David J. Rotfleisch | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

David J. Rotfleisch


Rotfleisch & Samulovitch PC is a Toronto-based boutique Canadian tax law firm specializing in income tax and business law.

The Mistake:

Marketing is crucial for any business, including accounting and law firms. But as my practice grew in the 2000s, I took my eye off practice development.

When I started practice as an independent tax and business lawyer in the early 1990s, I was faced with the problem of how to build a specialized practice at a time when there were almost no small tax boutiques. The traditional model was “networking” and writing for publication.

I recognized the possibilities of the internet early on and created an information-rich tax site – not an online brochure – at a time when few lawyers had any internet presence. Those who did typically only had a brochure-like website. I maintained the site by myself and also did pay-per-click advertising. My site quickly ranked as one of the top Canadian tax sites. 

But as my practice grew, marketing became more of a burden, impacting my time with clients. Maintaining the website became too time-consuming and I farmed it out. I stopped writing articles for publication.

The web management firms I used were not effective in maintaining my rankings. New firms without my tax expertise quickly overtook me. I stayed with ineffective search engine optimization companies for too long, not wanting to pull the plug too soon.

It’s important to have measurable marketing goals and to move on if those goals are not met.

The Lesson:

Excellence in your field of endeavour does not necessarily ensure success. It is just as important to focus on marketing as it is to maintain professional skills or product development. All aspects of the business have to be given careful attention. If you hire badly, your service or product suffers; if you market badly, your revenues suffer. 

If I knew then what I knew now, I would have fully committed to marketing Rotfleisch & Samulovitch through digital and media presence. I finally found an effective SEO firm and I now have a top-ranked site again. I also hired a PR agency to boost my presence in traditional media – which is still important, as they have countless readers, viewers and listeners. Today, I’m known to reporters across Canada, and that helps to further build my brand.

It’s important to have measurable marketing goals and to move on if those goals are not met. For our website, at Taxpage.com, the metrics include the volume of internet traffic and keyword rankings in search engines. If you’re not getting results within a reasonable time frame, cut your losses and move on to a new supplier. Loyalty is important, but so is a focus on your bottom line.

Follow Rotfleisch & Samulovitch P.C on Twitter at: @BackTaxesFiling 

Pictured: David Rotfleisch | Photo courtesy of Brian A. Kilgore.

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