Josh Lance leads Lance CPA Group, a firm that helps craft breweries, creative entrepreneurs, and makers grow and thrive.

Read on to find out how Josh turned payroll from a loss-leader to a recurring revenue driver in three months.

The Challenge: Giving Away Value

Josh’s clients were lining up to get business advice about payroll, benefits, and HR. But, the firm was giving advice away for free. “We weren’t charging for the value we were providing—there was a lot we were doing for free.”

Josh realized that by offering People Advisory Services he could break this cycle and provide his clients with even more value while also driving revenue for his firm.

What Josh didn’t know was how to package and deliver the services: What would his firm’s People Advisory offering look like, and what should he charge for it?

People Advisory? Tell Me More.

People Advisory is a consultative service in which accountants pair their financial expertise with people operations to guide clients on building a great place to work. 

By putting people at the heart of your advice, you can help your clients and their teams with advice on payroll, benefits, and people operations that they need now.

Building a People Advisory Practice

Gusto’s People Advisory Accelerator Program gave Josh the frameworks and tools he needed to: 

  • Develop People Advisory service packages 
  • Identify team leads
  • Price the service
  • And then launch it

Hear More from Josh

Signing up the First Three Clients

The first three businesses Josh signed up for People Advisory were existing clients whose contracts were coming up for renewal. All three were looking for additional services and asking lots of questions about benefits and HR. It was clear to Josh that his new People Advisory Packages could deliver value in their areas of need above and beyond his traditional payroll service.

“The tiered Packages template found in the Accelerator Program made it really easy for my team to present People Advisory to clients. They totally got it.”

To close the deals, Josh used Practice Ignition’s ready-made People Advisory engagement letter. “We just put in the prices and pressed send. It was really straightforward.”

Using the Practice Ignition templates is a sure fire way to ensure both the client and the firm are clear on the deliverables. It puts the entire engagement on a strong foundation and makes a great first impression.

Staffing the New Services

Lance CPA Group already had an HR specialist who provides support to the firm’s team. This person was keen to broaden her scope to serve clients, too. Along with a payroll specialist, who was already familiar with Gusto and People Advisor Certified, Josh had identified his People Advisory dream team and was able to empower them through providing a more meaningful way to engage with clients, which will ultimately benefit their careers in the accounting profession.

At first, both were apprehensive about the shift to People Advisory, so Josh explained the details of the three Package tiers and defined the scope of each person’s role. After that, the team got excited about stepping into new roles, focusing on building out a new service, growing their skills, and gaining experience.

Delivering the Packages

Delivering qualitative and quantitive analysis around team wellness and productivity really set Josh’s firm apart from competitors who merely provide payroll compliance.

The services outlined in the Packages include analyzing ‘People Planning KPIs’ like retention rates and revenue per employee. For Josh, revenue per employee is a great starting point. It’s a basic KPI but it’s a meaningful way of looking at a business’s people. Can they afford to give raises or recruit additional staff, for example? It’s simple and easy for clients to understand, and it provides a lot of talking points.

Growing Recurring Revenue

Before Accelerator, payroll was a loss leader for Lance CPA Group. For clients and for the firm, it was considered, “a compliance thing we’ll do for you.” And pricing was firmly rooted in this mentality.

Fast forward to today. The newly priced People Advisory Packages reflect the actual value of what the firm does for its clients—the tangible things that ultimately help them as employers.

Josh’s Packages align to three pricing tiers:

  • Essential package. $500 per month (excluding the cost of Gusto software) and covers payroll systems and tax support, monthly payroll reconciliation, analysis of team performance KPIs, and an annual People Advisory consultation.
  • Advanced package. $1,500 per month and adds team onboarding and offboarding, managing timesheets and PTO, benefits administration, payments, analysis of team wellness KPIs, and a quarterly People Advisory consultation.
  • Premium package. $3,500 per month and adds support around team engagement, analysis of team impact KPIs, written People Advisory recommendations, and a monthly consultation.

These are eye-popping numbers: almost 10 to 15 times what Josh was charging before. So, how did clients react? “We’ve had no problem signing clients up to these prices, and we may be able to go higher in the future.”

“We’ve had no pushback on price. That was the bit I was nervous about. It was a big ask. But People Advisory provides a lot of value, and our clients see that.”

Client Impact

Josh is able to command such high  numbers because clients realize and appreciate the value of the service. One client who signed up for the Advanced package has worked with Josh’s People Advisory Champion to build a benefits package that includes a retirement option. Employees have appreciated their employer’s investment in their long-term prosperity and morale has been bolstered.

A New Three-Pillar Business Model

Payroll services are no longer buried deep in Josh’s website. Now, payroll services are the foundation of a broader People Advisory practice.

In fact, it’s one of three key service offerings, on equal footing with tax and bookkeeping. “We’re giving it prominence to show we think it’s something valuable for our clients.” And the revenue it’s generating for the firm is proof of that.

In case after case, our clients are saying, “That’s exactly what I need, and I don’t have a problem paying for it.”

The Time is Now

In a time of heightened awareness around physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing, small business employers need the help of a People Advisor to create a modern workplace that attracts and retains high performing talent. Through reimagining your payroll practice you have the opportunity to meet the needs of clients head-on while also realizing important opportunities for your own team and firm.

Gusto’s People Advisory Accelerator Program provides the training and tools needed for firm leaders to develop People Advisory packages, and to staff, price, and sell them so that you can drive recurring revenue at your firm. In addition to teaching best practices, the program provides 25+ turnkey tools and templates so that you can implement what you’re learning, immediately. You’ll even earn 4 CPE credits in the process.

You and your team can build your foundation on people operations best practices through becoming People Advisor Certified, and earn 5 CPE credits. Learning the fundamentals of payroll, benefits, and people operations provides the knowledge and confidence to deliver a consistently high-value service.

By launching your People Advisory practice you’ll join a community of 2,000+ Certified People Advisors who are a part of the positive change the accounting profession and economy needs now.

Jaclyn Anku Jaclyn is the Partner Education Manager at Gusto. She started her career as a small business consultant and is passionate about teaching small business owners financial literacy and arming them with great advice. Before joining Gusto, she led business education for accountants and bookkeepers at Xero. She lives with her husband and two daughters in Oakland, CA.
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