With Roger Knecht
Episode 121 of The Unique CPA features Roger Knecht sharing with Randy the key aspects of developing an accounting firm. Roger is President of Universal Accounting Center, a postsecondary school for accounting professionals, and the UAC has developed training programs that include identifying core service offerings, sales and marketing methods, pricing models, and providing value-added advisory services to help businesses grow and increase profits.
Today, our guest is Roger Knecht. I had the pleasure of being on Roger’s podcast a few times and had a great time. But Roger is president of Universal Accounting Center, where he helps professionals have a premier accounting firm, which we’ll be talking about quite a bit today, I assume. He’s also, as I mentioned, host of his own podcast, the Building the Premier Accounting Firm podcast. Roger, welcome to The Unique CPA.
It’s wonderful to be here. Thanks for the invite.
Yeah, and the other thing I didn’t say at the beginning, but I share that as Roger has one of the best voices you’ll ever hear on radio or podcasts. So you’re going to enjoy, if nothing else, just listening to Rogers speak today for his voice.
Love it. Thank you, I appreciate that.
No problem. So I gave you just a quick intro on Universal Accounting. Why don’t you expand on that a little bit, just in general, what is it and what do you do, and then we’ll get into some of the key things that you’re concentrating on these days.
Happy to. So first of all, Universal Accounting Center is a postsecondary school for accounting professionals. So basically, since 1979, we’ve been offering training programs, to help accounting professionals do a variety of things within their career. So mostly, we’re working with individuals that are right now wanting to start and build their accounting business, we have quite a few programs for the owners of the firm, as well as training their staff. So that’s where we’re finding a lot of our work right now. But we do work with skill enhancement for individuals that want job placement assistants that are trying to improve their careers, find better employment. So as a school, we’re obviously offering a variety of curriculum to basically address the specific needs that people have in the accounting space.
Alright, awesome. Or are there any specific needs or specific topics that you’re spending a lot of time on these days to help out? I know you and I talked about one of them—it’s three core services that you talk about firms needing to install, I assume?
Yeah, one of the things that’s really become prevalent in the conversations I’m having is what is the “premier accounting firm?” And what is it that everyone’s trying to build? Now, before I go further, obviously, every business is unique to itself. Every business owner has its own goals, has what they’re trying to do. But the core services that a business should expect, as a client of an accounting firm, are these three things: bookkeeping, and accounting services, tax planning, and preparation of services, CFO and advisory services. Those three are the core that any business is expecting of an accounting professional. Of those three services, a bookkeeping service, an accounting firm, and a tax business, they all get to decide what they’re ultimately going to be offering their client. But if you’re going to grow your firm and have on staff those quality skills, what your client is hoping to receive and ultimately expects, in my opinion, is that of bookkeeping, accounting, tax preparation, tax planning, CFO and advisory. And so those six elements make up those three core services.
And then so when you go consult, educate work with firms, what’s the program you put in place to make sure they have these or in,crease these or make these better? Is there a specific KPIs or anything that you’re trying to hit with this?
Yeah, actually, what we do is we start with a question. And the question is essentially, what do they, as the owner of their firm, love and want to offer their clients. We begin there, we essentially want to start with what’s their passion, what are their skills, what are the deliverables they expect, that their clients can expect from them. But more importantly, it’s where do they feel they can make a difference for their clients. And once we have that foundation, it could simply be bookkeeping services, literally could just be bookkeeping services and everything else through outsource and refer. And that’s totally fine. But what we ultimately find is, once they’ve identified their core, what they do is then build from there. Because ultimately, what they’re going to find is in a geometric growth model, they’re going to identify over the years, additional services that they can logically offer their clients that their clients would be willing to pay, see value in, and they would add, in addition, add those services to the core offering that they’re providing.
So just to give an example, since I’ve already said bookkeeping, it’s not uncommon to have a conversation with a bookkeeping professional that ultimately decides that now, their clients would benefit from accounting-related services, or maybe they’ll complement their bookkeeping business with tax preparation services. And that evolution is natural. And so you see over the course of years, whether they’re hiring individuals with those skill sets, or as the owner choosing to actually acquire those abilities, they’re then adding to that suite of services, these additional things, and then in time they start to offer up those six services to three, four of them.
