3 Keys to Growing CAS at Your Firmby
Most accounting professionals know that growing an advisory practice can lead to bigger profits. But taking the next step is not always easy. In this article, Amanda Wilkie, a consultant with Boomer Consulting, Inc., explains why it takes the right tech tools, efficient process and support from leadership to make your CAS and virtual CFO services a success.
Client advisory services (CAS) and virtual CFO services have been around for years, but an awareness of the benefits of both has grown tremendously over the past few years, especially in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. In times of economic uncertainty, clients want and need guidance from their trusted advisors, and few professionals are better positioned to guide them than tax and accounting professionals.
The first steps to adding these services to your firm include packaging them with transactional and compliance services and choosing the right clients. But what happens next? Today, I’m sharing some advice for keeping the momentum going and finding the capacity to grow your CAS and virtual CFO service line through technology, processes and leadership.
Technology is Key to Scalability
Creating a dedicated CAS and virtual CFO department within a CPA firm is resource intensive. However, with the right resources, CAS and virtual CFO services can be extremely profitable. Having the right technology to provide these services is crucial.
One of the main hurdles to creating a profitable CAS practice is capacity. Busy professionals wonder how they’ll find the time to deliver additional services when so much of their time is already taken up by tax and assurance services. The key is to automate as much of the transactional and compliance work as possible. Automation, along with effective processes and outsourcing, creates the capacity to deliver CAS and virtual CFO services, which are more focused on building relationships. At a minimum, you need a cloud-based general ledger program with an open API source to share data to and from other applications.
To be efficient, firms need to drive the technology stack and have as few applications as possible. One mistake that firms often make is trying to work with their clients’ preferred software and applications. But the only way to make CAS scalable is to be consistent and efficient. While some clients may prefer to use old desktop solutions or one-off applications that don’t integrate with others, it’s your responsibility to bring them into the present.
Don’t forget about tracking results! Any solution you consider should provide metrics so you can measured what’s getting done.
Process is Key to Efficiency and Consistency
Whenever you start a new project, you need to have a clearly defined process. This includes the process for delivering the CAS or virtual CFO services as well as related processes, such as business development, client onboarding, billing and so on.
The process for delivering CAS is often neglected because, unlike tax and audit, engagement changes from client to client. However, there are steps that should be consistent in every advisory engagement. Identify those steps and then create structure around them. Each step should add value from the client’s perspective, provide value to the firm or be necessary to meeting a professional standard.
Keep the momentum going with continuous improvements. Regularly ask yourself, “What is working well?” and “What can we do better?” Client feedback can be useful for identifying improvements that will add value from the client’s perspective. Every team member involved in delivering the service, including your accountants, administrative professionals and project managers, has insight into the process as well.
Leadership is Key to Ongoing Commitment
Leadership buy-in is crucial to growing a CAS or virtual CFO practice. One common mistake that firms make is putting someone in charge of CAS and virtual CFO services who already has full-time responsibilities in the tax or assurance department. Because this person lacks capacity, growth is slow — or even nonexistent.
Get your firm’s leadership on board with making CAS and virtual CFO a full-time job. Without the support of the firm’s leadership, including the managing partner or CEO, your CAS and virtual CFO team’s efforts will be undercut, and team members will be pulled away to focus on other projects. On the other hand, a dedicated team that has the support of leadership will yield results much more quickly.
Advisory is the future of accounting, but the hurdles to getting there can be formidable without the right technology, processes and leadership. Wherever you are on your CAS journey, take a look at these three areas to make sure your practice is built the right way. This will ensure that your CAS and virtual CFO services boost the firm’s profits and set your clients up for success.