Archive for the ‘Services’ Category

Thursday, June 29th, 2017

Training Your Clients

SethGodin“Differentiate to succeed.” – Seth Godin

Love this post by Seth Godin:

Training customers

If you frequently run last-minute sales, don’t be surprised if your customers stop buying things in advance. You’re training them to wait.

If you announce things six or seven times, getting louder each time, don’t be surprised if your customers ignore the first few announcements. You’ve trained them to expect you’ll yell if it’s important.

If you don’t offer someone a raise until they find a new job and quit, don’t be surprised if your employees start looking for new jobs.

The way you engage with your customers (students/bosses/peers) trains them on what to expect from interactions with you.

Drip, drip, drip.

I have blogged several time about setting expectations for your clients, yes training them. For example, training them to submit their 1040 information ON TIME.

As Godin notes, if you continue to accept slow responses from your clients, they know you are okay with them being tardy. If you accept shoddy, poorly document “books” from clients, they realize that they don’t have to expend much effort before they deliver their year-end info to you…. and so on. (We all know the “shoe box” clients!)

The same thing applies to your team. Godin’s point about giving someone a raise once they announce they are quitting sounds awfully familiar to what I have observed in the CPA profession.

  • Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell.
  • Seth Godin

Tuesday, June 6th, 2017

Strategic Plans and Fairy Tales

“Never look back unless you are planning to go that way.” – Henry David Thoreau

I really enjoyed a recent post by Jeffrey Gitomer titled, Business Plans, Five-Year Spreadsheets, and other fairy tales.

How about your strategic plan? Have you looked at it recently? Have all your partners looked at it often over the last year and talked among themselves about how well you are doing with the plan? I bet not.

What about the business plans for a new niche inside your firm? You had a young partner anxious to specialize in business valuation, for example. You asked him to bring a business plan to the partner group for discussion and approval. The group like it, approved it and…. it hasn’t been looked at since. It hasn’t been monitored nor has it been followed. Perhaps, it was just a fairy tale!

I think you will enjoy Gitomer’s article. Much of it sounds familiar to those of you working in a CPA firm. He also includes some great suggestions.

  • Plans are nothing; planning is everything.
  • Dwight D. Eisenhower

Friday, June 2nd, 2017

Think About Quality

“The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary.” – Sam Walton

Many firms proclaim, “We provide quality client service.”

A recent post by Seth Godin caused me to think about quality service in a more critical light.

Is your firm simply meeting client expectations? Or, are you exceeding client expectations? Do dare go for service that is even higher?

socksYear ago at Accountants Bootcamp, we learned that the goal should be much more lofty than meeting expectations.

I you want to distinguish yourself from other accounting firms, aim high and aim to provide awesome client service – you might call it “Knock your socks off client service.”

  • Every great business is built on friendship.
  • J. C. Penney

Wednesday, January 18th, 2017

Client Accounting Services

Consultants, firm associations, state societies, the media and the AICPA have all been telling you about the opportunities available if you offer Client Accounting Services.

Yes, many firms used to think that “write-up” work was very low margin work. The cloud and technology have made it very lucrative.

galeRead this excellent article from Gale Crosley‘s recent newsletter:  “From ‘Dull’ and “Commoditized’ to an ‘International Star'”.

Sign up for my newsletter here.

  • Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.
  • Mark Twain

Friday, December 16th, 2016

Client Accounting Services (CAS)

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs

Have you expanded and branded the CAS you are offering to clients? Many firms are finding this area to be a rapidly growing source of revenue.

The percentage of net client fees provided by CAS, which includes outsourced finance and accounting services and other back-office support for clients, more than doubled for firms in the largest revenue segment tracked by the 2016 National Management of an Accounting Practice Survey.

Client Accounting Services is no longer just a small firm revenue source.

Mark Koziel, the AICPA executive vice president-Firm Services, credits automation and other technologies with helping to fuel the growth of client accounting services.

I find that many firms are doing a great job of branding the service and making clients aware of the benefits of outsourcing this type of work (which they usually hate doing themselves). For businesses, including CPA firms, it’s becoming an outsourced world.

Read the full article from The Journal of Accountancy, written by Jeff Drew, senior editor.

  • The secret of joy in work is contained in one word - excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it.
  • Pearl S. Buck

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Discussing Your Fee

“The man who does not value himself, cannot value anything or anyone.” – Ayn Rand

When pursuing a new prospect, when do you talk about your fee? How straight-forward are you? Do you talk as little about fees as possible and maybe even wait until a client complains (or inquires about an invoice) before you are transparent about how you bill?

I have observed that many CPAs are very reluctant to talk about fees with prospective clients and even sometimes with long-time clients. Many, even in the engagement letter, provide a fee quote in the form of a fairly broad range.

That’s the best thing about a Fixed Price Agreement. The client knows exactly what the fee will be for the specific service that is to be provided. Even an FPA can be a problem if the client requests additional services and the CPA does not then issue a change order informing the client that there will be additional fees due.