Okay, so you identify, here are all the services, we do not have to, if let’s say we’re starting our firm, we do not have to be all six services are all three plus a subset of each immediately. Let’s look at the ones where maybe we have the most passion, where we have the biggest, the best skill set, and let’s install that as the first offering. Is that what we’re talking about?
Exactly. And I think what that does is it eliminates a lot of the distractions. It’s helpful to say, “I don’t do.” It’s appropriate to tell a client, “I have an associate, someone else that I work with that provides that service.” There’s no harm in saying to the client, I’m not everything to everyone. And so what we’re trying to help the business owner first identify is what is that they’re passionate about, as you said, and more importantly, what is it that they want to be doing for their clients. And in this example, we’re obviously talking about bookkeeping services. And that’s where they where they start. So once we’ve established that, I think it’s very clear what we can do to then enhance that offering. We want to make sure that that is complete before moving on to the next thing.
Alright. And so you touched on a couple of things that are key to me that I really like talking about is that passion that you said, that service that you’re offering, that skill set that you’re good at. And then the outsourcing, you don’t have to be an expert at everything, and defining what your services are. I think too often people go in, it’s just like, “Okay, we’re gonna be everything to everybody.” And that is a, I honestly did that when I started my firm, how many years ago now? Holy cow, again, 30 something years ago, 32 years ago, oh, man, where it was just when I started was like, well, yeah, we were a CPA firm. Yeah. And we were taking every client that said, yes, it didn’t matter. The industry didn’t matter, the service. So I was dealing with, you know, a fast food restaurant, and I was dealing with construction, I was doing accounting, I was doing tax, we were doing payroll, I was dealing with a dental office, a hair salon. And for me, it was just they all needed tax and accounting. But in reality, I wasn’t an expert at all those different types of offerings. So I think that’s something I would assume that you agree that it’s best to concentrate on where you have strengths and passions.
Exactly. And I think your title explains that. The Unique CPA isn’t unique in the sense that they’re doing something that’s a niche or something. What it could be is just that you’re passionate about a specific service that you’re providing your clientele. Now one of the things that I would add to that is, as a CPA, you have the luxury of obviously offering a suite of services that can all benefit the client, but what we’re needing to do is look at it through the lens of the client, what is it they understand they’re paying for? What is their understanding they can expect from us? And I feel as an accounting profession, we do a horrible job, a disservice, to not only ourselves, but to our clients. When we speak of such things as bookkeeping, accounting, what is the difference? What is the thing that the client is paying for and can expect when it comes to tax preparation? How’s that different from tax planning? When we talked about CFO services, there’s a lot of people out there that say they do fractional CFO, part time CFO, the CFO related services, how’s that different than traditional business coaching or advisory work? And do you provide that above and beyond the CFO related services? Or in fact, are you not doing CFO services, and doing advisory work?
We have to be—do—better at explaining what the features are, what the tasks are, that we’re performing for our clients, and the benefits that are associated with those that they’re going to be receiving. Hence, they’re paying us. So we as a profession need to do a lot better, in my opinion.
I agree, and creating that menu of services, and then also that menu of non services is probably, “We do not do this. We have relationships, we can outsource, we can refer you.” Speaking then of services, and having that list, let’s talk about pricing options. Do you get into that with clients? Do you educate them on how they should price their services? And what is your model there?
Most certainly. So each of those six elements that I’ve described have a pricing element. We’ve got to define the feature, what are we doing in that role, we’ve got to define the associated benefit, why the client is paying us to do that task. And then knowing that we’re able to then define the pricing. And usually, and I’m going to oversimplify this unless you’d like to go more deeply, but every one of these things has a pricing approach. And what we do is we have identified five that are more common or traditional in the accounting space. You’ve got hourly pricing that admittedly everyone’s familiar with, but knowing how to determine what that hourly rate should be—there is a process to that, very quick and simple but we can do that.
The next is flat rate, very common in the industry as well. Following flat rate is menu pricing—menu pricing is traditionally where you see people offering three options. It’s like the gold, silver, platinum, that kind of approach. And then the next is revenue pricing—many a firm actually just determines their fees based on the revenue that the client is actually generating. And lastly is value pricing, a lot of people are familiar with value pricing. That’s something that’s kind of a hot topic. I know Ron Baker’s out there now talking about subscription-based pricing, and in my opinion, that kind of falls into the menu pricing category.
