Advisory Services & Alliances Driving Firm Growthby
Client Accounting Services (CAS) have become a key financial driver for many accounting practices. The number of accounting firms offering CAS nearly doubled in 2020, with another 15 percent slated to add services this year. In fact, CAS is the largest segment of new services for accounting firms in 2021, behind only COVID-related services.
If your firm is seeking to grow its client accounting services (CAS) offering, it makes sense to partner with other firms that provide related, relevant service offerings. Partnerships allow you to focus on what you do best while providing a higher level of service to clients and increasing clients’ lifetime value.
A Network of Expertise
For example, our company has a network of more than 200 organizations across a diverse swath of professionals, including resellers, IT providers, accounting firms, management consultants and other service providers. The program’s goal is to help its members expand their role as strategic and trusted advisors to small and medium-sized business owners, facilitating growth, profitability, and improved employee and customer experiences.
Popular CAS Offerings
Accounting firms understand that by expanding their client relationships into new territories, they grow their footprint, maximizing client retention and lifetime value. CAS can encompass a broad array of services, from outsourced accounting to information technology strategies. Popular services offered by our Alliance partners include:
- CFO Advisory
- Outsourced Accounting
- Recruiting Services
- Human Resources Outsourcing
- Data Analytics and Business Intelligence
- Information Technology Services
- Early-Stage Services
- Transaction Advisory Services
- Develop a CAS Strategy
Like any successful business initiative, your firm’s CAS offering must be well planned and carefully executed. Recently, we surveyed a cross-section of our Alliance accounting partners to better understand their path to success in establishing and growing their CAS practices.
The partners included in this discussion range from boutique firms, to a top-100 accounting firm, and the third fastest-growing firm in the country. While each of their CAS strategies is slightly different, they all agree on the following three key factors in their strategies: technology, focus, and alliances.
1. Incorporate Technology
First and foremost, technology is integral in every point of the value chain, including operations, finance, reporting, tax preparation, and planning. Automation has significantly reduced the cost of delivering services such as bookkeeping and report compilation.
As a result, firms can now bundle these services into more comprehensive offerings that allow more focus and time to be allocated to strategic advisory services. Clients view these strategic services highly, making them a significant source of new revenue.
AccountingDepartment.com, for example, is a 145+ person firm providing outsourced accounting services to businesses with annual revenues between $1 and $75+ million. Many are VC-backed startups, pre-award and active government contractors. The firm’s unique approach involves outsourcing the entire accounting department — from bookkeeping to controller-level services. Routinely, this meant that AccountingDepartment.com was working with the clients’ entry-level accounting or QuickBooks application. Recognizing that many of their clients were outgrowing QuickBooks and moving to NetSuite, AccountingDepartment.com built and trained a team capable of supporting the needs of these larger organizations. The move keeps the firm relevant with their growing clients and demonstrates their range of expertise.
2. Identify Your Focus
Successful companies know their strengths and focus on building a unique value proposition that incorporates those strengths — and we see this happening in our own Alliance partners. The opportunity — and the risk — in being viewed as a trusted advisor is that clients will come to you for everything. It is vital to understand what’s in your sweet spot and what to outsource. One Alliance member, REDW, understands this well.
Founded in 1953, REDW is a Top 200 Accounting Firm and one of the Southwest’s 10 largest CPA firms. Their team of 200+ employees provides an extensive array of business advisory services, including audit and assurance, cybersecurity, data and business intelligence, dispute resolution, human resources consulting, management and accounting, retirement plan administration, software, tax, transaction, valuation, and wealth management.
In 2020, REDW decided to sell its Sage 100 practice to Net at Work, freeing the firm to focus its efforts on its growing advisory services, including a new HR consulting practice headed up by HR-industry veteran Cristin Heyns-Bousliman.
Alliance partner Amy Corsetti CPAs, a boutique firm in Chesterfield, VA, made a similar strategic decision. Traditionally the firm supported their clients with bookkeeping, controller, CFO services, and software support for QuickBooks, BusinessWorks, and Sage 100.
Amy Corsetti saw the demand for her firm’s outsourced accounting services grow at a much higher pace than any other offering. Recognizing the importance of focus, especially as a boutique firm, Amy decided to leverage our resources through the Alliance program to support the IT needs of her clients.
It is worth noting that HR Advisory Services is a new area of concentration for many firms.
3. Form Strategic Alliances
By taking advantage of a growing trend to outsource business processes, firms in our Alliance program become trusted advisors to their clients — go-to resources for many advice on many business challenges. When firms focus on their unique value drivers, they build profitable models that scale to maximize their market share. Building a solid community of alliance partners provides both upstream and downstream benefits, such as generating new leads and delivering a complete and high-quality customer experience.
AccountingDepartment.com, for example, focuses on its core competencies in outsourcing the complete accounting department but partners with other firms to deliver higher-level CFO services. And while they train their teams on NetSuite as part of their accounting function, they elect not to provide software services and support, relying instead on our NetSuite practice for software installation, configuration, integration, and support.
Another Alliance partner, Supporting Strategies, provides outsourced bookkeeping services, controller services, and operational support to growing businesses. They work 100 percent by referral and team up with outsourced CFO, CPA, attorneys, and consultants to construct a complete offering for their clients.
Today’s businesses are looking for greater strategic insight and a higher level of value from their accounting professionals. In response, firms are shifting their business models and technology strategies, incorporating client advisory services to fill this need. Find a partner that exists to help inspire, connect, and facilitate accounting firms’ success by providing access to a vast brain trust and connecting firms with other organizations that offer complementary services.
Igal Rabinovich leads Net at Work’s Partner Alliance Program as the Director of Partner Success. Rabinovich develops business strategies that leverage Net at Work’s full complement of technology solutions, including resources from its sister companies, Docutrend, Pixafy and Cloud at Work.