In much the same way that COVID-19 changed how and where small firms and businesses worked, it has also driven demand for new services. The good news is that firms are well positioned to anticipate and meet client needs as businesses emerge from the pandemic.
Strategic planning help needed
In a CPA.com survey fielded before the pandemic, small businesses were asked: If price were no object, what role would you like your CPA firm to play? The vast majority—about two-thirds—said they would like their firm to provide strategic business consulting services.
Interest in strategic planning help has only grown during the last year. Many companies were forced to make significant changes, and only now do they have the chance to assess the impact and the success of what they’ve done and evaluate how they can improve on processes they’ve adopted. Most service industries, for example, have implemented new service lines and new ways of providing them. These small businesses and many others will:
- Appreciate the value of receiving new key performance indicators and other metrics that can help them update the way they track items such as revenues, spending and return on investment.
- Need help with cash flow. Many businesses emerging from uncertain times are struggling to determine how best to manage cash.
- Have questions about marketing. With many companies’ business models changed, they will want to understand the most effective marketing strategies for the new environment.
- Worry about staffing. With staffing shortages being seen in nearly every industry, clients will welcome metrics or advice that help them understand the effectiveness of their remote policies and their efforts to build a culture and connections among their people.
Leverage your own expertise
How can firms pivot to meet these emerging needs? The most important step is to recognize and take advantage of the knowledge and experience that your firm already has. Clients may be demanding services that go beyond traditional compliance engagements, but firms have the expertise to develop the information they need. In fact, practitioners can probably leverage many models and practices they’ve used in the past or that they’ve developed during the pandemic and apply them to client services.
Begin by identifying key clients and asking yourself a simple question about them: If I were running that business, what metrics would I track? Some KPIs will be the same for every business, but you can customize the information by adding industry-specific metrics as appropriate. Put together a dashboard for each of these clients to pique their interest in strategic planning help and educate them on the value that it can offer.
The more communication touchpoints you have with your client, the easier it will be to open the door to adding strategic planning into a bundle that includes existing compliance services. Clients who see you as a trusted adviser and recognize the value of the information and insights you already offer will be more open to new options.
Implementing these changes will require a strategic shift and a change in business model. Firms should map out where they are and identify the steps they must take to evolve. That may include identifying gaps in the technology and staff you’ll need to support change and perhaps terminating some clients who will no longer be a good fit.
Take the MAP Survey!
Speaking of mapping where you stand, I want to encourage all firms to take the AICPA PCPS/CPA.com 2021 National Management of an Accounting Practice (MAP) Survey, which is open until August 31. The MAP Survey allows practitioners a unique chance to compare their practices to other firms like their own—and to the firms that are similar in size or in the same region. The survey includes questions on the pandemic’s impact and on new service lines. You can review overall results and drill down into various subsets using dynamic filtering options. Don’t miss this great benchmarking option.
Whether it’s a matter of providing new services or gaining deeper insights into your own practice management, there are many opportunities open to CPAs today. Make sure your firm takes advantage!
Carl Peterson, CPA, CGMA is the Association’s Vice President of Small Firm Interests. Have questions for Carl? Contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-252-4618. And be sure to sign up for Carl’s Small Firm Update webcasts. The next one will take place on September 8 at 2:00 to 3:00 PM ET.