Every business has accounting needs, but they need far more than accounting. They might need help with recruitment, or with achieving legal compliance. They might need advice with respect to financial investments. Many of these types of services are already adjacent to accounting.
Accounting firms occupy a crossroad that connects a diverse variety of businesses. They can leverage their position by extending new services that are uniquely appropriate to existing and prospective clientele. But how can you identify the right services to add to your practice?
Thinking about clients
For many of the same reasons why you can’t simply copy another brand’s advertising, it is a mistake to simply copy what similar practices have done. Doing so ignores the unique strengths and weaknesses inherent in each business. Instead, focus on what makes your service offerings unique, which includes careful reflection with respect to current clients.
Have clients asked for services you don’t offer? Do they have specific requests for help with tax compliance? What about growth strategy? Touching base with clients on a regular basis can be an opportunity to collect invaluable feedback for determining the right services to add to your practice.
Thinking about prospects
In the interest of growth, reflecting on the needs of prospective clients can be equally important. If the majority of your clients are local, paying attention to trends affecting businesses and consumers in the area. Have several new businesses opened recently? Have they closed?
There are a variety of ways to stay informed, including joining local groups and conducting your own web research. You can find information about recent trends in the business development office of your city. The Census Bureau, small business administration, and bureau of economic analysis are equally useful tools.
Be sure to remain vigilant about watching for sudden surges in client requests for specific services. Sudden changes in client demographics can create an emergent need. If a local business consultancy recently closed their doors, they may have sent clients into the wind. Trends in client requests can be revealing for these types of profitable opportunities.
Succession planning and business valuation
The U.S. Census reported that approximately 90 percent of American businesses are family owned. As a result, these businesses face a sizable and consistent need for succession planning. Families need an accurate valuation of their business, a plan for transferring shares, and a strategy to reduce tax burdens. Adding succession planning also involves an important human resources element because of the sensitive nature of planning for succession.
Outside of family businesses, business valuation services are an incredibly useful tool for investors who are interested in making an offer on a business. They’re equally valuable for business owners who are interested in selling. Advisory services might include mergers and acquisitions, the preparation of financial data, and general research into the background of a business.
Loan preparation services
How many small businesses end up needing a loan? If your clients are largely small businesses or entrepreneurs, then loan preparation services may present a clear opportunity for growth. Improper preparation contributes to why nearly one-third of small businesses are unable to access needed funding.
Providing loan preparation services can help set clients on the path to a successful application. Services might require the collection of accurate financial statements, credit reports, tax returns, and the creation of a business plan.
Legal compliance and advisory services
Even practices working with broad demographics can discover useful trends among clients. For example, a majority of your clients may be small business owners. For accountants working with these types of businesses, offering help with legal compliance can be a natural extension of wanted services.
Many small businesses do not have the expertise to create the legal framework for a business. A business advisory service might help to complete state and federal paperwork, acquire necessary licenses and permits, or otherwise ensure legal documentation is in order. Determining what type of advisory services to provide will require a closer look at your current clients.
Helping your clients thrive
Social media has had a drastic impact on consumer norms. People expect responses to their questions quickly. One of the best ways to help these clients is with self-service portals, allowing them to find the answer to their questions without having to wait for business hours.
Client Accounting Services can make bookkeeping more accessible and transparent, so accountants can provide increasingly better solutions to their clients. If your practice has any interest in keeping pace with technology, then it’s worthwhile to learn more about these kind of client solutions.
Without actively seeking opportunities for growth, an accounting practice can become typecast as offering specialized technical advice. Your practice becomes the place clients turn for tax help or general accounting, and then forget about for the remainder of the year.
The more value an accounting practice offers its clients, the more value those clients will bring to the practice. On a personal level, that’s reflected in opportunities to create stronger relationships with clients. On a professional level, it means being able move beyond offering accountancy and towards becoming a business partner.
Liz Herbig is a marketing manager for Sage Accountant Solutions and loves building marketing programs to help accounting professionals grow their practices. Liz recently relocated from Atlanta to Southern California and enjoys hiking, biking, and exploring her new home.