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How to grow your CPA firm through accountability in the midst of change

Will Hill, MBA  Product Manager — Tax Professionals Advisory, Thomson Reuters

Will Hill, MBA  Product Manager — Tax Professionals Advisory, Thomson Reuters

Successful tax and accounting firms can be tricky to manage while in flux and growing. It’s important to recognize your accountability to grow your CPA firm. But how is this done? This brings us to today’s topic from another episode of the Thomson Reuters Pulse of the Practice podcast: “Accountability in the Midst of Change”.

When it comes to changing pre-established practices in your firm, the logistics can feel like a moving target.  As busy accountants, it’s easy to get stuck in survival mode. It can take some effort to think outside the box to grow your CPA firm into a truly successful firm of the future.

How can you build your service offerings to better serve your clients and grow your CPA firm through accountability?

The first step is to identify your current areas of expertise and core competencies. To move forward and truly grow your CPA firm, you first have to know exactly where and who your firm is. Here are some ways to begin:

  • Identify what you do well and what expertise you have that you are not currently using with your clients
  • Figure out what types of clients, industries, and organizations you serve, and which ones you serve particularly well
  • Assess the skill sets of your staff members
  • Consider how to retain and nurture clients in order to grow your business overall

One approach to the advisory transformation process is to logically extend the range of services you provide to see how you can grow your CPA firm. Take an approach that considers who your clients currently are and the nature of the services you currently provide. For example, if you have a number of successful relationships with attorneys and financial advisors, consider expanding into legal practice management or wealth management.

With the implementation of new concepts, you can revamp your firm structure, from billing and other services, to the ways you engage and start client relationships and the types of clients you seek. In order to serve your mid-sized clients specifically, logistical challenges of understanding exactly what your goals are as an evolving firm can be some of the biggest challenges and requires a shift in thinking.

How do firms think ahead to provide better services for their clients?

Over the past decade, the Partner Summit has given hundreds of tax professionals a unique opportunity to learn how to build a more progressive firm. Take the time to audit your existing services and redefine your offerings by distinguishing between advisory and compliance services — and figuring out how to monetize the value of that difference. Your firm is growing, which is great, but if you haven’t analyzed your internal operations may find that the more revenue you build, the same problems are exacerbated, only bigger.

Sometimes firms get stuck in a process where they say, “Well, this works. This is how we do things. It’s been successful for us.” Firms that are growing have to continue to add staff, which adds costs to maintain a bigger firm. Unless you make a real shift in the way that you’re doing things, you’re only building on your own pain as you continue to grow your tax practice.

How do firms make necessary changes to remain accountable to themselves to grow successfully?

Growing your firm means creating more expenses, so how do you balance growth with strategies for success? Take accounts receivable for example. A firm might think, “If everyone just paid me on time, I’d be fine.” That is not a strong business model, because as you grow you have more pressure to manage accounts receivable. To make a true change for success, firms have to decide to do something different. That sounds simple enough, but change can be scary. It’s important to acknowledge your firm’s strengths and weaknesses and see where real change can occur. All firms want to grow, but it can be overwhelming to figure out how to update change management processes.

Taking full accountability means firms need to push themselves to use all of the resources they can to make a successful change happen. Utilizing assistance from experts can teach firms how to get every client on a maintenance agreement and benefiting from their advisory services. Even a strong, progressive firm that has overcome a lot of the obstacles and is leveraging technology can become more efficient and have stronger systems in place instead of building on the same pain points as they might currently be experiencing. If you can leverage solutions, it can simplify operations, thus making it easier to truly sell advisory services.

Reaching out to clients with changes can make you feel vulnerable

You can make your firm more efficient and client-focused based on the unique dynamics of your business and the direction you set for it. It’s important to have that vulnerable conversation with clients. Accountability within your firm as your backbone will allow you to make changes that clients will appreciate because, in the long run, it benefits them, too. You may be surprised by how much buy-in you receive from clients.

Where accountability comes in is before that first conversation. At the onset of explaining changes to clients, a little bit of the insecurity is that you know that this is a direction that makes sense for your firm, but maybe you don’t totally understand the value that it gives to your practice, or how that translates to value for the client.

Recognizing your firm’s value is an important part of the process

If you don’t understand your firm’s value, how are you going to explain it to clients? Once you understand the value of your services, you can feel confident that you are giving your clients an overall positive experience.

Being able to find your voice as far as what’s in it for the client relieves a lot of the stress of feeling like you’re asking them to do you a favor. These initial conversations can be nerve-racking. Over time, you will realize that clients not only accept the changes you are offering them, some may even ask for more services that you didn’t expect.

You work hard to keep your business running. But are you working to keep it growing? Take a critical look at your accountability and create a big-picture strategy to drive your firm’s profitability and success. This willingness to look and make positive changes into a transformation will ultimately impress your clients, allow your firm to earn more revenue, and secure your position as a next generation accounting firm.

A growing tax business requires a different, more advisory-based, approach. There are a lot of vendors with software, platforms, tools, and other resources to help you shift your business model. Consider a strategic vendor relationship that will help you manage workflow and customer relationships with integrated solutions in addition to providing the guidance and support you need to push your firm’s transition into the future of accounting.

 

Listen to the “Accountability in the Midst of Change” episode of the Pulse of the Practice podcast on your preferred platform (Google Play, Apple, Spotify, Stitcher) or here.

 

 

 

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