In uncertain economic times, many firms feel the need to take on any client they can get. Yet one of the biggest problems firms have is too many small clients. I've often compared it to being too busy picking up $10 bills when there are $100 bills on the table.
Unfortunately, some small businesses don't survive, some have trouble paying for the services firms provide, and some people aren't willing to pay enough to make serving them worthwhile. How much time is your firm spending on those clients? If, instead, you spent that time on your very best clients, your firm could flourish and be more profitable than it's ever been.
Rather than trying to hang on to every client you have, a better strategy might be to let some of those clients go. So here is our roadmap for prioritizing your best opportunities.
The cloud and disruptive technology have changed the playing field. Remember, customers—not service providers—determine value.
Your clients want more from you than compliance services. They want advisory and consulting services. If you can package them with compliance services and deliver them better and faster, your best clients will recognize your value rather than seeking the cheapest alternative.
Menu of services
Many firms still have too many clients who only utilize one service, such as individual tax return preparation. Continuing to work with these types of clients forces workload compression during busy season and does little to improve your bottom line.
Develop a menu of services from all four areas: transactional, compliance, advisory, and consulting. Then develop a pricing structure, considering the level of service needed and access to expertise and other resources. Have upfront discussions with your clients about your scope of services and pricing. This will improve client satisfaction as well as cash flow.
The clients that helped you reach your current level of success may not be the clients that will help you sustain that success now and into the future. Remember Pareto's Law: 20% of your clients produce 80% of your revenue.
Define your target clients and establish filtering criteria for existing clients who may no longer be appropriate. Then, focus on providing your target clients with expanded services and let the rest go. This can be difficult, but for most firms, it's necessary to terminate a small portion of clients in order to create the capacity to provide higher-level, more valuable services to the best clients.
In the past few years, firms that heeded the call to move to the cloud were prepared to have 100% of their staff working from home—the ones who didn't struggled to serve clients during pandemic shutdowns. Wherever your firm fell on that spectrum, note what did and didn't work, and work toward improvement.
Establish a technology committee to ensure your IT projects align with the firm's vision and strategic plan.
Your entire team can add value, not just accountants. In fact, many firms are now employing non-accounting graduates with data science, wealth management, technology, finance and marketing expertise for advisory services. That diversity of thought and experience makes a firm more valuable and innovative.
Conduct a resources gap analysis, select your curriculum and start training. Then, implement 90-day game plans for every member of the firm.
Even in these uncertain times, the question remains: would you rather have five $100k clients or prepare 1,000 individual tax returns for $500 apiece? I am confident you see the benefit of larger clients who take advantage of multiple services. Start focusing on those ideal clients; you will do much better than those paralyzed by procrastination.
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.