So there’s a variety of things out there that are in the marketplace that the firm can consider. And in my opinion, they need to identify specifically, two of those five that they’re going to implement in their firm and use to price their services. Once they can identify the two that they’re going to be using, it’s easier to then determine the fees that they’re going to be charging for each of the services.
Do you have a favorite of those, or two of the favorites of those, or you just educate them. And this is, let’s talk about this is your specific practice, and this is where we think we should go with this?
So in our business, the two that we use happen to be hourly, and menu pricing, those are the two that we use traditionally, there are occasions that we’ve done value pricing, value pricing, I think a lot of people are intimidated by and I think it’s just simply because of the fact that you’ve got to do a lot of due diligence before determining that fee—you’ve got to actually determine what is it that you’re ultimately going to save that client doing that project, or make that client. And that savings or that revenue generated, I think then becomes that, that known number that you’re going to use to determine the value add of the service.
Alright, so this is, we’re talking kind of, I guess it could be either an existing firm and concentrate on these services and identifying what you’re good at, or a startup firm. But let’s go to the next step, then. Let’s say, and this may be a first step. I don’t know, you could tell me. But we talked before the show about one of the services or one of the things you’re talking about a lot is helping firms map their business. And so what is that I assume this is a here’s the lifespan and here’s where we want to go, and we adjusted as things happen, or what is this mapping the business that you deal with, with clients?
Yeah. Let me give it some context. It’s actually an element of what’s called the Universal business model. So just to kind of give it some context, we’ve just finished the conversation about the three core services. So admittedly, when I go into a firm, what I want to ask is, what do you do here? What is it that the clients are paying you for? And that leads to this conversation of, do you offer bookkeeping, accounting, and so forth? Once we’ve established what those core services are that the client is receiving from your business, then we want to talk about okay, so what’s the next thing that is important to you as you work on your business? And so with that question of working on your business, I then pose three questions. And these three questions, I know that the inclination is to say all three are important to me, but I want you to understand, I want you to only pick one, okay? So I’m gonna ask the three questions, and you’ll see how they’re relevant.
The first question is, is in your business, are you in a growth mode? Are you personally right now, feeling that the next challenge or objective in your company is growing the business of growing your business is the objective, what we’re going to do is say you need more clients, okay? That’s the first thing. But many times I’ll talk to a business, and what they’ll say is, you know, I don’t need any more clients, I am plenty busy. What I’d like to do is I’d like to consider increasing the revenue per client. I would like to look at, are there additional services I could be providing, or the things I can do with my pricing model to actually take the clients I have—I don’t need any more—but offer more quality services and get paid more for what I’m doing. Great. That’s wonderful.
But the third option sometimes appealed to people, they say, you know, don’t need any more clients love what I do, and I love the money I’m making. But you know what, I think I need to be working more efficiently. I’m working too much. I’m not as profitable as I’d like. And so what we want to do is we want to focus on the things that are related to back end operations, how can I be more efficient, the tech stack, those types of things. So really, this is called mapping the business. M stands for marketing and sales, I need to grow my company. The A stands for accounting, the services that I’m choosing to offer, what it is I perform for my clients. The P represents production. So when you map your business, you’re easily able to say of those three elements, what is the priority right now in the company?
Alright, and then, so growth mode is great, it’s easy to get a client right now and that doesn’t mean it’s the right client. But it’s hard maybe to do all the work because of the lack of people in the profession. So if somebody is in growth mode, the efficiency, I would think, also flows into that. Because if we’re going to grow and we have a limited number of personnel that we are working with, or outsourcing potential, is there any key elements to that growth mode that you work on?
Well, the way I would define it is this, if growth is the objective marketing and sales need to be defined, and so we go deeper and we identify, which is the thing that we need to be doing better at marketing, or selling. And that’s a conversation in and of itself, understanding what those two terms mean. So marketing and selling become a very integral part of the conversation. You alluded to, okay, I get a client, now what? Once the client agrees to the letter of engagement and agrees to your terms offers to pay for your services, the relationship now changes, you’re no longer in sales mode. You’re now going to be in the onboarding mode mode, which is production. Production is the efficiency with which you actually onboard the client, and get them up to speed as a month to month relation. So all those types of things are on the production side.
