How to Start or Restart, Grow, and Scale Your Firm – How to Grow and Scale Your Accounting or Bookkeeping Practice!
This is a detailed outline. I don’t expect you to read it all at once. My hope is that you will bookmark it, and use it as a resource. Refer back to it. Go through a section and take notes. Figure out how you will implement this in your practice. Otherwise it’s worthless.
The course itself is still in development, but it doesn’t matter. If you need anything in this outline explained, or gone over, we have two weekly calls for that. Just show up, and ask, and we can get real specific about your needs.
There are presently 23 Lesson published, and 75 Episodes (weekly calls) published on the site. The entire section on “How to Become A Content Creation Machine” is just days from being published.
What price would you place on learning how to grow and scale your accounting or bookkeeping practice in today’s world?
Meanwhile, join soon, because I am planning on increasing the price from $97/month to $197/month. There is WAY too much value here, to keep the price at only $97.
Those who are IN at $97, will stay at $97.
I created the 97 & Up program because I felt there was a need for an updated resource for accountants and bookkeepers. My goal was to develop something that would give you everything you needed to start or restart your business from the ground up.
I don’t think a book is the right format for this kind of resource. Things change too quickly these days. I felt it was important to do this in a platform that was agile. Videos are easy to update (or do new ones) without going through the very detailed process of publishing something. Then by the time I’ve published the next edition, things have already changed.
The accounting fundamentals haven’t changed, so a book from 20 years ago, that focuses on how to do accounting is still very much relevant. But the landscape has changed completely in 20 years. The way we GET clients, social media, social selling, QuickBooks Online, and all of the apps that we use to create the ecosystem in which we operate. This has all changed.
If you’re not agile, you’re dead in this game. Lately, more than ever I’ve seen what other accounting and bookkeeping firms are doing. I didn’t think I was that far ahead, but now I know that as a company, Nerd Enterprises, Inc. is way ahead of what most others are doing.
We’ve built our processes based on efficiency. The secret is that EVERYTHING, not just some things, has to be in the cloud. The connections we can make with the apps, the automated notifications that we know will come, let us relax and focus more. We’ve invested the time, to develop these systems, so that we can run lean, and fast.
We charge flat fees, so that our efforts at increasing efficiency pay off in spades, and of course, we have more time to look at what we’re doing to ensure that quality and effectiveness are not sacrificed.
I’ll teach you all of this, but first, we need to build the right foundation. We need a plan for how to grow and scale your accounting or bookkeeping practice. We need to know what kind of business we want to build. Do we want to churn 2,000 tax returns a year, and become our own little H&R Block? Or do we want to build a concierge service type of business, where the bookkeeping is almost secondary. It runs in the background, so we can focus on the real value. The real value is not in the bookkeeping. The real value is in the analysis.
Assuming we want to build a concierge, service based accounting or bookkeeping firm, then we need a plan around that.
How much money do you want to make this year?
How many monthly clients can you handle doing what you WANT to be doing as a core service. Of course this needs to be defined now.
Starting Your Accounting Practice, or Starting Over
From this information we can begin to build a very detailed plan. We take your core service, that you want to offer, and scale it up and down, so we can offer at least two other options. Never more than four options in total, and the most expensive option should be on the verge of outrageous. We really don’t want to offer this, because it uses up too many resources, but we put it out there, to give context, and value to the other plans that we offer. Should somebody want that more expensive option, we’ll take it, because we’re getting paid really well for it.
That’s the secret. Forget about value. Charge what gets you excited to do the work. You’ll thank me for this one, I promise. You’ll also thank me when you see how easy and effective it is, when you set your pricing based on your goals, as I outlined it above.
Building Your Money Site – A Course in WordPress
Once the plan is created, we need a home. We need a place to bring people to. A place where we can invite them in, and welcome them. It should be a place, where they want to spend some time. Of course I am talking about your website. But most websites are not places where most people want to spend much time. We go, we grab, and we run to the next thing.
