How to Build a 100% Remote Cannabis or CBD Accounting Firm: How One Accountant Studied, Succeeded, and Acquired a Recession-Proof Back-Up Plan

Now that most of the nation is holed up under shelter-in-place guidelines, Cannabis and CBD are considered essential (in most states) and sales have been increasing, While other companies are on lock down and laying off their employees, there is truly no time like the present to build your own 100% remote Cannabis or CBD accounting firm. 

But how do you even get started? What is the actual process to transfer from a full-time job at a corporate accounting firm to running your own remote accounting practice in a fast-pace niche like Cannabis? 

One DOPE CFO student, Tammy L., quickly built her own remote Cannabis accounting firm with hard work and guidance from the DOPE CFO program a little over a year ago. Even when Tammy was laid off a few weeks ago due to coronavirus shutdowns, she still had her remote business and a 6-figure client to help her thrive during these uncertain times. 

Tammy made it happen -- all while still working a full time job! This is her story and the steps she took to quickly become an expert in Cannabis. 

Juggling Life and Studying While Growing a Remote Firm

Time management can be tough when you’re trying to learn a new niche and build a remote accounting practice, especially when juggling life, family, and another full-time job. You could dive in all on your own and find success, but it would take years of painstaking study and thousands of dollars invested in learning each individual step on your own through trial and error. Even then, you might miss integral parts of your education and key processes, preventing you from becoming an expert quickly in this ever-changing niche. 

Tammy found out that with the DOPE CFO program she could bypass all the extra detours and separate steps it would take to learn and build a Cannabis accounting practice by taking just one big step: enrolling in the Cannabis Accounting 3.0 Program and VIP community. Once she enrolled, she found out how quickly she could learn the systems and put into practice the course’s templates. 

Her advice to those experiencing similar time-management challenges is to carve out specific times to study. She read most of the coursework in the evenings and on the weekends, and subscribed to every related magazine she could find to become completely knowledgeable before approaching potential clients. Building her practice took hard work and self-discipline to break into the industry, but once she landed her first high-revenue client, all her dedication paid off. 

It Took Just One Email...

After studying the course and asking questions in the DOPE CFO Facebook group for a few months (she admittedly laments that she was sitting on the sidelines, waiting for her turn to dive in - can you relate?), Tammy tried out the program’s email template to land her first Cannabis client. One of the main steps involved in landing your first client is to know how to reach out to and close a great client -- and the process is spelled out specifically for you with easy-to-follow templates in the course. 

Tammy started searching for Cannabis CEOs using the DOPE CFO many methods taught in the program. Everywhere she found a Cannabis company listed, she tried to either locate email addresses and then would email those people. She especially relied on LinkedIn for finding potential clients.

She sent her first email after receiving a response to a LinkedIn invitation. Although she thought the response to the email would be immediate and magic, she ended up waiting. So, she moved onto other companies, looking for CEOs who owned dispensaries (her targeted vertical).

Finally, after a couple months, she got a reply from that very first email. The CEO was interested in speaking with her! 

Although she was nervous, she knew she was armed with knowledge and scheduled a call. Previously, in the email she’d listed possible accounting and tax issues in his company, including a 280E audit. When she later asked the client what intrigued him most about her email, he said he could relate to every pain point she emphasized and knew he needed her help. After onboarding, he became a 6-figure client - her future recession back-up plan.. 

Reflections During the Recession

Tammy now realizes her excellent timing when choosing to study Cannabis. She had a back-up plan fully in place before the country’s economy massively shifted. 

Beyond the impact of the virus, she also believes going remote is an inevitable shift as more companies opt for digital communication. Tammy says, “Now we’re just living in this time where many accountants want to be remote, whether it’s Cannabis or hemp/CBD. Both just happen to be new niches. Even before the virus, there was a ton of opportunity, and now with the virus outbreak, it shows these niches are recession-proof.”

She also recognizes how complex Cannabis accounting is and knows firsthand that most clients need help and don’t even know it until you approach them with assessments and expert industry knowledge.

DOPE CFO prepared her with the tools to show CEOs exactly what they want and need. “Without DOPE CFO, I don’t know where I’d be,” Tammy concludes. “Read magazines, use the VIP Facebook group from DOPE CFO. I’m in it every day and learn so much just from people posting, giving advice, and answering your questions.”

