08 Sep September ’20
It can be tempting to take some much-deserved time off after the longest tax season in history. Not to mention powering through operational changes that included an abrupt transition to virtual workspaces and supporting clients in a contactless manner. It’s been a lot (to say the least) this year. But now is not the time to retreat. It’s time to lead…with focused intention.
We’ve experienced rapid-fire changes in 2020 that altered the accounting profession forever and, I would argue, for the better. Accounting professionals were forced to think differently about every level of firm operations. We were presented with big challenges and we overcame—and all in the name of taking care of our clients. Firms took charge of the PPP loan and forgiveness process, coached clients through tough business decisions, and served as dedicated keepers of the calm.
With all those big mountains behind us, it’s enticing to take a break—a long one. But now is not the time. Modern firm leaders, like our members, are doing just the opposite. They are keeping the momentum going by offering higher-value and higher-volume advisory services. They are enhancing their tech stack to completely embrace the cloud and digging deep into processes to identify issues and apply high-efficiency improvements at every level of operation. They are leading their firms with passion—because they know it’s what their staff and clients need…more than ever.
There’s never been a better time in our history to be a leader. Now is the time to:
Lean into client relationships
Relationships are what fuel small accounting firms in terms of growth and sustainability. Building on your existing client relationships is the key to long-term success, so lean into them. Take advantage of all that client data at your fingertips to identify and proactively provide clients with services you know they need. For example, identify business clients who would benefit from cash flow analysis and other higher-value advisory services. The opportunity to proactively help clients is greater than ever.
Leverage proven technologies
Keep moving forward in your quest to build a powerful, cloud-based tech stack. The goal is to operate at peak efficiency, which translates into a seamless and modern experience for both your team and your clients. Winning firms are making technology stack a core component of the business model, ensuring that both front and back offices are running on advanced, connected applications to offer a frictionless online experience. While many firms have long moved back-office operations to the cloud, many more are applying the same model to the front office, using communication apps like Slack and Zoom to conveniently connect with team members and clients. These same firms have also launched websites that connect with a content management solution, enabling them to easily push information out to clients and stay connected 24/7.
In a time when social distancing is law, connection has never been more vital for all the people that are an integral part of your firm. The difference between your business thriving over merely surviving will be dependent on how you lead and your efforts to stay connected to staff, clients and colleagues. Firm leaders need to prioritize connecting with both staff and clients on a regular basis. Proactive Zoom meetings, emails and even phone calls help make everyone feel seen and heard.
Make the choice to lead with intention. Put in the work to serve your clients proactively and move your firm, your staff and your clients forward—together.
2020 has been the year of the unexpected. If you attended a Virtual Firm Retreat this year, you know that we discussed many topics that firms should consider doing to be better positioned if an unexpected event occurs again. It is time to learn from what did not work well, and tweak and/or fix it. The recommended projects for 2020 are not major overhauls…and you may have some in place already. The key is to make sure we take some positive out of this crazy year and prepare ourselves for any future uncertainty!
- Move your business clients to a collaborative environment. Getting a backup or old-fashioned ledger systems can go…and 2020 is the year to make this happen.
- Move clients to QBO (Xero, etc.) or a hosted environment to have better access to client files.
- Move your phone system to a flexible VoIP system. Eliminate the process of giving out your cell phone number because you are not in the office. The VoIP system you use should be able to be used in and out of the office. This keeps clients using an office line number versus your personal number.
- Stop printing paper payroll checks. Direct deposit first became available in 1975…so after 45 years, this is not a new phenomenon and should be our default payroll delivery. If employees do not have bank accounts, pay card options are available. Being tied to the office to print checks is not ideal, and it’s 2020. Let’s price payroll to where direct deposit is included and make it part of your standard process.
- Implement Slack/Teams, etc. for internal communication. Email keeps us busy enough, and if we are working in different locations we need to use tools to more easily collaborate and communicate internally.
- Is working with your firm hard for clients? Consider how the following processes work in your firm. If they are not easy, 2020 is a good time to fix them.
- How easy is it to pay your fees? Make sure you have online and easy options to pay by Credit Card/ACH. If clients must call to make the electronic payment, your process is too hard. This should be the easiest client process you have in your firm.
- Do you offer electronic signature of documents? If you do not at least offer an option to sign electronically, you should. This day and age, fewer people have easy access to printers and scanners so the option to at least offer electronic signatures should be there.
