Here’s the business plan at way too many professional service firms these days:
(1) Take on as many clients as possible. (2) Never fire any of them. (3) Do anything they want by adding service after service after service. (4) Offer competitive rates, then cram in as many billable hours as possible. (4) Work yourself to the point of exhaustion.
If that’s your business model, congratulations: You’re not doing anything that differentiates you from your competition. Seriously. You look like every other CPA firm on the planet.
Check that: You don’t look like Jason Blumer’s firm.
Blumer – a major disruptor in the profession and chief innovation officer with Blumer CPAs in Greenville, S.C. – unleashed his vision for CPA success at the AICPA’s annual Practitioners’ Symposium and Tech+ Conference, and it’s all about doing less.
He’s not talking about less work, mind you. He’s talking about more selective work. He’s talking about adding value through scarcity.
Here’s a taste of how it works:
- Do less. Think more. “Too often CPAs see themselves as executors when their greatest strengths may lie in strategy and vision,” Blumer said. “Becoming strategic means moving from fear to courage, from ‘do’ to ‘think.'” And for all of you CEOs out there, remember this: Your role is not to execute. It’s to create and innovate.
- Limit the number of clients you serve by finding your niche. A couple of important things happen here: First, you become an expert in your niche. That increases your value and lets you charge more for your services. And it creates an air of exclusivity. That in itself increases your value. “We do not accept any clients outside of our niche,” Blumer said. “We say ‘no’ way more than we say ‘yes.'”
- Limit your speed of sales and customer selection: Don’t just take anyone as a client. Accept only clients who align well with your firm’s vision and strategy. “When we let the wrong people in, they poison the firm,” Blumer said. “Better clients mean better alignment with the firm.”
- Limit your clients’ access to firm owners or experts. If they want access to the CEO’s expertise, they’ll pay for it. If they want access to general consultative services, they’ll meet with your team’s resident experts.
Do you see where Blumer is going here? It’s all about adding value – and the price people will pay for access to that value. “Controlling your price is your greatest strength,” Blumer said. Doing that means knowing what value you add to your clients’ lives … and that means knowing your clients.
You don’t add value by doing everything that everyone else is doing. Your expertise is your differentiator. You can’t be all things to all people, but you can be tremendously valuable to your clients by doing one or two things really, really well. And here’s the great thing:
You can charge more for that expertise.
It reminds me of something best-selling author Daniel Burrus told me recently:
“Before I had access to data and information, I needed (CPAs) to give it to me,” Burrus said. “Now, we’re heading toward real-time accounting and auditing. When we get to that point, your value shifts to knowledge and wisdom. I need consultative value from you – and by the way, I’ll pay more for that.
“I need you, but I don’t need the old you. I need a new you who understands the transformation I’m going through as your customer. If you don’t, you’re out of touch.”
There’s a social aspect to all of this, too. The Social Era has fundamentally changed the way we do business. It’s no longer about selling our products. It’s about solving your problems. In many cases, that means scaling back what we do. Your clients don’t need everything to solve their problems – they might just need this one thing. If we can do that one thing for them really well, they’ll find that valuable and pay us accordingly.
Do more by doing less. Q.E.D.
How are you adding value to your clients in these turbulent times?