It's a Fact of Life for CPAs - The Dreaded Scope Creep
I’ve heard it for years and years, “Watch out for scope creep.” “”How do we guard against scope creep?” “How do we teach our young accountants about scope creep?” “Most of our partners actually give too much away.” And so on.
I have two thoughts on this topic and they contradict each other!
First of all, I believe that the more you give away (of yourself, of your knowledge and of your expertise), the more will eventually come back to you.
In contrast with that, CPAs SELL knowledge, it’s their business. I always tell CPAs they have the toughest sales job ever…. nobody wants what they sell – tax returns and audits. Have you ever heard anyone say, “I can’t wait until it’s time to get my taxes prepared!” or “Hooray, the auditors are coming next week!”?
During a client engagement, you warn your staff to watch out for scope creep. If the client asks for more we need to issue a Change Order. How often does that really happen? Most CPAs just take a write-off when it comes time to bill.
CPAs – your years of experience and the extensive knowledge you have, plus your continuing education to keep current is of tremendous VALUE to your clients. Never be afraid to bill a client for value delivered. It’s your business, it’s what you sell!
I found some great tips about scope creep from Erika Napolentano on American Express Open Forum:
A clear scope of work is the best defense. (In the CPA world that’s your engagement letter.)
Some clients don’t even realize they are asking for something that goes beyond the scope. When you find a client asking for something that isn’t in the project scope, here’s how to say yes – when you’re really saying no:
Hi Client Awesome,
Thanks so much for the ideas on adding X to our project. We’re glad you’re happy with our work so far and that you’re trusting us to get even more involved in your brand’s success.
We’d be happy to add <stuff not in scope of work> to the project scope. We’ll send over a revised scope of work for your approval. Once we have that, we’ll send you estimated delivery times and add the additional work to the project’s final billing installment.
You’ll receive that revised scope shortly.
Rita Keller is a nationally known CPA firm management consultant, speaker, author, mentor and blogger. She is a former shareholder and administrative partner in a successful, regional CPA firm and has over 30 years hands-on experience in CPA firm management, marketing, technology and administrative operations. She works with firms across the country focusing on people, partners and internal management issues.