During the value extraction process, you will identify the problems the client has and figure out what you need to do in order to get them to their desired state.
This is the distance between the current state/problem (A) and the desired state/solution (C), with (B) being the services and the value that it takes for that distance to close.
Whether you are doing services, training, software, or a combination, we are going to look at how to combine these to reduce the amount of work that you have to do to get the client from A to C.
It does not matter how much time you spend working.
Whether results take 2 hours or 25 hours, all that matters is that you bring value.
And when it comes to pricing…
Here’s the rule: No matter what service you are offering, you need to know the specific monetary value and make your pricing ⅓ of that value.
In other words, you want to charge them something that is going to give them a 3 to 1 return on their investment.
And there are some Key Pricing Principles to remember:
• It does not matter how long it takes you. You should price based on the value that is created from your services, not how much time it takes to do the work. If you charge $5,000 an hour, that’s fine, so long as the client receives a 3 to 1 return on their investment. If they are comfortable paying your fees, then they believe the value is worth the price. The ROI is all that matters.
• Qualification is everything. There will be times when you will not know the exact price to charge. In these circumstances, you want to let the prospect know that if you go over your original pricing, you will charge them hourly. Once you have exhausted 50% of the fixed fee amount, you should tell the client that you have gone through half of the fees and there is still “X” percent of work to be done. If they want you to continue, there will be an hourly fee.
• Fixed is better than hourly, but we still use hourly. Many people in the accounting industry only use fixed pricing; however, it is much better to price on the outcome rather than time. When you price on the outcome, you can increase your margins substantially. The goal is to always be moving toward more efficiency without doing more work. When the value is there and it does not take you a substantial amount of time to complete the work, that is the ideal situation. Generally, you only want to use hourly if you go over your fixed budget or you have absolutely no idea how to price a project. Even then, it’s best to perform a diagnostic for a fixed fee and then move to an hourly charge.
• Know your pricing before the strategy session begins. The only exception to this is pricing for training or software sales. For services, you should never know the fees until you have completed your diagnosis and value extraction process. Only then can you find the value. Once you determine the value in the strategy session, you can then determine the investment to work with you.
• Never put pricing on your website. Even if you have a fixed fee for a training program, you want people to talk to you or email you directly for pricing. There should never be prices on your website because this creates allure and intrigue. It also allows you to be flexible and change your pricing over time.
• Pricing is always wrong, so aim high. Do not worry about getting your prices right. Be conservative with your business and make your prices and your value high. This value should be made clear in your strategy sessions and they will buy if they see that value.
• Hourly rates should never be less than $125. While you want to aim for $250 or more an hour, the absolute minimum should be $125. No matter your experience level, this is the minimum. In theory, charging $125 an hour will give you $250,000 a year. However, that would require you to work full time and therefore deplete your time for marketing, sales and other activities that grow your business. Aiming for $250 or higher grants you more flexibility and money to invest in your growth.
• Always refer to your prices as “an investment.” Accounting services are an investment the moment someone decides to work with you. Avoid words like “fees,” “price” and “cost.” During strategy sessions, always emphasize that your work is an investment.
• You want to do the least amount of work possible. When you learn how to price on value, you’ll then determine how to do the least amount of work to create that value. The more efficient you become by reducing service delivery time, creating supplemental training, and using software, the more profit you will inevitably make.
These are the key principles that you should remember for pricing any services you decide to perform.
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Are you a “Parakeet” Accountant paid to peck at the keyboard all day?
Are you working more “on” the business rather than “in” the business?”
Now, maybe you’re wondering….
“Andrew, what exactly is a “Parakeet?”
I will explain in a minute…
But first I want you to ask yourself, “How can we work less time IN the business where we’re actually doing the accounting, and spend more time working ON the business as an entrepreneur?”
And there are multiple stages that soon-to-be entrepreneurs go through…
Today, I’m going to explain the first stage…
Stage #1: The Parakeet (or typically called the Generalist)
*Charging low fees for monthly services*
Most people that start their businesses in accounting start out as a “Parakeet.” If you don’t have any training, any help, or any mentors, it’s kind of the obvious way to start.
Typically this business is built on word of mouth, networking events, friends, family, and personal connections. You provide really any service that someone will pay for. You could have as many as 30 or more services. How could you possibly know how to do each of those services really well?
