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How to Build Value-Added Services into Your Firm

Feb 12th 2018
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In the first of a series of articles on how you can take the right steps to truly add value to your clients and transform your firm, author, CA and Founder of Spotlight Reporting Richard Francis explains exactly what a 'value-added service' is, or can be.

In addition, he discusses the right questions you need to be asking in order to build a proper strategy for success in adding these types of services.

Value-add services are those that extend beyond the ‘must do’ compliance core of the industry, to those that meet the needs of customers to grow, to plan, and to achieve clear outcomes. 

More importantly, these types of services require a mindset shift beyond the ‘cool’ of cloud delivery mechanisms to embrace a business model that has the client at the center. It requires you to identify the profound and positive change you can make for your clients and then to ensure that your service provision will best achieve change that helps clients to bank profits, grow personal wealth and make the most of business opportunities.

Some key examples of essential value-added service include:

  • Virtual CFO-type reporting
  • Strategic planning
  • Goal-setting and
  • Budgeting

Humans Do Advisory

These value-added services at scale require not only great technological deployment but human expertise and experience. Cloud software automates many of the processes, sure - such as data capture and analysis - but without the human commitment and expertise to offer, sell and deploy value-add services, the technology loses its dissonance.

You need to connect with the right motivations and business model at the outset. Without that, your actions will be misdirected or out of alignment with purpose and vision. 

If you can connect and act effectively, you should have the kind of practice that can put the foot on the accelerator, continue to tweak and improve, then streak ahead of the competition.  It’s a journey that you can bring your team and clients on too.

Design the Future

For the majority of you, planning for your future in value-added services will require the slate to be wiped clean - both metaphorically and psychologically. Literally begin with a clear white-board or blank paper and draw some pictures, maybe even collaborate on this process with some like-minded people.

Your model will need to have some core attributes sketched out, including:

  • Market
  • Customers
  • Services
  • Delivery
  • Team
  • Processes

Deciding what is ‘in’ your model and what is ‘out’ is equally important. Don’t look to just copy others either; you are not them and need to mix ‘tried and tested’ with your own unique vision.

If you are looking to be a value-add practice, you’ll need to ask the following questions:

  • What size do I want my business to be?
  • What type of customers do I want to work for?
  • What are their desired attributes?
  • What services will I offer them? 
  • Which services are value-add?
  • What will I emphasize in my core messaging to clients? 
  • What skills do I need to further develop personally or with my team to ensure a high quality outcome?
  • What kind of team do I need to build or grow?
  • What are the best tools and processes to help me be efficient and effective?
  • Do my answers connect with my “why?” or do I need to re-evaluate?

Final Thoughts

You’ll note that I have personalized the above questions as I believe responses need to have a connection or a resonance with your “why?” If you find your practice design gets subsumed by too many competing views, opinions and agendas, it probably won’t work. 

Of course, if you have business partners you will need to compromise to some extent, but you also shouldn’t be afraid to design your ideal business model and defend it - or, ultimately, to deploy it all by yourself.

I came to the decision that I needed to start a new business to really deliver on value-add and to meet personal goals too. So, in working through these same 10 questions, I decided that my firm would be a ‘consultancy’ of boutique size and positioning...not an accounting firm per se. 

This extract is part of a serialisation of Richard Francis CPA's new ebook Transform! - his accountant playbook for adding value and seizing opportunity in this exciting time of industry change. Richard is founder and CEO of Spotlight Reporting, an award-winning performance reporting and cash-flow forecasting toolset designed to empower accountants to have great client conversations and deliver real impact.

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