As we enter another busy season in the accounting profession, I encourage you to take some time to think about what this time of year means for you and your firm. Are you putting out fires or lighting a fire for your firm?
The trap of busy season
It’s easy to fall into the putting out fires category. This time of year tends to be stressful for many firms as they spend a lot of their time and energy getting tax returns, payroll reports, W-2s, 1099s and financial statements out the door. There’s always a client to follow up with, e-file authorizations to chase down, or phone calls and emails to return.
In the past year, many firms have improved their processes out of necessity. Due to the pandemic, firms needed to be able to collaborate while working remotely, send and receive information from clients digitally. As some offices reopen, this move toward digital transformation continues to offer benefits. But when you free up capacity with process and technology, what do you plan on doing with the time you gain? If your answer is using that extra capacity to complete more tax returns and audits, you’re missing the point of this transformation.
Counterintuitive as it may sound, busy season can be the best time to deepen relationships with clients and identify additional advisory and consulting services. This is often the time when your firm is top of mind with clients, so it’s a perfect opportunity to get some face-to-face time with them (even via video conference) and discover ways that you can add value and help meet their needs.
Although you might not want to think about adding more work to your plate right now, the opportunities and services you identify during this season can help keep you busy – and your firm profitable and relevant – during the rest of the year. You need to shift your mindset from simply getting through the next few months to igniting a flame that will power a transformation for your firm’s business model.
Identifying new service offerings
Some of the biggest opportunities for CPAs to expand their service offerings beyond transactional and compliance work can be identified during this time. For example, you might talk to a client about their internal controls and learn that they could use some help selecting and implementing a new accounting solution. Finding out they purchased a building in the past year could lead to a cost segregation study. Talking to clients about their business goals could lead to strategic planning or human resources consulting engagement.
Unfortunately, even when CPAs identify these opportunities and have every intention of following up with clients after busy season, time pressures force them to focus only on the immediate tax return or audit. Those services might comprise a big portion of your firm’s revenue stream, but it’s not sustainable. If you don’t have a plan to add high-value services beyond tax and audit, you need one.
Remember, it’s far more cost-effective to keep a client – and expand the number of services they purchase from you – than it is to acquire a new one. Yet, most accounting firms leave revenue on the table because their existing clients use only one or two of the firm’s service offerings.
Adding new services can increase your firm’s revenue from existing clients and reduce the likelihood that they’ll start shopping around for a new firm. Even if you can’t jump into these engagements immediately, you can get them into your sales funnel if your firm has a process for business development.
Make business development part of the client management team approach. Start by identifying existing staff members with solid sales skills and training them on business development. If someone on your team identifies a client’s needs but doesn’t have the time or expertise to pursue it, it can be funneled to your business development team.
The time for simply looking for efficiency in your firm’s operations has passed. Successful firms use this time of year to identify opportunities to truly shift their business models. What will you do this busy season to light a fire for your firm?
As a Shareholder and Consultant for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Arianna Campbell helps accounting firms challenge the status quo by leading process improvement initiatives that result in increased profitability and client satisfaction. She also facilitates the development and cultivation of future firm leaders in The P3 Leadership Academy™ Academy. Internally, she blends concepts from Lean Six Sigma and leadership development to drive innovation and continuous improvement within the company. Arianna also enjoys the opportunity to share knowledge through regular contributions to the Boomer Bulletin and other industry-wide publications, as well as public speaking at industry conferences.
See inside February 2021
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