These days it has become difficult for accountants to discuss the topic of advisory work without first mentioning client accounting services (CAS).
Granted, for many CPAs client accounting is nothing new, but having a plan to make money at it, especially given the combination of evolving business needs and technology offering real-time data, is something else all together.
In fact, the idea of formally offering CAS, planning for it, pricing it out and marketing it is cause for much consternation among accounting professionals, to the point of them not doing much with CAS at all. Sage and Boomer Consulting would like to change that perception.
For those unaware, Sage is offering a new CAS program to help accounting professionals navigate the waters of offering these services with confidence, with learning developed in conjunction with Boomer Consulting. It’s a free program based on eight pillars ranging from business development and pricing through to client engagement and developing talent.
Our discussion with Gary Boomer and Sage’s Senior Accountant Advocate Thomas Casey about all of these points should help get you on the right path. During the second part, we addressed more on how firms can establish their “story” and their plan for offering CAS.
Here is an excerpt from that conversation:
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AW: How do you prioritize the right service stack?
Boomer: We recommend doing a vision statement for the firm. What does the firm want to be to create an experience over the next five years? This is a way to evaluate and develop a shared vision. Then, put a plan together and hold people accountable. You have to have a plan and have assignments to people, due dates and [again] actually hold them accountable. Also, go to your very best clients and ask them what they want plus what they need. People will pay more for wants than they will for needs.
Casey: This speaks to specialization and verticals, not so much the “full-service” firm mentality that most firms currently have. You need to be able to share best practices back to that high-value client that you have. It’s really a future differentiator that we are excited to present in the client advisory services format. The ability for [firms] to start to put out blog posts and articles and white papers and share that with their clients, and potential clients, is really a key to them taking their accounting firm to the next level and making a difference in transforming their clients’ businesses.
AW: What within the CAS program would you point to as most useful in relation to establishing the right menu of services?
Boomer: Understand that this is not an “or” proposition, this is an “and” proposition of how to continue to package your existing core services like bookkeeping, tax compliance and auditing. Package those with advisory and consulting services. You can add additional services like strategic planning, which is one of my first items on the agenda and our menu. By doing a strategic plan, an accountant can find virtually four to five times the services they are offering with the client. Often the clients will go out and hire someone else not knowing their accountant does anything other than tax or audit work.
Casey: You can pick through a menu of services that may be best for the vertical that you choose. So, there’s a lot of different directions and you don’t have to do it all at once. The menu of services [you offer] can grow over time, especially as you grow organically through these client advisory services.
See more of the discussion below and stay tuned for Parts 3 and 4 which will address packaging and pricing for CAS.