Do you want to know which business partnership will help you best serve your clients? If you’ve been providing small business accounting services and want to expand your offerings to include HR, you’ll want to work with trustworthy allies. 

Gusto is your partner in the automation revolution. We’re excited to partner with CPA Academy to help you make the most of every opportunity. The webinar “Build Client Trust With an HR Advisory Practice” featured accounting expert Caleb Newquist. He laid out a case study as told by Dan Luthi of Ignite Spot, a small business CPA firm that partners with Gusto. This compelling case study can serve as an example for those seeking to expand their services.

Caleb Newquist is the Editor-at-Large at Gusto and the founding editor of Going Concern, a leading accounting news publication featuring breaking news, developing stories, and industry insights in the field. Caleb combines his editorial eye, content expertise, and accounting background to create his unique brand.

Ignite Spot’s unique value proposition

Ignite Spot provides outsourced accounting services and financial advisory solutions to a wide range of clients. As generalists, they don’t focus on serving a niche. They also don’t limit themselves to a geographic location—they have clients across the country. However, they do narrow their focus when it comes to what they offer. Remember, specializations are what help make your firm stand out. If you don’t have a niche, specialize in your services as Ignite Spot does. 

“For their value proposition, they focus on their technology solutions, so they’re really into the platforms and solutions that they can partner with and get to know and understand and really make those recommendations to their clients effectively.”

– Caleb Newquist

With technology and automation sweeping the industry, accountants are poised to become technology advisors offering a complete payroll solution. Some firms are concerned about job displacement due to the automation revolution. One way to ride the wave of automation (instead of fighting against it) is to partner with it. Technology can outperform people in a number of ways—speed, scope, and accuracy—yet it needs a human behind it. Evaluating complex factors such as context and goals requires a person who can leverage technology in the best way possible.

If your firm chooses to specialize in technology, you’ll be poised to be that person for your clients. Not every platform will work for every circumstance or client. Busy business owners aren’t likely to have the time or knowledge to know how to set up their tech tools efficiently and in ways that benefit their bottom line.

Female employee giving a presentation using her laptop at meeting with colleagues.

On the other hand, some accounting firms can also benefit from automating their processes. Ignite Spot works with Gusto on payroll because it increases accuracy and saves them from the headache of navigating complex and tedious payroll processes. Additionally, they lower their liability when it comes to payroll calculations.

“They’d been providing a payroll solution to their clients for a long time. They had lots of clients that needed that solution, so they wanted to work with a third-party provider because they wanted to limit their liability. And I’m sure many of you have heard [there are] payroll nightmares out there. Whether it’s firms or other organizations where you collect the payroll tax, but you don’t end up remitting it. That [turns] into a mess that you just don’t want to think about.”

– Caleb Newquist

By outsourcing payroll processes to Gusto, Ignite Spot frees up time, energy, and problem-solving power to focus on more complex projects. They can focus more on being advisors offering personalized, yet holistic attention to their valuable clients.

Why Ignite Spot partnered with Gusto

Of course, if a firm is to trust processes to any outsourced provider, they should make sure that provider is exceptional. That’s why Ignite Spot partnered with Gusto. The reputation for quality and accuracy, customer support, and a values-driven business model appealed to them. Most importantly, they knew a Gusto partnership would be consistently reliable.

“Working with a provider who really specializes in payroll is something that they look for so they could provide a solution to a client, but they aren’t necessarily doing the nitty-gritty that’s necessary, and kind of have the associated risks with that. They really wanted a solution they could … set it and forget it, so to speak.”

– Caleb Newquist

Prior to partnering with Gusto, their payroll services with clients were hit or miss. The results were inconsistent, and the technology they were using wasn’t user-friendly. The Ignite Spot team took note of customer feedback.

“Clients noticed inconsistent service [and] were getting nickel-and-dimed on fees and some of the pricing. They also thought that the interface was more administratively focused than customer-focused. … [Instead,] they wanted consistent service  [and] very, very, few mistakes. Clients want transparent and fair pricing for what they are getting, and they wanted a solution that was customer-focused.”

– Caleb Newquist

By stepping up their game in payroll services, Ignite Spot was able to pitch HR services more and more. The first step was to solidify their reputation. The next step was to identify clients who will be good candidates for more services. Generally, the larger the company, the more likely they are to have a need for HR services.

“Clients [with] two or three employees [won’t have a] large number of issues. But as you discover clients with more employees—maybe they operate in a couple of different states—then there’s … this regular ongoing need [for] a solution that addresses lots of payroll benefits and HR issues.”

– Caleb Newquist

A provider who can tackle both payroll and HR support is ideal. Why separate financial and accounting processes from human resources if you don’t have to? They are intimately linked, and tackling both with one provider makes for a more streamlined and effective experience.