6 Steps to Successfully Build a Remote Accounting Firm

The DOPE process Tammy used -- a process that can be employed to build a remote accounting business in any industry -- can be broken down into six simple steps.

Pick the Right Niche 

Working in general industries makes it hard to find clients and serve them well. If you pick the right niche and become an expert, you provide significantly more value to your clients, leading to claiming higher fees. 

But not all niches are created equal. The best niches have rapid growth, and are recession-proof and underserved. Enter, Cannabis and hemp/CBD: two of the fastest growing industries in the country. With thousands of new CEOs filing business licenses every year in these multi-billion dollar markets and sales booming, you won’t find a shortage of CEOs needing an expert to navigate the tricky rules and regulations associated with both industries. 

Acquire the Right Toolbox

Amassing a great toolbox is fairly easy. If you are like Tammy, who had delved into remote accounting before finding Cannabis, you may already have many of these tools:

  • Laptop and phone
  • Bank or credit union account 
  • Website or LinkedIn for advertising
  •  Dropbox or a similar storage platform
  • Google Drive
  • Zoom account for meetings
  • BaseCamp for project management and communication
  • Slack messaging platform for communication with your team and clients
  • Microsoft Office

The final element in your toolbox should be your investment in education. More than just a cost, returns only grow on your education investment as you increase your revenue and fees throughout your career. 

Become a VIP

In DOPE CFO terms, “VIP” stands for valuable expert, instructor, and participant. Each element of becoming a “VIP” is important for any niche. 

First, become a well-rounded valuable expert. In the Cannabis and hemp/CBD niches especially, you don’t want to just be an expert in accounting and taxes, but also in all court and legal cases that surround tax laws and cash and banking issues. As Tammy quickly found out after beginning to study Cannabis, you’ll also need to understand software structures, insurance policies, merchant services, accounting systems, internal controls, products, marketing, and operations. Other specific rules and regulations include 280E, code section 471, cost accounting, and GAAP guidance. For CBD, you need to know 263A, farm rules, cash versus accrual basis of accounting, and section 199A, along with USDA and FDA laws.

The next element is becoming an instructor. DOPE CFO emphasizes that all Cannabis and hemp/CBD accountants need to learn to instruct CEOs, investors, and prospects in accounting best practices, taxes, and entity structures, just like Tammy did when she showed her client what he needed most through a 280E audit.  Many of our students also teach at live events, webinars, and podcasts all over the US.

Finally, you become an expert by participating actively in your niche. Especially in Cannabis, community participation is sweeping the country, like the DOPE CFO Facebook group. Just as Tammy finds continued support and information from our VIP community, participating is also a great way to find clients and start to earn high fees.

Find and Close Great Clients

Everyone with a niche needs to have a system for finding and closing great clients. But that system works best when it’s simple, automated, and repeatable. 

The basic steps that Tammy took, as outlined in our course, are:

  1. Find a CEO through various platforms, like LinkedIn
  2. Send an email using a simple template
  3. Include a CTA (call to action) to book a call in your email signature
  4. Send out the email
  5. Schedule a call and ask them specific questions about their business, verticals, and current accounting system
  6. Send a proposal focused only on value and deliverables, not hourly rates
  7. Accept the clients that are willing to pay what your services are worth and move on from the rest

Provide World-Class Service

After you land that first client, make sure you provide world-class service to offer utmost value and build your reputation. To offer this level of service, Tammy dove into studying the proven systems and tools, internal controls, workpapers, accounting policies and procedures, engagement letters, onboarding docs, cleanup systems, closing checklist tools, cost accounting templates, month end systems, and more that she could study. Cannabis and hemp/CBD accountants also need a perpetual data room structure, chart of accounts for every vertical, and operational data templates to collect information from clients to provide added-value services..

Have a World-Class Dream Team

Finally, the icing on the cake (and the way Tammy, you, and anyone who works hard at their niche can command the highest fees), is to have a world-class team composed of mentors, coaches, and your industry’s community. Without that team, you're all on your own if you don’t know an answer to a question or receive a job you can’t handle. If you always have the answer, imagine how invaluable your clients will view you. 

To hear more about Tammy’s inspiring story, listen to her entire podcast interview with DOPE CFO co-founders Naomi Granger and Andrew Hunzicker. If you’re ready to launch your own Cannabis or hemp/CBD remote practice, we can get you started and help you tap your own VIP potential. For more information, we invite you to book a call with DOPE CFO today.

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