TFYW#056: Three Tools to Eliminate Firm Constraints

Oct 6, 2023

This week, I want to dive into the tech that removes your firm’s biggest constraints.

Key Tech for Growth

Service delivery accounting tech gets all the attention.

Don’t get me wrong, service delivery tech is essential, but it won’t help you scale your firm.

The tech we use is similar to the skills we develop.

Most people start their firms because they have technical skills. Those technical skills are fundamental and will get you to a certain level of revenue, but to comfortably and sustainably get beyond those revenue levels, we need different skills.

The same goes for tech.

The Xeros, Gustos and ProConnects of the world are essential for service delivery but will only get you to certain revenue levels. We need to leverage new tech that is not directly related to accounting.

Disclaimer: Everything past this point depends on you having the basic skills and tech in place. 

The three key pieces of tech you need to hit that next level of growth and revenue are:

  1. Client Relationship Manager (CRM)
  2. Practice Management (PM)
  3. Proposal and Onboarding

 

If you don’t remember anything else from this week’s newsletter, remember this:

 

The major constraints for any growing firm come from not effectively using CRM, PM and Proposal + Onboarding tools.

 

CRM → Marketing Constraints

A pipeline of good clients is the biggest constraint for growing a firm.

Notice I said, good clients.

Most firms can find ample clients; however, many are low-value clients. But since many firms don’t have a predictable flow of good clients, we accommodate the low-value, high-need clients, normalize inconsistent and low margins, and build a firm around that.

The key tool for a client pipeline is a CRM, which allows you to attract, nurture and convert good clients.

When I started my firm, I didn’t grasp the idea of a pipeline.

A pipeline is a series of curated steps that a person takes to become a client.

Without a pipeline, when I spoke with a prospect, it was usually the first time they’d met or heard from me. Without putting the prospects through a few steps before the call, I ran into one major issue:

Most of the prospects were not my ideal client avatar.

This led to me modifying my standard services for each new prospect. I would change my offer so more prospects would say yes. I ended up doing a lot of different things with unpredictable profit margins.

Your CRM is part of the marketing strategy to find and nurture ideal clients and get in front of them repeatedly.

Connections and contacts enter your CRM via lead magnets and other valuable marketing collateral. In the CRM, prospects will be nurtured through niche content and, where you can track their progress.

Creating content is important, but getting those borrowed audiences (social media followers) into your own email list is the only way to ensure you can speak to them consistently.

It is never too early to get started with a CRM. And a spreadsheet is not going to cut it.

I use Active Campaign. MailChimp (owned by Intuit) is a good low-cost option, and there is a free tier of Hubspot.

Ensure that your CRM can integrate with other tools so you can connect your opt-in forms, lead magnet forms and other funnel entry points easily.

 

PM → Operation Constraints

The next constraint is efficient service delivery once you have a good client pipeline.

A good practice management tool is absolutely required for optimizing service delivery.

If you want a successful global and remote team, clear communication + expectations, and visibility are your priorities.

I have seen firms that manage and delegate work based on timesheets, and some don’t bother with a PM tool. They manage time entries instead of work performed.

It is a reactive way of managing service delivery.

They’re stuck optimizing for hours, instead of completed tasks and projects. Old project time budgets establish the speed of future work.

Timesheets are one of the biggest growth barriers of accounting firms not because they kill morale, but because they don’t identify where your service delivery constraints are located.

A PM tool offers firm leaders and managers insight into how steps in an engagement are working. Detailed tasks and subtasks allow you to see where engagements are and where you need to support the team in real time.

If your service delivery sucks, there are individual components that are holding everything else up. Your engagement can only move as fast as your slowest step.

Getting granular with the engagement steps (tasks, tech + team members) is the only way to identify and remove constraints.

Good Practice management tools are Karbon, Clickup and Asana.

Now, the PM tool alone will not magically remove the constraints, but detailed instructions and training, oversight and post-engagement follow-ups are all required.

That may sound like a lot of stuff to do, but when you leverage a

Practice Management tool, iterating and improving happens quickly.

 

Proposal Apps → Sales + Onboarding Constraints

Now that you have a good client pipeline and efficient service delivery, you want to remove the constraint of your sales and onboarding sequence.

Sales

You may hate sales, but refining your process and leveraging a good proposal app will increase the value of engagements your prospects accept.

Remember that a proposal app doesn’t replace a good discovery call and script but supplements the process.

A proposal app can present three service tiers so the client doesn’t decide between Yes or No but Less or More.

Tiers should progressively offer more service value, not service volume, and clearly highlight the distinction between the impacts it will make on the client.

Quick example

  •  Tier One: Maintenance – do what is required: Think compliance and bookkeeping
  •  Tier Two: Improve – improve processes to maximize profitability for existing revenue levels: Think expense tracking and variance analysis
  •  Tier Three: Transform – Measure and increase revenue generation: Think marketing ROI, segment + product tracking and strategic management.

I like Ignition, Proposify or Quotient for a good multi-tiered proposal tool.

 

These tools allow you to leverage pricing psychology in how you present value + pricing:

A thoughtful pricing and proposal process removes the constraint of having to stack more clients to increase revenue – It maximizes how much value you can deliver to each client.

Onboarding

Onboarding has long been overlooked by accountants. Not only has this historically been painful for clients, but massive amounts of firm time and resources are tied up in onboarding.

The key onboarding steps include:

1. Take payment or payment information so you’re not sending invoices and follow-up emails after the engagement is complete.

The above-mentioned proposal apps have payment steps built into them, so you can request full payment, take deposits, or take Credit Card/ACH/Banking information beforehand.

2. Share onboarding information via an email series. Above all things, proactive communication is what clients judge us on the most.

You can use the above-mentioned CRMs to create email sequences to send 2 -3 introductory emails outlining the steps in the onboarding process, timeline expectations, and a short FAQ section.

For harder-to-understand ideas or client tasks, short video links can be added to these emails to improve the experience.

3. Collect important information via secure web forms. Leave the print and sign PDF documents behind. Webform collects client data and sends it to different apps quickly and accurately.

Easy-to-use web forms include Typeform or Jotform. Connecting these tools to your other firm tools eliminates redundant data entry.

Summary

To cut through the details above, most firm constraints have to be solved in this order:

  1. More good clients → Triggers growth
  2. Better team management + efficient service delivery → Enables growth
  3. More value offered to clients → Accelerates growth
  4. Reduce admin time + improve client experience → Retains + Maximizes growth

Build The Firm You Want.

Mark

P.S. Email Mark@FirmNexus.com with something that you want me to talk about. I’ll add it to the list. 

  1. Get tips and learn more about me on LinkedIn.
  2. Check out my Guides for Growth and Past Newsletters
  3. Book a Free Automation Audit Strategy Call ($500 Value)
About the Newsletter

Every Friday, 900+ accountants and firm owners get tips and tactics to build better firms that work for their lifestyle.

Connect with me
Recent Issues: