How to Network at Your Local Chapter Meetings

Posted on October 23, 2017 · Posted in Breaking News, CSEA Society News, Latest Updates, Practice Management

By Chris de Lorimier, EA

10/23/17 — You just filed your last return and can finally take a breath. You begin to reflect on the 2016 filing season before you start thinking about everything you have to do to get ready for 2017.  If you are like a lot of us, you ran into one, two or maybe several problems that you had questions about. Maybe you dug through your desktop tax resource or referenced the code and found the answer, or maybe you reached out to a colleague who you share information with now and then. Hopefully you didn’t “just Google it!”

Maybe you’re not like the rest of us, and you are a specialist. You’ve got your clients locked in, you keep up to date on the changes affecting your clients, and you aren’t worried about what “the competition” is doing.

As you can see, there is a vast spectrum even among Enrolled Agents, and we have a lot to learn and even more to share. Besides getting your required CE hours, your CSEA Chapter meetings are a unique and powerful forum to efficiently get those questions answered, to celebrate and commiserate with other tax professionals, and to connect with and help other EAs.

After I attended my first dinner meeting at my Chapter, several things became apparent. First, I had a room full of resources to utilize, learn from, and contribute to. Many of us did a lot of the same work, but some of us specialized in different areas or had unique experiences to share. The second thing that stood out is that this wasn’t the competition – they were my professional colleagues, my peers, and have since become my friends. There has never been a shortage of taxpayers needing our assistance with filing returns, resolving an issue that they created, or fixing an error caused by one of the tax agencies, so there will never be a shortage of clients to go around for everyone.

So how do you connect with someone – let alone another tax professional – at a local Chapter meeting? I’ll tell you what worked for me, and I guarantee it will work for you. You get to the meeting early! If it starts at 6 p.m., get there at 5:45 p.m. If they have a Board meeting before the actual meeting, you will be more than entertained attending it. The secret is that it is a lot easier to talk to two or three people, compared to walking into a room full of 20, 30, or 50 people. You may not connect with the first two or three people you meet, but you learn a little about them and they learn a little about you. Maybe you all decide to sit at a table together and you share a problem that you ran into during tax season. Maybe one of them shares a problem or issue they are dealing with, and you share how you dealt with it in the past. Before you know it, a few more people show up and sit at your table, and it’s very likely that one of those people or another CSEA Member that they know has the answer or has experienced the same problem.

You have a nice dinner and a speaker talks for a couple hours of CE. After dinner, you exchange business cards with the people you met, you thank the speaker, and before you know it, you are back in your office the next morning. So, what exactly happened? You didn’t get any more clients from going to the meeting, and you could have earned your CE hours online. What happened is you just took your first step towards tapping in to the statewide and national network of Enrolled Agents. As Members of CSEA, we are all also Members of NAEA, and, while it may seem like there is some overlap between the two organizations, this network of knowledge is immense and we are powerful in numbers.

I strongly urge every current and potential CSEA Member to visit their local Chapter. Once you’ve met a few people there, you might even branch out and visit a neighboring Chapter. The only thing you have to lose is a missed opportunity to learn, grow, and laugh with another tax professional.