When CPA Trendlines published its analysis, “Threat or Opportunity as H&R Block, Liberty Jump into Bookkeeping Services," by Hitendra Patil of Pransform, it ignited a small firestorm of responses from readers and a reality check for the profession.
Two distinct groups of voices seem to be emerging with three basic options for independent accounting firms, according to Patil who has been studying the profession's reactions.
Among the voices:
One – Those who believe that both H&R Block and Liberty will fail to deliver quality in bookkeeping services and hence attract only cost-focused business clients.
Two – Those who believe it is an awesome collaboration opportunity to get more business from H&R Block and Liberty’s marketing budget.
But both H&R Block and Liberty are apparently investing in top class resources to lead their new bookkeeping divisions.
"There are two Goliaths. And thousands of Davids," says Patil. "A lone David in the bookkeeping, accounting and tax profession isn’t likely to do much damage to either Goliath. Even a few hundred Davids aren’t likely to cause much damage."
The choice, Patil figures, is between defensively protecting your existing client base, or proactively expanding your reach.
"The Goliaths have decided," he says. "The Davids need to decide, and quickly."
Patil sees three strategies emerging:
- Turn Block and Liberty into Your eBay and Amazon: Some professionals have decided that they will not touch low-fee work. The real opportunity for independent professionals is to pick up higher value work from Block and Liberty. "Treat Block and Liberty as an eBay or Amazon for your high value services," he says.
- Be the Hummingbird to Get the Honey: Just as hummingbirds drink nectar from flowers to help pollination represents a classic example of mutualism symbiosis, Block or Liberty could copy Intuit’s “Find a QB Pro Advisor” program. They could enroll “approved members” for their “consultants panels." And at the same time, the cost-focused tax-clients independent accountants turn away could be referred to Block and Liberty.
- You and Block or Liberty Create a New LinkedIn: If you use LinkedIn, you know your connections don’t necessarily work for you, but you can possibly work with many of them. You and they can leverage each other’s capabilities. Independent accountants and Block or Liberty could bring each other the opportunities for what each does best.
Patil leaves with one final thought: The first-movers will reap the biggest advantages.