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August ’19

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August ’19

5 guiding principles to running a smarter accounting firm

By Darren Root, CEO

There seems to be no limit to what today’s digital tools can do. Consider all the intelligent recommendations you get every day from brand giants like Netflix and Audible. “Dear Darren, based on your viewing history, we think you would enjoy the following movies.” This type of innovation makes my life easier and saves me time. When I feel like reading a new book, for example, Audible is one step ahead of me with a list of preferred reading.

I also have “Lifetime Titanium Elite Marriott Bonvoy status.” Yep, I know. I’m not sure what that means either. What I do know is that based on my history with Marriott, I always receive stellar service because they know what I need and what I like. Whenever I check into a Marriott Hotel, there is a fan waiting in my room, the type of bed I prefer and a newspaper at my door every morning. Marriott is leveraging technology to capture client data and operate smarter, which leads to higher customer loyalty and repeat sales.

So, what does this mean to accounting firms? 

My feeling is that the typical accounting firm is not doing enough to leverage technology and operate smarter. Most firm owners are solely focused on practice management—that is, tracking projects and tasks. This type of data largely focuses on historical performance like staff realization and billings. Don’t get me wrong; this is important data, but it’s not the type of information that leads to an improved client experience (like my experience with Marriott) and, ultimately, to heightened client loyalty and profitability.

What needs to change in accounting firms?

Running a smarter practice requires firm owners to think differently. A smarter practice is proactive, not reactive. Reactive firms are bogged down in compliance work—waiting for the next client request or deadline. A proactive firm is asking questions like: “How do we make our clients’ lives better?”  “How do we anticipate client needs without them having to ask?” These questions are easily answered when you have the right technologies in place—tools that allow you to capture critical client data that leads to a superior client experience.

Consider my Marriott example again. Marriott hotels work hard to remove any friction for their customers—making the client’s stay far more enjoyable. Upon check-in, front desk staff know my preferences so I don’t have to tell them. All I have to do is make it up to my room—frictionless! This is a prime example of a company that has figured out how to use data to run a smarter business…and firms can too.

The following are five guiding principles to running a smarter, more modern firm:

  1. Know your clients’ needs—If you’re going to run a smarter practice, one where you can anticipate client needs, you must begin by defining what your clients’ needs are. What do clients really want from their financial professional? This is a big question…one that requires a lot of thought and work…but an effort that will be well worth it.
    To get you started, I suggest that most clients want the same things—to feel financially at peace and know that they are making the right decisions to minimize their tax burden, limit the risk of an audit and that they are using the right technologies to operate their businesses. They also want to feel taken care of by their advisors. The challenge is capturing client data to dig deeper into client behaviors and wants to get to a point where you can proactively anticipate their needs.
  2. Implement the right technologies to capture client data—Once you start collecting client information, you’ll want to use a solution to support ongoing monitoring. For example, if I know that Client A’s main goal is financial peace, then saving for retirement is key. Your solution should capture what retirement plan or savings the client has, if any. This will guide you on the advice you offer. You should be tracking as much client information as possible.
  3. Develop products to solve for clients’ needs—If you are tracking whether a client has a retirement plan, in cases where they don’t, you should have a product that solves this client need. A product like this would include a pre-defined education piece that informs the client about different retirement plans and a proposal.
  4. Train your team to identify opportunities to serve—Opportunities to better serve your clients exist across your base. The issue in most firms is a lack of staff training. Train your staff to recognize opportunities, bring them to the surface and act on them in the best interest of the client.
  5. Work your opportunities—Name a champion or assemble a team to oversee identified opportunities and follow through on each. This team will be responsible for regularly reaching out to clients to capture data, evaluating input and working to solve issues, and anticipating and acting on needs.

Running a smarter practice is the future for accounting firms, and that means having the ability to capture and track client data at all times. Firms can operate on par with the Marriotts and Audibles of the world. All you have to do is get the right systems in place and then really listen to your clients.

All my best,

Subscribe to my Better Every Day podcast on iTunes or listen from our website at rootworks.com/podcast for a deeper dive on the topics discussed in this column and more.

What champion are you in the firm—the process champion or software champion?

 By Amy, Education Team

This summer, many firms are working on implementing a new process or software or tweaking an existing process or the use of existing software. The successful implementation of new things in a firm requires a champion (or two), which we could define as someone who fights through the resistance to change for a better way to do things. What champion are you in the firm—the process champion or software champion? Read on to see common items firms are working on this summer and tips to get started with them. Decide which one you’ll be the champion for.

  • Financial analysis and reporting tools
    The way the firm delivers financial and analytical information to clients directly relates to the perception clients have about the firm. How could we be delivering financial analysis and reporting to clients that is easier for them to understand and view? Consider implementing Fathom (or something similar). Fathom is financial analysis and benchmarking software that creates a series of reports using key performance indicators (KPIs) to provide business metrics and financial information using a graphical interface.

