Post by: Jim Boomer, CEO
With the help of technology, CPA firms of all sizes are providing client accounting advisory services (CAS) today. Earlier this month, I had an opportunity to host a webinar with CPA.com titled Tomorrow’s Firm Today: Combining Strategy and Technology to Innovate CAS.
In a panel discussion with Beth O. Allen, CPA, Partner at GreerWalker LLP, Matthew West, Senior Enterprise Strategic Account Manager with CPA.com, we discussed how firms can avoid or overcome common challenges to providing these services.
Today, I’m sharing a couple of the top takeaways from that webinar.
What is CAS?
First, it was important for us to establish a definition for CAS, separate from transactional services. While many firms advise clients in various financial and accounting-related decisions and strategies, there isn’t one universally accepted definition across the profession. And some firms are performing CAS services without productizing it. In some cases, they’re even giving those services away.
Transactional services generally include things like accounts payable and accounts receivable management, payroll, bank reconciliations and cash flow management. CAS, on the other hand, includes budgeting and forecasting, strategy, key performance indicators (KPIs), forecasting, tax strategy and virtual CFO/Controller services.
Often, a client might come to the firm looking for “bookkeeping help,” but once you start talking to them about their business, they realize how much more collaborative you can be.
The CAS Business Model
Creating a dedicated CAS department within a firm is resource-intensive. However, with the right resources, great growth is possible. In fact, with just four full-time employees and 10-15 clients, a firm can generate annual revenues of anywhere between $1M to $1.5M.
To make that possible, your CAS business plan needs to address five key areas:
Technology strategy. The right tech can make or break your CAS practice. Automate everything you can to save time on manual work and increase accuracy and efficiency. Essentially, you need a core general ledger program with an open API source so it can share data to and from other applications. Many firms start out in CAS by trying to work with their client’s preferred tech, but quickly realize they need consistency to be efficient. Your clients have to buy in and be willing to move away from their old processes, or they’re not the right clients.
Leadership/partner support. Getting buy-in from the firm’s partners is huge. Internal marketing is the key to developing and growing a CAS practice.
CAS goals. What gets measured gets done. The firms that struggle to get their CAS services off the ground usually spend too much time trying to educate their staff instead of simply getting started with clients. Hold yourself and your firm accountable by setting a goal for the number of new CAS clients you will onboard this year.
Client strategy. Some of the top niches include family offices, healthcare, hospitality/restaurants, not-for-profits, service-based businesses, and technology startups.
Staffing strategy. Our panel referred to ideal CAS talent as “the land of the unicorns.” To be successful with CAS, your people need to be comfortable with change, love technology, enjoy working with clients, and able to be productive while working remotely. It’s also important to have them 100% dedicated to CAS – not “helping our” in audit or tax during the busiest times of the year.
I had a great time chatting with Beth and Matthew about how firms are making CAS work and the resources that exist to help firms find greater success in this growing practice area.
Are you interested in connecting with other advisory leaders in the accounting profession?
If you’re interested in connecting with other advisory leaders in the accounting profession, The Boomer Business Transformation Circle can help. This peer network of advisory services leaders from forward-thinking firms can help you gain confidence in your firm’s CAS decisions by finding out what has and hasn’t worked for other firms. Apply now, and one of our Solution Advisors will schedule a short call to talk to you about the Circle and whether your firm is a good fit.
Jim Boomer, CEO of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is an expert on managing technology within an accounting firm. He serves as the director of the Boomer Technology Circles, The Advisor Circle and the CIO Circle. He also acts as a strategic planning and technology consultant and firm adviser to CPA firms across the country. Accounting Today called him a “thought leader who can help accountants create next-generation firms.” Jim is a prolific writer with a monthly column in The CPA Practice Advisor and has been published in a number of industry publications including Accounting Today, Accounting Web, the International Group of Accounting Firms and several state society publications.