When you get into this situation, you’re not only a Generalist on the services you offer, but also the industries you work with.
This really drives low fees.
And the fees are low because, to be honest, the VALUE is low.
It’s very hard to be the best at the services delivered when there are so many different services and so much custom work to be done. Each industry is different and it’s kind of a learning curve with every new client.
So Parakeets generally aren’t respected by their clients and their work is seen as a commodity.
And most of their clients are small.
They’re doing services work only.
There’s no training.
There’s no higher level of value in these services.
Just baseline commodity services.
And most of the companies they’re working with are less than $500,000 a year in annual sales.
Parakeets are typically paid to play $100 a month calculator game.
Just paid to peck at the keyboard like a parakeet.
And it’s a sad story and it’s unfortunate, but if you’re at this level, the good news is that it’s easy to get out of this level.
There’s just one or two key things we need in order to make it beyond the Parakeet stage and get to the Confidant stage.
A lot of businesses today are moving from a Brick & Mortar headquarters to a completely virtual office with remote employees.
Tosha Anderson, one of our expert instructors, works 100% from home and wouldn’t have it any other way. She finds that she works a lot better from home and can be very productive when not having to worry about an office.
However, Tosha had an interesting situation where she actually grew her business at an EXTREMELY fast pace. Thus, she had to hire a lot of people very quickly.
And once you start hiring on a team, you have a much larger workload because of all of the onboarding, training, and retention efforts. Tosha at one point had to hire 3 accountants at one time and she found it very hard to train all of these accountants virtually.
So recently she moved to a hybrid model where some people work from home on various days and some prefer to work in the office full time.
And even though Tosha personally prefers to work virtually, she still struggles with the idea that a virtual office is better than a physical one.
In 2018, CNBC reported, “70% of people globally work remotely at least once a week.”
And we can’t ignore the fact that remote work is where the world is headed. It’s no longer considered mandatory for many companies to have an employee in the office from 9 am – 5 pm every single day.
But the question is, will this remote working model be good for client & staff retention?
It’s much easier to keep a current employee happy than to try to replace disgruntled employees.
But Tosha does still feel that having been in the industry for 15 years and being a seasoned CPA, her staff could learn a lot from her if they were all working together in an office. Even though her personal preference is to work from home, as her business continues to grow, she really feels like an office space environment is going to be the best fit for her company overall.
Tosha believes that there can be a lot lost by being virtual. Especially if you’re hiring people that are less experienced. Some people choose to hire contractors at a slightly higher rate because they tend to have more experience and they don’t need so much training or coaching.
So here’s what you have to look at…
Do you want to pay more for people that presumably are more experienced and independent, or do you want to pay less and know that you have a level of supervision that needs to be maintained on a daily basis?
With all of that being said, Tosha has a few guidelines that she believes virtual staff should abide by when working remotely:
1. Be very specific about the start and stop times so that there are clear expectations in place for daily tasks.
2. Reiterate that working from home does not mean electing whether or not you’d want to work at all. The absence of a physical space means that there is a greater need for communication and transparency in what staff members are doing. No babies crying, dogs barking, or other background noise that prevents you from taking a client call.
3. Have a workflow manager of some sort.
4. Have staff members log their hours per task.
5. Review files even haphazardly on a daily basis.
6. Review the audit log to make sure employees are logging in.
7. Call staff members randomly on Slack (or whatever internal communication software you use i.e. Skype) to make sure they are online and working. It’s important to create the element of accountability even if it seems like you’re micromanaging.
8. Staff needs to be camera-ready and their background needs to be professional. Don’t show up on our zoom call with wet shower hair, a soaking wet t-shirt, or your laundry piled up in the background. If a client needs to get on the phone with you and you look like that, what does that look like for the business?
What are your thoughts? Does having a physical office make it easier to manage a team? Or does allowing your staff to have the flexibility to work remote give them a greater sense of accountability and the ability to be more productive and get more work done?
If you’re interested in learning more about the training we offer here at AccountingTax.com, go ahead and get your FREE resource now: AccountingTax.com/brick&mortar
Once you reach $100,000 per year in sales, it is important to shift your focus to getting the right clients.
