Welcome to another in a series of profiles spotlighting the 2016 Firm of the Future finalists. This edition features Ian Yesberg of Regional Business Services. Stay tuned in 2017 for details on how to enter our next Firm of the Future contest and continue visiting our blog often.
Kim Amsbaugh: Welcome, Ian! Tell us a bit about your firm.
Ian Yesberg: I started Regional Business Services (RBS) in 2000, with the beginning of the Goods and Services Tax. A friend of mine, who was a fellow accountant, provided a few phone numbers of potential clients, and I dove right in to find work. Since then, RBS has grown in size and now employs six full-time staff, operating out of our office in Townsville, Queensland, Australia. We service clients in all industries from all over the continent, and we’re specifically set up to work with small businesses. Our target size is a turnover of $1 million to $5 million, and up to 10 to 15 employees on average.
KA: What makes RBS a Firm of the Future?
IY: We knew cloud accounting was going to become the "new normal,” so we began educating ourselves and our clients about what products were available and their benefits. We now recommend many add-on partners to help make our clients’ day-to-day business needs even easier. We also restructured our office positions to reflect these changes, and now have a dedicated App Specialist whose job is to research suitable products for us to introduce to our small business clients.
KA: What is your vetting process for these apps, and which ones do you recommend most frequently to clients?
IY: We first define the required criteria with clients to understand their needs and then research appropriate options via the Intuit® App Store or web. Once we’ve narrowed down the options, we sign up for trials and test the apps ourselves before sharing with the client. They also come to us when they find a specific app they want our advice on.
Some of our favorite apps are KeyPay Payroll, PayPal and Service M8. By using an app such as KeyPay, we were able to proactively identify cost savings for an existing client and saved them $25,000 per annum in payroll processing costs. Other apps we use include Transaction Pro Importer, HubDoc, Receipt Bank, MindBody Online, Entryless and Cliniko.
KA: How has using software, such as QuickBooks® Online and other cloud-based apps, directly impacted your practice?
IY: Our relationships with our clients have grown stronger by adopting online technologies. Not only has it helped us better service their needs, but we are also able to ensure their peace of mind and save them time. We’ve been able to focus more on being their trusted advisors, and our clients feel confident that the recommendations we make will directly benefit their business. Our revenues have also grown as a result, and we are able to take on more clients than before.
KA: How has the real-time element, afforded by cloud technology, changed the way you collaborate with clients?
IY: Working in the cloud also means that we can do the work without necessarily collaborating with clients in person as much as we used to. This can be a trap, so while we make sure we do the compliance, we always try and have regular face-to-face meetings and use data from the compliance as a conversation starter. For example, if we see that the client purchased new capital equipment in the last quarter, we’d use that as a basis for discussion on trends in their financials.
KA: What has been your experience with value pricing? How has it affected your practice and your relationships with clients?
IY: We’ve used an hourly charge-out model for 15 years, so when we began the transition to value pricing, we first developed several basic packages that covered a range of service offerings. Value pricing then became an easy conversation to have with clients because all business owners want certainty. We were able to have in-person meetings to discuss our proposal, as well as the features, advantages and benefits they can expect. By communicating upfront what is and isn’t included in the package, we are able to ensure that there are no surprises for the client if extra work comes up and we need to send them another bill. Since we offer a choice of packages, the conversation also centers on what is in the package – and we do customize the services – rather than a yes/no buy decision.
KA: What advice would you give those thinking about transitioning from hourly fees to monthly fixed fees?
IY: Perseverance is key. Once you see how simple monthly fixed billing is, you’ll understand the true administrative costs of time-based billing. You’ll also need to set up a transition strategy, and I recommend prioritizing your clients. We started with clients who were easy to convert, such as those who only wanted compliance, and progressively moved to clients that needed more robust packages. We also don’t take on any new clients who want Desktop, and now only offer new clients a monthly or quarterly package with fixed rates.
KA: How do you find new clients, or how do they find your firm?
IY: RBS has a strong social media presence. Specifically, we use Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to tell our story and reinforce our brand messaging. We also regularly attend networking events, leverage the many resources in Intuit’s ProAdvisor® Program and publish a monthly column in a popular magazine called DUO. All of this has helped to build up our brand recognition. On top of that, we also receive many inquiries directly from our website, as we appear on the top searches for Google, due to our SEO.
KA: For accounting firms not yet using the ProAdvisor program or social media, what would your advice be for them to take that first step?
IY: Jump into it! It is really rewarding to communicate over social media, and we have built a huge network of fellow business owners, friends and followers. Keep in mind that it doesn’t happen overnight. You need to commit to regular updates, and you need to be authentic – share about yourself. People want to hear about you.
KA: What would you say to a firm looking to transition from their old ways and become a Firm of the Future?
IY: Cloud accounting has been good for our business, and we have significantly improved our own business productivity and workflow planning since making the switch. There has never been a better opportunity to grow your business by upgrading your clients’ business technology. That’s what being a Firm of The Future is all about.