bit so we can talk as long as we don't have to like show up on camera. I know that freaks people out a lot. So are they all live events or are there a lot of stuff that's like prerecorded, how does that work? Like after a session is done, is there a library where people can go back and listen?
Larry D. West III: Yep. So they just released this feature late last year it's called replays. So rooms can now be recorded and you can go in there and listen to rooms that happen a day or two ago to recap. But for the most part, everything is live. And so you can walk into a room that's been going on for two and a half hours, or that has just started. And there's no set time. Sometimes the rooms will go long.. And you're not committed. You can go in and out of those rooms, even when you're a speaker on stage no one expects you to stay there the entire time. But you come in, you add value, you contribute. And if you have to step away because you've got client meetings, then that's just what you do. So some people think hey, this guy said he's on there for two or three hours. Doesn't necessarily mean it's a full two, three hour run. Sometimes I just have it on in the background. Sometimes I'm on in the morning. Then back again in the afternoon, you can pick back up whenever.
Jamie Nau: So here's the accountant side of me. I'm hearing all this, and this sounds fascinating, and I'm thinking of all the rooms I'd like to go into and types of rooms that I'm sure exists out there. So tell me a little bit about the cost structure. How does that work?
Larry D. West III: Absolutely free. I think clubhouse within itself is just working on a monetization strategy. You know, obviously they're going to have to bring in ad dollars at some point. But it's not a pay-to-play platform. It's really about being in the right rooms, making the right contribution. And that's how you start to match your following, but no payments at all. They did release a feature where you could be paid and I've experienced this myself. I haven't made a ton of money. I think I've probably made like 600 bucks, but people will tip you for giving good valuable information. So you can set up your payment. And I recall, I think I explained to cost segregation study and I tried to do it in the most simple terms possible, but there was one guy in there. He was like hey, that is the best explanation that I've ever heard without all of the complex jargon I'm buying you lunch and sent me a hundred bucks.
Jamie Nau: So again, just to follow up with that. Can you share your screen? I know some of the things you could explain are somewhat complicated and maybe need to have just a one slide or like a picture to follow to better explain.
Larry D. West III: So there's no screen-sharing feature from what I've seen. Some people do because they allow you to put a link at the top of your room. So some people will, I've seen developers do this when they're looking they're trying to showcase their site plans. They'll put a link to it.
Adam Hale: That's a cool idea. But the idea is you're trying to just have more of a fluid conversation. So you get on there, you're spit balling like a 10 minute conversation. I mean, if it's crickets out there, do you just bail? How does that work?
Larry D. West III: So I've had firsthand experience with that. I had a room, I think maybe 35 or 40 people were in there. I was talking, I forget what the subject was. I was talking about something in particular, went on for about 10 minutes and said, okay, I'm going to pause there to see if we've got any questions. No one raised their hand. No one came up on stage. And so it was just a quick pivot of, okay, well, here's some other things for you all to think about, and then you start to wrap up. So, and that's the fun thing, you know, you can go in there and again, the room could be as short as 10 minutes. Obviously people are in your room because the subject was interesting to them. And so you start to get a feel for what the engagement is like and what topics work. Depreciation is just low-hanging fruit. No matter how many times I talk about it, real estate investors love to hear about it.
Jamie Nau: I think what's really cool is that instant feedback. Like how many times have we sat in a room Adam, and be like, you know, let's present on. And we sit there and we throw ideas out and we talk about it. And we're like, do you think they're really interested in listening to that? Like you could use clubhouse to just gauge the interest in that. You go into a room of 50 people and you talk about something for five minutes and if you get a ton of questions on it, then obviously it's something that you can present or talk about elsewhere. Like there's not many tools where you get instant feedback. Like we do a podcast. A month later, we see how many downloads we get and that's the feedback we get.