Nowhere is this truer than with a CFO business because of the ongoing relationships you will have with your clients. You are going to have to work with these people on a regular basis, and if they don’t know how to treat you and work on your terms, and if they can’t respect the scope and the boundaries you set, it will not make for a very pleasant engagement.
Your clients have to see the value and respect your pricing.
If your clients are texting you every 15 minutes because they think they are paying a lot of money and therefore should have an on-call CFO, you will not be able to grow a multimillion-dollar company with those kinds of clients.
Therefore, once you have grown to $100,000 per year in sales and are on steady ground, covering basic expenses, and are able to focus on the business full-time, you need to make your next priority working with the right clients.
This is where the importance of a niche comes in where you are offering one particular service and providing deep value.
“What do I do with all of these existing clients in order to create some real value?”
60-70 clients doing payroll…
30-40 clients on sales tax…
What more can you do for these people?
You can easily start by picking one of your existing clients who needs an additional service…
And message that client…
“Hey, I thought of you today. Are you free to talk tomorrow?”
That’s it. Pretty simple!
I know that you have someone inside of your business right now that you can close before the end of the day tomorrow.
It could be a friend.
Or maybe someone in your professional network.
Squeeze in one meeting tomorrow.
And another one the next day.
And 2 more the day after that.
And close a deal before the end of the week.
I know this sounds painful to some of you.
But you HAVE to do it.
It’s like no matter how many times my personal trainer has to show up in my damn lobby to get me to the gym, he has to do it OVER and OVER again because I’m not going to get my butt to the gym on my own.
There’s just no way.
But afterward, I ALWAYS feel so much better about myself.
The same feeling you get when you close a sale.
So you’ve got to do the painful things in order to get the reward.
And honestly, anything in life that requires you to push harder in order to reap the reward, is worth the pain.
You want to offer CFO services to a prospective client, and they have revenue but NO PROFIT.
The first thing we have to ask ourselves is WHY do they have $0 profit.
There are most likely multiple reasons why and that’s your role as their CFO…
TO FIGURE OUT “WHY”.
The most important thing you can offer them today in order to get them to sign up with you and work for you is answering the question WHY.
“Why is this happening? What is the reason?”
It’s your job as the CFO to understand this better than them.
And you might not be an expert in their specific niche, but here’s the good news…
There are very few reasons why this could be a problem and they’re limited to specific issues on the P&L statement.
And so we can ask very similar questions:
“Is it a problem with revenue?”
“Is it a problem with pricing?”
“Is it a problem with the volume?”
For example, if a company has $1.5 million in sales, it’s clearly not a massive volume issue.
But based on the company’s pricing, should they have higher pricing?
Are their pricing problems relative to competitors?
Have they made the decision that they’re just going to price as low as possible so they make it up on volume?
Those are some questions, but I always start with the top of the P&L statement.
So if I’m going to be work as a CFO with them and I’m going to help them increase profitability (which is really the main outcome of why they’re going to work with a CFO)…
Revenue is the very first thing we have to focus on.
And I’m really thinking about price and volume.
Then I’m thinking about the cost of sales.
Is it higher than it should be? Is it in line? Is it structurally high?
Is this something that we cannot change because it is based on negotiation with vendors, spoilage, etc.
Which then leads me to GROSS PROFIT.
And I’m going to compare this with the industry average in mind.
And I’m also going to compare this with industry potential, which is way more important.
If you’ve met one company that you know has been selling a similar product or the same competitive product that has a higher gross profit margin than them, instantly you know it’s possible to do better.
And you have to understand WHY.
And the good news is there are very few reasons related to revenue and cost of sales.
And then we’re also going to look at opex (operating expense).
And with opex we’re going to look at salaries, headcount, personal expenses, etc.
We’re also going to look at tax, post-tax, & net profit.
So the main value you can figure out for them is…
“Hey, this is your current situation. And right now, this is where you’re at. WHY IS THAT THE CASE & HOW CAN WE CHANGE IT?”
And once you understand why that’s the case, the people you’re going to be able to help the most are the ones that have a CURRENT SITUATION, and then they have a DESIRED SITUATION.
And it has to be a desired situation that is also POSSIBLE.
So it’s got to be a desired situation that’s within their realm of belief.
But you want to stretch their belief a little bit so that they feel challenged while still being able to see it happen.
