Leveraging People Advisory and Practice Ignition to Scale Your Accounting Firm

Gusto Editors

Do you want to know how to scale an accounting firm and advisory practice easily through digital process automation?

Your growth depends on how agile you are. Streamlining and automating processes frees up energy you can use to grow your business. To discuss how our partner Practice Ignition can help you do this, we worked 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 and Ryan Embree, head of partnerships at Practice Ignition.

Ryan Embree helps accounting firms embrace new technology and modernize their practices for success. He’s passionate about helping CPEs serve clients confidently and effectively by using software that’s revolutionizing how people do business.

In this article, you’ll learn how you can create an accounting engagement letter, deliver accounting services proposals, and automate payments through one easy-to-use platform.

How you can leverage Practice Ignition proposal software for accountants

When it comes to pitching new services, you want to start off strong. You want to represent your brand well by showing how streamlined and efficient your processes are.

A good first impression sets the tone for the rest of your services, builds trust and warmth, and can boost both your client’s confidence and your own. You also want to make it very easy for your clients to understand exactly what you have to offer, what its value is, and how you’re able to adapt your services to the unique needs of their business.

Young coworkers sitting on sofa and working on laptop.

Realizing how important this is, leaders at Gusto partnered with Practice Ignition to create proposal software advisors can use to put their best foot forward with clients.

“Ultimately, we came together to help eliminate friction in offering People Advisory services. A lot of the firms were struggling with People Advisory. They understood what the concept was, [and] they understood how they could offer it, [but they didn’t know] how [to] actually package and bundle those services together and present them.”

– Ryan Embree

Practice Ignition’s proposal software is incredibly easy to use and is your platform to deliver and manage proposal packages, paperwork, and billing in one place.

“[It’s] the place where we … take and engage our clients from the proposal of services all the way through getting [them] to provide payment details and sign engagement letters and then finally bill them for the services that we do. … It’s a one-stop-shop for us to … manage or engage with our clients in how we get paid and how we impact our clients.”

– Josh Lance

Practice Ignition simplifies digital paperwork, eliminating the need to use outdated Word docs or PDFs. Instead of expecting clients to print out, fill out, and sign multiple different documents for different processes, it stores them all in one easily accessible, digital place.

It also allows you to build your brand right from the start with an initial brochure detailing who you are as a firm. This is a great lead-in to laying out your services, which will be delivered in a clear, visually-appealing format that’s easy to digest. The easier you make things for your clients, the better chance you have of locking down a deal.

“When we craft a proposal in Practice Ignition, what they get to see there first is our brochure, [which] shows who we are as a company. It talks about why we’re a different and unique firm … that can best serve them. They also get to see our scope of services and how we are going to serve them, … [including] what’s included in that scope [and] what’s not included in that scope. We also do that in … a three-option proposal as well. So we’ll send three option proposals to our clients, [and] they get to choose the level of service they want to do.”

– Josh Lance

By clearly laying out scope terms right away, advisors prevent confusion that can lead to scope creep. When communication is lacking and misunderstandings occur, there’s a greater chance of straining or losing client relationships. That’s why Practice Ignition is committed to making the paperwork as easy as possible. 

Another great feature you’ll have access to is the ability to take payment details right away. You’ll bill clients automatically, which is a game changer! Getting rid of invoices and the need to bill and collect payments will save you time and energy. Your clients won’t deal with the stress of receiving a billing statement each month, and you won’t need to worry about chasing anyone down for payment. 

“If you don’t have … billing automated, it’s going to be a pretty tough conversation every month, asking your client to cut you a check for $10,000. So, we wanted to make sure that not only can you present those services in an easily digestible form … but [that you can] ultimately have that streamlined kind of billing and workflows once those get accepted.”

– Ryan Embree

Finally, clients will be able to read and sign the engagement letter right there with everything else. After reading the terms and conditions—all the things you’ll each need to have in order to engage with each other—they’ll sign off. With Practice Ignition, getting multiple people to sign off won’t be a hassle. You can get the signatures of everyone you need right there on the platform. Once you’ve received signatures, you’ll be ready to start serving them—it’s as easy as that.

Practice Ignition’s templates and features for advisors

It’s important to have built-in flexibility when you’re offering new services to a range of clients who may have different needs. This allows you to tweak your offerings as you grow and evolve, as you learn more about what your clients need, and as clients scale their businesses. 

Young people revising paperwork at their office.

Some firms may offer People Advisory services as a stand-alone service, but others will have clients who only want to continue with accounting services. Still, others will have a combination of both that may shift over time. Will explained that he’d seen a wide range in what business owners are looking for, including some who are willing to pay top dollar for advisory.

“We’re seeing a diverse adoption of People Advisory, from the stand-alone product to … a comprehensive package. … One of our partners … owns a very successful bookkeeping practice that actually closed [in] their first $10,000 a month. Yes, I repeat—$10,000 a month—[for a] comprehensive package where 40% of it was actually People Advisory services.”

– Will Lopez

Given the high-level value of People Advisory, you’ll want to highlight it in the way you present it. Josh shared how he does so with his clients.

