Building a Plan: How to Be Strategic in Offering Accounts Receivable Services

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In the first installment of this series on how to develop a full-fledged CAS offering, Pete Potsos, CPA, of Bill.com, provided valuable advice on how to get started. Specifically, the article explained what it takes to turn interest in CAS into action and embed automation for successful CAS practice.

In this second part of a three-part series, we discuss Strategic CAS, its benefits, and how to position your business to deliver higher value services.

Accounting firms are increasingly looking to expand beyond traditional compliance-focused accounting services to grow their business and increase profitability. By providing accounting services to clients, firms can not only improve their bottom line, but they also create stronger bonds with clients and strengthen their position as trusted advisors.

Strategic CAS

The first step in developing a CAS practice was to turn interest into automation. You identify entry points and adopt the right technologies to support your practice. The second stage – Strategic CAS – occurs when you recognize that you are ready to increase the value you provide to customers, and intentionally create a plan and commit dedicated resources to building a strong CAS practice. Strategically developing your practice will better position your firm to align with “more than 50% of firms in virtually every size category” that adopt CAS as “a primary service area,” according to the national survey AICPA PCPS & CPA.com MAP 2018. To be truly strategic, internally, the CAS practice area must be set up as a strategic revenue unit with not only a growth plan, but also dedicated staff and internal KPIs – aligned with the broader business strategy , but unique in this specific area of ​​practice. As noted in Setting the Stage for CAS Success, “As with any other part of your business, your business plan should guide CAS decisions. In fact, you need to consider two layers of business planning: your high-level business strategy, as well as your CAS-specific.”

At this stage, you are taking active steps to become an integral part of your clients’ businesses. You should start apply learning from one client to another and ask questions about the direction of clients’ activities. Actions like this allow you to reevaluate your pricing structure to align with your increased value offering. When looking to improve your offerings, keep in mind that the transition to higher value services such as consulting happens when your team is more involved in what can happen to your customers as opposed to what at has already happened to them.

The advantages of strategic CAS

Strategic CAS improves your practice and profitability in several ways. First and foremost, by offering strategic advice, you are able to build deeper relationships with your clients. The stronger the relationship, the less likely a client is to do business elsewhere or consider other accountants.

Strategic CAS also positions you to deliver more value to your clients by fulfilling the role of a trusted advisor. When you demonstrate that you are capable of offering strategic advice, clients will turn to you when they need guidance in making business decisions. Even better, you’ll be able to bring potential issues and opportunities to their attention that weren’t even on their radar, but that can add significant value to their business.

The more you become a trusted advisor to your clients, the easier it becomes to scale your own business for profit. When your customers reap the value of your business and services, they are more willing to pay. When your rates go up, you’ll be less likely to see your clients react because they understand what your advice is worth.

Strategic CAS also allows you to create a more sustainable business model for your business in the future. Accounting outsourcing continues to grow in popularity and sooner or later it will be a norm, not just a luxury. Companies that already offer strategic CASs – and do so well – will be in a better position for long-term sustainability and will have the advantage over competition that has not yet started offering CASs.

CAS also has the potential to transform your bottom line by introducing reliable, recurring income. Once you’ve solidified your position as a trusted advisor to your clients, it’s easier to transition your fee structure to value-based pricing or a fixed monthly fee arrangement (which has proven to be an effective billing method by 70% of top performers in the 2018 CAS Benchmark Survey). These types of fee structures result in recurring revenue, which is the best possible cash flow model for your business.

Also, you will give yourself the opportunity to generate the same amount of profit with fewer customers, fewer staff, and less entry-level work.

Moving towards the strategic CAS

Once you have identified the potential benefits of Strategic CAS and assessed where you are in relation to your goals for this practice, what is the next step to moving it forward? The answer lies in improving your processes and setting standards for internal and external stakeholders.

If you are at the second stage of the CAS process, you have already integrated automation into your practice. You need to continue to standardize all of your processes, not just your accounting functions. This includes your employee guides, training resources, templates, technology, and more. This also includes standardizing your processes like an assembly line. Businesses need to break everything from onboarding to day-to-day operations and beyond into documented processes. This way they don’t recreate the wheel for every customer. From an internal perspective, this improves efficiency and saves time. You can do more with less, and there’s little to no confusion about how things should be done. Customers benefit from faster onboarding and immediate results.

Next, you need to establish a reliable, integrated technology stack (as mentioned in the first article in this series by Pete Potsos). This will be your standard tool for service delivery. Your technology stack should be made up of the systems that are integral to your practice, the ones you should insist your clients use.

While the individual components of your tech stack are certainly important, it’s also crucial that they fit together. Integration is the only way to get a complete view of your business performance and all of your customers’ activities. You may also consider building your tech stack for a targeted niche, although this may require specialized solutions for business types.

Automation is not enough. You need to use your technology to look forward, not just backward. Offering a strategic CAS means that you’re integrated into your customers’ businesses, that you communicate and collaborate frequently, and, most importantly, that you have a solid strategy in place from the start – a strategy that gives your business the flexibility you need. it needs to evolve to face the future. needs, as indicated in Setting the Stage for CAS Success.

Once you’ve positioned yourself for strategic CAS, the final step is scaling. The next article in this series, written by Adam Hale, CPA, of Summit CPA Group, will explore the best ways to scale your CAS offerings.

To learn more about CAS, download the Client Accounting Advisory Services e-book on CPA.com – “Accelerate into Advisory”.

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Vishal Thakkar is Director of Marketing at CPA.com.

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