These days, it’s not uncommon for accountants to go niche (or specialize in a certain area, field, or industry). Focusing their attention on one field allows them to become experts on the ins and outs of that industry — something their clients can certainly appreciate. An accounting expert can guide a business through the highs and lows of their financial journey with confidence, and they can provide some much-needed perspective on important business decisions.
If you’re an accountant who wants to go niche or narrow your field of focus, don’t overlook the construction industry. There are many opportunities within construction, given the industry itself has so many niches.
And if you caught our last webinar, titled “Deep Dive: Find Prosperity in the Construction Niche, with Mariette Martinez and Karine Woodman, you know what we’re talking about. Within construction alone, you’ve got everything from contractors and subcontractors to residential, commercial, and civil construction companies. That’s why step one on your journey to going niche should be to narrow your focus. Dive deep, as Martinez says, into researching the different sectors, and determine which one is right for you.
If you missed the construction niche webinar, we have good news! You can get all caught up right now! Watch the webinar here. You’ll learn all of Martinez’s and Woodman’s tips, plus how to solve a few construction accounting pain points along the way.
As a follow-up to that webinar, we reached out to Woodman to get more insight into her background in accounting for construction clients. Perhaps her hindsight can be your 20/20!
TSheets: First, tell me a little about yourself. What led you to focus your accounting expertise on the construction industry?
Karine Woodman: I think I just fell into it. I used to work for a construction company and maybe naturally attracted those clients with my knowledge.
What were the first steps you took to find clients in the construction vertical?
I believe the most productive thing I did was create strategic partnerships with construction applications. I also was able to problem-solve situations that were specific to those clients and built a reputation on that.
What type of marketing activities did you engage in to build your client base? Events, social media, newsletters, advertising in publications, PR, etc.? And how do you plan to expand your client base in the future?
I do a lot of teaching (groups and one-on-one). I am also starting to surround myself with that clientele, such as being a member of builders’ associations throughout the state.
What are some common misconceptions accountants have about working with construction companies? What might they be surprised to learn?
I believe there is a misconception that construction companies don’t want to use technology. But if you are upfront about the “bumps in the road” that might occur or are typical through implementation, you’d be surprised how willing the client is to actually implement that technology.
What are a few of the challenges you’ve experienced, working as a construction accountant? How did you overcome those obstacles?
I don’t know that I can name particular challenges since I view every experience as a chance for improvement. To build credibility, though, I’d say that I can problem-solve and create the outcome I’m selling. It’s selling something intangible that is challenging.
The world of construction can be volatile. Do you do anything to safeguard your practice for downturns in the construction world?
You can’t control what you can’t control. I believe we are in the business of helping businesses succeed, so at the end of the day, we solve accounting and workflow problems. Any business could utilize that help.
Construction is also typically an hourly profession, and much of their planning time is not calculated into payroll. How do you help them solve for this to ensure they are being paid for all of their hours worked, whether it’s on the manual-labor side or in the planning/ordering/administrative phase?
If the client job costs or manages their budgets, they would have a line item for things like project management. They can manage estimating time as easily as creating a time code. You can account for that easily. They just need to track it.
What do you enjoy most about your work? What is the most rewarding part?
I get to participate in the introduction of technology in the construction industry. I always joke that the word “technology” is a swear word in this industry. We are shaping success by putting systems in place that allow for automation and systemized workflows. When we finish with a client, we know they can move forward with these workflows on their own. This allows them to focus on getting more clients and making more money — and we’ve helped them do that.
How can eager accountants best prepare for a position within this industry? What resources might you suggest to help them feel more confident on day one?
Understanding how construction companies run their “everyday” business is definitely a fast and easy start.
What was the biggest learning curve for you? What is the one thing people should know if they want to take this vertical on in their practice?
Speaking the language. You have to know what they care about, what kind of information is important to them, and maybe know how to explain the importance of that information (the part that’s crucial to their success).
What do you think are the biggest differences when working with residential construction companies versus commercial or any other niche?
Residential, work with clients directly. In commercial, they might be dealing with the customer, architects, banks, etc. Reporting is a big thing too. Residential, you could get away with producing a simple invoice, but for commercial, you might need to complete forms to request payment.
Do you have any other words of wisdom for our readers?
There are a lot of opportunities out there. Many companies need guidance, and for me, being transparent and truly having their interest at the forefront guarantees success.