By Jody Padar
From Success to Significance: The Radical CPA Guide
When you can clearly define a product line and its offering, it just becomes easier for all involved. Everyone knows their roles, their objectives and the to-dos to get there.
MORE ON RADICALISM: Dean Quiambao: ‘If You’re Not Disrupting, You’re Not Doing It Right’ | Firm Product Management Is the Way to the Future | Josh Zweig’s LiveCA Offers New Thinking from the Ground Up | Why Our Clients Need Us to Be Radical | 10 Steps to Start Innovating | How ‘Agile’ Applies to CPA Firms
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I am not naive enough to think we won’t have different iterations as we launch and learn from our customers and ourselves. However, when the whole team has a complete understanding of what is happening and the steps to get there, and an understanding that we will iterate all the way, it makes for a happier team.
Okay. But how do we do this?
The short answer? Technology.
One of the tools that I use is Aha!. Technically, it’s marketed as product roadmap software. But I use it for so much more. It helps me flesh out my vision and strategy while also helping my team and I track our activities day to day. It’s how I manage our firm so that we have accountability for all the change and innovation that we experience.
Process updating no longer works. Updating your process does not help with selling something other than time. We must think about process in relationship to the products we are now selling. Stop thinking process and start thinking products composed of process, people, data and a result. Product management will help you manage your firm like the boss you are!
This has been one of the biggest “aha moments” for me. No pun intended.
I’ve seen it happen time and time again with new software products that vendors have created for our firms. It starts with the CPA getting all excited about the tech. You know how it rolls out: “Yes, this is a problem,” says the CPA, “and I think this software can help my customer.” The CPA signs up for the trial. Then it stops there. A year later, the CPA isn’t using it and you can bet none of the CPA’s customers are using it. Yet, if this vendor goes directly to the CPA’s customer with the product and it gets adopted, the CPA feels jilted.
And yes, sometimes that happens. In fact, it’s happening more and more.
Then what? The CPA is out of the loop. And we know once that takes place, the stickiness of the customer to that CPA becomes, well, unstuck.
Here’s my solution to that issue. A solution, I think, will be what we need to do to stay relevant for our customers:
First things first: Let’s first stop.
Let’s pause and figure out the actual value of the tool attached to the value that we as CPAs bring to the table.
Then let’s create a solution with the software tool, the CPA, the process and the data collection, and create a complete product solution … not just a software implementation.
Finally, we market this as one solution specifically directed to a specific market or niche.
We have the wrong idea on how to implement new tools today. We’ve been having a hard time developing a solution that can really help us get closer to our customers.
We need to step back and create a “productized service” for each new technology or service that gives us a complete result we choose to implement.
This productized service needs to be for a specific customer as well. It must be customized yet standardized so that it is so perfect for a specific customer that it easily scales across that customer base. In our firms today, little is standardized, or even customized with intention. It’s just a haphazard approach of different software and services.
We need to strategically think about the end user (customer), our price, our rollout, our value-add, our marketing and, most importantly, why our customer or a prospect could and would purchase this solution from us.
Firms have tried “solution selling,” but really that is just a renamed version of selling time.
They never really created a solution; they just promoted it differently. That needs to stop now.
So, now we have a productized service. That’s what we have done with the outsourced accounting services model. But we need to do it at a much more specific level. We need to get into the detail of everything we potentially sell. And if we can’t figure out how to sell it without an hourly price around it, I would challenge you to answer this question honestly: Is it in the best interest of our customer to sell this, or should we refer out to another firm with that specialization?
1099s as a Productized Service
Here’s how I took a really easy service many of us provide and turned it into a product.
- Small business owner, up to $10 million gross receipts
- Uses cloud accounting
- Has subcontractors
Define Outputs and Scope
- Needs 1099s filed electronically. Allow only one way. Paper filings are exceptions for extreme cases. If you want to paper file, we won’t do it
- 1099 information collected before subcontractor gets paid
- We provide system; customer may or may not have us involved with actual payment processing
- Intuit online payroll software
- Team labor for setup
- Team labor training
- Team labor if electronic payments processed. We only allow electronic payments. No other choices
- Team labor e-filing/mailing in January
- How many contractors used over course of year
- Price changes based on inputs/value to customer
Package and Market
- Included as part of our small business complete solution
- Typically not sold as its own package
- If not right fit for our process, we refer elsewhere. It’s okay for us not to provide this service. They can do them internally or go elsewhere