- Is your electronic file-sharing system (ie. portals, etc.) easy to use? Put yourself in the client’s shoes of the system you are using and ensure that it is an easy-to-use client-facing file-sharing system
Our Virtual Firm Retreat covered many other topics…but these are important to get taken care of in 2020!
Rootworks has long advocated that you move internal communication in your firm out of email and into chat programs like Slack and Teams. Doing so will reduce the likelihood of falling victim to spear phishing. With the new work environment, hackers are looking at these tools more closely, trying to find ways to exploit users to access systems and steal data.
There has been an increased effort to use some of Slack’s document sharing to exploit users via phishing in recent months. These types of exploits are still executed over email. However, one trend has developed recently that can target Slack in the app itself, using what is called webhook integrations.
The risk here is small, as someone targeting your organization would need to know the exact web URL of a webhook set up in your Slack instance. This scenario would be rare, but not out of the realm of possibilities.
To mitigate this risk, your Slack admin should review any integration that is setup in your Slack instance, and remove any unused integrations. To access those integrations, click on the arrow to the right of your organization name at the top left of Slack, and select Settings & Administration > Manage apps.
Review both the apps, and the custom integrations areas to see all integrations with your Slack instance. Remove anything outdated or no longer in use.
As always, ensure that 2-factor authentication is enabled on your instance of Slack.
A: Judging by the way your question is framed, my guess is what you’re missing is the big picture. There tends to be a misconception that marketing expenditures should produce an immediate, tangible result. Unless you’re a retailer making discount or promotional offers, you won’t see a stampede toward your front door every time you blow the marketing trumpet. Marketing from our perspective is about the long game; it’s about cultivating and nurturing your prospects along a journey.
What that journey looks like depends on what you’re selling. On the tax side of business, the purchase cycle is regular and seasonal, and the buyer journey is, similarly, predictable—you might even say habitual. But when it comes to attracting weekly and monthly clients, the purchase cycle is irregular; it depends on complex variables, and once you sign an engagement, it could be for a lifetime. In other words, selling your business services isn’t like selling breakfast cereal and oil changes on a clear, regular purchase cycle.
The path to your new client relationships is built over time, establishing beliefs of trust, dependability and business acumen, based on your communication—an endeavor perfectly suited for a long, steady stream of content marketing. Think of it as a parade that never ends—a stream of weekly and monthly social media and blog posts, webinars, and perhaps even some regular paid advertising, such as a program sponsorship on your area’s public radio station. The most effective mix of media is ultimately yours to formulate, but the key is to engage consistently for the long haul. Then, when prospects reach a point of decision on that longer, more complex buying journey, they’ll know you and trust you.
Astute marketers are also good observers and listeners. Keep an eye on your media, observe when people engage, and be ready to meet them where they are. When you see someone download a piece of content from your website, for example, be sure you have a mechanism in place to seize upon that indication of interest and intent and follow up with the prospect to help move them along toward a face-to-face appointment to discuss their needs in greater depth and offer your solutions.
In answer to your question, don’t get fixated on looking for immediate results from marketing. Some of your best prospects may take many months to incubate. Remember what Woody Allen said, “Eighty percent of life is just showing up.” A big part of marketing is just being there—being visible, keeping a steady presence with quality content, and looking for the right moment to move people to the next stage of the journey.
Ask me anything! Have a marketing question? Email it to email@example.com. I’ll select a question to tackle in each of our upcoming editions.
What we’re working on
If you’re looking for a way to import lists or transactions into a QuickBooks (QB) company, export data from a company, or delete data to clean up a QB company file, check out Transaction Pro. They have a program for use with QuickBooks Online and QuickBooks Desktop. You’ll find more information on our Transaction Pro vendor page at Rootworks.com: https://rootworks.com/community/vendors/25a28084-d0b5-4eb6-9700-d01b24ca75cf. If you have any questions, reach out to our contact Val Holzer at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Onvio Webinar Series
- September 8 – Onvio Series – Episode 10: Using Project Management
- September 10 – Onvio Series – Episode 11: Using Reporting Features
- September 22 – Vendor-hosted Webinar: Introduction to GKM
- September 23 – Staff Training: ClientView – The Modernized Client Transition Spreadsheet
- September 24 – Fall Technology Update Webinar
- September 30 – Staff Training: CashFlow Tool
Register at Rootworks.com under Resources > Events > Virtual Events.