You know that CAS is one of the fastest-growing service lines for accounting firms, and you've gotten firm-wide buy-in for building a CAS practice, but how do you begin? What steps should you take to business a CAS practice that will not only grow, but grow and scale sustainably?
You start by creating a well-defined service menu, one that capitalizes on the firm's existing expertise to create clearly defined, tiered service packages. Utilize experience gained from prior engagements to identify services that existing clients need the most. If they are struggling with sales and use tax management or consistently need tax planning services, make sure to include those in the CAS menu. These clients are your target market, the ones that you will offer CAS services to first – make sure what you are offering will be attractive to them.
It's not enough to decide on what CAS services the firm will offer. When building the menu of services, the firm will need to:
Define the CAS Tech Stack.
When choosing which software to support, start simple and support a single platform for each of your service offerings. For example, choose between QUO, FreshBooks, Xero, Sage Intacct, or Netsuite for general ledger. If your staff are already familiar with or have specialties in particular software systems, lean into their expertise to take advantage of potential efficiencies.
Develop an education plan.
One of the difficulties with CAS practice staffing is providing staff with time to master the tech stack and stay up-to-date on the latest developments. Staffing and capacity challenges can quickly become an obstacle to preventing the firm from scaling its CAS practice. Keep this from happening by developing and implementing an education plan to keep staff up to date on the firm's CAS software.
Create service tiers.
Rather than offering piecemeal services, create packages or service tiers to define the scope of work, including the specific services under each tier. For example,
- Tier One: transactional, typically including services such as income tax preparation and outsourced accounting.
- Tier Two: compliance, typically including services such as budgeting and cash flow planning.
- Tier Three: advisory, typically including services such as strategic planning and tax planning.
- Tier Four: consulting, including a wide range of issues from the purchase or sale of a business to succession planning.
Ready to learn more about how outsourcing your transactional client accounting services work can create more capacity and increase client satisfaction? Attend one of our upcoming webinars and earn one CPE while learning about CAS Outsourcing.
Decide on a pricing strategy.
With the increased use of technology to facilitate efficiencies and productivity, cost-plus pricing may not be the best option for CAS. Consider a fixed cost or value-based pricing utilizing the service packages previously defined.
Sell the Value, not the Action
When communicating with prospective clients, keep messaging clear, consistent, and focused on educating them about CAS's importance. Often clients hear CAS and think bookkeeping, so reframe the conversation around common pain points that CAS solves. Highlight cash flow visibility, making educated and data-driven decisions, and the availability of on-hand formal financial reports. Ensure that every communication with existing clients provides a clear and concise value proposition - educate them on how CAS helps them run their business more efficiently and profitably.
When discussing benefits with clients, highlight how CAS will help the client. Among other things, the client will:
- Benefit from a higher level of foresight and tax planning before it's too late to make any strategic adjustments (possibly reducing their tax burden).
- Have a more robust understanding of the real-time status of their financial position throughout the year to stay competitive.
- Receive strategic knowledge and advice about their current and future business state to gain the ability to make business decisions.
- Access monthly financial statements needed for funding, borrowing, selling, or acquisition.
- Catapult their business ahead of the competition who may be stuck in the rut of poor bookkeeping and finding out about a problem when it is too late.
Once you've defined your CAS menu – and how you will discuss the value of these services with potential clients – it's time to discuss who those clients will be. We'll discuss that in more depth in next week's post, but start thinking about which of your clients send over files with missing or too much data, making it your responsibility to sort through the irrelevant, analyze the data, and prepare the return.