How to Determine What the Client Needs

by Andrew Argue in Growing A Firm Comments (0)

When a client comes on to work with us, sometimes they only want to do taxes, and other times they only want to do accounting. 

But what I think makes the most sense based on what I’ve seen for people that are doing tax and accounting, is to have a mix of services.

Tax Planning.

CFO Services.

Wealth Management.

Commissionable Referrals. 

Now, not every client will need all of these.

But when you look at all of these services, you want to try to add as many of them to as many clients as possible. 

Instead of having to try to figure out if the client just needs Tax Planning or just needs CFO Services.

Now, if you are offering mixed services, my recommendation is to start off with Tax Planning and then offer to upgrade them into CFO services. 

And then in that Tax Plan, you could also offer them Tax Prep and Financial Services, & consider doing the Quarterly. 

And the CFO services are really going to determine whether it’s on the monthly accounting level, the controller level, the CFO level, etc. 

And then also commissionable referrals (other things that we can refer to them and take a commission on). 

The people that do the best don’t think about what they want to do.

They think about WHAT THE CLIENT NEEDS.

And you build what the client needs. 

Now, if you want to just do CFO services, or you just want to do tax work, that’s totally fine.

But if you are someone who wants to build the best thing for the client, and who wants to maximize your value to the client and the amount you are charging per client…

I would recommend offering services in the order I mentioned above. 

And if you have a CFO services opportunity first, I would ask the client if it is possible to do the tax plan before the CFO services. 

There will be some situations where you cannot do the tax plan first. 

And that’s totally fine.

But don’t assume that you have to decide between tax work or CFO services. 

Because you can offer both in your business.

And you should have both of them as options to do first…

But have a preferred flow. 

So ideally I prefer to do tax and then CFO.

Now if something comes along where a client needs the CFO side first…

Go for it.

And crush it for them.

That’s the kind of mentality you should have rather than thinking that you need to make a decision on one or the other.

Want to learn more about how you can start to offer Tax Planning to prospects & current clients?

Get our FREE 90 Page Tax Planning Sales Script HERE!

Simply register your free account with us and you will have immediate access to your tax planning training portal.

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Brick & Mortar or Virtual Office? Best Setup For An Accounting Firm

by Andrew Argue in Growing A Firm Comments (0)

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

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Who are the RIGHT Clients for your Business?

by Andrew Argue in Growing A Firm Comments (0)

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.

Ready to learn more about picking a niche & getting the RIGHT clients? Get started for FREE here: AccountingTax.com/TheRightClients

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CFO Services for $0 Profit Companies

by Andrew Argue in Growing A Firm Comments (0)

Here is the situation…

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.”

Interested in learning more about how to offer CFO services to different types of prospects? Check this out: AccountingTax.com/CFO-Services

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Are You Providing Value To Your Client? Or Just Your Time….

by Andrew Argue in Growing A Firm Comments (0)

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!

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When Should You Ask For Payment On A Tax Plan?

by Andrew Argue in Growing A Firm Comments (0)

Here is how to protect yourself and make sure you get paid when you prepare a Tax Plan. 

I always recommend that you ask for 100% payment upfront. 

But if you feel that is too aggressive, you can ask for 50% now and 50% in 30 days. 

However, it is CRITICAL that if you take the 50% upfront and 50% in 30 days…

You make sure that you present the plan in week 5 to week 6. 

THAT’S THE KEY. 

That way you can guarantee you’re going to get paid IN FULL first. 

And that way if you don’t get paid on the final 50%, then you don’t deliver the plan. 

NEVER do the work and present the plan without getting paid.

They will just avoid you and you may never see that money!  

Also, you should have their credit card information on file, particularly when it’s a one-time plan or single payment. 

However, if it’s a recurring payment plan, you need to get their ACH information. 

Finally, it is very important to NEVER email them the plan.

Make sure to get on the phone with them because that’s also an upsell opportunity for implementation or other services.

Interested in learning more about transiting from tax prep to tax planning & implementation?

Then you need to head to this link here: AccountingTax.com/Upfront

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Are you Pricing your CFO & Monthly Accounting Engagements Correctly?

by Andrew Argue in Growing A Firm Comments (0)

Want to know the biggest killer of any monthly accounting or CFO work?