But on the sales side, there is a distinct difference between marketing those efforts that you’re putting into place to find and identify potential clients, and the sales nurturing process, the meeting with the client, the explanation of your services, the explanation of the value you’re offering to your clients, and then asking for the sale. Those are two different skill sets oftentimes. I do find that many people are comfortable with one and sometimes struggle with the other. Some are great at marketing, not at sales, some are really hard and struggle at marketing, but do phenomenal sales, they close a lot of the deals that they have placed before him. So that’s kind of the element of the marketing and sales part.
Yeah, so I love talking marketing and sales. I’m not an expert at any of it. In fact, I went into the sales profession, out of college after a year working as a programmer, and I was a terrible salesperson. I think I get it more now. But sales is a tough thing in my mind, in accounting. I look at sales more as education. And I don’t know if you do the same, but I personally am out educating all the time. Now we have a whole sales team that’s going to go close sales. I don’t close a sale, I probably don’t know how to close a sale. Is there sales skills that you work on when you’re dealing with this?
Oh, most definitely. So there’s a philosophy or a process we teach. It’s called “cut to the chase.” I have found that working with accounting professionals, it’s very simple to understand and implement. It’s really for the person that really doesn’t understand the science or the process associated with sales. And it’s very common. An accounting professional, if you ask them how many sales trainings they’ve attended, they’ll oftentimes say zero. In my career, why would I have ever gone to a sales class? But we have all experienced it. We’ve all bought something. So we’ve been on the receiving end. How do you go on the other side?
And “cut to the chase” is a very simple process. It begins with rapport. We talk about what is rapport, how to establish rapport. After you’ve established rapport, what we do is move into what is called “APE.” APE is achievable, profitable, easy, and it’s a very important explanation that you need to do with a potential client for them to see that you are the solution to the thing they’re searching for. The next thing after that is “pain.” Pain is essential because we want to identify what’s the customer trying to address or resolve. Pain is either the opportunity that comes from making the decision to use your services, or it’s the pain that’s diverted or avoided because of paying for your service.
After pain we go to “paint.” Tell me what the ideal situation for you is: What expectations do you have, what previous relationships have you had that you’d like to that you found were beneficial that you’d like to continue? Paint is essential because they’re telling you what they expect and want. Only after paint, do you then move into “solution.” Solution is here’s what I’d offer you. And from solution you’re going to “offer.”
So those steps, we teach them all the steps, what they consist of, how to actually move through and know you’re finishing with one and transitioning to the next, when you’re in a conversation and you end on one how to pick back up and continue that evolution with the client, because some of these will occur in a single meeting, others will occur over multiple visits, and that’s totally fine. But when you have an accounting professional, and you help introduce them to those steps that I just explained of rapport, APE, pain, paint, solution, offer, they start to realize, okay, there’s steps in here and I can follow these steps, and this is something I can do with the conversations. That’s what they like.
And with that we also teach them the ABCs of overcoming objections, we teach them negotiation skills, negotiation’s huge. You always want a win-win relationship with your client and anything you can do to help them realize that they’re not being taken advantage of, they can relax, this is a good offer, those things helped make the decision a lot easier. And so the negotiation techniques are very helpful. Some people have never been taught sales, but also they’ve never been taught how to negotiate. And that’s huge that you can use that in your personal life with relationships and so forth. So negotiation’s a big deal.
So we’re going to talk about all the things I’m bad at, negotiating is one of them as well. But I agree it is a very important skill. But that’s why I have other people that do that. And I find my lane and I stick in it, it took me a while. And there’s some things I’m good at. And I’ll do that. Negotiation’s not one, sales isn’t another. Let’s talk about sales a little bit further, because I get some really interesting guests on the show. You’ve been obviously one of them. You’ve been the number one voice on the show, for sure, at this point. So we’re gonna do a poll, at some point, we’re gonna do a poll it who has the top voice ever on The Unique CPA podcast, and we’ll probably whittle it down to a handful first and then and then we’ll do a poll out there and see who wins, I think you will.
I love it. I love it.
I don’t know. Some people say I have a voice that they like. And I’m like, no, that’s crazy. I don’t. But they say, Hey, you should be like a baseball play by play guy. I hear that when I hear you, is that and so, it’s—alright, I guess enough voice talk, but we gotta have fun.
Sales, one more thing. So these interesting people that have had on the episode, three that I can think off right off the top of my head. Started their own practice, young practice, this isn’t the legacy firm that other partners have taken over the years, these three individuals have started their own firms. And they’re all three at about a $10 million revenue number now for not being in business that long, you know, most of them are less than ten years. And all three of these built through inbound sales more than, you know, outbound sales, then then outside sales. It’s inside, it’s digital marketing, it’s you know, lead generation through website and SEO. Is that something that you feel is important and work on there?