“We have client account services as one arm, tax services as a second arm, and then People Advisory services as the third arm. … Typically, when we are proposing a client, we may be doing all three of [these], or we were doing a couple of those in our proposals. … [We really] see that People Advisory is … a stand-alone third arm of services. And we’re not trying to … lump it into client accounting services [or] lump it into tax services. [We designate it as a] high-level service offering.”

– Josh Lance

Remember that you’re not bound to traditional ways of billing your clients. Many accountants, such as those who use value pricing, are doing away with billing by the hour altogether. With this method of charging for your services, you can pretty much charge whatever you want, though this style is not for everyone.

The element of speed will also be an advantage when crafting and offering proposals. You won’t have time to waste, especially if you’ll be serving a variety of clients with different needs. That’s why the developers at Practice Ignition created templates to help you launch your practice swiftly and easily. 

“We wanted to make it really easy for firms to be able to … fast-track the creation of proposals. … So, when you’re ready to start offering those services, and you connect to Gusto and Practice Ignition, you’ll actually unlock a template for People Advisory services that has three tiers of services across payroll, benefits, and HR services. That was developed with the help of Josh and a few other accounting professionals who launched their People Advisory practice.”

– Ryan Embree

By taking input from Josh and other accountants, the developers at Practice Ignition have committed to crafting the tools you’ll need most out there in the field. You can tweak them to suit your business. Josh shared some of his thoughts about building out the templates. The visual design element was critical. He wanted clients to clearly see each package and what the differences were.

“[The] … visual element … describes what’s included there, but then when someone clicks into one of those options, they get the detail of what’s actually in there, what’s the scope of services, what’s going to be part of that package, and what’s not.”

– Josh Lance

Starting off with a template makes it easy for you to get started serving clients right away. As you refine your process and get feedback from clients, you’ll be able to easily modify and change your presentation.

“Maybe you want to condense it down and make it a little bit more [simple] in presentation or maybe you’ll even expand it further and [include more detail] in further steps. But at least it gives firms a place to start so they can hit the ground running with the three option proposal, and [it] really … showcases the differences between [the] three options.”

– Josh Lance

How Digital Process Automation Is Advancing the Industry

Group of young business people are working together in modern office.

Practice Ignition is committed to making life easier for its partners. Its data migration process works quickly and accurately pulls all client information from Gusto. Once you log into the platform, you’ll see client information pre-populated so you can start using it immediately. Furthermore, you’ll have access to templates as soon as you’ve connected to Gusto through the platform.

“Within Practice Ignition … we’ll pull across your clients from Gusto. Any clients that you manage in Gusto [will be] visible in Practice Ignition. … Once you connect to Gusto in Practice Ignition, you’ll … unlock [the template], so you can start using it, tweaking it, and [getting] ready to engage your clients.”

– Ryan Embree

All aspects of your business need to be streamlined for you to make the most of your time. One of Practice Ignition’s most exciting features is its ability to automate billing. This goes much further than simply processing payments. Their technology regularly refreshes data so your pricing will reflect changes in your client’s business. This wasn’t by accident—in collaborating with Josh, the Gusto team, and other accountants, Ryan and his team identified exactly what problems they could solve specifically for those in the accounting field.

“[You’ll have] the ability to offer smart billing. So when we were working with the Gusto team [to identify] … how firms [could offer] People Advisory packages, being able to bundle those software costs into [a] monthly advisory fee was a really big component.”

– Ryan Embree

They also did this with growth and flexibility in mind. Changes are to be expected, so it’s critical to have the right framework in place to be able to move with the current quickly. For example, if your client hires new people, you will not need to ask for updated information to update your billing. 

“[We all know the challenges of using] very fast pieces of technology [which] have variable components [and] variable billing on a month-to-month basis. … For anybody [who] has … 50% or more of their … business [as] recurring revenue, the moment you introduce a piece of software that has recurring fees or variable fees, it’s really tough to manage. … Imagine checking the billing every single month for 500 clients [whose] underlying subscription cost is different every month. … It’s arduous, it’s egregious, it’s terrible.”

– Will Lopez

Practice Ignition offers a revolutionary way to manage billing, and it can make all the difference in your success. Will went on to describe his enthusiasm for it.

“[Practice Ignition] … did something incredible that allows you to … manage the variable fee automatically. So, if your clients hire more employees, lay off employees, [or] add on subcontractors and Gusto’s underlying fee changes, it automatically changes inside Practice Ignition and charges the client the right amount every single month.”

– Will Lopez

The developers at Practice Ignition also made sure your clients couldn’t claim any surprises if their fees changed. In the engagement letter,  you’ll disclose the recurring billing fee as well as the variable fee, which is subject to change based on circumstances such as team growth. 

Learn more about digital process automation

Gusto partnered with Practice Ignition so advisors could leverage the most efficient proposal software around. Practice Ignition designed its offering to provide exactly what advisors need most—an efficient way to propose offers, manage all paperwork and automate billing—all delivered in a branded, easy-to-understand format. Advisors can do everything from telling their brand’s story to creating an engagement letter with this platform. One of its best features is the ability to automate billing to reflect your client’s current business conditions.

There’s so much to learn about building your business. Check out the full webinar to learn more. Also, keep an eye out for our other articles based on the same episode: Q&A with Josh Lance: Integrating People Advisory in 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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