Doing Business His Way

Stats at a Glance

  • Website: www.keenandcompany.com
  • Year founded: 1990
  • Total employees: 11 F/T
  • Home base: Springdale, Arkansas
  • Firm description: Full-service tax and accounting firm
  • Technology of Choice: Thomson Reuters, Bill.com, Right Networks, Hosted QuickBooks

In 2012, Jake Keen, CPA, CVA, and managing partner of Keen & Company, made the commitment to convert his firm’s tax software—moving to UltraTax CS. Little did he know that his sales rep had more to ‘sell’ him. With a little coaxing, Keen was convinced to register for a Thomson Reuters Partner Summit.

“When my rep told me about it, honestly, I had little interest in attending. I was just too busy and didn’t think I could spare the time out of the office,” Keen explained. “But after hearing Darren Root’s [CPA and fellow firm owner] presentation and getting a look at how he runs his firm, I was very glad that I went.”

Keen was so impressed with Root’s message and concept of the Next Generation Accounting Firm that he immediately joined RootWorks. RootWorks is a member-based education organization founded by Root that offers its members a guided road map to transform their firms into highly efficient and profitable businesses—including dedicated coaching on business model, technology, branding, marketing, and more.

“His [Root’s] firm was the kind of firm I wanted to operate,” Keen said. “I remember my drive home from the Partner Summit and feeling for the first time in a long time very excited about the accounting profession.”

 

Action #1 – Implement a New Business Model

A core part of the RootWorks message is that firms must first have a sound business model in place. Too many firms operate under a whatever-makes-the-client-happy mindset. This leads to disparate services, fragmented processes, and lack of uniformity firm wide. Add it all up, and what you get is a lot of time wasted trying to accommodate every client’s unique needs.

“We were guilty of trying to please each client, always customizing our services and fees based on what a given client wanted. All that did was put the client in control of our processes,” Keen explained. “We learned that by defining our service offerings, and sticking to a standardized format, it put us back in the driver’s seat.”

Today, Keen & Company operates under a fixed services and fixed-fee model. One of the first tasks accomplished after joining RootWorks was defining a set of services based on the firm’s core competencies. Keen stated that he has not deviated from this model.

“We are no longer all over the board with our services and fees. And because we stuck to our guns, we were also able to standardize workflow processes. When all staff members follow the same process to complete a task, the efficiency gains are immense.”

Keen has also realized that by operating under a standardized model, the firm is attracting ideal clientele. “We’ve found that most business clients love that we bundle our services and charge a fixed fee because it eliminates monthly billing surprises and allows them to easily budget for the year. The new model is attracting the type of client we want and weeding out those we don’t.”

 

Action #2 – Implement an Advanced Delivery Mechanism

“I knew that we also needed a new website, a place for clients to do business as Darren [Root] described it during his presentation. This was a key element in our redevelopment efforts,” Keen stated.

The RootWorks approach directs firms to provide clients with a dedicated online space to perform work—the firm’s website. The logic behind this approach is that a firm cannot control processes if clients have no way of working collaboratively with staff.

“Client portals offer the ideal delivery mechanism. Darren showed us how his firm’s website supports a dedicated Client Center where clients can log in and upload documents, enter data, and access hosted QuickBooks,” Keen explained. “At the time, we didn’t have this level of functionality on our site, so I knew that a powerful new website had to be part of our transformation.”

Keen reported that his firm’s new website has been a huge hit with clients. “They love the portals. They love having 24/7 access to their financial docs and data… and they get all of this in one location with a single sign-on. RootWorks built our website as well, so I knew that it would be done right, complete with the high-end features we needed.”

To date, Keen & Company has about 50 percent of their client base set up on portals. The goal is to have all clients set up by year’s end.

Keen added, “Portals are a big deal to the clients, but portals also offer a lot of value to our firm. It’s so nice to deliver 500 organizers with the push of a button.”

According to Keen, beyond a powerful delivery mechanism, the website has also significantly enhanced the firm’s brand presence. “It’s a clean, professional, and content rich site. It beats any competitor firm’s website by far.”

 

Action #3 – Grow

Jake Keen reported that since joining RootWorks his firm is well into re-development efforts. They’ve implemented a new business model, adopted advanced technologies, and launched a newly branded website.

“We are happy with everything we’ve done. And now with these big tasks completed, we are well positioned to sell our services and deliver on them,” Keen stated.

Keen & Company is using the RootWorks’ trademarked small business service package, BOSS (Back Office Support System). BOSS provides clients with a comprehensive outsourced accounting package at an affordable fixed monthly fee.

“In a very short time, we’ve brought in 10 clients. Seven of the 10 are new relationships and have signed up for BOSS and/or our Hosted QuickBooks package. The other three were existing clients that upgraded to BOSS or Hosted QuickBooks.”

Keen explained that having a standardized set of services and a way to efficiently deliver services has made all the difference. “We operate so much more efficiently and are attracting qualified leads.”

Keen & Company is firing on all cylinders. An advanced website complete with client portals, a defined set of services and fee schedule, and standardized workflow processes have accelerated firm growth. These changes also have Keen excited about the future and ready to take the next big step. “I can’t wait for busy season to be over so we can take on the challenge of marketing. I want to tell our story to everyone!”

 

Kristy is a partner in RootWorks Communications (RootWorks.com) and president of SAS Communications 360 (SAScommunications360.com) — firms dedicated to providing practice management education, branding, marketing, and public relations services to the accounting profession. She is also a professor of English and marketing at University of Phoenix and Cleary University. You can reach her at kristy.short@cpapracticeadvisor.com.

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