Many CPA firms are risk-averse, but are you so risk-averse that you’re missing value-added opportunities? Technology is rapidly changing client expectations and how you do business. You need to think differently about the services you offer.
The following ten strategies are meant to encourage you to think and communicate with your partners, managers, staff and clients. By doing so, your firm can develop strategies that address key firm dangers: lack of growth, lack of succession and lack of talent development.
Independence or advisory
The rules of independence have long driven the profession in the core services of tax and accounting. However, this is also a limiting factor in the breadth and depth of services you can offer clients.
Knowing where to play in the market and how to win are crucial. Would your firm be better off choosing advisory and increasing the number of services offered? What percent of your current revenues are from traditional compliance services? What services do your existing clients need?
Menu and service levels
Develop a list of services that businesses and not-for-profit organizations need. Yes, you can include accounting and tax compliance in this menu. But many services may be valued higher and are more important to the client. Many firms overlook high-level services such as strategic planning, technology advisory, accountability, talent development, marketing, cash flow projections and budgeting.
Take a team approach rather than the “rugged individual” approach to expand client accounting services. The team approach offers better client service, allows people to use their unique abilities and assists with succession planning. Not all of these services require a CPA license so you can build a broader skill-based team.
Each team needs a champion to ensure success. The characteristics of a champion include:
Having a purpose greater than themselves
Team-building abilities and being politically connected
Access to resources
A proven track record and passion
When you know peoples’ unique abilities, it’s much easier to identify champions. Too many firms assign responsibility for client accounting services to people without these characteristics, and they’re left without the resources to meet the challenge. Who are the champions in your firm? Are they passionate about client accounting services?
Every firm has or should have unique processes. You must document these processes to maintain consistency and train others. By naming the process, you own the process and can differentiate.
Start by listing the processes your firm currently utilizes in client accounting services. Define the processes you need to meet client requirements. Think like a lean startup to reduce the risks associated with leadership, staffing, platform, service, pricing, capabilities, technology, opportunities, complexity and regulations. What unique processes do you currently have? What unique processes do you need to develop? Who will be responsible for developing those processes, and by what date?
Platform and business model
Using old platforms and relying on effort-based economics (hours times dollars) doesn’t work with client accounting services. Value is determined by the client, not by the hours you spend on the task!
You need a platform that fosters collaboration between the client, the client accounting services team and other internal and external advisors. Cloud-based solutions meet this requirement and are standard in leading firms.
What would it cost the client to perform this work internally? What value will they receive from leveraging the firm’s technology and processes?
Entrepreneurship and management
Firms need both entrepreneurship and management to be successful. With both of these traits, your firm can reduce risk and waste, increase innovation and learning, and provide clients with new services. People often view management as serious, dull and bland, while they view entrepreneurship as cool, innovative and exciting. Success requires both. Who are the entrepreneurs in your firm? Who are the managers? Can they work together? Who else will be on the team?
Pricing is extremely important and requires thought, upfront communication with the client and sales skills. Frankly, many accountants are not good at pricing.
Identify team members with value creation skills, make them responsible for pricing and having client conversations. Make change orders part of your pricing strategy. Take time to define the scope and ask questions about your clients’ dangers, opportunities and strengths. This will provide increased opportunities and improve margins. Packaging multiple services together results in happy clients and increased margins. Who is responsible for pricing in your firm? Do you use value creation agreements?
Trusted business advisor
CPAs have earned their reputation as trusted business advisors, but most do not take the role seriously enough or provide clients with all of the services their clients desire. Are you too focused on transactional and compliance services while your clients value advisory and consulting services? Why aren’t you offering clients the services they want? If you do offer those services, should you be offering them to more clients?
Resources to ensure success
Most firms are risk-averse, yet with the right resources, the rewards are high, and the risk is extremely low. In fact, the risk is probably much lower under the client accounting services model than the existing model of only providing tax and auditing services. The required resources are:
Existing client base
Unique ability team
Leadership and a shared vision
Change is constant. Results are determined by experiences that drive beliefs, beliefs that drive actions, and actions that drive results. The fastest way to improve results is through goal setting and accountability. To improve results, you must focus on the belief systems of your partners and staff. This requires leadership, vision and a written plan.
Are you prepared to become a trusted business advisor?
The Boomer Certified Consultant Training helps emerging leaders, new partners, senior managers, C-suite professionals, and client-facing firm administrators take the next step towards becoming an advisor/consultant. Complete an interest form today to stop feeling stuck and start moving on the path from compliance to consulting.
L. Gary Boomer, Visionary & Strategist of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is recognized in the accounting profession as the leading authority on technology and firm management. He consults and speaks around the globe on several topics including strategic and technology planning; mindset, skillsets and toolsets for the future; change management and developing a training and learning culture. He also acts as a planning facilitator and coach to some of the accounting profession's top firms.