Nothing has pushed the accounting profession to redefine itself more than the pandemic—from apps, clients, staffing, and pricing to services and even what it means to be an accountant. It’s all on the table for revisiting, refining, reshaping. And, you guessed it, redefining.
The pandemic sent a jolt through the profession, changing both client and staff expectations and how firms deliver on these new demands. Some firms faced this challenge head-on, recognizing the opportunity to push the boundaries at all levels of operations and elevate value. A few of these forward-thinking leaders are with us today to explore the need to redefine firm value and ensure long-term success and profitability.
Our experts include Jason Blumer, CPA and CEO of Blumer CPAs; Nicole Davis, CPA and CEO of Butler-Davis Tax & Accounting; and Greg Kyte, CPA and Founder of Comedy CPE. And they’re all here to share their insights and experience on meeting and exceeding new-era client expectations.
Redefining tech stack and tools
The need to redefine the apps and tools that support broad firm operations is a priority. According to Nicole Davis, “Your tools need to be value-adjacent.” This means adopting technologies and tools that set you up to be exceptionally valuable to clients, enhance your core value proposition, and support a happy medium among all stakeholders (this includes both clients and staff).
Davis explains three core categories where tech stack and tools matter most:
1) practice management/workflow management, 2) client work and delivery,
and 3) communication (internally and externally).
In the realm of technology, cloud-based solutions support automated, streamlined processes—from initial onboarding and production to service delivery. This offers a frictionless process for clients. For example, allowing them to log into a secure portal and access documents or communicate with firm staff. It also offers clients full visibility to see product progress at any time.
In the realm of tools, this can include additional elements that support a rich client experience. For example, offering videos to explain services, technologies, or processes. We live in a video-dominant world, and clients (and staff) crave the ease of getting information in small digestible video bites.
According to Jason Blumer, another critical tool is community. As you work to redefine your technology stack and tools, also consider joining a community for added support and resources. The right community offers a non-competitive space where like-minded professionals can exchange ideas, share challenges and resolutions, and get the support they need to elevate their firms.
Blumer suggests considering a community as a collection of partners rather than competitors. He also advises finding a community that:
Provides advisory and educational resources.
Offers assistance to help clients develop plans and goals.
Offers a safe place for clients and employees.
Is genuine and transparent.
The goal should not be to build a book of business by taking on any client who shows up. In fact, Blumer asserts that practitioners need to: “Aim for a smaller client base with larger prices.”
This is about defining who your ideal clients are. Blumer focuses on two key objectives: 1) serving those you enjoy working with (no one should work with undesirable clients or those who treat your staff poorly); and 2) those who are profitable.
“It all comes down to what client is right for you. You have to define your ideal client profile … what clients ‘work’ for you. That’s what’s so great about this. You choose what clients align with your needs,” says Blumer. “We don’t just look for clients, we look for aligned clients.”
Kyte adds: “We serve a very defined niche of entrepreneurial medical office clients. That’s our ideal client profile.”
“You can also create your ideal client profile around clients you truly enjoy,” says Davis. “It’s OK to choose clients that bring you joy.”
Subscription pricing and advisory services are where it’s at
Redefining pricing is the last big element of the new, post-pandemic firm. Greg Kyte, a long-time supporter of subscription-based pricing, suggests that the overall goal is to “demonstrate your concern for your clients by making sure they get the full value of what they are paying for.”
This requires firms to take the subscription model and apply it to accounting services. It means getting out from under billable hours (even value-based pricing) to get to a fixed monthly fee for a certain level of service. Just like a Netflix subscription, a firm subscription requires:
Monthly payment for a deliverable services package.
The ability to cancel services at any time.
The willingness to take on risk to reap the rewards of attracting ideal clients, building a relationship-driven practice, and enjoying recurring revenue.
“This model can scare some accountants, thinking that a client will cancel the subscription after the tax return is delivered … therefore only capturing a third of what they thought,” says Kyte. “But that’s not the kind of client you want anyway … that’s not your ideal client profile.”
Subscription pricing also supports advancing your advisory practice—opening the door to redefining services to streamline operations and elevate profitability. All panel members suggest tightly focusing on a niche, becoming the expert in that niche, and then cornering that market.
“Every accountant at some point has feared not having the expertise and then worrying about whether they’ve delivered real value. When you specialize in a niche, that fear is gone because you know exactly what your clients need … you know that ideal client profile,” asserts Kyte.
What changes will you make?
The time is now to redefine what it means to be an accountant. Davis explained that accountants must move beyond being trusted advisors and assume the role of “financial first responder.” This elevates the advisor role significantly and, ultimately, changes the narrative from “trauma-bonding” to superhero status.
There’s no better example of this than the PPP era. While it was exhausting to keep up with ever-changing legislation, it had to be done. And the firms that handled it with “ease” quickly elevated to superhero status.
“It was easy for accountants to say ‘this is so much work; we’re in over our head’ but because of what we did, we saved businesses. I loved how we shifted the narrative during this time,” says Kyte.
Bottom line: The profession has forever changed. Are you ready to redefine your value and make the changes necessary to create a new narrative and advance your firm to the vanguard of the profession?
Ready to redefine your value? Follow our Redefining Value series to hear from today’s industry thought leaders who share their expertise on timely, relevant, and helpful topics—all geared to help you achieve the life you want.
CEO, Thriveal Network and Blumer CPAs
JasonBlumer | @jasonmblumer
Jason Blumer founded Thriveal in 2010 as a way for firm owners to connect. In the ten years that Thriveal has been supporting firm owners, Julie Shipp has become an owner with Jason. Together with their team, they support firms in reaching their goals through live events, a monthly podcast, written content, webinars, coaching, consulting, and more. The heartbeat of Thriveal is the online community where firm owners gather to ask questions and share ideas. Questions about any Thriveal programs can be asked by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Founder and CEO, Butler-Davis
Nicole Davis is the founder and CEO of Butler-Davis, a tax and accounting firm with two locations in Georgia. She brings more than a decade of experience in accounting, tax, financial management and advisory services to clients of all sizes in various industries. Nicole specializes in tax strategy, small business accounting with specialties in construction, pharmacies, and service-based businesses.
Before founding Butler-Davis, Nicole spent most of her career in the industry with Fortune 500 companies. She began her career with ConocoPhillips in Bartlesville, Oklahoma.
Nicole is a member of the American Institute of CPAs and the Georgia Society of CPAs. She earned a Master of Business Administration from the University of Tulsa and graduated summa cum laude from Grambling State University earning a Bachelor of Science in accounting. Nicole is also a member of the Rockdale Chamber of Commerce and board chairman for More Than Conquerors, Inc.
Nicole and her husband JW live in Conyers, Georgia and have five kids. She enjoys writing poetry, cooking, and making handcrafted soaps in her free time.
Greg has positioned himself uniquely as a licensed CPA and a working standup comedian. He has had the opportunity to perform with many noted comedians, including opening for Weird Al Yankovic, and he has been a licensed CPA in the state of Utah for over a decade.
Greg is the co-host of the Oh My Fraud podcast as well as the Drunk Ethics podcast, and he has presented continuing education courses to tens of thousands of accountants and attorneys. He currently lives in Orem, Utah, where he enjoys yelling at his television.
This webinar is part of our Redefining Value webinar series. View the other virtual events and learn more about this series.