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Work less, make more, and be your client’s hero with workforce automation and advisory

Client Relationships Tax Firm Automation

What’s the secret in achieving your firm’s goals?

Automate your workload, increase your advisory services, and strengthen your deliverables. 

Automation is a catalyst for efficiency and the gateway to advisory services. When tax and accounting professionals leverage the power of automation, it unlocks a great deal of billable time that is reinvested into multiple areas of advisory. We should spend time and unpack these a bit, so let’s get started with your “workload.”

Recent surveys found that 86% of an accountant’s time is spent on potentially automatable tasks. It’s no secret that accounting is being hit hard by automation, and unfortunately, most see this as a negative. In contrast, this essential pivot point creates an outstanding opportunity for firms to work less and make more than ever before. Successful firms use the investment in various ways, from marketing to improving internal processes, education, and most lucrative of them all, advisory!

Specifically, this article focuses on the payroll segment of your firm, or what experts call “people management.” Payroll is a central focal point in automation, with the most significant trend in the workforce management space being a massive shift away from managed payroll. Accounting firms are getting out of the payroll mechanics, and letting the systems, tools, and providers tackle the day-to-day elements. As this happens, many firms are looking right over the people and going directly to the books for their advisory services. Tax and accounting professionals often lend their expertise to finance, tax, and marketing, which are all fantastic revenue generators, but what about the people?

Managing the numbers behind the workforce is essential – and the most critical element to any business. When you think about your practice, where would it be without your staff? How much more profitable are you due to your employees’ structure, talent, and drive? Let’s face it, the workforce is the impetus that creates revenue to keep the business alive and thriving. The services are the foundation, and the product and tools are the structure, but nothing gets constructed without the people. As crucial as top talent is for the accounting profession, it’s just as necessary – if not a more significant requisite – for the small businesses we service today.

While firms focus on their internal growth through their people, clients face the same struggles. It all starts with the employee. In accounting, the employee generates the client for the firm. The employee creates a relationship that drives a much more adherent client. The employee ultimately becomes the binding agent to a successful accounting machine. For your client, the employee is the lifeblood of the business, and without the core, the apple can’t grow!

Over the past several years, the top 100+ accounting firms in the country have focused on their client accounting services and how to continue making money in a world that is automating more by the day. Advisory has been the key to this as a supplemental revenue source to the work that’s automated. Accountants are leveraging technology and service providers to proactively automate the more significant part of their manual payroll workload.

This is where we want to pause for a moment to take a step back and see the “aha” opportunity.

The exact payroll data that you’re working to automate has a tremendous amount of compelling insight that fits directly into people advisory. Clients need to take a deeper look at the payroll side of their business. With payroll being the single most considerable line item expense in most small businesses, they need to know these details intimately. They need to understand where money is lost, how non-compliance has opened up risk, and where they have the opportunity to improve.

Take a moment to review a few statistics that your clients are battling today. They’re hurting, and you can be their hero!

Staffing:

  • Turnover is historically high today, and 80% of current employees surveyed say they would choose a job with benefits over a similar job that offered 30% more pay and no benefits.
  • It’s averaging 29-46% of an employee’s salary to replace their position.

Payroll expense:

  • 4.5 hours a week are being lost per employee, due to mismanaged time tracking.
  • Payroll that exceeds 30% gross revenue is one of the most common reasons that businesses fail.

Compliance & risk:

  • The top three HR and compliance challenges in 2020 were federal, state, and local law changes.
  • 70% of small businesses try and handle HR ad-hoc, and 82% of them have no HR training at all.

With so much focus on small businesses recruiting, retaining, and growing top talent – alongside firms developing their advisory services – there has never been a better opportunity to marry these two situations into a flourishing relationship that benefits everyone.

Yet, many firms haven’t dug any deeper than running payroll. Clients are struggling in staffing, managing payroll expenses, staying compliant, and mitigating risk. For example, staffing is showing a year-over-year rise in turnover, and 80% of exit surveys use poor methodology, leaving business owners without answers. Accounting professionals often overlook the rich potential in developing a people advisory practice because it’s uncharted territory, complex, and stimulates fear of risk.

Today, those are things of the past! First, the people advisory space is no longer uncharted territory, as firms are now building divisions around advising their clients on their labor, people expense, and risk surrounding payroll and compliance. Second, there is no longer a deep level of complexity due to the systems and tools built into ecosystems, allowing firms to easily navigate solutions and speak to advisory in these areas without being the expert or specialist. Lastly, with the proper solutions in place, this can mitigate risk for the accounting firm and their client. Having information at your fingertips is key, but having accurate information at your fingertips is most critical. After all, ensuring your delivery is correct and on time is a vital part of the advisory DNA.

Today’s systems are providing the data, yet clients lack understanding in the depth of its value. There is a tremendous opportunity to take this information and build storylines, competitive analysis, KPIs, improvement processes, and more – all in the service to improving your client’s lives. When was the last time you sat with your client and unpacked the lost revenue through mismanaged employee time? How about benchmarking their employee pay across the industry to drive employee acquisition and retention?

Consider spending some time building out advisory processes around the following:

Improving payroll expense management

  • Reduce mismanaged time (lost revenue).
  • Provide better insights on labor cost, productivity, and turnover.

Staffing – Helping to recruit and retain top talent

  • Industry benchmarking (attract top talent).
  • Enhancing employee morale (increase talent).
  • Benefits – Health Insurance, retirement, and other benefits to retain talent.

Getting and staying compliant

  • Resources, processes, and guidance.

Increasing sales & productivity, while reducing overhead

  • Employee efficiencies.

Mitigating risk from payroll taxes to labor law compliance

  • Procedures and guidelines.

Benchmarking with competitive analysis and industry trends

  • Every industry talks, so help your client listen to the data.
  • Align with competition to empower growth.

And much more!

It’s easily obtainable, and many firms are relentlessly executing on a plan to get there. You can consider five simple steps to greater efficiencies, sizable billing increases, and a deeper deliverable to your client:

  1. Automating CAS/Payroll work to reduce the workload: Employee time, payroll processing, payroll taxes, filings, notices, compliance, and audit/review.    
  2. Utilize resources to expand offerings: HR resources, 401k and health insurance connections, time tracking, and connected reporting.
  3. Insert people advisory: Wealth, HR, health, forecasting, cash flow, critical thinking, and deeper insights.
  4. Create a better cadence with your clients: Meet frequently with tangible goals and updated data.
  5. Increase billable due to value: Adjust current client billing and build out new pricing models.

Saving time, working less, and increasing your billables may sound too good to be true, but you can’t change your direction until the car’s in motion, so start today.