Adding higher value services to your firm
As business owners, we are continually reviewing our strategy (or should be!). This evaluation includes the strengths and weaknesses of our firm, and the opportunities and threats in the marketplace. We always hear about the danger of artificial intelligence automating so much of the bookkeeping and accounting profession, but there are also great opportunities to provide higher-value services to our clients.
These services can include sales tax compliance, human resource and payroll services, workflow evaluations, time audits, education and training, retirement plan audits and compliance, forecasting and budgeting, and so much more.
So, how do we get started? Here are some practical steps to take and some questions to ask:
- Make a list of client concerns. Many times in meetings with our clients, they will bring up areas of interest, plans for the future, and things that generally cause them angst. Write down these comments, and ask others in the firm who meet regularly with clients to do the same.
- Start a list of things that are on their minds. If you do not hear ideas, ask! Using a short survey or just a quick phone call, ask clients about areas that cause them concern, or about any plans for expansion for the future. You may find out if they are considering a merger or acquisition, or a capital purchase or investment.
- Determine what your clients are NOT asking for that they should. You are in their finances regularly; what are the areas they are not watching? Look at the trends in their financials and look for areas of increased spending: is it justified based on increased sales? Are they paying too much (compared to other clients in their industry/geography) for services that you could assist? As they are growing, what speed bumps are coming that you could help them to navigate more smoothly? Do they have a budget or financial goals for the future?
- Research the industry of your client. Every sector has journals and magazines, online forums and groups, and trade shows. Dig into their business, and find out what industry trends they are facing. In the next few years, is their industry going to expand or contract? Are they struggling with rising insurance costs or import issues? Do they have new regulations they need to comply with, or have new laws that could affect them?
- Identify the skills and interests of your team. With a diverse team often comes a different set of talents and interests. Talk to your team and determine their importance, training, and experience. Keep in mind that these interests may not be on their resume.
In addition, look for skills that can be used elsewhere. For example, a former auditor may be great at evaluating and documenting workflow processes, or a payroll clerk may want to get more into retirement plan audits. It may require some investment in additional training, but could be great for the culture of your firm, as you look within to provide additional service and growth opportunities.
You can start now
There are many opportunities available. Accounting and bookkeeping firms do not need to limit themselves to traditional service roles. Accountants are considered some of the most trusted professionals in the marketplace. We can expand our role and provide higher value services to our clients, as we meet their needs in areas they may not have realized we could help them. It is never too late to start.