After speaking with over 7,000 accountants, I’ve seen the area where these engagements go south and it all boils down to 1 word…

Scope.

Resentment for the client starts to build when the accountant begins to realize the amount of work and effort that goes into the engagement that is eating away at the profits…

And even worse…

When they start to lose money.

So how do we fix this mess?

A couple of options I’ve seen successfully work for firm owners includes either:

1. Restructuring the Old Engagements…

…and/or…

2. Sell in New Clients with the Correct Pricing & Scope

If you move forward with option 2, you are able to get an understanding of how the engagement is progressing in order to determine if you can go back to your old engagements and restructure the pricing/scope.

But how do you go about identifying the right pricing structure for these types of engagements?

I define the scope of accounting & CFO services into 4 different tiers:

Tier 1: Sub-account Management (AR, AP, Payroll, Inventory, Fixed Assets, Cash, etc.)

Tier 2: Monthly Accounting (Bank Recs and the Month-End Close)

Tier 3: Controller Services (Complex Accounting, Multiple Entity Structure, Consolidations, Accrual Accounting, etc.)

Tier 4: Chief Financial Officer (Forward-Looking statements, Monthly Financial Review Calls, Financial Dashboards, etc.)

Unfortunately, when talking to most accountants, all 4 tiers are LUMPED together into 1 low price ranging from $100-$300/mo.

When the LOW & LUMPY priced clients start reaching out to those accountants, the resentment continues to build. And the longer you engage with questions and move out of scope, the expenses associated with the engagement continue to rise.

So I want to know…

What’s the bare minimum you could offer to get the client to pay xxx?

Or…

What are the 20% of activities that make up 80% of the value you offer to your clients?

Comment below ↓↓↓

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From Now Until You Retire, What Will Be Your Biggest Annual Revenue?

by Andrew Argue in Growing A Firm Comments (0)

Here’s the thing….

There is no wrong answer to this.

But it’s a VERY important question that needs to be answered…

“From now until you retire, what will be the biggest annual revenue you plan on hitting?”

If you know your answer already, go ahead and comment it below!

The reason why this question is so important has to do with INTENTION.

If you do not identify a number, then you are not even looking for the things that relate to that number.

The things that may even help you in achieving your revenue goal.

Here’s an example.

If you have 3 baby juniors (i.e. kids)…

And you head to the mall, you may tend to notice all of the kid-related stores. Teddy bears, Legos, the Disney store, etc.

However, if you are walking into that same mall, and you are an entrepreneur…

Your focus may be instead on the different businesses that are operating and which stores are no longer in business.

This is important to recognize because…

If your life isn’t built around a CERTAIN SET OF OBJECTIVES…

Even if the answers to your questions are sitting right in front of your face…

You’re going to miss them.

The same entrepreneur that wants to do $1M on their practice vs $10M vs $100M vs $1B…

Will be able to recognize that there are individuals and companies performing at each of those levels.

And it is in fact, possible to hit those goals.

That’s why it’s so important to get this question answered.

Because at the end of the day…

“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.” –Zig Ziglar

So I want to ask you again…

From now until you retire, what will be the biggest annual revenue you plan on hitting?

Comment your response below!

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How to turn a $650 Schedule C into a $12,000 tax client (I didn’t believe it either)…

by Andrew Argue in Growing A Firm Comments (0)

But it’s true.

And the problem is your tax prep fees are what we call LOW & LUMPY.

Low price and lots of difference services LUMPED together like these:

-Free Tax Assessment
-Preparation
-Planning
-Implementation of Planning Strategies
-Quarterly Estimates
-All tax support questions for 12 months

And the truth is, most preparers are doing those (and not well) because their prices are so low, that they simply can’t get to it.That stops TODAY.