So what makes someone want to stay?
Content, of course.
How to Become A Content Creation Machine
In order to grow and scale your accounting or bookkeeping practice, we need to create content, which means we need a really effective website. I hired Shane MacFarlane from X Digital to redo my site. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Even if you hire someone else to build your website, you’re going to want to know how to make changes to it. You’ll certainly want to know how to write a blog post, optimize that blog post, make the video, edit the video, upload the video to YouTube and Vimeo, and embed that video in your blog post. It sounds like a lot, but I can walk you through all of it, and I know you’ll find that the hoop you have to jump through is much wider than you think.
For starters, you must write. If you’re a terrible writer, then write more. The more you write, the better you get.
The tools I am going to teach you for optimizing your content, will teach you how to write better. They’ve helped me infinitely.
If you love your craft, then you’re going to love writing about it. It’s only natural.
Creating the content is a start, but now we’ll need to get that content out there.
Social Selling and Lead Generation
Social selling is the next step to grow and scale your firm. This is how you build the accounting or bookkeeping practice that you can’t wait to work at every day. In short, this means we’ll need to learn to use some tools, so we can interact with people on the various social channels. And we’ll need to know about the social channels.
- Creating Content for Your Social Channels (now that you know how to do it)
- How to Use Mailchimp and Forms for Lead Generation
There are tools, and apps, and at this point, I am becoming more and more of a fan of using the networks on their own platforms to communicate on them. For Twitter on my mobile I use the Twitter app. I am getting away from Hootsuite. Too distracting with the various columns. In most cases I am notified when there is anything that needs my attention, such as a mention, or a retweet, or a reshare. Turn off notifications for the small stuff. You don’t need to know every time someone likes something. What you do want to know, is when someone has engaged with you. A Like is nice, but it’s not engagement. Comments are engagement. Tetweets and reshares are the ultimate form of engagement.
Oh and by the way. Never just retweet or reshare something. You’re taking the opportunity to get into the conversation, and then not getting into the conversation? Always write something. Explain why you’re re-sharing, and / or put in your $0.02. Show that you’ve actually read it, if it links to an article someone wrote. You’ll have less time to devote to all of the messages, but the time you do spend, and the messages that you get to, will be 1000x more meaningful.
The goal here is not to have 1,000,0000 followers. It’s to have 1,000 connections, who will amplify your message 1,000 times. 1,000 x 1,000 = 1,000,000. Get it? Less work, same or more reach.
Networking – Building your Digital Rolodex
Networking groups are great in order to grow and scale your firm, but eventually you’ll find that content will bring about your network much larger, and much faster. Instead of being exposed to 20-30 people at some event, you’ll start to see the internet as one giant 24/7 networking group. And they come to you, so you don’t have to go and chase them.
The trick to this is having a good CRM. Something that helps you identify opportunities, and nurture relationships. Preferably, we also want one that doesn’t require all of the copying and pasting that most do. I want my e-mails and all of my other interactions, like my calendar, all integrated with my CRM.
I want a CRM that let’s me segment my contacts based on various criteria, and then send individual messages to all of them at once, so it doesn’t get flagged like a Mailchimp or Constant Contact email might.
The goal here is to get in front of your target audience.
This means that you want to start conversations with the influencers of that target audience. If you start talking to the influencers, then you will be considered one among them. You want to be the “accountant” or the “Bookkeeper” among them. Then guess where their audience will look, when they need accounting or bookkeeping help?
E-mail Marketing – Mailchimp
Email marketing is still the most effective way to grow and scale your accounting or bookkeeping practice, and everybody pretty well knows this plan by now. Create the content, that you trade for the e-mails. Put the ads, posts, and pop ups on your website, to draw in the traffic, and get the emails.
It has to be good, valuable content. Make people want to read next week’s post. Make sure they want to stay on our list, and even better, tell others to join it. I recommend you write weekly. The most successful people whom I follow, like Chris Brogan, put it out weekly.
