What are the best growth opportunities for most firms? The answer will likely come easily to most people: consulting and advisory services. However, Effectively delivering consulting and advisory requires accurate, real-time data. You can accomplish this by packaging those services with existing transactional and compliance services. These service offerings also demand different skillsets and a different pricing model than most firms are familiar with.
The pandemic moved firms forward faster and made them think about the future and what is possible, but several things continue to hold some firms (and their clients) back.
Most accountants and bookkeepers were trained in an era of data entry, accuracy and after-the-fact reporting. Today, clients want new, forward-looking services, commonly referred to as advisory and consulting.
The services clients want are usually the services firms need themselves: strategic vision and planning and accountability. Often, these services require less labor and technical skills but a lot more relationship building, trust, leadership and creativity.
Processes and technology
Automation is occurring more rapidly than most accountants and bookkeepers realize, with machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) enabling the accountant and bookkeeper to move up the value chain.
The most frequent comment we hear from firm leaders is, “our people do not want to change” or “they don’t feel comfortable in advisory and consulting services.” This requires leadership, upskilling and perhaps updating both systems and personnel.
Efficiency is only part of the process equation. Firms should focus on the client experience as well as continuous improvement. This generally requires someone outside of the process to help define, measure, analyze, improve and control (DMAIC). The good news is, there is help available from vendors and consultants who specialize in the convergence of technology and process. Intuit, Intacct and Boomer Consulting offer these services.
What are you going to do with the capacity you gain by improving your processes and technology? Some might answer more of the same, but I challenge you to consider whether doing more of the same adds client value or improves the client experience.
The other trap is pricing and the existing business model of hours x dollars. Some firms have actually reduced revenue because they were not prepared to adjust their pricing to reflect improved efficiency from technology and process or charge hourly rates for advisory and consulting work. This is why subscription pricing and messaging around advisory and consulting services are so important.
Most accountants spend their time thinking about client issues and problems. After all, isn’t that what the profession has been paid to do for the past 50 years? What has changed?
Automation in the accounting profession has been coming for the past 50 years, but Kurzweil’s law of accelerating returns has become a reality. Processing power, bandwidth and storage capacity have grown exponentially. This is reality, and you and your firm are not going to change that fact. I believe and experience that firms who think about their own transformation add value to their clients because all are small businesses facing transformation.
So what is the answer?
The answer is more complex than most believe. In reality, it is the convergence of leadership, talent, technology, processes and growth. People must get out of their silos and collaborate, which is different from cooperating. The answer is simple, but the execution isn’t.
Step 1: Define your vision
Step 2: Develop your plan
Step 3: Hold yourself accountable
Leadership is the key to new services, innovation and success. Without it, your firm will be commoditized and lose relevance. Getting highly paid technical professionals to change is not an easy task. It requires modeling, change management and upskilling.
There are many levers to push and pull in a diversified accounting firm. Understanding the input and output is necessary to transform to higher value services.
Does your firm need a clear vision of where you want to be and a plan for getting there?
Boomer Strategic Planning and Visioning can help your firm build consensus and alignment around a shared vision, strategic objectives and measurements. Complete an interest form today to start taking the most direct path to achieve the results you want.
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.