Q&A with Josh Lance: Integrating People Advisory in Your Accounting Firm

Gusto Editors

Do you want to know how the ability to retain good employees will help your clients thrive?

When you help clients decrease turnover and increase revenue, you provide a value that goes above and beyond helping them with compliance or even advisory accounting. Helping them build great places to work can help you gain significant growth opportunities so you can rely on a recurring revenue business model at your firm.

To show you how to sell People Advisory Services to your clients, we partnered with CPA Academy to bring you a webinar titled “How to Sell People Advisory Services, With Gusto and Practice Ignition.”  The webinar was hosted by Will Lopez, head of Gusto’s accountant community. He brought on Josh Lance of Lance CPA to reveal a case study demonstrating how advisory services can increase opportunities at your firm. 

Josh Lance loves helping small businesses eliminate time-sucking, low- to no-ROI activities and boost their revenue through advisory. His People Advisory Services packages help clients keep their business goals and hiring needs in sync, keep their teams happy through HR support and benefits administration, and support their people strategy through data-driven insights.

In this article, you’ll learn what advisory services in accounting can do for your firm and what to do if a client is only interested in using your firm’s accounting services. As you familiarize yourself with the range of benefits People Advisory can offer, you’ll be equipped to counter opposition from even your most reluctant clients.

How Offering People Advisory Services Can Catalyze Your Career

Businessman and woman having discussion at table in office.

Offering a client an upgrade in payroll services isn’t likely to lead to much business opportunity. Even if Gusto’s payroll platform is a big improvement on what they have in place, clients won’t necessarily feel making a switch is worth their time and energy. But using payroll as a gateway to offer a whole suite of high-value services clients can’t get anywhere else? That’s a game-changer.

“Payroll is typically offered … as a bookkeeping add-on. It always has been low-value. … We look at it as … an annoyance, I think, as a profession, and it’s just reduced to a singular bullet point on a list of accounting deliverables. But … you [can] use payroll as a starting point for People Advisory [services], [and]  you can then start delivering … payroll technologies … [with] an integrated payroll, benefits, HR, [and] financial wellness platform.”

– Will Lopez

Will explained how advisory is what brings irreplaceable value to your clients. While people can use payroll technology relatively painlessly, they can’t gain the insights that help them manage their teams as easily alone as they can with Gusto. If you and your team can become adept at advisory, your clients will look to you for advice on payroll, benefits, people support, HR, financial wellness options, and more.

“The crown jewel … is data-driven people-advisory insights and analysis.” – Will Lopez

The way that you’ll be able to be the expert for your clients and bring your advice to life is through Gusto’s technology. The product you’ll be able to confidently sell to clients will be People Advisory Service Packages, which can form the backbone of your recurring revenue.

Just as you can offer Client Accounting Services packages, you can also offer People Advisory Services packages, which can range from basic to premium. You start with the basics—payroll services—but offer a range of add-ons that grow as you strengthen your client relationships. Project-based add-ons complement recurring packages, which enable you to tailor your services to exactly what the client wants and needs. 

Gusto’s partner, Practice Ignition—a proposal software company that facilitates bookkeeping and other business activities—helps make this possible. By working with them, we make it easy for you not only to design and offer packages, but to implement them.

“At Gusto, you … design People Advisory Packages, activate them through Practice Ignition, and staff them. You’d learn how to staff them through our accelerator course, [in which you learn] how to price them [and] how to get the word out to clients. … You get all the tools and the templates that you need to … get started right away, and these include pre-designed People Advisory packages across three tiers of service.”

– Will Lopez

Gusto is committed to supporting you through the process of offering advisory services. We’ll provide a staffing guide to help you identify what we call “sponsors and champions,” the people in your team who are likely to prioritize advisory packages and be enthusiastic about delivering them to clients. A ready-made calculator will simplify the pricing process and help you decide between charging fixed fees, hourly rates, or value pricing. Additionally, we offer a powerful, pre-made People Advisory webpage and additional marketing and sales assets for you to use right away.

Case Study: Sketchbook Brewing

To illustrate his point, Will brought in Josh Lance to discuss his first client win as an advisor— Sketchbook Brewing. A microbrewery based in Illinois, it’s on the larger side of small businesses with around 25 employees. Initially a longstanding tax client, Josh faced the challenge that most people pitching advisory services have to face—having to overcome objections like “Why should I outsource payroll when I can do it internally?” and “Why should I pay for more services?”