I find the people who are where I want to be, and I watch and learn from them. That’s why I started making videos in the first place. It wasn’t based on following anyone in the accounting industry. I followed people with MUCH bigger followings, than anyone in our industry had, and I learned from them. Here are my top three:
And I am about to add Tim Ferriss to the list, because I should have had him on there a long time ago.
Client On Boarding
After making all of this buzz, we’ll need systems for on boarding and managing clients while you grow and scale your accounting or bookkeeping practice. In the beginning you will need a very structured process, and some tools for automating that process.
Before you go into any apps, you’ll need to outline the process at a very micro level. You want to see every single step. Every email that goes out, and every document that needs to go with every email. If you have this all laid out in advance, you will have a much easier time automating the process.
I guess there IS an app for the outlining. Use Google Docs. This way if you need to share and collaborate with team members on the outline itself, it’s drop dead easy to do that.
Running your practice will have it’s challenges. For one thing, you’ll need some internal documents. If we’re running a firm of today, then we’ll need apps to run things. Most of these will come up in the next section on Client Management, but for now, you’ll want to create some sort of document that.. Well… documents what apps you’re going to use, and for what purpose.
An app document will give clarity to you, and your staff about what you’re using, and for what purpose. Then you have your outline for the training you’ll want to develop, so that when you hire someone, you’ll be ready for them.
The compensation plan needs to be completely revisited. We’re talking about charging flat fees to our clients. The traditional pricing model no longer works, and that means the traditional compensation models don’t work either. I’ve thought this through, and I’ve cracked the code on this. The compensation plan is something we go over in our 97 & Up program, and in the very course that I am outlining here.
When it comes to managing clients in a firm of today, we need apps. You cannot grow and scale your accounting or bookkeeping practice, without a toolbox filled with tools. Some you will use daily. Others are there for when you need them. The more, the better. I recently held a webinar on an app I had not looked at before. It isn’t an app I will use in my own practice. This raises the question, “why review it then?” The answer is simple. While I don’t have the need, someone else might need an app just like this. The more apps I am familiar with, the better educated I am, and the better position I am in to make the right recommendation based on a client’s needs.
The most powerful and important skill in client management…
All too often our so called industry leaders and experts fail miserably at this. They think they already know what you need, before you’ve even told them. They’ve lost sight of this important skill, and their egos won’t let them do it anyway. Don’t ever lose this.
The minute you think you know everything, is the minute you stop growing, and the only way to go from there is in reverse.
As long as we’re managing clients, we’re back to our CRM. Once again, we’ll want a CRM that makes it easy to see all of our correspondence with that contact, and all of the other contacts we have at that same company.
How can you grow and scale your firm in this day and age, without listening really intently, to your clients? Oh and employees too!
And stop trying to find one that integrates with QuickBooks Online!
You don’t need that. All you need, to grow and scale your accounting or bookkeeping practice, is a CRM that operates in the cloud, so you can easily jump from QBO to your CRM. And I can do one better. My CRM has a chrome widget (which is where you should be running QBO anyway). That Chrome Widget makes it work right inside QBO, in case you really need to feel like it’s there in the product. I usually use it, just to bring up a contact, and then click over to the contact directly. If you’re like me, then you hate working in a limited window space. My preference is being able to spread out, when I am trying to focus.
After that we’ll need a series of apps, to manage everything:
- Project Management
- Files / Document / Receipt Management
- Remote Access
Those are the basic, and very high level areas we’ll need to cover. If you are a TRUE firm of today, that should actually cover it, because remember – everything must be in the cloud.
As a true firm of today, you do not need to remotely access your clients’ computers. They should all be in QuickBooks Online (a firm requirement), and the files are all managed, and accessible by you directly.
You cannot rely on the client for access to anything. The client will slow you down. You need the access, and you have the tools to manage the access. Make the client give you the access you need, so you can get the job done efficiently, and without friction.