And here’s how we do it…

1. Make a list
-Business Returns
-Schedule Cs
-Monthly Accounting Clients (not currently on tax prep)
-Sort by revenue / income

2. Reach out to them (via text, email, Facebook message, or a phone call)
-At least the top 25% by income

3. Provide more VALUE (tax planning, new return, accounting side..)
-Mid year check-in
-Update on the business this year and get…2019 & 2020 projections, 2019 estimated savings, 2020 estimated savings + every year going forward
-Make them an offer using a tax planning sales script (if possible)
-Price each of the services separately <– no more lumpy pricing!

That’s how Christina charged $9,000 for tax planning, then $3,000 for tax prep for a client that paid $650 the year before! And that didn’t even include implementation….

4. If no offer, let them know requests lists and updates will come out in January

5. Send those that didn’t take planning a price increase letter
-If it’s a <$700 business… Double the fees
-If it’s a <$400 individual… Double the fees

6. Selling the stand alone 1040 returns (NOT Schedule C) before tax season
(if it’s over $50k revenue)

And if you do that, you’ll be like Melanie:

“This year we double fees on tax prep because I finally got it, thanks to Andrew. We lost 30% of our clients, but we increased our revenue by 40%. Thanks for giving me the courage to finally see my value.”

If you want the EXACT email script + tax planning script to upsell prep clients into $50,000-$30,000 engagements…

Go to AccountingTax.com/enroll and download the scripts instantly!

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“It’s Just A Tax Return”

by Andrew Argue in Growing A Firm Comments (0)

When on a sales consultation, have you ever had the following objection come up?…

“Well, this all sounds great but I need to talk to a couple of references first.”

For my client Eric, this is exactly what happened on his call.

He decided to grant the references to the prospect in hopes of closing the deal.

To give you a little bit of background on Eric, he is a successful accounting & tax firm owner and decided to pitch this prospect, let’s call her “Sarah”, on tax planning.

Eric utilized an AccountingTax.com sales presentation to help walk Sarah through the sales consultation and got to a point where Sarah just wanted to have a few references and do a bit more research.

Now most accountants ARE NOT doing Tax Planning.

When you offer tax planning, we typically recommend to our clients that they charge $2500 – $9800 for the very first engagement.

The Tax Plan is essentially educating the client on the specific tax strategies the client, i.e. Sarah, can implement in their business and life in order to save money on taxes.

At this point, you are not actually doing the tax implementation of the plan or the tax prep, you’re just doing the initial educational component by helping small business owners pay less in taxes.

What’s interesting is…

When you go through and you offer the tax plan, specifically following our sales scripts and sales decks…

And the client, wants to talk to someone else…

They are probably going to encounter another accountant who is going to charge $650 bucks for just the tax preparation service.

And so for Eric, this is exactly what happened.

Sarah went to speak to two other accountants.

A few days later, Sarah comes back around and reaches out to Eric.

And this is what happened….

When reading through this, I find it so indicative of the struggle that most accountants experience.

It doesn’t have much to do with offering tax prep vs planning, accounting vs CFO services…

Instead, it really boils down to the service provider trying to help clients at a high level and do something special for those small business owners…

Verses the accountants who are just trying to go through the typical motions.

Part of my journey is to help people who are Accountants, CPAs, EAs, Tax Preparers, Etc, basically figure out different ways to…

  • Provide more value to clients
  • Reprice existing engagements
  • Add higher level services
  • Get appointments with the right types of potential clients
  • Plus more….

And my team and I want to do whatever it takes to support you on your journey to becoming a high level, valued advisor. Not just a low level parakeet paid to peck the keyboard.

With that being said, I’ve decided to offer you an incredible free resource that will help transition you from a tax preparer to a tax planner and start landing fees between $2500-$9800!

The resource is called the 90-page Tax Planning Sales Script and you can access it today by heading over to AccountingTax.com/Enroll.

And it’s not only the PDF sales script, that you are getting…

You will also have . access to:

1. A Google Doc version of the sales script so that you can tailor . it to your firm’s brand & offerings

2. 4+ hours of recorded training by Andrew Argue & James Rainwater, who is an AccountingTax.com Expert Tax Instructor

3. Business Entity Optimizer and step by step training

4. Plus a walkthrough of the Tax Savings Estimator

If you are ready to get started, head over to AccountingTax.com/Enroll

See you on the training!

-Andrew

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