I have also observed that many CPAs don’t believe they are “worth it.” They become friends with clients and simply want to be helpful. I urge my clients to be proud of their knowledge and not discount the value that performing a routine task or answering a simple question brings to the client.

You have spent years accumulating specialized knowledge. You are special in that you can answer complex questions with little effort.

Don’t discount your own expertise – you are worth it!

  • Only a fool thinks price and value are the same.
  • Antonio Machado

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

A True Story About Launching A New Service

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein

Have you been thinking of launching a new service? Have you been thinking of how to better serve your clients via cloud accounting? I have observed that many CPA firm leaders are debating these topics during their partner meetings and management retreats.

sarahSarah Johnson Dobek of Inovautus Consulting posted a great feature story recently about how one firm launched a service around cloud accounting.

Highlights:

  • Clients were requesting better access to their books in real-time with mobility.
  • The old desktop versions of accounting software were a problem.
  • The firm wanted to offer more non-traditional services.
  • The growth has been higher than any other area of the firm.
  • The workflow is different than traditional tax and audit services.
  • Required a change in the pricing model.

Dobek advises:

  • Launching a new service can be daunting – develop a plan.
  • Be prepared for some things to not go as planned.
  • It always takes longer than you expect.
  • Define what success looks like.

Read this entire interesting story about launching a new service via Inovautus, here.

  • The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, April 25th, 2016

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Most progressive CPA firms guarantee their work. Do You?

Firms are including a guarantee in the engagement letter or proposal.

Here’s what I put in my own Engagement Agreements:

Service Guarantee and Confidentiality

Rita Keller’s services are unconditionally guaranteed. If the services do not meet your expectation, you may end the arrangement and pay only the value you deem acceptable. Confidentiality is extremely important. While Keller may serve other CPA firms in your market, absolutely no information about your firm will ever be discussed or disclosed. If I discover a best practice during my association with your firm, I may request permission to feature you and/or your firm on my blog.

 
Sometimes these guarantees are structured in the form of a Commitment Statement to the client that includes things like:

  • You will be respected and never taken for granted.
  • We absolutely respect the confidentiality of our working relationship with you.
  • We will return phone calls and answer email within 24 hours.
  • …. and so on.

Some even include asking the client for some commitments as a second part of the statement, such as:

  • You will give us all the information we need to complete the assignment.
  • You will meet mutually agreed upon deadlines. In the case of circumstances beyond your control, you will notify us immediately of the situation.
  • You will pay our fees per our engagement letter.
  • … and so on.

Just something you might consider for your firm. It makes a bold and important statement to your clients.

Here’s a sample of a Client Commitment Statement.

  • The best way to guarantee a loss is to quit.
  • Morgan Freeman

Tuesday, March 15th, 2016

Specialize

“Don’t try to make a product for everybody, because that is a product for nobody.” – Seth Godin

I can remember a time when the partners at a CPA firm would joke with each other about being a specialist. These conversations would happen at a CPA association meeting or inside a partner meeting.

If they had a chance to land a car dealership and their firm was already serving ONE dealership, they might convey to the prospective client that they had a lot of experience with dealerships. Same applied to franchises or excavation contractors and so on.

Those days are gone. Today’s most successful firms truly specialize and are deeply knowledgeable about their specialty. The firm has a champion (or niche leader) for the specialty. The leader speaks about the specialty area and writes articles for the specialty association newsletters. They attend conferences directed toward the specialty and continually read and educate themselves about that particular business. They hang-out with business owners in that segment or niche.

These CPAs “own” that specialty inside their firm and are held responsible for the success of the niche. They build a team around it. The niche leader’s compensation is tied to the niche. It is serious business and can help a firm achieve great success.

Here’s an example of a highly specialized firm – Wolcott & Associates.

  • A specialist is a man who knows more and more about less and less.
  • William J. Mayo

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Doing A Client Survey? Keep Calm & Carry On

Most progressive firms do client feedback surveys on a regular basis. Most firms, over all, do not. I don’t think you should do one every year but using a 3-year cycle makes sense.

If you ask too often, clients seem to find it a chore. Usually, your best clients will give you glowing remarks and you will always receive a response from those clients that have an issue – which is what you want to fish out.

When I talk to firm leaders about a client survey, it often takes them a long time to decide if they will do it and how they will do it. Often it becomes a major discussion topic among the partners and they worry about which clients they should include and which ones they should not. They fret about “what could possibly happen” way too much.

Keep it simple. Don’t worry so much. Just do it.

Have each partner select their “top” clients – whether they are easy to serve or difficult to serve. Most firms judge “top” by the amount of revenue the client (client group) brings to the firm.

Limit the number of top clients per partner to 20 or 30. If you have 10 partners that means 300 clients will be surveyed and should result in a good representation. Many partners only select around 20 and help urge those few to respond.

Again, don’t procrastinate and don’t worry about what replies you might uncover. I find that most clients have really honest and helpful feedback for the firm.

  • The most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.
  • Bill Gates