E-Commerce – Using WooCommerce with WordPress
Growing and scaling your firm is not about servicing ecommerce clients. This is about your accounting and bookkeeping firm becoming an ecommerce driven firm. Earlier in the course you learned how to use WordPress. Now it’s time to learn to use WooCommerce, to get paid.
You’re clients are paying you flat monthly fees, which means you are a subscription based business. This is how you need to take your payments. No card on file. That means you have to take the action to go charge their card, not to mention you are now subject to all kinds of PCI compliance, which, by the way most accounting and bookkeeping firms are not compliant here.
Assuming your intention is to do things “right,” if you keep cards on file, you’ve just created an incredible inefficiency. In short. You’ve created a lot more work for yourself than is necessary.
In my practice, we set them up on a subscription, and we never look back. Each month, their card is charged, and when their charge goes through on their card, it downloads in their bank feeds, and gets coded to Professional Fees. I haven’t sent an invoice to a client for monthly services in over two years.
If you are still wasting time preparing and sending invoices, then you’re doing it the wrong way!
We’re entering into the advisory age. Bookkeeping is getting more and more automated. This means we can spend more time, offering more value, and that means more products and services, that we can sell using WooCommerce..
Look what I’ve done on my site with templates:
Do you know how easy this is?
I’ve even figured out how to sell Smartsheet templates, which is a challenge, because there isn’t a file to deliver. So I outlined a workflow, and got it done.
I’ve spent a lot of time, encouraging you to spend a lot of time on content. This is where you get to monetize that content. You can set up all kinds of products, to share your knowledge with the world, and get paid for it. It has never been easier. There are no excuses. Just people who are doing it vs people who are complaining about how it doesn’t work.
Which team are you on?
#TeamMakeItWork or #TeamComplain?
Reporting – The Ultimate Output of Your Practice
As I mentioned in the previous section, we’re in the advisory age of our profession. How are you going to advise your clients?
I’ve talked to colleagues of ours, who tell me they would never review reports with their clients, and I can only shake my head. I’ve talked to so called “thought leaders” who have told me point blank, that they would NEVER do this. That means these “thought leaders” are going to lead you right into the dark, and your clients along with you.
If you want to grow and scale your accounting or bookkeeping practice as a firm of today, then you have to teach them to read the basic reports.
One of the reasons I insist on using QuickBooks Online with every client is that I can set up and automate the reports. My clients get a set of reports each week. Why not? It doesn’t cost me a thing!
Also. I’ve heard the ridiculous comment that some accountants don’t want this feature on, because it sends them in the middle of the night. They’re worried that a client will see the timestamp on the email, and assume that they are working at that hour.
This supposedly equates to an invitation to expect that the accountant will now respond to inquiries at this hour?
Don’t be ridiculous. It means one thing, and one thing only. That I automated the reports, and that’s the time they go out. I have no issue telling clients this. Stop trying to bullshit your clients. Just be straight with them. You don’t need the hide the fact that this is automated. My clients all tell me how “cool” that is.
Beyond that, if the client is on a high enough service tier with me, I will review these reports with them. Sometimes weekly, and sometimes monthly.
What I have found is that most clients will need / want more time up front reviewing reports, and less as time goes on. It’s not magic. The more they learn, the less they need me, and yet, I’ve brought them so much value.
I have taught clients to read their balance sheet and profit and loss. It isn’t hard, and this increases my own efficiency in the long run, because I have less to explain as time goes on.
But here’s what’s really important…
This adds SO much value to what I am offering my clients, that I am fairly certain I’ve met my mission with my clients, when I do this.
What is that mission?
To improve my clients lives so profoundly, they couldn’t imagine working with anyone else.
Oh, and one more thing…
Everything is Subject to Change at Any Time Without Notice
The most important thing to remember in all of this, is agility.
You must be nimble, and you must be quick!
Be ready at all times to jump on the next new thing, but don’t forget to test, test, and test. Be sure something solves a problem you don’t already have solved. Or be sure it solves it better!