CPA firms look to new services in 2016

Adding new client services will be many accounting firm’s top innovation priority this year, according to the newly-published Innovation in Public Accounting Survey. Nearly all firms responding say they want stickier relationships with clients and prospects and hope to do so by adding new services. Moreover, those firms, which already have moved to cloud-based technology (many with 100 staffers or more), report feeling great urgency to keep moving the innovation/value-add needle forward.

The 409 firms responding to the survey divided neatly into the following two categories:

– Early Majority (or early adopters) — representing 178 firms; and

– General responders — representing 231 firms. defines Early Majority firms as those which either have launched a cloud-based accounting practice or made advancements in adding client advisory services. Many Early Majority firms skewed larger (20% were firms with 100 or more staffers), while only 10% of the General category respondents were at firms with 100+ staff.

Adding new service is 2016’s BIG deal

Firms in both categories listed “developing new services” as their top priority in 2016. “The good news,” says Amy Radin, a strategic marketing consultant who designed the survey and presented it at the AICPA’s January 2016 Digital CPA Conference, “is that a solid majority of CPA firms realize they have to change to stay relevant.”

However, she notes, those respondents tend to be from the Early Majority category. A sizeable minority of General category CPA firms say they think they can postpone making changes or adding services for up to five years, if they do it at all. That’s a mistake, Radin predicts. “Beware,” she says, “clients aren’t likely to be that patient.”

What’s bottle-necking innovation?

Time and talent issues were reported as the biggest barriers to innovation. Early Majority respondents may be more likely to have a strategy in place, but struggle to work out the processes necessary to execute that strategy. General respondents report they struggle with strategy, possibly because they are not as far along in their innovation processes.

Either way, only a small number of firms worry about keeping up with their competition. Few feel pressed to respond to a “competitor who is outpacing us.” Nor do they seem concerned that tomorrow’s competitor, invisible today, might be “in their face” tomorrow. The concern is that by not paying attention to their markets and changing client expectations, these firms may become victims of surprise themselves.

Be prepared. NOT surprised.

An off-quoted reason many clients change firms is the unexpected gift of a year-end surprise, or an “oops” uncovered when they review their tax returns to discover they suddenly seem to owe the IRS a sizeable chunk.

Clients hate surprises, and so should you! Be prepared. Even when you are knee deep in tax season, think ahead. What products or services could you be introducing to your clients post March or April 15th that would improve the way they do business? Be a hero! Solidify your relationships.

That’s where value-added offerings like Knowify’s powerful project management and automation tools ensure your clients operate and manage their businesses more efficiently. And efficient clients are happy clients — happy with their business ops and happy with you. Deliver more bang for your clients’ buck. Knowify, which conveniently integrates smoothly with QuickBooks and other accounting packages, brings more value to you and to your advisor/client relationship.

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