The human touch

Aug 20, 2018

Tax consultancy looks at people, not just price and product, to develop new business while serving existing clients.

Editor’s note: Corporate Tax Advisors, Inc. is a sponsor of the 2018 Hot Firm + A/E Industry Awards Conference in Dallas.

Things are still cruising along for Corporate Tax Advisors, Inc., the niche consultancy that specializes in just three facets of the tax code, the Research & Development Tax Credit, Cost Segregation, and the 179D Green Energy Incentive. As more and more AEC firms warm to the opportunity of using incentives to improve their bottom lines, the busier the firm becomes.

Dawson Fercho, vice president of business development and co-founder at CTA, says that while the 179D incentive is gaining ground, the R&D piece is still the bread and butter for his firm, especially now that the tax is permanent.

“Since the permanence of this tax incentive and strategy (Jan. 1, 2016), it is now being more widely discussed than it was just a couple of years ago,” Fercho says. “It has gained more interest with the CPAs. They’re more bullish on this. It pollinates. If the advisor is more comfortable, so will the client.”

For firms qualifying for the R&D tax credit, the benefits are reduced costs for research, labor, and an overall lower taxable income. With greater interest in the AEC industry has come greater interest in what CTA does. Anticipating growth, CTA made a big move – the firm upgraded its website.

“Growth initiated the change,” Fercho says. “With more firms learning about us, and desiring to at first window-shop, we felt we needed a refreshed platform with more and clearer content as to who and what we are. We didn’t feel like the former site answered the right questions, and did not inform potential clients and inspire them to ‘pick-up-the-phone’ action.”

But when potential clients do pick up the phone, CTA has plenty to say.

The 179D energy efficiency incentive, for example, applies to commercial buildings, as opposed to residential, and includes both privately and publicly owned structures when allocated to the energy efficient designer – an AEC firm. Deductions of $1.80 per square foot in some cases, and $.60 per square foot in others, are triggered by efficiencies in lighting, building envelope, and HVAC.

The 179D incentive is still temporary. Also, the incentive is not as well known in the design industry as the R&D tax credit.

But that will probably change.

“Not everyone knows about it,” Fercho says. “But there’s still a lot of space to grow in R&D and 179D.”

Business development is Fercho’s strength, as he has no fear of getting out and about to meet with current and potential clients. But keeping the clients CTA already has while bringing in new business isn’t easy.

“You have to stay relevant,” Fercho says. “You still have to find a way to stay top of mind, and as you grow, that becomes more challenging. Today more planning is involved because we need to continue our focus on new clients. Not lost on us is that it costs so much more to gain a new client than it does to maintain those you have.”

Founded in 2014, CTA is based in Huntsville, Alabama, but has offices in Atlanta, Detroit, Houston, Kansas City, and Los Angeles. Since last year, the CTA staff of 15 attorneys, CPAs and engineers has been augmented by at least four additional sub-consultants. The firm has plans to open satellite offices in Orlando and New York. CTA clients range from those with $5 million in annual gross receipts to those with $250 million, and in addition to the design firms, CTA works with companies in manufacturing, GIS, software development, and medical devices.

Even in pressure-packed and competitive situations like a CFO conference in New York, Fercho doesn’t forget the little things, the human things by which people can relate. It’s part of the way he does business.

“I know these people start the same day in a similar way as mine,” he says, referencing kids, marriage, a cup of coffee, and brushing your teeth.

The human approach works. CTA recently out-did a competitor to sign an important client. And Fercho did it his way.

“I don’t want to just talk about price and product,” Fercho says. “It’s not selling. It’s developing business. It’s looking at the human you are building a relationship with.”

Mike Woeber is president and co-founder; Dawson Fercho is vice president of business development and co-founder; Rob Kling is vice president of client services and a co-founder of CTA. They can be reached at,, and

Subscribe to the electronic version of The Zweig Letter for free.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.