What are CPA firms planning for the future? Pransform engaged with over 250 CPAs at the New York and New Jersey Accounting Shows in May. Here is the list of Top 10 initiatives (not in any particular order of importance) CPAs’ are planning for the their businesses:
Strategic Management and Corporatization: CPAs want to move away from “services driven” business direction to “strategy driven” development of service offerings. In other words, CPAs want to take their business to where they want to, rather than the business taking them to where they don’t want to. Firms want to make decisions faster and the role of “Managing Partner” is fast turning into that of a CEO : Empowered, Accountable and Visionary.
Not Turning Away Business: Clients always ask their CPAs to do more. One CPA based at NY provides monthly financial reporting services to a specific niche industry. Each week, at least one of his clients asks this CPA to do their bookkeeping. And this CPA turns away that business, as he does not have enough processing capacity. Estimated revenue opportunity lost could well be $ 100,000 a year!
Marketing & More Marketing: CPAs want to free themselves from daily processing so that they can devote more time to find and get new clients. Referrals is just not enough. Online marketing, social media engagement with prospects, providing expert advisory in public forums, various consulting services – there are many new marketing tools that CPAs are investing in. CPA firms are increasingly investing more time, money and efforts to find the pulse of their clients. They want to understand more than ever how their clients are making the buying decisions when they source services of CPA firms. It all seems to be going away from “need” fulfillment on to “wants” satisfaction. CPAs are looking to engage specialist consultants to get an independent, unbiased understanding of what their clients are thinking.
Creating Opportunities For Clients: CPAs aren’t satisfied with just producing perfect financial accounting. They want to make a sense of each client’s unique financial situation and create specific opportunities for him or her. E.g. one CPA told us that one of his clients with multi-location multi-branch business was buying same inventory items at different costs. If this CPA had an ability to do data mining to find trends and variances across all branches, his client would save tons of money every year in purchases.
Technology, And More Technology: Financial accounting settled in for a range of successful technology products, for long. With explosion of bandwidth availability, emergence of powerful cloud based technology solutions for the public accounting firms is radically redefining the way CPAS “produced” their services. A CPA firm provides bookkeeping services to clients based in several states, all using scanned images of source documents. Low cost, efficient, productive, profitable! Talk of strategic management of computer hardware – leave it to the cloud providers.
Empowering and Energizing Staff: Cliché as it may sound, making staff more expert in their work, making the work place more exciting, providing meaningful assignments to staff are initiatives that more and more firms are focusing on. The underlying essence seems to be getting staff to become more able and more available to engage with clients, propelling client satisfaction and delight to new heights.
Focus On Core Competencies & Niche Creation: CPAs want to do what they do the best i.e. help their clients’ business grow. And to do so, they want to focus on their own core competencies and leave the rest to professionals. E.g. why waste time on managing computer hardware? Get in a Managed Service Provider (MSP) or get on Cloud. Firms are also looking to leverage their core strengths to offer specialist services to niche industries.
Beyond Tax Season: Engaging clients beyond tax season is one strategy that many CPAs are implementing. Offering investment management, personal finance management, consulting services etc. is just the beginning. Leveraging their existing network of clients, vendors, and bankers etc. to create mutual benefits is on the rise. No wonder, the number of CPAs using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter etc. is increasing by the day.
Value Pricing: Clients are used to pay certain amounts to compensate for what they receive from CPA firms. They understand time and efforts. Many CPAs who met us feel that value pricing does not mean charging more for the same deliverable but it is something to do “how effectively a CPA conveys the value of each deliverable to the client”. At the same time, within firms, it all boils down to reducing time, cost and efforts of producing each deliverable. Use of new technology, outsourcing data, document and time consuming tasks (e.g. payroll processing) to specialist providers to benefit from economies of scale, pricing based on value perceived by clients instead of traditional time and billing methods etc. are a few things top of mind for many CPA firms.
Brand Creation: Typically small to medium sized CPA firms are known by the “brand equity” of its partners. CPA firms are looking to enhance the brand value by more pronounced online presence and incentivising clients to engage more online. Self-service client portal is one major offering many CPA firms want to provide to their clients. Yet, CPAs want it as an integrated solution – a technology that will take what they already have and with minimal efforts, make it available to clients.
If you noticed carefully, it is all about the buyer. The seller’s market created mainly by regulatory compulsions has moved on to increasingly become more of a buyer’s market, thanks to technology, competition and commoditization.
What initiatives are you taking for your firm?
To get detailed insights on these findings and to know how you can implement these initiatives at your firm, contact Pransform, at iBenefit@pransform.com