You want to be on the borderline of something that’s actually possible in your mind and that you can transfer into their mind.
Now we have to ask…
Can we increase revenue? Is there something we can do?
And here’s the key thing…This is where a lot of people get hung up on the CFO services.
Note: You are not responsible for increasing revenue, increasing volume, or increasing price.
Cost to sales. Can we decrease that? Is there a way to do it?
Gross profit. Are we going to be able to increase that?
It is possible to decrease opex?
And we’re going to look at each of these and hopefully, we’ll have multiple on the tax side. Especially as the company grows because they don’t have a lot of profit right now.
But obviously this is A LOT of work and this is their business, so they have to take responsibility for this part.
But what exactly are they paying you for then?
They’re paying you to MAKE THE PLAN.
And then they’re also going to be paying you to go through and HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE.
So for example, that feeling that a lot of these business owners get when they think about going to talk to their CFO is like when you have to visit the dentist…
You don’t want to do it, but you don’t want to look like the Grim Reaper either.
And so you’re helping them make the plan on this call and then you’re going to help hold them accountable every single month.
You’re also going to give them the information they need so that they can UNDERSTAND RESULTS, INTERPRET THEM, & MAKE A PLAN OF ACTION TO GET IT DONE.
But guess what…
None of this is going to sell them.
The only thing that is going to sell them, and the reason I’m telling you all this is because you have to have CONVICTION IN YOURSELF that this is what you’re going to do and that you can honestly pull it off.
Because the only thing that is going to sell them and get them to pay you is talking about their CURRENT SITUATION and how you can solve their current problems.
You have to say to them, “You’re running a business that SHOULD be doing $XXX,XXX in profit, but you’re only doing $XX,XXX.”
This is the work you do as the CFO.
And the greater the gap in what they are currently profiting versus what they should be profiting, the greater your fee should be.
This is how your mind should be thinking because, to be honest, you are not going to be able to charge your client to send out some reports from Futrli if you’re not going to help them make more money.
And so you might not be at the stage where you know how to do this for somebody.
And that’s totally okay!
The thing you’ve got to understand is that this whole method here is probably 80% behavior and 20% accounting.
Most of it is about BEHAVIOR that is leading them to these margins.
Now there may be some structural things with some businesses or maybe they are just selling a bad product.
But you want to ask them about the things that they need to get more information on and the things they need to know in order to make better decisions so that their business will grow and become more profitable.
And after you go through all of the things that make people insecure on the call…
You end with…
“Based on everything we’ve talked about today, when we went through and talked about the pricing that you guys are doing relative to competitors, how you organize the cost of sales, and about hiring your broke brother-in-law…all of these things we would have fixed if we were working together…
Do you believe you can go from $XX,XXX to $XXX,XXX? If not, we shouldn’t work together.
So if you don’t think it’s possible, no need to work with me as a CFO.
But if you think it’s possible based on what we’ve talked about today and you want to partner with me to go through that process, I’d love to be there to support you.”
Understand that when you’re focusing on what value you are providing for the client, it is not necessarily tied to the fees you are charging and the time you’re going to invest.
It is absolutely possible that a service can take you a lot of time and provide little to no value to the client.
Some examples of this might be handling Accounts Payable and bill payment where a manual process might be in place or the client may want you to move them into an automated process.
Therefore, conducting a full IT implementation to make that transition can take a substantial amount of time and provide little value to the client.
Similarly, it is absolutely possible to provide a service that is high value to the client, but demands a relatively low time input.
When you think about CFO engagements, perhaps the most valuable thing you can give your client is the knowledge, advice, and analysis that you provide at the end of every month, quarter, or year.
Of course, it is critical that the financials are accurate.
Likewise, it is essential that the client actually understands the financials and they know how to read them.
However, the most important thing you can ever provide your client is a list of actions they need to take to achieve a transformation.
Here are some questions to ask yourself when evaluating your client’s engagement:
1. How do they increase their estimates to get better fees?
2. How do they re-negotiate pricing with existing clients to get more out of the deal?
3. How do they restructure their staffing and payroll to pay more reasonable rates?
4. How can they move people from contractor to W-2 without losing money on payroll tax and other benefits?
5. How do they restructure their sales incentives to be able to make better margins and encourage their salespeople to sell products that don’t just have a high price but have a high profit margin?