    1. Check out the Vendors page on rootworks.com for information on discounts and signing up.
    2. Utilize the resources available to you as a Rootworks member. Inside of our Online Learning area, we have a guide and videos to assist you with the setup and use of Fathom. 
    3. If your membership includes coaching, schedule a call with a coach for additional assistance.
    4. Roll it out one client at a time.
  • Invoice and receipt collection from clients
    In a digital world, why is there still so much paper? Is it a hassle in the firm to manage paper invoices and receipts from clients? We can modernize the way we receive and store that information. Rootworks recommends using a software (Receipt Bank or something similar) that can extract information from digital copies of receipts and invoices uploaded by the client to minimize data entry during the bookkeeping process. Receipt Bank is a software solution that automates gathering, storage and processing of bills, receipts and invoices using OCR technology to capture source document information.

    1. Check out the ‘Rootworks Analysis of Document Retrieval Solutions’ available in the Online Learning area of rootworks.com for a review of common solutions firms are using.
    2. Check out the Vendors page on rootworks.com for information on discounts and signing up.
    3. Utilize the resources available to you as a Rootworks member. Inside of our Online Learning area, we have a guide and videos to assist you with the setup and use of Receipt Bank. 
    4. If your membership includes coaching, schedule a call with a coach for additional assistance.
    5. Roll it out one client at a time.
  • Billing and collection process
    How long does billing take in the firm? If there is any amount of pain associated with the billing process, then consider tweaking things to minimize that pain. Here are common items that may help:

    1. Get clients on monthly recurring fees to streamline the billing process.
    2. For non-recurring work, bill as soon as the work is done.
    3. Consider using ACH to minimize the hassle of collecting payments.
    4. Review features of billing software that may not be utilized currently
      • If your firm is using Practice CS, check out the guides and videos available to you in the Online Learning area of rootworks.com.
  • Paperless Document Storage
    How does the firm store documents currently? Is it easily available to access from anywhere you might be working? The document storage of firm and client documents is a topic a lot of firms are reviewing this summer. Here are some things to think about:

    1. What solution makes sense for your firm? Check out the ‘Rootworks Analysis of Document Management/Storage Solutions’ available in the Online Learning area of rootworks.com for a review of common solutions firms are using.
    2. Think through the existing folder structure and how that might look different going forward.
    3. Utilize the resources available to you as a Rootworks member. Inside of our Online Learning area, we have a videos to assist you with determining the right solution for your firm.
    4. If your membership includes coaching, schedule a call with a coach for additional assistance.

Go get ’em, champion!

Protect your clients from Equifax settlement scams

By Chris Dickens, IT

Equifax has reached a settlement in its September 2017 data breach. Just as quickly as the settlement was announced, there are already reports of scammers using phishing attempts to try to con victims into submitting personal information on fake Equifax claims submission websites. You can help protect any of your clients who may qualify for the $125 settlement by getting accurate information out there first. The FTC is coordinating the settlement program, and here is the proper link to the settlement claim portal:

https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement/cases-proceedings/refunds/equifax-data-breach-settlement

We recommend being proactive, and making a blog post, a social media post, and notifying any clients that you know were affected with this information, and to also warn everyone to be wary of any emails they may receive that steer them anywhere other than the FTC.GOV website. 

Referral sources are key when it comes to your firm’s marketing program

By Chris, Marketing Team

Referral sources have always been…and will always be…an integral part of a firm’s marketing program. If you haven’t touched base with your existing or prospective referral sources this summer, such as banks, law firms or niche associations, it’s not too late. Run a simple four-part email campaign through the month of August, reminding sources of the value your firm brings to their clients and why you are the go-to accounting and advisory firm in your community. Spice up your emails with engaging banners and headlines to better ensure they get opened and read.

Remember, just one solid source can produce multiple referrals, so be sure to solidify these relationships by staying in touch.  Beyond email, also consider on-site visits from time to time. Be sure to bring a leave-behind marketing kit and even some branded swag.

New Firm Retreat date!

We’ve just recently announced a new Firm Retreat date of September 23-24. If you’ve not had a chance to register, we’d love to see you. We’re just over halfway through our Firm Retreat schedule for the summer, and the events have been going great.

Register under Learn / Events at rootworks.com. This event is open to members of all membership levels.

Upcoming Webinars

  • August 8 – Staff Training: Billing Best Practices. Is the billing process in your firm a pain? Are receivables larger than you like? Or are you looking to gain some efficiencies with your firm’s billing process? If you answered yes to any of those questions, check out this class. We will discuss the best practice considerations around billing clients, including timing and frequency. We will also walk through the billing process in Practice CS.
  • August 15 – Summer Resource Update Webinar. Catch up on newly added or updated items at rootworks.com.
  • August 21 – Staff Training: Receipt Bank Setup & Use. Learn where Receipt Bank fits in the Rootworks bookkeeping model. Setup recommendations and best practices for using the technology by both the client and firm will be covered. 
  • August 22 – Summer Planning Webinar. Planning webinars are time spent working on your business. Use each session as a checkpoint throughout the year. Take time away from day-to-day work to celebrate accomplishments, think through projects and issues, and plan out your future objectives.
  • August 28 – Staff Training: Onvio Setup & Use. If your firm is beginning, considering or currently using Onvio, then tune into this class. It will cover the setup considerations and recommendations for Onvio Firm Management Essentials (which includes Document, Time and Billing, and Client Center applications). The class will also walk through using the platform to store and work with documents, enter time, bill clients, and send or receive documents from clients.

Register at rootworks.com under Learn / Events.

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