How to pitch clients and build credibility

Offering HR services is a natural outgrowth of offering payroll services. It’s the next step up. When presenting HR advisory services, do so naturally, and focus on how your role is to set businesses up for success in all ways, from payroll to benefits to employee development. You can assess this straight away during the onboarding process.

“When it comes to] HR advisory for Ignite, a big, big part of [it was in] the onboarding. It [was] asking the right questions, things like, ‘What do you need? Is it more than just payroll?’ And if it is more than payroll, then they can kind of talk about benefits and other human resource capabilities. It really depends on the client situation, or even if they have an HR person already and looking at the cost of that versus having just a third-party partner to handle a lot of those issues.”

– Caleb Newquist
Two businessmen having a discussion on laptop in the office.

Pitching a new service is always a little tricky at first. You’ll need to make a strong case for yourself. You might focus on how well you already know that business or industry. You may touch on the commitment to the quality you’ve demonstrated. In Ignite Spot’s case, they highlighted their partnership with Gusto. As a well-known brand, Gusto’s backing can help make your clients feel comfortable. With not one but two trusted allies on their side working together, you make your clients feel well taken care of, even special.

“[One key] to success [is having] a relationship with Gusto. [When I talked to Dan], he really could not say enough … about Gusto working as a partner with Ignite, and that relationship [is] really strong. They’ve got a great partner advisor who is dedicated to their firm. … [Another thing] that comes along with that relationship [is] the onboarding, so when [Ignite] introduces a client to the Gusto platform, that advisor takes them through the onboarding process. It really gives that client a lot of confidence.”

– Caleb Newquist

One way that Gusto makes life easier for clients is the ease with which it can be implemented. It’s only natural that people will feel hesitant to switch up their processes and risk losing data or organization. A solution like Gusto ensures seamless, smooth, and stress-free integration. 

“In the cases for small businesses that have been using a payroll product and [are] going to migrate, or they’re going to change from that one product to Gusto, that migration process might seem a little intimidating. … Working with Gusto really gives those clients a lot of comfort.”

– Caleb Newquist

In the case of pitching HR services, first impressions really do matter. Start off strong with a solid value prop, which is the value you’re bringing to a client should they choose to buy your product. Refer to this throughout the intake and onboarding process so that you’re reinforcing it over time. In Ignite Spot’s case, they were able to touch on their partnership with Gusto at every stage. They emphasized how this teamwork enabled them to take more time and give more attention to detail, personalization, and quality control.

“Your firm is kind of the first line of defense. … You listen, you ask questions, and you make recommendations. … When things get slightly more technical with the platform, or if [there’s] an issue that you don’t feel comfortable advising on, you know that Gusto is going to work with you so that that business can have results. And again, your firm working closely with Gusto presents this united front, and it gives clients a lot of confidence in the services that you’re providing.”

– Caleb Newquist

So if you start out with Gusto, where does that leave you in the long run? The answer is up to you. Having support when you first roll out services is invaluable. It creates a system of checks and balances that helps prevent anything from slipping through the cracks. You will grow as an advisor over time if you continuously expand your value via education and expertise. At some point, you should be able to provide services alone. Until then, your partnership can help you be assured that you always have the right solution for your clients.

“[If you’re] getting started with HR advisory services … start with that partnership. There are certain things that an organization like Gusto … can provide insight [into] that much quicker. But as you grow … and develop this practice and as it matures, you’re going to be able to provide that insight as well. But in the initial stages especially, Gusto can … be right there with you and really talk about what the capabilities are and answer questions that a client may have.”

– Caleb Newquist

With a Gusto partnership, you can feel confident serving clients by incorporating tech into everything from payroll to employee development. 

Learn more about marketing for accounting firms

Ignite Spot is a generalist firm that serves a variety of businesses across the country. By specializing in tech platforms, they surpassed any limitations they might have from not having niched their customer base. Their value lies in their ability to advise clients about the tech that works for them. One reason they are able to do this well is their partnership with Gusto. With Gusto’s reputation for quality and expertise, Ignite Spot has a great resource to tap when needed. They also make their clients feel more comfortable—and well taken care of—because of this partnership. It also allows Ignite Spot to expand safely, knowing they have something to fall back on.

Gusto’s mission is to create a world that empowers a better life. We are your partner every step of the way as you evolve your firm. Check out our other articles based on the same webinar: “How to Get Started with Offering HR Services” and “Kruze Consulting: A HR Case Study.”

Becoming a Gusto Partner can make your life easier. Get payroll and HR support for your team and our new advisory revenue stream for your practice through our people advisory platform. As a Gusto partner, you’ll also get tools to help you expand your accounting practice and offer your clients new insights, plus a free payroll subscription for your own accounting firm. Sign up today!

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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