30 Oct November 2017
I think you can mark November 2017 on your calendar as the beginning of the Big Shift. You have about two months before your efforts in working on your firm will go dormant while you swing your attention to tax season production. By the time you take a post-2018 tax season breath, much change will be underway. The coming year will mark The Big Shift in earnest. Let’s take a look at what you can expect:
- Thomson Reuters Onvio Document, Time and Billing and Project Management will be strong conversion considerations. Onvio Tax will be in the marketplace and may also be open for consideration.
- Liscio will reshape the way you communicate with clients and onboard prospects. It will also change the way you manage staff and client passwords inside your organization. It will significantly improve the client experience.
- Slack and Zoom will be integral core communication systems inside your practice.
- Intuit will have made some significant enhancements to QuickBooks (online) which they will be announcing this month at their QB Connect Conference.
- Fathom’s new reporting engine will be more flexible than ever and will enhance the way you report to clients.
- Bill.com, for security reasons alone, will become your accounts payable engine for client accounting.
- Security in 2018 will be your top concern and will be a driving factor in your business model moving forward.
As you can see, 2018 will be a transformational year. Much of what’s been talked about over the past two years will start coming to fruition.
Rootworks is more focused than ever on helping you make good decisions and train your staff. Over the next couple of months, I will be forming a Rootworks Technology Council, comprising a few forward-thinking members, our Rootworks coaching staff and me. Together, we’ll carefully strategize and explore vetted technologies for the Modern Firm. The collective knowledge of our membership, coupled with the strength of the Rootworks bench, will bring great value to you as an individual member firm.
In addition, we are making significant investments in security resources to help you protect your practice against serious threats that we’re facing in the new globally connected environment. In the coming months, you will see much of the fruit of these investments.
You may not see or feel it quite yet, but you know these big shifts are coming (artificial intelligence and Blockchain technologies, just to name a couple). According to a recent survey by IBM, 65 percent of the world’s major banks will integrate Blockchain by 2020; 91 percent of banks are investing in the technology for deposits. Clearly, it’s important to develop a strategy to navigate and to stay ahead.
If you haven’t already done so, make sure you register for the Academy or Advantage Conference this year in Sarasota—it’s not too late! We will be discussing each of the topics listed above, head-on. These will be our best conferences ever, and I look forward to continuing the discussion there.
As more firms move their business clients to a fixed monthly fee, it is important to have a periodic billing evaluation process in place. As we approach the end of 2017, now is also the right time to send out updated engagement letters for the upcoming year. Rootworks recommends incorporating the fee evaluation process and engagement letter sending into a single project:
- Evaluate your fees to ensure clients are being billed appropriately.
Run a billing analysis report by client and sort it by highest write-down first. Be sure to include an entire year in the date range. If you are using Practice CS, detail the report by Client: Sort On: Adjustment Non-Progress and Direction: Ascending.
Focus on the clients with significant write-downs. Talk to the staff who work on these clients to uncover the reasons for these write-downs (e.g. scope-creep, new staff, underestimated pricing, etc.). If you decide to increase fees significantly, schedule a meeting with the client, either via Zoom or office visit, to discuss.
- Plan for a minimal increase each year for your fixed fee clients.
At a minimum, a three percent increase each year is a good rule of thumb. It may vary based on your firm’s geographic location and market conditions. Three percent is an average cost-of-living adjustment that employees in your firm may experience; a commensurate increase in fees will offset adjustments to your staff compensation.
- Rootworks recommends obtaining engagement letter client signatures electronically. The two digital signature technologies that Rootworks is most familiar with are Liscio and Adobe Document Cloud.
Imagine you’re stuck on the road and need a data connection, but you have no Hotspot plan on your phone. You decide to duck into a nearby coffee shop to make use of their public WI-Fi, even though you know it’s not the safest way to connect. Here are a few tips to minimize your risk:
- Minimize confidential data access. The more places you login, the greater the potential risk if there’s a threat. Do only what you need, and nothing more.
