The biggest problem most accountants face is not having enough hours in a day. There is simply too much work to be done in such a short period of time. From client meetings to preparing or reviewing tax returns, those in public accounting are always on the defense (you are reactionary instead of being proactive). Freeing up time and be done by simply focusing on ‘pushing’ paperwork off your desk and out to the client but that is not a winning strategy for any CPA firm. CPAs of the future must think strategically to find better ways to service their clients by being proactive instead of reactive.
Think of Yourself as a Trusted Advisor
Public accountants who perform a fair amount of compliance work need to re-brand themselves as consultants, and here’s why:
- Clients don’t want to pay for compliance. You are the dentist of the finance world and clients only come to you when they’re in pain. For example, preparing a tax return does not add value for a client – they don’t care how the tax return gets done they just care that it’s accurate and filed on time. Tax planning, however, gives a client a higher level of service and better prepares them for the future. Business decisions can have a direct impact on a client’s tax liability and giving consultation on these matters could save the client money.
- Compliance is reactionary and consulting is proactive. Compliance work arises when there is a legal obligation to complete a task. Preparing a tax return, filing state and local reports, and issuing a financial statement are just a few examples. These are the break pads, oil changes, and vehicle inspections of the accounting world. However, clients are looking for ways to boost performance, increase safety and enhance the steering of their business. Consulting services ensures that a client is forward looking and always prepared for what’s next.
- Word association is critical. For most clients, filing their taxes is not a joyous occasion. This is the same reason why we have negative connotation when it comes to insurance brokers, lawyers and doctors – you need to call your broker when you’ve been in an accident, contact your lawyer when you’re being sued, and crawl to your doctor when you’re injured. Trusted financial adviser dedicated to the growth and well being of your client’s business sounds more inviting than a tax accountant.
Share Your Expertise
Compliance accountants have a broad range of knowledge across several disciplines. From auditors to tax accountants, there is enough expertise at a firm to set the roadmap to business success.
For example, auditors have a unique ability to understand business risk at all levels of a company. This insight is crucial for the health of a business and can make a huge difference for it’s shareholders. Instead of assessing risk and testing controls during a year end audit, accountants can share this roadmap with businesses to better protect against fraud or theft. True, there are issues with consulting in regards to the independence of auditors, however, there are ways by which accounting firms may perform consultative services while still retaining their independence.
Often times clients ‘do not know what they do not know’ so education is crucial. Accountants typically know the issues clients will face before the client even encounters those problems. For example, workers compensation and Department of Labor audits can cost a business thousands of dollars in fines and penalties. Offering a client a consulting service to determine whether or not their business is in compliance before an audit even occurs can save a business thousands of dollars.
Sell the Problem You Solve Not The Product
The biggest stumbling block accountants face is marketing their services. An accountant’s service can be delineated to the number of hours they work on a specific client. However, clients don’t particularly care about the actual product or the number of hours an accountant works on their tax return.
Consumers don’t buy products, they buy solutions to their problems. By listening to a client and understanding their pain points accountants can provide a higher level of service. It is as simple as asking a client what their biggest struggles are and then finding proactive approaches to solving those problems. If an accountant tries to sell a client on a service they don’t particularly want or even need then the client will be frustrated and decline their services altogether.
CPAs of the future must be proactive when responding to clients needs and wants. By following these three steps, CPAs can fundamentally transform their practice into one that is proactive instead of one that is reactive.
- Think of yourself as a Trusted Advisor.
- Share your expertise before the problem arises.
- Sell the solution to clients problems.