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A Sampler of Accountex 2017 Keynotes & Sessions

To Make a Real Difference for Your Clients, Tackle the Top Line

If you want to move into advisory services, you need to help your clients improve their net income, right? Mark Wikersham says that most accountants are going about it completely the wrong way. That’s because accountants like to focus on cutting costs. But most costs are hard to cut by more than 5-6%, and that doesn’t really make much of a difference to the bottom line.

In his presentation, “Changing Clients’ Lives the Fast Way,” Mark argued that helping clients increase sales is the #1 way accountants can help their clients grow profits. One way that accountants can begin to help is by tracking KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) related to sales. For instance:

  • Total # of customers
  • Average sale amount`
  • Average # of visits per year
  • Won customers
  • Lost customers
  • New sales leads
  • Conversion rate

By putting these financial and non-financial metrics on a dashboard for clients, accountants can begin to engage clients in conversations around how to grow revenue. Often clients are underpricing their services, or not offering enough variety. Accountants are in the perfect place to help their clients figure this out and make a real difference.

Take Control of Difficult Client Relationships

In her presentation, “Take Control: Managing Difficult Client Relationships,” CPA Stacey Byrne shared her tips for building a list of clients you actually want to work with.

Step #1 — Have a client screening process. Don’t just take on anyone.

Step #2 — Have a solid engagement letter. And make sure clients understand the details. Make sure your engagement letter includes details on what happens if clients don’t pay, and what happens if you need to fire them (or they need to fire you).

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Step #3 — Bill in advance. If not in advance, bill early and often. Require retainers for new clients. If a prospect doesn’t want to pay a retainer, they’re probably not going to be a good client.

Step #4 — Document everything. Keep notes for every client meeting. And be thoughtful about what you put in writing. Eventually a client will try to throw you under the bus to protect him or herself.

Step #5 — If you need to disengage, take the high road. You don’t have to tell them what you really think. Cooperate with the transition, within reason. Put everything in writing.

Firms That Want to Grow Need to Focus on the ‘Why’

In his session, “Unravelling Innovation: How to Foster Creativity to Improve Your Firm’s Growth Strategy,” Matthew Heggem, CEO of SUM Innovation, stepped back from the day- to-day of running a practice (the “How”) and encouraged those in attendance to ponder the “Why.”

Mathew Heggem training tips
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Why do we do what we do?

Practice leaders need to answer that question before they can tackle the rest because it influences everything else. As you can see from Matt’s slides, his “Why” is big on a cosmic scale. That makes for powerful leadership. It follows that if your “Why” is just to make lots of money, you’re not going to be very inspiring to your employees.

To Increase Value, Take the Leap from Analysis to Impact

Everyone talks about adding advisory services to their practices, but what does that really mean?

Donny Shimamoto shared how to begin doing it in his session “Adding Advisory Services to a Compliance-Based Firm.”

Most accounting firms are focused today on being process managers. That usually means producing management reports helping to control risk in the accounting cycle. To increase their value, Donny says that accountants and bookkeepers must go beyond reporting to analysis and performance management. And if you want to become the most valuable you can be to your clients, you have to provide insight and decision support that makes a real impact on the business.

The challenge is, as you move from analysis to insight, influence, and impact, you need fewer technical skills and more people skills.

The problem is, people skills tend to be lacking in the accounting profession. And while they enjoy providing analysis, most accountants are uncomfortable challenging their clients to change direction in a way that significantly affects the business.

So how do you move from analysis to insight?

Donny suggests benchmarking as a way to get started. By providing a benchmarking scorecard to all your clients in a particular industry, you can stimulate conversations around how to grow sales, increase net income, and everything in between.

Donny Shimamoto Breakout Session


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About the author

Blake Oliver

Blake Oliver is a cloud accounting expert, blogger, and manager at Armanino LLP, the largest California-based consulting and accounting firm and a top 25 firm nationwide. In 2012, Blake founded Cloudsourced Accounting, an online bookkeeping company that was one of the first Xero Platinum Partners in the United States and grew to serve hundreds of clients in under three years. Cloudsourced Accounting was acquired by HPC in 2015. Blake joined HPC after the merger, serving as Director of Technology & Marketing. He then worked with Xero as a Xero Ambassador for the West Coast of the United States prior to joining Armanino. Blake holds a Bachelor of Music degree from Northwestern University, where he majored in cello performance. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, son, and Jack Russell terrier. You can find Blake on
Twitter, LinkedIn, and personal website.

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