Case study

Practice Forward and Ignition take Capocore Professional Advisors to new heights Driving greater efficiencies, streamlining accounting processes, and better serving clients

The firm

Lake Orion, Michigan-based Capocore Professional Advisors was founded in 2017 with a mission — to challenge the status quo. Rather than provide basic tax and accounting services at an hourly rate, the firm was created to provide clients higher value services. This meant proactively serving clients and developing a plan that works best for their future, not just analyzing the past.

“When I formed Capocore, it was formed under the premise that I wanted to be more than just a compliance firm. I wanted to bring some sort of value to our clients and that value to me was in the advisory solutions and being more than just that preparer,” explained founder and managing member Jamie Lopiccolo.

Today, the firm delivers clients a tailored set of services in a single fee package. Services include, but are far from limited to, strategic tax savings strategies, cash flow strategies, and succession and equity planning. For clients needing a more comprehensive level of service, the firm can also serve as their CFO, controller, accounting department manager or on-call advisor.

Target clients are largely small to mid-size businesses and individuals with complex tax needs, such as business owners, rental property owners, and those with high investments.

The challenge

Lopiccolo was confident that his firm was on the right track in its mission to deliver value-added advisory services, but it quickly became clear that there were efficiencies to be gained in its processes.

To deliver its services, the firm was using a mixed bag of resources, including self-created spreadsheets and documents, and rogue software. Unfortunately, this made it a challenge to efficiently serve clients and resulted in inconsistencies across its processes, internal controls, and messaging. Lopiccolo knew changes need to be made if he wanted to achieve long-term success.

The right fit

When Lopiccolo learned about Thomson Reuters Practice Forward in late 2018 he knew it was an ideal fit for his firm.

Practice Forward navigates firms down the path of developing and implementing an advisory services approach to engaging clients. Through practitioner-designed content, tools and customized coaching, Practice Forward helps firms achieve more meaningful, advisory-focused client relationships, more engaging work for staff, and, ultimately, a healthier firm bottom line.

“I had learned about the [Thomson Reuters] Partner Summit and attended that. Really, that validated what I was doing and the way we were doing things; we were no longer using time sheets, we were trying to bill on a monthly basis at a fixed fee as opposed to billing on time. And then as I learned about Practice Forward, it just seemed like a natural fit for me,” Lopiccolo said.

Over the past decade, the Thomson Reuters Partner Summit Thought Leadership event has given hundreds of firm leaders, like Lopiccolo, an opportunity to learn how to build a more progressive firm. Participants gain a better understanding of the steps needed to redefined their business model and distinguish between value add advisory services and compliance services — and how they can monetize the value of that difference.

Following the event, Lopiccolo began working closely with a Practice Forward consultant to develop a tailored solution for his firm.

“Right now, as it stands, myself and my partner are the only two that are delivering the advisory-related services and implementing it, but as we grow we do have plans to be able to train our staff and to be able to show them where the information, they know where the information lies within our system and what’s there, it’s just teaching them how to use it. Every day we live and breathe the ‘Practice Forward’ advisory way,” said Lopiccolo, who noted that the firm currently employs six associates.

Looking to further elevate the power of its tech stack, the firm also implemented the Ignition client engagement tool, which helps accounting practices onboard clients and get paid faster.

Thomson Reuters and the Australian-based client engagement solutions provider have formed a strategic partnership. Through this partnership, firms can accelerate the client engagement process initiated from the Practice Forward methodology by quickly creating proposals and engagement letters and automating client payments.

Prior to Ignition, the firm was using a software solution it found to be cumbersome and difficult to implement, as well as self-created documents and spreadsheets. Unfortunately, these methods lacked in automation and efficiency.

Today, the power of pairing Practice Forward with Ignition is proving significant for Capocore.

Reaping the benefits

Since implementing Practice Forward nearly four years ago, Lopiccolo said the top three benefits gained are improved efficiencies, a turnkey solution to meet client needs, and greater confidence in delivering advisory services.

“No. 1, it comes down to efficiencies. Efficiencies in the way that we now onboard our clients, the systems that were created through the Practice Forward system — the way to do things, what to do, and when to do them,” said Lopiccolo. “I think another [benefit] is the content that was provided. It provided almost turnkey solutions for us to be able to deliver some sort of advisory to our clients and meaningful advisory — something that was tangible and our clients could identify with. … It helped us identify what the clients were really, truly looking for.”

Lopiccolo said another important benefit is the confidence he has gained by leveraging the Practice Forward tools and resources. In fact, research shows that a lack of confidence is a common feeling among many professionals looking to provide advisory services.

According to a 2021 study by Thomson Reuters Institute, 95 percent of tax professionals believe their clients want business advisory services; however, 41 percent of tax professionals said they felt uncomfortable taking on this role. Of those who said they felt less confident, one-third said they would turn to training and education to improve their confidence. Many respondents also talked about gaining more experience, particularly with clients and building industry knowledge, and mentoring was also cited as helpful.

The firm is also reaping the benefits of pairing Practice Forward with Ignition. As Lopiccolo explained, Practice Forward provides the tools, resources and steps needed to help firms successfully turn advisory services into a reality, while Ignition helps automate the processes.

“Having [Practice Forward and Ignition] together … one is feeding the other and now you’ve just streamlined your entire process,” Lopiccolo said.

Seeing the results

With Practice Forward’s market-proven roadmap as the foundation — overlaid with Ignition’s time-saving features like online proposal templates, automated engagement letters, and client billing management — the firm’s advisory practice has been elevated to new heights.

Several manual tasks once handled by the administration team have now been automated, resulting in a client onboarding process that is faster and more efficient. In fact, the time-savings have proven to be significant. Lopiccolo estimates the firm now saves at least two hours for every prospect client.

“I can now get a client from, what I call the discovery meeting or that first meeting, to getting them a proposal it can happen in a matter of 30 minutes, if I really needed to,” Lopiccolo said. “Normally, we do wait a week just to build a little bit of anticipation for the client, but that proposal is created and ready to go in a matter of a half an hour.”

That means more time for staff to focus on marketing and other higher-value tasks.

“From creation, to sign, to … ready to begin to work on the client has now been completely streamlined and just reimagined,” Lopiccolo said.

For firms considering Practice Forward and Ignition, Lopiccolo’s advice is simple: “Just do it. Just go for it.”

“You have to have this mindset that [Practice Forward talks] about — being able to make these changes into your firm, this investment into your firm, to be different than the status quo, to be different than just a compliance firm, to be an advisory firm, and to really make sure you are bringing value to your clients as opposed to just being a reactionary firm,” said Lopiccolo. “The Practice Forward piece of it is what is the tools that help you get there, and Ignition is just a super-charged set of tools to help you in one aspect of the Practice Forward and that’s the client acquisition.”

Continued Lopiccolo, “They are ready-to-go systems that just give you that shot in the arm to get into that advisory arena and get into it in the right way.”

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