Two diverse business executive partners negotiating at board meeting.

Josh credits People Advisory as what won them over. Further, he was able to sign them at a really fast rate.

“Josh had [a] conversation with the client on June 3rd, and by June 15th, the client had signed everything. [He sold them the middle tier of] our People Advisory package. It included Gusto’s technology and locked in … $18,000 a year of recurring revenue, or $1,500 a month, which is extremely, extremely amazing, especially for a tax client that’s been a tax client for so long and a client that’s never bought a package or advisory [service] ever because they just didn’t see the value [in it].”

– Will Lopez

It’s great to see how Josh benefitted from working with Sketchbook Brewery, but what did his client get out of it? You can feel confident selling advisory packages knowing that you’re providing something exceptional for those you serve. Sketchbook Brewery gained value on many levels, all of which increased their revenue and made running their business easier.

“It wasn’t so much that they needed someone to run payroll. … They already had … this gap internally of ‘Man, there’s a lot of things that we’re doing for our employees, [and] we’re not sure if it’s the right stuff. We need help … making sure we can retain … employees.’ … Being able to … look at [them] and say, ‘There’s this additional help that we can provide [to] make sure that [you] can retain [your] employees and [take] care of them in the right way,’ was critical.”

– Josh Lance

Creating great places to work is a win-win for everyone. When people enjoy going to work, they stick around longer. As turnover decreases, clients can put more of their resources toward growth while cultivating a positive culture that keeps customers coming back. Unfortunately, creating a great place to work is where many clients are stumped. 

“People are what makes that business tick, … and without having the right people in place, you’re not going to be able to serve your customers or be able to bring revenue in the door. … This brewery … really needed that additional help, that additional assistance [to get] them to a place where they felt confident that they were taking care of employees in the right way.”

– Josh Lance

So what changes did Josh actually help his clients implement? First, he helped them craft a benefits package that truly supported his team.

“They put a 401k plan in place. … They’re super excited about [it, and] the employees are excited about it]. We’re doing profit sharing now with their employees, which is exciting, and they’ve been able to hire and retain more employees. They’re not getting that turnover that a lot of hospitality businesses face with their staff. They’re able to retain [their] staff, and when they hire, they’re really hiring for growth.”

– Josh Lance

The ability to have long-term personal prosperity is a basic need that too many businesses don’t think they can offer, but it’s more accessible with Gusto. When people know that they’re not just floating from paycheck to paycheck—and that their job can support their future—they’re more likely to stay.

Two people standing while in discussion in the office.

Creating a great place to work is also critical to retaining staff and increasing revenue. Yet how many small businesses have a weak or non-existent company culture? Without a positive culture, employees will default to apathy and be less committed to their jobs. By leveraging Gusto’s platform, Josh was able to help Sketchbook Brewery create a culture that reflected their values and brought them into integrity. He also worked as HR support with staff members.

“We continue to further advise them. We just went through a process of re-evaluating their employee handbook and making sure that [it] was actually reflecting what the actual life at Sketchbook Brewing looked like. [We also] work with their team members to make sure that they understand what their benefits are and [make] sure [they know] how they can access those benefits and [that] they feel like they have a voice and they’re taken care of.”

– Josh Lance

As of January 2022, Josh still had a thriving relationship with Sketchbook Brewery and expected that to continue to grow. Because he provides so much value, he foresaw an increase in opportunity with them.

“There’s [an] ability to do even more things with them [in the future], and we can even expand our People Advisory services to them and provide additional value. So it’s just been really a great way to build our relationship together and continue to support and advise them in the long term.”

– Josh Lance

People Advisory Packages can truly make life easier and business more profitable for both you and your clients.

Learn more about integrating people advisory at your firm

Most clients won’t bite when you offer them a new payroll solution—it’s not known as a high-value service. However, payroll technologies combined with People Advisory services is an exceptional offer that, properly proposed, can bring you long-term recurring revenue. Gusto supports firms that are beginning to offer these services through a pre-built website, marketing assets, and comprehensive training. Small businesses like Sketchbook Brewery have found that advisory helps them keep great team members around, decrease turnover, and increase revenue. You can feel confident offering advisory services if you keep this value in mind.

Did you enjoy this article? Check out the full webinar to learn more. Also, keep an eye out for our other articles based on the same episode: Leveraging People Advisory and Practice Ignition to Scale Your Accounting Firm and Top Tips for Launching a People Advisory Practice at Your Firm.

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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