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How CPAs can succeed when working in a rural community

Written on Sep 30, 2021

By Jessica Salerno, OSCPA senior content manager

To succeed in rural settings, practitioners need to know their clients on a personal level, one CPA who serves rural clients says.

“My rural clients do like face-to-face interaction,” said Shayna Chapman, CPA, founder and chief strategist at Shaynaco LLC in Gallipolis. “They are used to knowing who they're working with, it's very important to them. And you really need to be friendly with them, as well as educating them and giving them a service that helps them to succeed.”

Many rural businesses have been run by the same family for generations, and Chapman said it’s crucial these clients feel their CPA has a respect for the work they do. And although some in rural communities aren’t as technology forward as others, Chapman said many are still shrewd businesspeople who have been running prosperous businesses for decades.

It’s helpful to be aware of how each rural community is run, Chapman said, as often times they conduct business differently than the larger cities.

“There are very different issues in rural parts of the state versus the rest of the state,” Chapman said. “We have different issues with grants, we have different issues with the way people get funding and we have different issues with banking.”

The way connections are made, and the way people choose to get things done might be very specific, Chapman said, so it’s vital to understand what’s important to your client. For example, she said some clients only like to conduct business meetings in town while others prefer to go out of town for more privacy.

“That's a very Mayberry type of thing that happens in a world in a rural community,” Chapman said. “And you can't blame them for wanting to avoid gossip, it certainly does happen.”

Being involved in the community is another crucial part of success, Chapman said. That could mean donating to local fundraisers, pitching in when at town functions and patronizing other small businesses.

“All we have in a rural community is ourselves,” Chapman said. “We don't necessarily have all the industries that a bigger city has, we have ourselves and we depend on ourselves to help each other.”

Hear more on being a CPA in a rural community in this podcast episode.