Many firms follow the traditional model of accepting clients in various industries through recommendations. Others provide clients with valuable services, along with business-related compliance services, but don’t highlight those.
We, as business advisors, would agree that best practices for any business start with an evaluation of current practices so that weak points can be identified and evaluated for improvement. When speaking with other accounting professionals, I find many have similar concerns and pain points:
- We spend countless hours learning tax law, software applications and best business practices. Clients call with a “quick question” and expect an answer without a charge for the time or advice.
- We set up a plan for “making it through another tax season” and then lose control of our process when the client is not forthcoming with the necessary information to complete the engagement in a timely manner.
- We bill for the services provided once the engagement is complete, and then may have to negotiate our fee or wait for payment until the client receives their tax refund.
- We start an engagement and then find that there is unanticipated work to be done in order to complete the job properly. We feel we should be paid for this “scope creep,” and then we have to explain to the client why the bill is higher. In some cases, we may not be adequately compensated for this extra work. If our clients are buying our services and advice based upon our knowledge, why are we selling them time?
Our lawmakers have identified us as specified service businesses; they clearly see that we have great expertise as our clients’ advisors. They have also challenged us to interpret the sweeping new laws, and provided us with an opportunity to reach out to our clients and start a conversation.
What better time than now to step back and evaluate your firm’s procedures and incorporate a bundled services approach into your pricing and onboarding process? This is an opportunity to redefine how you work with your clients, be specific as to expectations and get paid for your knowledge.
Incorporating a bundled pricing system will also enable you to:
- Standardize your service offerings into packages that your clients and staff can understand.
- Give your clients what they want, in addition to what we think they need, by separating compliance work from advisory engagements.
- Lock down your fee based upon a service level, helping to eliminate scope creep.
- Get paid up front when you start the work, thus freeing up time and creating an improved cash flow for your firm.
- Enhance your clients’ experience as you take the time to discuss their concerns.
- Ease into advisory services.
When getting started, remember to do the following:
- Develop your mission statement. I recommend that you and your staff members get together and create a mission and vision statement that is right for you.
- Create a business plan. When creating the firm that you want rather than the one that you have, best practices endorse starting with a business plan. Just as you would recommend to any one of your clients who is evaluating their business and looking to make a change, think about the steps that you need to take in order to reach your goals.
- Review your current processes. I recommend you make use of an action plan to help you organize and accomplish your goals. Even though you are excited to create the firm of your dreams, it is important to try going slowly at first by creating tasks you can accomplish.
- Evaluate your services. Are there services you wish you could offer, but you do not know how to initiate the conversation? Start by setting up a list of service categories — you can then identify value propositions that will “delight your clients” and create new opportunities for firm revenue.
Evaluate each one of the services you provide, then review and list all the steps or processes that make up that service. Picture a typical project type, then list the services encompassed in that project. By doing so, you create bundled offers or packages of service offerings.
Your bundles will be specific to your firm, and either your current or target clients. Your offerings chart for individual clients may be simple, but can certainly be elaborate. It can contain more lines or services to help your client understand just what they are buying.
Remember that each bundle is a set of services packaged together, and each is referred to with a descriptive name that describes the level of service. If you choose to move to a bundled pricing system, you will find that new opportunities will emerge from your regularly scheduled appointments; we have.
Now, our clients call and ask for more and expect the additional services to come with a separate engagement letter and invoice. Incorporating bundled services will help you deliver more value to your clients through advisory work. In turn, you will see improved team morale and cash flow, a better overall client experience and the firm you want.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on AccountingWEB.