Hugely. So what you’re defining there, I would categorize as marketing, it’s those things that they’re doing to generate the leads—
Okay, got it.
—that they’re later going to then nurture through the sales process. And I’ll just define it this way. Lots of people like to do the social media, the LinkedIn, that’s a great way to actually find those people, especially virtual and remote people that you’re hoping to take on his clients. It’s where you’re able to establish yourself as an expert in the space and hopefully from that, draw in referrals.
But marketing really consists of a variety of things. These are typically where you join networking groups, you start to participate in chambers of commerce, participating in if you have a niche, the association, or organizations associated with the niche industries that you’re working to target. All of these things are places where you position yourself to be that solution for the people as they raise their hand and say hey, I’m possibly interested in what it is you do.
Once that marketing has worked, and you’ve identified, they’re in your CRM, you know who they are, you have their contact information, from that point on, you’re now in a sales situation, sales consisting of two objectives: First of all, you’re trying to position yourself as the expert, the go to person, you want that potential client to see you as the viable solution to the need that they have. And so everything you can do to establish yourself as being the expert, these are your credentials, these are your expertise, these are the things where you position yourself as being an authority figure, all those things help you in that authority, or expert position.
But in addition to that, you want to nurture and educate the person. They don’t know what they don’t know. And so your role is to educate them, that’s where a lot of free information is generated. That’s where a lot of things are sent out that just kind of nudge the person to realize, you know what, in running my business, I could benefit from these additional bits of information, this type of assistance, this type of insight. As that education goes, and it can be through events and webinars and a variety of things, newsletters, that brings us to the point that a sales meeting occurs. And hopefully in that conversation, you have a chance to learn about them, what they do for business. I have a whole process about that hour—that has a very specific agenda and my opinion. That hour is also going to consist of that cut to the chase principle I taught. But the point is, is at the end of that the whole goal is to then extend an offer, issue an engagement letter, here’s what the proposal is and get the close deal. That whole process, marketing, sales, is all intended to get you with the clients that you’re looking for.
Got it. So this is like a therapy session for me today. We found out things I’m bad at I think marketing I’m really good at, and so I guess I just didn’t define it. That’s what I do. But yes, I think I generate a lot of leads. I just don’t do the selling portion then. Everybody else does. So okay, good. I feel better about myself. Thank you. How much do I owe you for the session?
The bill’s in the mail.
So that sales and marketing information you shared was amazing. I think everybody’s gonna get a lot out of that. Let’s talk about a specific service offering now. And I know this is one that’s a hot topic for you right now, but it’s basically becoming a growth and profit expert. What is that, and how do you work with firms on this?
So what this is an extension of is for years, and I do mean years—for the last five, maybe eight years, I was attending a number of conferences, and it wasn’t uncommon to hear people talking about, the accounting profession needs to be able to offer more than the accounting services were currently providing. They would talk to this elusive business coaching, business advisory type services, that we had a perspective as an accounting profession of our clients that they didn’t have, and we could bring to the business or bring to the discussion. And it was, it always felt vague. They always spoke of it as if it was this ethereal, we could be doing more but what, how?
Well, what we did is we spent quite a few years trying to identify what does that look like, and how do we deliver that as an accounting profession? And so in that process, we created two programs: one’s the “Profit and Growth Expert” program, and then in addition to that, the “Universal Business Builder” program. And those were intended to actually help accounting firms more clearly market and sell CFO and advisory services. But not only just market and sell them, then have a practical way to deliver those services. The thing that I was experiencing personally, as we went through this whole process, as I worked with our business clients, is I found that I could easily sell them the idea that they needed a business coach that they needed CFO services, and they would pay for it, they would agree and they would pay.
But three months into it, I was like, What am I doing? I’ve got a meeting tomorrow with my client, it’s month three, I’ve recovered all these things. What’s next? What do I talk to them in three months, six months, nine months, twelve. They’re paying me, I’ve got to come to the table with something tangible, practical they could see value in.
