Does your firm have the proper foundation for People Advisory Services?
A good foundation is vital to any structure—physical or metaphorical. Just as buildings need a solid base to stand, accounting firms need a good foundation before they can expand their services. What do you need to ensure that you have a strong foundation?
At Gusto, we want to give you the tools to build a solid foundation for your firm to grow into a team of trusted advisors. That’s why we have partnered with CPA Academy to bring you the informative webinar, “How to Unlock Your Firm’s Capacity for Advisory Services.” Led by Will Lopez and Yoseph West, this webinar presented invaluable information about creating a foundation for your firm’s growth.
Yoseph West is the co-founder and CEO of Relay Financial. Relay gives small businesses more freedom in money management with “unparalleled clarity into operating expenses, cash flow, and accounts payable.” Will Lopez is the head of the accountant community here at Gusto and has a passion for connecting CPAs with the tools they need to help small business clients succeed.
In this article, we dive into how to create a good foundation for your firm, the power of delegation, and how to leverage banking to help you provide better advisory services.
Three necessities for creating a solid foundation for people advisory
In the world of accounting, many things from bookkeeping basics to the services you provide for clients contribute to the foundation of your firm. According to Yoseph and Will, you need to utilize these three things when transitioning into the realm of people advisory: data, delegation, and delivery.
You need quantifiable metrics to ensure you provide the highest quality services for your clients. When laying the foundation for financial advisory, accurate data about your firm’s performance and your clients is essential. Yoseph believes your data needs accuracy, reliability, and availability to be “high quality.”
“One, the data has to be accurate. It’s like garbage in, garbage out. Forecasts will always have a margin of error, but if you don’t have a foundation of high-quality information, … it increases that margin of error and makes it that much harder for you to deliver advisory [services].”– Yoseph West
In addition to accuracy, your firm needs to reliably collect data about your clients and the services you provide. Automating basic processes at your firm is an excellent strategy to decrease your firm’s hours spent on simple tasks while collecting reliable statistics.
“[Your data] needs to be reliable. Data should be syncing and get you to a point where you’re not having to deal with dumb, administrative processes, perhaps like dealing with two FA codes, or holding onto bank logins—stuff that you shouldn’t be doing.”– Yoseph West
Finally, you need data that updates actively. Having information that updates you and your clients in real-time is the ultimate goal. This quick access to data opens the ability for your firm to provide exceptional advising services to your clients because you don’t need to wait on information to provide advice.
“Three is being as near to real-time with data as possible. … We’ve been sold this dream of real-time financials for quite some time, and best case, our visibility to small business owners is 30 days after the end of the month. And that’s not the goal. We want [our clients] to open their accounting systems and understand where they are. … To be able to deliver advisory, you want to be able to get real-time financials.”– Yoseph West
Accurate, reliable, and up-to-date data will give your firm the foundation it needs to advise clients about making wise business decisions confidently. Quality software solutions like Gusto’s people advisory platform coupled with Relay’s financial services are a great place to start if you need a boost in your firm’s tech stack for data generation and tracking ability.
Just because you and your team are good at multitasking does not mean you should be. One key factor in scaling your firm to handle advisory services efficiently is consistency. Your team needs to provide consistent guidance to your clients to keep them on the right financial path, and according to Yoseph, that means learning how to delegate.
“So when we’re talking about wearing the right hats, … [it’s] knowing when to delegate and enabling trust through collaboration tools. You want to be able to trust your team, but you also want to do it in a way that’s secure and safe, not only for your team but for your clients.”– Yoseph West
Effective delegation makes it possible for your firm to run smoothly. Delegating tasks reduces the amount of stress on both you and your teammates because you ensure that everyone is wearing the right hats. As you entrust work to your team, be sure to match your people with the proper job for them.
Everyone has a specific skill set that makes them unique. Some of your team may be more data-driven and prefer working behind the scenes while others would rather be the face of your business working directly with clients. Whatever their specialties may be, what matters most is that you find the right spot for your employees.