- Check for HTTPS on everything. Look for that green padlock on the address bar in your web browser. If it’s not there, do not login to that site.
- Don’t search for other Networks to join. Is that coffee house Wi-Fi too slow? You may be tempted to find a “Free Wi-Fi” network nearby. Don’t use it; it could be setup for “man in the middle” attacks.
- Use two-factor authentication where you can. Two-factor authentication is great for preventing unauthorized logins. Enable them whenever you can.
The easiest path to new business is through old business
And just like that, it’s midway through the fourth quarter! Do you know where your marketing plan stands? Every year—especially since fall tax deadlines have come into play—we seem to come skidding in sideways, trying to at least make an honest effort at getting some meaningful marketing done before January gets here.
When time is compressed and the pressure is on, remember that the low-hanging fruit of marketing is your existing clientele. That can mean a couple of things: 1) Increasing the value of your existing engagements; or 2) Connecting with new clients through referrals from your existing ones.
Let’s focus on the latter and explore how you can connect the dots between your current clients and new referrals. Here are a few tips:
- Identify Prime Referral Sources – Bankers, insurance agents, stockbrokers and existing clients… think of them as your “power partners” in new business cultivation. It’s important that you identify these key referral sources in your service area; they are sources of high-quality referrals. Make a list of them, and consider how you can engage with them.
- Define Your Value Proposition – Be clear about what differentiates your firm. Is it your technology? A niche service industry? The quality or qualifications of your staff? Be a good storyteller and make it clear why your sources should refer their valued clients to your firm and how you’ll contribute to their clients’ success.
- Create a Service Menu – Don’t assume that your referral sources know the details about all the services you provide. Create an easy-to-understand menu of your firm’s services and share it abundantly with your referral sources. Remember—keep it as simple as possible. Simplicity is powerful.
- Become an Educator at Heart – Focus on helping people solve problems. Innovative firms— RootAdvisors, El Triunfo Corporation and Barene DenAdel, to name three—configure their physical space to accommodate educational programs for current and potential clients in their referral network on a variety of relevant topics. From technology platforms to tax strategies, such programs will give you a forum to be helpful, inspire confidence and win new business. Schedule regular (quarterly) educational events, and invite clients and prospects alike. Or, better yet, ask your key clients to invite friends from the business community to attend with them.
- Assign Ownership – Appoint an administrative staff person to create and implement a plan to engage your best referral sources from item no. 1 above. Plan to connect with them personally on a periodic basis, perhaps quarterly. RootAdvisors has made a habit of inviting our referral partners to our office for after-hours social gatherings—a lot of fun and great for business.
The sun is setting on 2017, but there’s still time to make great strides in marketing. Remember that referrals represent your most economical path to new business, in terms of time, effort and expense. Focus on effective ways to connect the dots between your current and future clients.
Hope to see you in Sarasota!
Upcoming On-Premise Events:
- November 8–11: TR Users’ Conference, Nashville, TN
- Darren, Wade, Sean, Ben, and Andy will be there. Please stop by the booth and say hi! Darren is teaching two classes at the event.
- November 15–17: QB Connect, San Jose, CA
- Darren, Meredith and Alex will be attending. Darren is teaching a class on the 17th.
- November 29–30 and December 5–6: RW Inspire Winter Conferences in Sarasota!
- Seats are still available—come join us and wrap up the year in sunny Florida. Our agenda includes special guest keynotes and programming tracks for partners and staff. See our finalized agenda at https://grow.rootworks.com/events
- November 1: Staff Training: Zoom for Video Conferencing
- November 2: Vendor Hosted Webinar: Fathom – What’s New
- November 7: Vendor Hosted Webinar: TSheets – What’s New
- November 8: Staff Training: Slack for Staff Collaboration
- November 9: Staff Training: Fathom Reporting 2.0
- November 16: Fall Technology Webinar
- November 21: Staff Training: Document Delivery