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The Crumbling House of Cards

Lies CPAs tell themselves. 

Now the title may sound a bit dramatic, but it’s not as far-fetched as you’d think. 

Each time a new client walks through your door (or lights up your inbox), it’s a new opportunity to practice what you preach at your firm. 

Do you regularly tell clients to use tools to manage their businesses? Great! Do you use these tools yourself?... Maybe not always.  And this is the problem many CPAs are facing today. 

Sure, we’re all busy and we’re all trying to stay afloat in the midst of a pandemic. We get it more than anyone that your business should be your number one priority. But if you don’t implement these tools to manage your own business, your business may not be around long enough for more clients to come calling. 

There are a number of “lies” that CPAs and Firm owners seem to tell themselves each year that contribute to this crumbling house of cards. 

In this article, we’ll outline these common misconceptions and what you can do about them. 

So, without further ado, here are the lies CPAs tell themselves: 

  1. Tax season means everything else gets put on hold 
  2. You need to undercharge to attract clients
  3. Offering advisory services means less freedom
  4. You need to provide extra value for free
  5. Accountants must be conservative (in their personalities and their prices)

And here is why they are lies/what to do about it: 

  1. Tax season means everything else gets put on hold 

Sure, tax season is busy, but it doesn’t have to take over your life or wreak havoc on your family obligations for 10+ weeks.

Many accountants and firms just accept this as a way of life. In fact, accountants have been let go for taking time off during tax season. Now we’re not saying this is how you run your business, but if you just accept this as a way of life during tax season, it’s easy to let it completely engulf your firm.

Instead of panicking and relying on clients during tax season to bankroll your entire year, start communicating more openly with your clients about when to get started on this stuff to make tax season easier on them. 

Get a newsletter going and send valuable information directly to your clients. Heck - call all your clients from last year’s tax season months in advance to make sure they’re ready. Offer discounted rates to those who come to you early and advise people who can wait to do just that. It’s better for their cash flow anyway.  

You can even tell your clients that you will prioritize people who are totally prepared with well-organized documents, receipts, and are ready to get going. This will be an extra incentive for them to come prepared and make your job easy. 

Your firm doesn’t need to be a hero during tax season. Bragging about how much you’re working is quickly becoming very uncool and unhealthy. We don’t recommend it! 

  1. You need to undercharge to attract clients

Another lie. If clients are going to walk away over your prices (and you do good work) they are not the clients you want anyway. 

If your price clearly communicates the value you offer, and you are competitive with the firms in the surrounding area, you don’t need to worry about clients walking over a few dollars.

They need to get this work done, and you spent years learning the ins and outs of being a CPA. Have faith that people are willing to pay for your expertise, and act as an expert. 

This is especially true when it comes to cash flow advisory services where you can double, sometimes triple, your rates. People value your input because you are an expert in your field, and they are not skilled with accounting or forecasting. 

Just because something is easy or comes naturally to you does not mean there is not an inherent value in your skills that you can provide to others. Because these skills will not come easy to so many business owners and entrepreneurs means that you provide extreme value to those people and they are willing to pay for your time.  

  1. Offering advisory services means less freedom

Again, simply not true. 

Many CPAs think that once they open up to advisory/consulting it means that their clients will be on the phone with them or constantly emailing. And while the volume of business will certainly increase with another service offering, it will increase proportionally to the amount you’re charging for these new services. 

Many clients just want to have some extra insight into their business’s health via finances and financial forecasting. With all the online tools available today, this is very easy to do. Services like Dryrun actually provide a cloud-based collaborative platform that integrates with common accounting software, so clients can see and run forecasts themselves and may just give you a 30-minute call for some advice (which you can charge for, by the way). 

The fact of the matter is that task-based accounting like payroll, bookkeeping, invoicing, etc is quickly becoming eclipsed by CPAs who offer insights based on cash flow, and businesses want to know what to do next. 

To be sure clients aren’t taking advantage, maybe offer a 15-minute consult for free and then explain rates for advisory services at the end of this call so they know they’ll be charged in the future.

  1. You need to provide extra value for free

This lie is quite similar to #3 in that many accountants truly want to help their clients with their businesses. It’s easy for clients to ask a simple question and it might be easy for you to provide an answer, but you need to know when to draw the line between an administrative or common question and a client taking advantage of your expertise. 

Of course, they may not intend to take advantage, but if you sense that the conversations are becoming too long or you are providing too much expertise for the service level they have purchased, you can say something along the lines of, “Great question, these answers actually fall into my advisory services so we can make an advisory appointment where you can ask all the questions you want for 30 minutes if that works for you?”

Pro tip: don’t offer freebies or discounts to your service when people are willing to pay full price. The clients that expect discounts are not your friends and you can definitely do without them. 

Of course, it’s at your discretion and if you really want to help out a friend or family member, go for it, but remember this is a donation of your time and indirectly, money. 

  1. Accountants must be conservative (in their personalities and their prices)

We’ve heard it time and time again that all accountants are introverts that just crunch numbers and stare at a computer all day. 

And while you may absolutely enjoy figuring out the puzzles that come from others’ finances, it doesn’t mean you don’t have a personality! 

Of course, some clients don’t want to chit-chat with their accountant all day, which is fine. But when you encounter a client who does want to chat, it doesn’t hurt to oblige them. Selling services, after all, is all about building relationships, and they may just have some high-quality referrals to bring you if they like you as a person. 

You should also be comfortable charging what you’re worth. While a job may only take you an hour, it’s because you’ve spent hundreds of hours practicing and studying to refine your skills. Your clients are paying for those years of expertise, not just an hourly rate. 

If this value is clearly communicated to your clients, you can expect them to be more than happy to pay for what your services are worth.Visit our partner page at www.Dryrun.com/partners/ for more details.

See if Dryrun is a fit for you.