So over the years, what we did is we defined what those key deliverables are. And I’m going to define those for you right now. What we do is we have five things: The first is called “engage and manifest.” It sounds ethereal, I realize it’s abstract, I’m gonna explain it. Engage and manifest. The second is “understanding accounting.” The third is “increasing revenue.” The fourth is “improving profit.” The fifth is “building value.” Each of these are meant to be specific things that we can in the course of 12 to 18 months, literally implement with the client in a very practical way, very beneficial way, to help them as business owners work on their companies.
So with engaging manifest, it’s very simple. It’s getting to the why of their business. And I cannot tell you how powerful this is. I know at the onset, the business owner is like, “I don’t understand what this is about. But okay, whatever.” But when you spend a month or so with a business owner going deep into why they are in business—why did they start the company? What are they trying to do? How are they different in the marketplace? No one’s really had these conversations with them. Nobody’s really gone deep as to why would they mortgage their home? Why would they go without a paycheck to pay their employees and vendors? Why would they sacrifice this, that or the other to be in business? When things got hard, why did they stay in the game? When you get to that level of core understanding, as an advisor, you’re going to be able to help them through so many things, because you understand their why.
Now, in addition to that, you’re also learning their positioning in their market space. Why are they unique to their competitors? Why is it that companies pay for their services or products? You get really a greater understanding of that. And that leads to them becoming better leaders, because you’re helping them now take that message, and articulate that to their employees and to their clients. If you can help them better express those things, not only to themselves, but now to their clients and to their employees, their business is going to see them more as a leader that they need to be in that space. And that’s huge. So “engage and manifest” has been hugely important. We talked about declarations, we talked about vision boards, I mean, there’s a number of things that play into this. That’s very helpful.
The second is “understanding accounting,” and admittedly as accounting professionals, we all enjoy this. But understanding accounting really goes into what are those key performance indicators, KPIs, what are the dashboards? What are the things that we need to be watching in the business? We talked about? What’s a profit, a P&L statement? What’s a balance sheet, cash flow, we’re going into things that honestly as accounting professionals, we oftentimes just deliver and walk away. We maybe highlight one, two or three things, but this is an in depth conversation about these numbers, and we try to help them realize what these reports are saying about their business and what the story is. And that in depth discussion that we start having with them at that CFO level, at that advisory level? Huge, absolutely huge. These business owners have breakthroughs. We talk about cash flow, and how to manage cash flow, how to leverage capital, where to get things, we talked about liquidity ratios, we talked about cash and cash flow strategies, lots of things in there.
The third thing is “increasing revenue.” That’s where we really get into a conversation about ROI marketing sales, tell us about your business model. We start to address what’s happening there.
The fourth being “improving profit,” these business owners work so hard to make the money that they’re making, let’s talk about profit, and making it deliberate, intentional, making profit, the priority that they first address, that’s a huge conversation, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken on clients that are very busy, they’re selling a lot of stuff. But as we dive deep into it, they just are not profitable or as profitable as they’d like. And so they love that conversation.
And then lastly is “building value.” When you understand the exit strategy of the client, when you understand what their timeline is to leave the business, how they would ideally like to leave the business what they would like the valuation of their company to be, you can backwards engineer, here we are today, this is what your company theoretically is worth, this is what it ought to be, here’s the path over the next number of years to get to that I’m going to work with you on that road. That’s huge to a business owner. When was the last time they had a conversation with someone about the exit strategy, backwards engineering and coming up with a game plan, a dollar amount, those things are hugely important. And interestingly enough, they may want to exit in 10 years. And oftentimes what I find is health comes in some family situation occurs, something accelerates that, but if you have in place this plan, they’re further along the way. And they know what steps they need to do in order to address those things.
So I know that was lengthy, but those five things when you go into a firm, and you say in addition to the accounting, the bookkeeping, the tax, the tax preparation, we also offer CFO and advisory services, when you can explain what I just did in those five elements, they’ll happily pay you in addition to the bookkeeping, and or the accounting and tax services you’re providing.
Yeah, this is awesome to me, giving the advisor, the preparer, the accountant, the path to what CFO and advisory services is because I think that’s part of the issue is just understanding. You know, we hear “advisory services” all the time, whether it’s client accounting services, client accounting advisory services, whether it’s tax advisory services, but honestly, everybody has a different definition, which is fine. You have to figure out what your definition is this right here gives them a definition for that, and obviously, a game plan, which you’ll be able to expand on. Honestly, I would do another hour just hearing you talk about expanding on those, you know how we increase the value, how we increase the revenue, how we improve the profit, because those are key areas.
