AAM Minute - Questions & Answers

Stephanie Chapa, Wiebe Hinton Hambalek, LLP


Name: Stephanie Chapa

Title: Marketing Manager

Firm: Wiebe Hinton Hambalek, LLP

Firm City & State: Fresno, CA

Email Address: stephaniec@whhcpas.com

Twitter Handle: @stephjchapa



What are your thoughts on engaging your firm members in marketing and business development activities?


In my small firm, I expect everyone to participate in some way or another. My expectations are different for an introverted staff versus the managing partner, but I try to connect with each person individually to help them find a comfortable way to contribute to the firm’s marketing efforts. I took the time to learn about each member my firm—their strengths, preferences, hobbies, and interests. This usually helps them see how they can market in a way that is comfortable for them. This has taken shape in the form of networking and speaking schedules for partners, individual marketing plans for managers, and writing trainings for staff accountants. Slowly, stars have begun to surface and I help them strategically maximize their time—whether it be ghost writing for them or coaching them on speaking engagements. I try to avoid using marketing buzzwords, give big public credit when they get a win, and meet with new staff within their first week so that marketing and business development are simply part of their job and in turn becomes less intimidating.


Where did you go to college and what degree did you get?

I graduated from California State Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo with a B.S. degree in Agricultural Communications.


What is your proudest career accomplishment?

My proudest career accomplishment is establishing a marketing culture within my firm. They firm hadn’t done any marketing prior to hiring me, and I was right out of school. Seeing how far the firm has come in their marketing efforts and their willingness to support everything from events to social media and blogging, has been a big shift.


Favorite part of your job?

I love my job and the variety of projects I get to work on, but I have to say my favorite part of my job is my coworkers. I tell people all the time how much I appreciate working with smart, logic-based people. CPAs are people with character and I value that in my professional relationships.


What is a must-know for new marketers and why?

It is important for new marketers to learn about what resources are available to you. Whether it’s a consultant the partners trust or AAM, you need a support system that allows you to add credibility to your ideas. It’s much easier to pitch a plan if you start by saying, “10 other firms are doing this with X, Y, Z results and these are the hurdles they had that I can avoid.” Doing this shows that you did your research, got expert input, and are prepared for the challenges that might come up.


Accountants tend to be tactic-focused when it comes to marketing. Do you agree and, if so, how do you help them overcome this?

I agree to an extent. Being tactic-focused has been a double-edged sword for me. Being tactic-focused provides obvious milestones or accomplishments for the firm to recognize. It’s great to be able to brag on the marketing department every now and then to show productivity or ROI. However, I’ve found it so easy to get sucked into tactics when I should be taking a step back to re-evaluate at a strategic level.


I’m currently working with our managing partner to do an in-depth client analysis to ensure that the tactical steps are still supportive of our five and 10-year strategic plans.


Is marketing also a billing center at your firm? If so, discuss.

It is not. I have done a few billable hours in graphic design or answering general marketing questions for clients, but we do not generally offer that as a service to all our clients.


What is the biggest issue facing your firm today?

Recruiting is the biggest issue facing our firm today. I will be taking on new projects to support our recruiting efforts to market to senior level and above accountants. If growth and business development are strategic firm goals, lack of staffing at upper levels can be a very real hurdle.


What do you feel is the biggest issue in the accounting marketing profession today?

This is an interesting question for me because my perspective is somewhat limited. I’ve been working for a small firm outside of a major metropolitan area for less than five years. I imagine that I experience the accounting marketing profession’s issues slightly differently than a marketer within a large firm or marketing department. What I’ve experienced as a universal issue within the profession is simply communication. We are constantly balancing needs, wants, and trends with partner groups, industry niches, marketing department members, and clients. It’s not uncommon for each partner to have a different idea about the very definition of marketing. This issue isn’t going away and cannot be replaced by technology. In the best case scenario, the marketer rises to the challenge, creates excellent communication, and effectively gains the respect of his or her peers; but it is, without a doubt, challenging.


What do you do when you are not working?

When I’m not working, I love to be outside. Yosemite is not far from me, so my husband and I camp with our dogs, hike, and also I ride horses. Don’t worry, I clean up alright by Monday morning!


What would you be doing if you had not become a marketer?

I worked at a winery for six months between college and my firm. It was such a fun job with people who truly love their craft. I’m not sure I would have left if it hadn’t been for my firm’s offer.


The one thing people do not know about me.

I don’t have a sense of smell. Strange, but true. To answer the most common follow up question, yes, I can still taste.


Who is your hero and why?

Currently, I look up to Mindy Kaling. She’s a comedy writer, actress, and businesswoman. In her book, she talks about confidence being something you earn. She states that you can always be confident in yourself and your career if you put in the dedication, hours, and hard work. I respect and agree with that.


What did you learn the hard way?

My first real mistake at the firm was a typo on custom printed event invitations. I had already sent it to print by the time I saw it. My managing partner let me decide whether to re-print. He was happy that I cared enough about quality to want to re-print, but it was definitely a humbling experience. Always spell check copy in Word if you use InDesign!