Grow Your Firm

Gusto Next: Modernizing Payroll Services

Gusto Editors  
Business team looking at tablet screen

Original webinar date: October 21, 2021
This article is part of a series where we share the top insights from Gusto Next—the premiere conference for accounting professionals. Read the entire series, and watch Gusto Next 2021.

Gusto Next 2021 featured powerhouse speakers that covered a range of topics related to the future of accounting. Will Lopez, the founder of AdvisorFi and head of Gusto’s accountant community, delivered one of the many invaluable presentations. 

In this article, you’ll learn all about the importance of offering your clients more than just payroll. Payroll compliance is a critical jumping-off point to provide business owners with the people advisory services they need to improve their work cultures and expand their businesses.

In addition to this article, which is Part Two of the Gusto Next 2021 series, you can read our other articles covering the future of the accounting industry. You can also read an overview article highlighting some of the most critical information from the Gusto Next 2021 presentation here

Providing more than payroll services for small business clients

Will Lopez discussed how it’s critical to offer your business clients more than traditional payroll compliance. He started his presentation by discussing an interaction he had with one of his clients back in 2011. The client spent over $600,000 recruiting staff members only to have them all leave before three months

Young cafe owner using her laptop and doing paperwork in her shop

The interaction gave him the epiphany that he needed to provide more than payroll services. Despite the fact that his team provided a wide range of accounting services, Will needed to offer more to assist the business with employee resourcing.

“I was like, ‘Well, wait a minute. I thought I was covering everything for them,’ and so that experience just caused me to fundamentally question everything I thought I knew about myself. I thought about my role in front of my clients and primarily through payroll.”

– Will Lopez

Will realized that accountants need to provide more than traditional accounting services to optimize their ability to assist businesses. You can use payroll compliance as a jumping-off point to offer your clients people advisory services: 

“I realized that payroll compliance is filled with advisory moments. … I think for clients they were just making that immediate connection that because I was assessing their payroll, I could advise on their clients. The payroll-only approach that I provided did not meet his needs, and it certainly wasn’t helping me help him. … Despite popular opinion, I think being a great advisor is not exclusive. It really isn’t [contrary] to consulting on numbers and financials. We can be great advisors through people and through payroll.”

Will Lopez

When you provide your clients with great payroll services and people management guidance, you help clients grow their businesses while also providing more revenue for your firm.

Moving beyond payroll compliance in the modern accounting firm

You can improve how you assist clients while also bringing more value to your firm by shifting beyond payroll services. Payroll can be a starting point for offering people advisory services, and one key way you can provide people advisory services is through Gusto: 

“Payroll compliance work alone isn’t wrong, … but it isn’t right. It’s greatly lacking on what really needs to happen. I’m personally convinced … there is absolute untapped potential when you take a moment to reimagine and elevate an essential service like payroll, and this is why Gusto Next exists to empower a wider perspective on payroll, benefits, HR, [and other] people operations.”

Will Lopez

In a recent survey conducted by Gusto, 41% of businesses stated that they would pay accountants more if they provided advisory services in addition to payroll compliance. Businesses want guidance for improving their employees’ lives and optimizing their company culture. Will noted that payroll compliance is important, but it’s a starting point for offering more growth-related services rooted in progression rather than a single objective:

“Advisory is a journey, not a destination. … I’ve been trained to believe that payroll compliance as we deliver it now and as we approach it is at the highest point of development. … Very little [is] going to change, and we tend to put too much emphasis on the to-dos [and] compliance. We minimize candid conversations to transactions. We fixate on the technical details, [and] regulation processes, … but we need to move beyond that … because it consumes so much of who we are, I think, as professionals. It leaves little room for imagination, innovation, and even progression to take hold.”

Will Lopez

When you focus just on traditional payroll services rather than additional advisory, you don’t leave room for further development in your client’s company. When asked, 86% of employers state that they want advisory that assists their employees’ wellbeing. 

Will also noted that progression and building relationships with businesses are essential parts of the accounting profession:

“[Accounting is about] upward mobility. It’s our role to continually progress our mindset, our professional skills, pushing practice lines and service offerings like payroll to new heights. … [People advisory is] a journey, and it’s vital to continue deepening relationships between you, the advisor, your employers, your clients, and their teams because payroll compliance, as we provide it right now, really isn’t enough. … It’s greatly limited in scope, [and] it’s negatively widening the gap when clients need more support for their people.” 

Will Lopez
Group of business people sitting in annual meeting in conference room

Accountants need to move on from the conventional form of providing payroll compliance and use it as a jumping-off point for providing people advisory services.

People advisory services start with payroll

As accountants, you’re already in a unique position to begin assisting your clients with people advisory services. People advisory starts with payroll and then progresses into providing people-based services:

“People advisory starts with payroll. It’s the only way forward to fundamentally modernize payroll as a professional service. … People advisory really turns payroll on its head, and it transforms it from this compliance-based low margin stuff to the foundation for a rich advisory service that better enables you to observe your clients and their teams. It teaches you how to use payroll as the foundation to help clients across all phases of payroll. … In the process, you end up taking care of their team and your firm, and that matters because people matter.”

Will Lopez

People advisory enables you to move beyond payroll to assist businesses with their staff. Gusto empowers accountants to offer their business clients people advisory services. Every firm has the capacity to start offering people advisory through a people platform such as Gusto. 

While helping your clients through people advisory, you’ll also increase revenue for your firm. Most businesses want people management, and your firm can provide that to add more value to its services: 

“You are best positioned [and] the most trusted advisor to continue stepping up and pushing payroll forward, and you have a significant role to play with your clients in society at large. … [You deliver] more value through payroll, which will result in recurring revenue for your firm. … That’s how you’re going to keep your practice around. … [You combine your] financial acumen, your expertise, [and] knowledge of people operations and best practices around it to really help clients create a great place to work for their teams.”

Will Lopez

Will also noted that people advisory is the future of accounting. As more payroll services become automated, accounting firms will continue growing through people advisory services that start with payroll:

“[You’re] growing your practice, earning more revenue, creating new things, and I think together we can really transform payroll services as we know it and inspire others to do the same around the world.”

Will Lopez

Accountants have the opportunity to offer something more than just payroll and bookkeeping services for their clients. You can provide your clients with invaluable people management guidance to enable your clients to grow their businesses while increasing your firm’s profits in the process.

Learn more about modernizing payroll through people advisory 

Compliance payroll is a starting point for offering your clients the most important services they can use for growing their businesses. People advisory is critically important because it helps businesses manage their employees and improve their work culture for growth. With Gusto, you can provide your clients with payroll, benefits, and HR so that you can better assist them while also bringing more revenue to your firm.

If you’re ready to learn more from expert accountants on how to bring more value to your firm and help clients, watch the full Gusto Next 2021 presentation here. You can also read this helpful article outlining some of the most important insights from the presentation. Finally, make sure to join our waitlist so that you’ll be notified about Gusto Next 2022.

Updated: April 4, 2022

Gusto Editors
Gusto Editors

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