And just as a side note, I recorded a podcast yesterday actually for Intuit that’s running in 20 minutes, and so I will have to get off here soon to go answer questions on that. But it was basically talking about tax advisory services, and trying to demystify it—make it simple to get into. This is not, you know, let’s keep it simple here, you know, because people shut down when that’s like, okay, I don’t know, 300 different tax incentives that I can be an expert at to be advisory. Well, who cares? Find three that you’re good at, you’re good at, you know, converting from a Schedule C to an S, or you’re good at, you know, just appreciation, you’re whatever, you’re good at one aspect, two aspects, three aspects, you feel real comfortable that you could talk to your clients about it. Start there, now you’re an advisor, that’s it, boom, you’ve done it, you don’t have to roll it out to every client either right now.
And so I think this is huge to be able to give them this game plan this path to becoming an advisor, because this is important. You know, as especially technology improves, and everything else, it’s gonna, you know, compliance for tax returns is going to get pretty automated. And even a lot of accounting is already pretty automated. But that advisory behind the scenes is huge. So I appreciate you sharing that.
Well, I liked your explanation of how tax planning is different than tax preparation. Preparation is the filing of the return, it’s taking care of that in a timely manner so that they don’t, so that they hit the deadlines. But tax planning, offering strategies to come in and provide them as a business owner, a better understanding of the tax law as it is, so that they can benefit from not the loopholes, the legally provided means for them to keep the money they’ve earned. As a tax planning expert, advisor, you’re just coming in and bringing to their attention things that they can implement in the course of a year that helps them from a tax position, period. And so as a tax planning specialist, there are so many things out there and you’re right, you know, 300 things or so? There are numerous things out there, particularly for specific industries and niches. But as you get to learn one or two or three, and you can take those to your clients, they will be more than appreciative of your help in that role. So well said.
Yep, and the other thing with tax, and maybe in accounting or financial statements as well. But in tax, it’s easy to show the value of what you just did, because there’s tax savings. Usually. Sometimes you could be penalty avoidance, you could be, you know, that kind of thing as well. But you can show that value. And that’s an area where I think value pricing can come into because I just saved you $32,000 And my fee’s $2,500. You can show your ROI on that. I think it’s something that needs to be done.
As much money as there is in tax preparation, there is far more money in tax planning, yep.
Yep. And it’s important, especially and you and I have talked about mental health in the past and burnout, and you know, as a tax prep person, at tax reporter, you know, rather than a tax advisor, you’re just sitting for two and a half months, keying in numbers and show him what happened during the year. And sure, there’s a good fee for that. But man, if you can meet quarterly and you sit down and you figure out ways to not just be a reporter, but be an effecter of that bottom line tax, the fees are gonna be tremendous. Overall, your time will probably be reduced, because you’re getting more fees on the offseason doing advisory work, and having less time during tax season, because you’ve already done a lot of work ahead of time.
Yeah, and just imagine the referrals you’re gonna get because of the client relations, you have the client retention you’re going to have because of the work that you’re doing lots of benefits in this love.
Yep. Yep, for sure. Alright. Those were huge, great topics, which I really could go another hour on, do you want to wrap up those segments at all? Or give us a final bow on top of that, or cherry on top of the sundae we just had there?
Certainly, yeah. The thing I’d like to say is, as an accounting professional or accounting profession, we have so much to offer our clients. We provide them, I believe, the information they need to make the intelligent, informed decisions they need to be doing in their business. So as accounting professionals, I think we need to be seeing ourselves as more than just providing compliance work. It’s more than just producing the reports. It’s literally engaging with our clients and offering perspective and insights to the things that we see, because we’re seeing the narrative of their business in the numbers, and it should mirror what they’re experiencing in their day to day operations.
So I really do feel that as accounting professionals, we have so much to offer as a profession to the economy, the clients, the business owners, we just need to be a little bit more open, a little bit more proactive, a little bit more willing to share this information. We have a perspective that matters. And so if anything, I’d love the people hearing this, to realize that you have a voice. You don’t have to be asked a question in order to speak. Be willing to provide insights. And that right there I think will open up a number of avenues for you as a profession to then maybe consider additional services in your firm that you can rightfully charge and be paid for. And in the end, you can become that “Unique CPA” that you need to become, you can become the “Premier Accounting Firm” in your area.
