In the 50 years RBSK Partners PC has been in business, the firm has seen the tax and accounting industry change dramatically. Since 1965, the entire business world has evolved from the most basic automation to a high-tech environment that would seem space-age to the founders of the Greensburg, Ind.-based firm.
Since joining the firm in 1984 as an accountant, managing partner John G. Seale, CPA.CITP, has had a front-row seat for the technology transformation, largely since it’s an area of keen interest to him.
“I’ve always been fascinated with process and procedures and how to do things faster and better,” Seale says. “I’m always wanting to look for a better way to do things.”
That’s one reason RBSK Partners PC maintains a full-time information technology (IT) staff and eagerly adopts new technology when it’s available. Five years ago, the firm moved its operations to in-house virtual servers, and made the switch to Virtual Office CS last year.
“I think it’s probably the best thing we’ve ever done,” Seale says. “We’ve minimized our risk and the burden on our in-house technology. Disaster recovery is always in the back of my mind, and that was the underlying reason to feel good that we’ve moved out to a safer environment—probably more secure than our own could have been.”
Getting On Board With Accounting CS
When he first heard about Accounting CS, Seale knew it was the way of the future. But he also knew the conversion would not take place overnight.
“It was obvious to me that this was more than just an upgrade—this was a kind of revolutionary and totally different way of looking at your client engagements and the way you perform them,” he says
Seale admits that it was “easy to put off” making the switch, until he recognized just how much the firm could benefit. It was Accounting CS Payroll that initially prompted the decision to convert.
“I saw that it might allow us to grow the payroll area and be more efficient and profitable,” he says. “The first part of our conversion was driven to our payroll clients.”
Basics: Established in 1965, RBSK Partners PC is based in Greensburg, Ind. With a staff of 21, including four IT specialists, the full-service firm offers the spectrum of tax, accounting and consulting services to businesses and individuals.
Website: The firm offers a wide range of services—including a secure client portal and a toolbox full of online resources—at www.rbskpartners.com.
Software: RBSK Partners PC uses just about every tool offered by Thomson Reuters, including Accounting CS, Accounting CS Payroll, Practice CS, GoFileRoom, UltraTax CS, FileCabinet CS, Fixed Assets CS, Workpapers CS, ToolBox CS, Web Builder CS and NetClient CS portals.
Like any significant business transformation, it required effective change management. To create a paperless environment, the firm began by setting some guidelines for how information is shared between the practice and its clients. Although walking clients through the new processes was time-consuming, both the firm and its clients quickly saw the value of eliminating the need to deliver payroll hours in person or by fax.
“We’re coaching the clients to adopt these new procedures,” Seale says. “We’re not only converting their data, we’re actually converting them into better clients.”
The firm currently has 75 payroll licenses, and now that it’s armed with better technology and processes, it’s on track to land three new clients that will bring the firm fees totaling $30,000.
“That’s how we’re using Accounting CS Payroll to grow the business,” Seale says.
Of course, payroll is only one of the services the firm offers to its clients, which include individuals and businesses. Agricultural operations, nonprofits and family-owned businesses are among the core industries RBSK Partners PC serves. Most of the firm’s work centers around tax and accounting work, along with audit work, advisory services, bookkeeping, mergers and acquisitions, financial and retirement planning, and peer review. The firm also has a small-business-services team that does write-up, payroll and more. Plus, the firm’s IT staff provides tech support and consulting services to clients.
Seale says part of the reason converting to Accounting CS has taken some time is that it’s not the only task in front of the firm, which is obviously busy. Part of the process included the essential training provided by Thomson Reuters.
“This is not a willy-nilly decision to convert,” Seale explains. “You need to go through the training—we trained lots of people on it, with team meetings—and make sure everybody here is on board.” The firm also assigned specific staff members to coach clients through the conversion, a process everyone only needs to go through once. He estimates the entire conversion process, which is nearly complete, will ultimately take about a year and a half.
Starting the conversion with payroll clients made sense because it didn’t affect any of their other operations. Once clients see how well Accounting CS Payroll works, encouraging them to switch to the rest of Accounting CS isn’t a hard sell, especially when they understand the benefits of the Client Access feature.
Accounting CS Client Access lets firms and clients work simultaneously in the same real-time database, conducting day-to-day business using a secure portal.
“We can’t convert [clients] fast enough because now that they’ve used Accounting CS, they want to do everything in a more efficient manner. It’s a tremendous retention tool that makes it very easy for the client to do business with us.”
Plus, he says, there’s the “phenomenal upside” of the cloud-based Virtual Office CS, which the firm moved to in part to prepare for Accounting CS.
“If you’re talking to a client who has suffered a data loss, you have their attention real quick,” Seale explains. “That anytimeanywhere access is a big plus for them.”
An Eye On the Horizon
Seale is a firm believer in the value of Accounting CS, especially its integration with the firm’s other Thomson Reuters software. But true to form, he continues to wonder how the software will transform the firm’s future operations.
Consider a traditional tax engagement. RBSK Partners PC has always sent out document requests and set up appointments with clients to discuss their needs, and then has the client fill out an organizer form. But with Accounting CS Client Access, Seale says, the process is significantly improved.
“We may still send out the document request and set up the appointment, but what has happened in some cases now is that when I go to that appointment, I already have a draft of what their information looks like because we already have access to it,” Seale explains. “We can start working on a year-end engagement long before we ever even thought about doing it before.”
He admits there’s some pain involved in any large-scale conversion—but the pain is outweighed by the gain.
“Accounting CS is a very sophisticated piece of software, and you really need to understand how it works,” Seale says. “Slow down, learn what the capabilities are and do the training. It’s well worth it.”
Family Traditions, On Water and On Land
When he’s not working or serving on the board of directors of MainSource Financial Group, John G. Seale spends as much time as he can in his Sea Ray Cruiser on the lake near his home.
“We have a community of friends we call our boater friends,” he says. “My wife, Julie, and I spend a lot of time boating on days, evenings and even some weekends when we have the time.”
In recent years, Seale has also passed many hours walking golf courses with his son, Austin, who set high school records for his golf game. Now, his son is off to college in the fall.
“Just guess what his field of study is going to be,” Seale says with pride. “He’s going to pursue an accounting degree.”