Chasity Hooks, CPA, had no experience working in a public accounting firm when she established Hooks CPA in 2008, though she had been handling all the accounting work at an oil field company. What she did have was many years of experience in customer service. Hooks began working at age 14— everything from waitressing and telemarketing, to jobs using her degrees in respiratory therapy, human resource management and accounting.
Still, Hooks had never worked under another accountant, and everything she’d done while working for oil field companies after earning her accounting degree was self-taught. Plus, she was finding that the work wasn’t fulfilling. In fact, it was downright bad for her health. “I had a lot of stress and I went to work with chest pains every day,” Hooks says. “I finally had enough. I realized I needed to be self-employed.”
So she set forth launching her own firm. From the beginning, Hooks knew what kind of services she wanted to offer at her firm. It was a natural extension of her years of work as a respiratory therapist, with the only difference being that she went from patient care to client service.
Taking Care of Business
“The basis for the firm was the idea of being the hand to guide a small business owner or anyone who has a dream of going out and selling their product or service, but just didn’t have a clue how to get started,” she says.
Hooks says most of the firm’s clients are “mom-and-pop” operations, which often need services on a monthly basis. Hooks CPA takes a personal, consultative approach to meeting clients’ needs, offering services such as bookkeeping, payroll, sales tax processing, worker’s compensation audits and insurance audits. The firm also provides general consulting, such as training in QuickBooks or setting up and maintaining inventories.
“I want to be their right-hand person—the person who comes to mind whenever they have a problem,” she says. “I provide the kind of attention the smaller and mid-size businesses we cater to really need.”
Basics: Established in 2008, Hooks CPA is based in Lafayette, La. Chasity Hooks, CPA, leads a full-time staff of seven women, plus one woman who works part-time. The firm offers a full array of tax, accounting and consulting services. With an emphasis on small businesses, the firm’s motto is “We handle the business of your business.”
Website: “At the firm’s website, chookscpa.com, there are a variety of financial tools for clients, as well as a secure client portal.
Capitalizing on Success
The firm has grown more than Hooks initially expected, so she takes advantage of every opportunity to capitalize on that. One example is the Practice Forward subscription consulting and content offering from Thomson Reuters. Hooks says Practice Forward’s business model concepts mirror much of what the firm was already doing, but helps them do it more strategically.
“Accountants give so much stuff away for free,” she says. “We have so much knowledge and people think, ‘Oh, I’ll just ask my accountant that question’—but it’s often not something tangible you can bill them for.”
Hooks says Practice Forward has helped her firm capture the value of sharing that knowledge with clients. For one thing, the firm implemented a flat-rate billing structure, looking at the services each client needs during the year and creating an all-inclusive package that’s billed at a monthly rate. Clients benefit from a predictable monthly cost and the firm benefits from more consistent cash flow.
Thanks to Practice Forward, the firm has also started offering one-hour training sessions for clients, where they can ask all the “nit-picky” questions the firm was never able to charge for in the past—for a fee.
Where Relationships Matter
Client satisfaction is essential to any successful business, and Hooks gives her team all the credit for the firm’s high level of client retention and referrals.
“Yes, I can go out and sell our business, but I think the reason clients stay with us is the strength of our team,” Hooks says. “The fact that I have a great staff of knowledgeable, personable, intelligent women who are really good at the work they do—and really good at forming relationships with clients—is key to our firm’s success.”
Right now, the firm’s staff happens to be all women, which Hooks sees as a competitive advantage. “I don’t want to be derogatory toward the guys, but I think women are better at handling stress and are much more in tune with being nurturing and taking care of people,” Hooks says.
Understanding that happy employees mean happy clients, Hooks makes employee satisfaction a priority. Her staff has the flexibility to leave the office to take care of family or other personal needs, as long as the work gets done. Hooks also provides plenty of perks, from team lunches and shopping expeditions to a margarita blender in the kitchen that’s put to good use, especially during the frequent events in their downtown area. It’s a fun, family-oriented work environment—and regular bonuses help, too.
“We may not pay as much as some firms,” Hooks says, “but we offer a lot of other perks you can’t really put monetary value to.” The ability to work remotely is one of those perks, which is made much simpler by the suite of Thomson Reuters products in use at the firm.
According to Hooks, the workflow and efficiency of the firm has improved significantly thanks to the integrated suite, which also made last tax season more productive and profitable. “It really helped us to step up our game,” she says. “We’re very happy with the return on investment.”
Technology helps Hooks offer superior work-life balance to her staff, and herself. That means more time for other activities she enjoys—which include cooking. “I think of cooking as therapy,” she says. “If I’m having a stressful day, I’ll open a bottle of wine and cook up something great.”
Chasity Hooks has a sure-fire recipe for chicken parmesan. “Everything is fresh and homemade. I think when you cook and you enjoy cooking, people can feel the love you put into it.” Likewise, when you put love into your work, customers are bound to feel topnotch service.