Defining Gusto’s People Advisory Program for Partners

Gusto Editors

Do you provide services that give your clients peace of mind?

The business world is constantly changing, and as CPAs, it’s not easy to keep pace at times. Many tasks, like data collection, can be handled by technology that simplifies bookkeeping processes. That’s why it’s essential to begin shifting your client interactions from rote bookkeeping to helping them better manage their team. Doing so will put clients at ease with the idea that you are advising them to make the best decisions. This includes freeing them from tasks, so they can more effectively grow.

That is why we at Gusto have partnered with CPA Academy to bring you the webinar “Reimagine Payroll: Transform Compliance Work into Recurring Advisory Revenue.” In this webinar, we looked at what it means to embrace technology and move to a people-advisor role as CPAs. Our hosts were Gusto’s own Jaclyn Anku and Caleb Newquist.

Jaclyn Anku is the Partner Education Manager at Gusto who is passionate about educating small business owners to give them the tools they need to thrive financially. Caleb Newquist is the editor-at-large at Gusto and publishes the weekly newsletter, On the Margins, for accountants who like to work outside the lines of “normal” accounting.

In this article, we will look at how to implement services to give your clients peace of mind, what it means to be a people advisor in accounting, and how to meet clients’ needs in a technology-based world. 

The growing need for people advisory services

The global pandemic gave rise to uncertainty and the need for accountants to create a place of shelter for their clients.  They need to help clients navigate financial and business decisions. Sage’s report, The Practice of Now 2020, reinforced the importance of consulting in the accounting profession.

“According to Sage’s 2020 Practice of Now, across the U.S., 79% of accountants say that client expectations have expanded to include business and finance consultancy, … 86% say that clients are increasingly demanding greater flexibility within their budget to access the services of most importance to their business, … and 51% of accountants believe technology skills will make the most impact in the profession in the next five to ten years.”

– Jaclyn Anku
High angle view at multi-ethnic group of young business people working together in office

These numbers reveal three significant needs of clients moving forward: Clients expect advice from their accountants, they want advisory options tailored to their unique requirements, and that technology will play an important role. To effectively service clients, it’s time to begin planning for more flexibility in the way your firm conducts business. 

“Of course, we’re just coming out of a pandemic, which had serious implications for the small business community and the accounting profession, so client expectations have changed. Payroll happened to play a big part in clients being able to access PPP funds during the pandemic. So what we’ve seen is that while advisory has progressed and evolved, payroll hasn’t really been part of the conversation until now.”

– Jaclyn Anku

The rise of PPP loans positioned payroll at the forefront of finance for small businesses. Because of that shift, accountants noticed the vital need for payroll services beyond running the numbers. Payroll became a way to provide support and enhance the performance of many small business clients:

“I think folks started realizing they could use payroll and payroll data to help take care of their teams, so [payroll] became so much more than just clicking a button to run payroll.”

– Jaclyn Anku

As employee turnover and remote work continue to trend, payroll grows from a weekly report into a place to provide support and insight. To keep up with the changes in the economy, accountants need to continue moving into an advising role for their clients. People advisory services allow firms to make that transition smoothly and meet their clients’ needs.

Redefining payroll with people advisory services

Understanding that payroll is more than just a transaction for businesses to pay their employees is the first step toward realizing the need for people advisory services. Rather than viewing payroll as a simple transfer of money, the best way to look at payroll is a value exchange. Viewing payroll as a value exchange shifts the focus from a business’ bottom line to the people on its team.

“People advisory turns payroll on its head and gives accountants an entirely new way to use it as a strategic inroad. When you look closely at payroll and really think about it, you see that it’s so much more than a transaction; it’s a value exchange from an employer to their team of employees. That value exchange is fundamental to what it means to be a small business owner and drives the economy forward.”

Jaclyn Anku

People advisory services transcend payroll and allow accountants to guide clients on building a great place to work. Accountants gain the ability to apply their financial knowledge to the understanding of how their clients’ businesses work. This application of knowledge makes it possible to look beyond the numbers and into the team’s interpersonal relationships.

“When you pair this [financial] knowledge with knowledge of people’s operations, you can really make insightful recommendations that get to the root cause of what’s going on with the numbers and what’s going on with the team. [It looks at] how team morale affects business results and vice versa. The concept of people advisory is based on the idea that people are at the heart of every business. We’ve gone from the machine economy to the knowledge economy, and now to the people economy.”

– Jaclyn Anku
Group of colleagues having a discussion at the office

Creating a people-focused environment allows businesses to create a workplace employees genuinely love, and people advisory is at the core of this idea. Each employee gains support through benefits options and the opportunity to learn the best way to manage their finances through services that offer more than a paycheck. When you offer the clients people advisory services, you offer them peace of mind:

“People advisors intuitively know the positive impact that a happy team can have on the business, but clients sometimes need help getting there and connecting the dots in that way. I think a lot of times clients can be surprised to find out that a happy team can make just as much of a difference to the bottom line as something like cutting costs or mitigating a rent increase. Happy teams matter.”

– Jaclyn Anku

The core of a good business is a happy team. To make teams happy, employers need opportunities to reflect their employees’ value in the services they provide. If you, as a CPA, take the step into a people advisor role, you give your clients options to boost morale and create peace of mind in their team.

Learn more 

The days of the machine economy are over. Your business clients no longer look at their employees as cogs in their money-making machine, and it is time for you to offer opportunities for them to move towards a people-focused way of doing business. If you take the steps towards becoming a people advisor, your clients will give their teams a chance to move toward a place of happiness.

People advisory services enable you to step into your clients’ businesses and help them make wise business decisions beyond transactions. As an advisor, you gain the ability to educate your clients on how to make wise decisions for the overall prosperity of their team in addition to making informed financial decisions for the company:

“It’s an opportunity for accountants to apply their financial and business acumen, not only to just the business but specifically to the business and its team. Payroll is at the heart of that, but it goes beyond there. [It also includes] benefits so that people can take care of their financial wellness and their health. People advisory really is about surfacing insights within aspects of a business team and sharing them with clients so they can be better informed to make better business decisions.”

– Caleb Newquist

If you enjoyed this article and would like more information about utilizing people advisory services in your firm, be sure to watch the entire webinar here. Also, keep an eye out for Part Two and Part Three of this webinar series as we take an even deeper look at Gusto’s services for our partners and their clients.

Our mission at Gusto is to help accountants and their clients gain peace of mind while on their financial journey. We partner with over 4,500 firms nationwide to promote financial security and develop a culture of empowerment in the office. Be sure to look into our People Advisory Program to learn how to connect with your clients beyond their finances. 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.

Gusto Editors Gusto Editors, contributing authors on Gusto, provide actionable tips and expert advice on HR and payroll for successful business management.
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