Oh man, I like it you just built in Unique CPA and Premier Accounting all in one. You are good. I’m gonna take lessons from you. That was nice.
So a couple of final questions. And this is one that everybody gets. But besides what you do for work, what is your passions outside of work? What do you enjoy doing on your off time, which is hopefully a lot of off time?
I like to travel, I do that quite a bit. There is a philosophy I learned years ago and it’s the value of personal time and stepping away from what you’re doing. My relationship with my family, my spouse is very important to me, and I’m a workaholic by nature. Therefore, I’ve realized I need to schedule and plan and take that time away where I can, if possible, give them my undivided attention. Unfortunately, I’m a workaholic and the phone denies me the ability to be detached completely. But regardless, it’s personal time. I have a group of friends that I do things with regularly so I schedule a lot of trips and outings and vacations and I like that.
So do you put your phone away during those trips? Are you looking at emails and texts still, how are you treating that?
Oh, I am horrible. I thought I was doing a really good job, and I, over the holidays, got chastised by my children. I thought I was doing good because I wouldn’t open the laptop. So now I’ll get on my phone, my email and so forth. And it turns out that whenever we stop a car—my wife just pointed this out.
Whenever we stop a car and everyone’s getting out of the vehicle, I’m the last one out. And I didn’t realize that I’m the last one out because I’ll pull up my phone. And I’ll quickly go through the emails and try to get rid of the junk mail. So I can at least stay on top of my emails. And it’s inevitable there’s a text, or a quick email that I need to send. So I’m always the last one out of the vehicle, and everyone’s always waiting. I didn’t know I was doing that. So now I’m aware.
Well, we’re working on that, we’ll see what we can do to help you disconnect more often, so.
it’s what I’m trying to do. Now I’m aware.
There you go. The first step is awareness. I appreciate it.
And then if anybody wants to get a hold of you, you know, this is great information. I can’t imagine people want to hear more, what’s the best way to, you know, get to the website or get ahold of you?
First of all, connect with me on LinkedIn. Love to make those connections there. I really appreciate that, so reach out there. Definitely feel free to subscribe or listen to our podcast, Building the Premier Accounting Firm. We talk about these same types of topics, you can hear Randy on the show, and that was great.
The other thing is go to UniversalAccounting.com. There at UniversalAccounting.com, we happen to have quite a few free resources for accounting firms, the owners to actually look at that they can use and apply in their business and love to encourage people to take advantage of those.
Alright, Roger—and your voice—we appreciate you having you here today. It was a great episode. And I think everybody’s gonna learn a lot listening today. So thanks for being here.
My pleasure. Thank you, Randy. It was wonderful.
About the Guest
Roger Knecht is the President of the Universal Accounting Center, a postsecondary school for accounting professionals. Since 1979 Universal Accounting Center has offered training, certifications, coaching and support to benefit accounting, bookkeeping, and tax professionals. Roger has served as President since 2014, though he has been with UAC for nearly 25 years.
Roger also hosts the Building the Premier Accounting Firm podcast, where he discusses strategies for maximizing the potential of your accounting practice. He received his bachelor’s in communications from Brigham Young University in 1996.
Meet the Host
Randy Crabtree, CPA
Randy Crabtree, co-founder and partner of Tri-Merit Specialty Tax Professionals, is a widely followed author, lecturer and podcast host for the accounting profession.
Since 2019, he has hosted the bi-weekly “The Unique CPA,” podcast, which ranks among the world’s 5% most popular programs (Source: Listen Score). You can find articles from Randy in Accounting Today’s Voices column, the AICPA Tax Adviser (Tax-saving opportunities for the housing and construction industries) and he is a regular presenter at conferences and virtual training events hosted by CPAmerica, Prime Global, Leading Edge Alliance (LEA), Allinial Global and several state CPA societies. Crabtree also provides continuing professional education to top 100 CPA firms across the country.
Schaumberg, Illinois-based Tri-Merit is a niche professional services firm that specializes in helping CPAs and their clients benefit from R&D tax credits, cost segregation, the energy efficient commercial buildings deduction (179D), the energy efficient home credit (45L) and the employee retention credit (ERC).
Prior to joining Tri-Merit, Crabtree was managing partner of a CPA firm in the greater Chicago area. He has more than 30 years of public accounting and tax consulting experience in a wide variety of industries, and has worked closely with top executives to help them optimize their tax planning strategies.