In a matter of minutes, all of these questions can be explored simply from seeing the financials.
That is really where some of the most valuable advice comes from — not in reconciling every transaction, processing bills, or invoicing clients, but rather in providing the analysis and knowing what to do.
“The most value lies not in doing things, but rather in knowing what to do.”
There are services all across the spectrum that you will choose from as a CFO and it is important to be intentional about your choice.
You may want to provide some substantive accounting because you want the relationship to have a strong foundation and you don’t want to be judged or evaluated simply based on your advice.
You are actually doing technical work as well, which is expected.
However, you want to make sure that you are constantly trying to move into services that provide more value to the client, but require less economic input from you.
Definition: Economic input is the time and money that it costs you to get the value for the client.
You always want to consider how much time and money it takes you personally as the business owner to get results for your client, be it the time it takes to acquire the information, get the reporting from the client, or give advice to the client.
To learn more about becoming a CFO, check out our CFO Templates below!
Accountants are in the business of helping people better track, manage, grow, and understand their wealth.
Whether for businesses or personal finances, ultimately, this is the role of an accountant.
However, accountants do not always track, manage, and understand their own wealth.
This results in many strange and warped issues that prevent accountants from becoming the best financial version of themselves.
Too often accountants believe that the services they provide are no more than a commodity.
They do not see the value in what they are providing and neither do their clients. Obviously, this makes it hard to sell if you think that what you are doing has no value — it makes you feel like a fraud.
Because let’s be honest — if it’s so valuable, why are you not doing it yourself?
Accountants who have this problem, not being able to see the value in what they offer, universally do not do their own accounting.
Even basic bookkeeping provides massive utility if it is not currently being done — tracking, reviewing, and monitoring expenses and using the data to improve your financial results.
“Looking at every single transaction has an extremely powerful effect on your mind and it allows you to optimize all your behavior around those financial results.”
Once you begin to track your expenses and budget, it begins to have an impact on all of your daily spending.
The same holds true for business owners.
Business owners have to make a lot of decisions around their business every day, if not more so surrounding finances and money.
If they are not looking at even the most basic accounting, they are essentially running their business blind and they are definitely losing money as a result.
“Your entire life and business should optimize around net worth growth — not sales or income. I don’t care about any of that crap. It does not matter how much you make, it only matters how much you keep.”
The first step to increasing your own value and creating your own beliefs around money is to get your financial house in order.
You need to take yourself through the process so you can emotionally feel how challenging it is for your clients.
Here’s how I would recommend going about taking on your own finances:
Step 1: Set a goal of where you want to be at 65
The first step of getting your financial house in order is to set a goal of where you want to be financially at 65 years old. Even though you may not retire at 65, by that age, you should have the choice of whether or not you want to work regardless of your finances.
Step 2: Collect all of your accounts
Once you have a goal of where you want to be financially at 65 years old, compile all of your assets, liabilities, and any other financial accounts you may have.
• Bank accounts
• Investment accounts
• House valuation
• Credit cards
• Student loans, etc.
Step 3: Create a Personal Net Worth Statement and a Personal Income Statement
Once you gather all of your personal financial information, compile your personal income statement and personal net worth statement.
At this point, your entire life and business should optimize around net worth growth.
Sales and income do not matter as much as what you keep and one of the most interesting things is that almost no one in America thinks this way.
Almost everybody is focused on income, credit card debt, student loans, and mortgages, but all that matters at the end of the day is whether your net worth increases.
Ask yourself continually, “Is my net worth increasing?”
If the answer is no, then you need to get busy making changes to your life and business until the answer becomes yes.
As a person who plans to provide accounting services, you must make sure you do not fall into the major incongruent trap that most accountants do.
Once you begin tracking, and improving your own personal finances, you will fully understand and appreciate the value that you can provide to your clients.
You will be able to clearly feel what it is you are selling them and will never feel like a fraud selling services that you yourself do not even use.
As you compile your Personal Income Statement and Statement of Net Worth and monitor them regularly, you will be able to reach your personal net worth targets and provide the same value to your clients and their businesses.
To learn more about how to add value to your clients, head over to AccountingTax.com/Enroll