Adam Hale: Yeah. So, I guess I'm curious, how do you determine your speaking schedule? Do you have to let them know a week in advance a month in advance? Like I assume that you have to have some kind of communication with them that you are going to open up this thing because they have to be able to broadcast it to the group somehow. So what's the time commitment? And what does that look like to get that dialed in on like a weekly basis or monthly basis? However you're doing it.
Larry D. West III: Yeah. Good question. It's completely up to the individual. Literally right now we could open a room and just start talking and whoever's available on the app they could join that room if they liked the conversation or they'll get a notification if they followed us. So you could be as dialed in on timing as you want, or you can be you know, very sporadic. It can be sporadic as you want. It's always best of course to time it out because when you have a club, you can create a room and once you create that room, it notifies all the members of the club that you know, precision tax planning is going to do a room on Monday at 3:00 PM on this topic. And so people can prepare for it. But if there's something that just came to mind that you want to talk about, you can open up the app and just go live right away.
Adam Hale: That's interesting. So then the people that are following you are those the people that get the notification or is it everybody in clubhouse gets the notification of what's going on that day?
Larry D. West III: So the people that follow you definitely get the notices. And then the people that follow those folks will get a notification that says hey, Adam, just joined this room, talking about the five KPIs for real estate investors. And if they're interested, they'll join as well. So that's another key strategy that as you build relationships on there, pulling people in who have larger followings that way their tribe is notified and that starts to build out your following.
Adam Hale: Wow. So super interesting. And last question from me, I promise, I know I'm taking this over because I'm still trying to figure this out. So if you record this either in their system or on Zoom, I assume, because you said you could have it feeding from both places, right? At the same time. Because I assume the audio still comes through the zoom. So if we had like our weekly fireside chat and we had it, we could actually have the chat in clubhouse technically and d still have it in Zoom, do you repurpose some of that content? l
Larry D. West III: So clubhouse has this feature called clips and of course you have to be ready for it. But if you know that you're going to say something that you want to repurpose and for other platforms, you can clip it and then save it and put it on those platforms. So I've done that on Instagram. So if you look at my Instagram, which is Larry D. West III, you can scroll through there and you'll see clips from clubhouse. And what I've done is basically used that as testimonial. So some of my clients are on clubhouse and occasionally when we're in rooms, they'll say hey, I've worked with this guy. He is phenomenal. All y'all need to work with him. And they'll take those clips and then repurpose that on some of our other social media. And so it's not a video per se, but if you've seen where other folks, like even with podcasts you can take a snippet or a picture and then just have the audio play across the screen. And that's what you can do with clubhouse.
Adam Hale: Yeah, that's cool. Yeah, it would make sense. Like for us, we're big into SEO, so we have content writers. So rather having them interviewing you on topics and trying to write different stuff for you. It would make a lot of sense to have them listen to some of those conversations, if they're recorded and then they can repurpose the content and articles and stuff like that.
Jamie Nau: I think this has been an amazing podcast. I think this is one that I'll probably even listen to it. I try not to listen to our podcasts too often, but I'll go back and listen to this one because I think like you said, it's untapped and I'm sure there's not that many CPAs on there. I'm curious to log in there and look what's going on and definitely try it out today. So I appreciate you coming on Larry and bringing this topic to us. I'm going to give you one final thought here. So what final thoughts do you have for our listener?
Larry D. West III: Don't hesitate. Just jump into it. Again, I think for us in this space you know, and maybe it's just the nature of accountants we're usually shy to get on platforms and share information, share knowledge, or we just believe we're too busy. This is one of those things that doesn't take a ton of commitment. You can just have it planned in the background. But I think whether it's a clubhouse and then there are competitors that are jumping into the space, like Twitter has Spaces. It's an audio platform it's unlike the other ones out there. So it's definitely ripe with opportunity. So jump on and see what you can create.
Jamie Nau: Well, really appreciate you today Larry, and thanks for all the questions, Adam. I know this was a good topic, so appreciate you guys and excited for our audience to find out all about clubhouse. So thanks again.
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