“You want to set your team up for success. So, give them the right responsibilities and training when you focus them in [on their tasks].”– Yoseph West
Pairing your team members with suitable projects is what sets your team up for success as you expand into advisory services. When each staff member is working within their expertise, you open the door to providing better services for your customers.
Delivery goes hand-in-hand with your delegation process. Even though we traditionally think of delegation as handing tasks out to people, technology plays a critical role in modern delegation strategies. Utilizing the proper software increases your team’s freedom in work and gives your firm the ability to effectively deliver services to your clients.
“Technology is the key to staying competitive. It’s how you shift the pie chart from being 50-50 non-billable and billable [tasks] to 75% billable, and it’s also the way that you’re able to deliver the right mix of services for your clients. [Technology makes it possible] to deliver services in a way that’s efficient and makes sense for your practice as well as giving your clients a great experience.”– Yoseph West
Finding a balance between technology options and services makes it possible for your firm to operate at peak performance. The right tech stack can scale your firm without the need to increase your number of staff. Plus, utilizing technology grows your firm’s revenue stream by increasing the time your firm focuses on billable tasks.
Ultimately, software can effectively handle menial tasks and deliver information, which opens the door for your firm to build a strong foundation for advisory services. When you couple this with effective delegation, your firm gains more opportunities to focus on the most important resource at your firm—your clients.
Gusto + Relay can help you leverage banking for collaboration
One of the most significant challenges to developing robust advisory services is building trust with your clients. You want your customers to trust in the advice you provide, and one essential aspect of building trust is to add value. When you add value to your clients’ businesses, it increases the level of confidence they have in your services.
“[One question] that I ask myself pretty regularly as a profession is, ‘How do I leverage and enhance trust while moving at the current pace?’ I think that’s the question you need to ask yourself. It’s all about your trust, and it’s all about your value.”– Will Lopez
According to Yoseph, building trust and increasing value stems from how well your firm accesses and distributes information to clients. One common issue that arises during the advisory process is access to banking information. Banking information often stays separate from the rest of a business’s financial records, hindering collaborative access.
“When you think about the core touchstones of a successful small business back office, you have a general ledger, accounting system, a great payroll and HR solution like Gusto, and one or multiple bank accounts. But often, [banking information] is quite siloed from the rest of the systems, which makes it hard to get access and collaborate securely with your team.”– Yoseph West
Relay Financial was built to overcome the isolated nature of banking services. At its core, Relay is designed to increase collaboration between firms and their clients. This collaboration helps your firm effectively handle client data and move closer to the real-time financial strategy updates your clients desire.
Relay’s next-generation banking software gives firms access to the data they need to efficiently provide advisory services for clients. The partner portal gives accountants secure access to client accounts and eliminates the need for things like two FA codes, MFA codes, and RSA keys. Additionally, Relay actively syncs banking data every three hours and eliminates the possibility of duplicate transactions.
Learn more about the advantages of Relay + Gusto
Adding Relay to your tech stack is an excellent decision to help your firm lay the foundation for high-quality advisory services. By gaining collaborative access to your clients’ banking information, your team gains an opportunity to spend less time focused on gaining entry to your clients’ financial data and more time advising clients.
If you would like to learn more about how Relay and Gusto can open the door for more effective advisory services at your firm, be sure to watch the entire webinar here. Also, if you enjoyed this article, be sure to look into Part One and Part Two of this webinar series. They are full of invaluable information about scaling your firm and increasing its profitability.
Our mission at Gusto is to give CPAs the tools they need to grow into people-focused advisors. Be sure to look into our People Advisory Program to learn how you can add value to your firm by helping clients reach their potential. We also provide a partner blog full of resources for all your advising needs. Visit our Gusto for Accountants page for more information on utilizing people-based accounting within your firm.