Eleven years into my life in private practice as a CPA in the community association industry, I think back on the tremendous, positive impact Community Associations Institute (CAI) has had in helping me build my practice.
After experience my third "restructuring" in six years, I decided it was time to leave the corporate world behind after 12 very successful years and I joined a local Ft. Lauderdale CPA in his practice. My partner at the time had a small CPA practice with tax, audit, and accounting with a couple condominium associations as accounting clients. I gravitated to the condominium association practice, as I was serving as president of my own condominium association at the time. We developed a business model to focus on providing excellent bookkeeping and accounting services to self-managed associations and then set out to execute upon that model.
The challenge was how to get the word out to associations. That is where CAI came in to the picture. A buddy invited me into the local Southeast Florida Chapter and the rest, as it were, was history. Like a key fitting a lock, the connection was instant. But it took time for me to join committees and participate and gain the trust and credibility of my fellow CAI members. I went on to become treasurer and then president of our local chapter and I have watched as our chapter has doubled in size to some 460 members in the eight years since I have been active.
I now proudly serve as a member on the National Business Partners Council and earned my Educated Business Partner designation earlier this year. I do not do tradeshows or advertise other than my chapter sponsorship within our local CAI chapter, which includes an ad in our quarterly magazine. My firm has doubled in size since joining CAI solely by referrals and I credit CAI with aiding me in two ways critical to my growth as a small firm: First, exposure to leaders in the industry—whether community association managers, business partners, or community association volunteer leaders—became a big source of my referrals; and second, name recognition within this very local industry where we all know each other or know of each other. The universal proverb of "you only get out of something what you put in" rings true with CAI: I made a substantial commitment to CAI by getting involved and supporting my local chapter both with my time and chapter sponsorship, and it has repaid me multifold.