Savvy CPAs know the secret.
by Rick Telberg/At Large
Are you getting paid what you are worth? According to our soundings, those finance and accounting professionals who understand and can express to their clients and stakeholders the value of their services are more likely to feel satisfied with their pay.
"I establish my fee and generally collect it," says Curtis Park, a CPA in Camarillo, Calif.
While many professionals may share Park's opinion, a CPA Trendlines survey by the Bay Street Group finds that roughly half or more of CPAs feel underpriced for the services they provide. They may or may not be right. We can't say what their true value is in the marketplace. And we can't recommend pay or pricing here. But we can draw connections among those who are generally satisfied with their fees and compensation and those who are not quite as satisfied.
"For the value created and the knowledge required to deliver that value, my pay is low. The recommendations attached to a financial plan are worth at least tens of thousands -- often much, much more. But most consumers prefer spending on instant gratification prospects. We provide delayed gratification: valuable, but not truly valued," said Jean-Luc Bourdon, CPA, PFS, of Goleta, Calif.
In today's challenging economic environment, specialized services are growing increasingly important. Many firms are heeding the call, expanding their service offerings to assist with, for example, estate and trust planning and retirement planning to meet their client's needs. And, as Bourdon suggests, this has undoubtedly placed an even greater value on today's professional.
Richard R. White of Roselle, Ill., says he isn't adequately paid but doesn't want to raise his rates for "fear that clients will balk at higher fees requested, and go elsewhere for their services."
But why is it so difficult to raise rates? "Because I think with my heart, rather than my head, where collections are concerned," admits David J. Bradley, CPA, of Nashville, N.C.
Some CPAs cite their geographic location or budgetary constraints as reasons why they aren't earning the money they feel they deserve.
"I live in a semirural area where people are paid lower than average and the level of education is lower. Some clients just don't understand the value of an intangible such as financial advice and a properly prepared tax return," says Kimberly C. Roemer, CPA, in Salisbury, Md.
However, those professionals who truly understand their value and, perhaps more importantly, ensure that their clients recognize that value, stand to reap the benefits. In other words, taking a value-based approach is key for many.
"Because it is part of my mantra to get paid, most of the time I do," says Jim Erickson of Bellevue, Wash.
"Clients also appreciate that a clock is not ticking with important questions they have, and so they do not hesitate to raise those questions with me," explains Reina Schlager, CPA, of Ft. Myers, Fla. "I then act as a coordinator of their various needs. This puts me in the seat of helping them avoid pitfalls, as well as allowing me to be in the position to see opportunities for them that might also be opportunities for compensation for me -- all fully disclosed."
When asked why he believes he is paid what he's worth, Dale P. Welsh, CPA, of Cincinnati, summed it up by saying, "I'm the only one who understands how it all fits together."
Doesn't that apply to most CPAs?
SOUND OFF: What's your best advice to colleagues about how to get paid what you're worth?
Copyright 2008 CPA Trendlines/BSG LLC. All rights reserved. First published by the AICPA.