Gusto for Partners

Transforming Payroll into a Suite of People Advisory Services—Without an HR Pro

Jaclyn Anku Partner Education, Gusto  
Momentum Accounting

Nikole Mackenzie leads Momentum Accounting, a boutique technology and relationship driven accounting partner that helps small business owners make better decisions by transforming financial data into actionable information and saves them time by recommending scalable technology stacks to streamline processes.

Read on to follow Nikole’s People Advisory journey.

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.

The Question: Is my staff prepared to offer People Advisory?

“When I started thinking about People Advisory, I was hesitant. I knew my team was great at supporting clients with their payroll and accounting needs, but I was not sure if they would be confident delivering People Advisory Services. So, I started thinking about HR professionals in my network who might be able to fill any gaps and even thought about bringing on an HR expert as an employee.

Turns out, Nikole didn’t need to hire an HR Pro–her team was more than up to the job, and is now using people-centered KPIs, like revenue per employee and employee turnover, to advise clients at a deeper level.

Momentum is centered on the deep relationships it has with its clients. Nikole’s vision has always been to work with a small number of clients , and  do a lot for them. “I’m always looking for more ways to support our existing clients, rather than focusing on  adding hundreds of new clients.”

People Advisory gave Nikole the opportunity to offer a whole new service line by investing in her existing team, rather than hiring new staff.

The Approach: A Journey of Discovery

By using the frameworks and tools provided in Gusto’s Accelerator Program, Nikole was able to:

  • Staff People Advisory Services
  • Define the services 
  • Price the services
  • And then launch them

Hear More from Nikole

Staffing

Nikole’s a-ha! moment… “At first, I thought I needed to hire an HR person, but then I discovered that my team is absolutely capable of delivering People Advisory. And they’re excited by the opportunity it gives them to grow their careers.”

How did Nikole’s team get up to speed? First they got People Advisory Certified, so they understood core concepts in payroll, benefits, and HR and how Gusto’s software could support them. Then, they rolled up their sleeves, developing hands-on experience doing tasks for clients, such as supporting clients with setting up a new Gusto account, fielding questions about paternity leave, and managing new hire onboarding. For HR questions the team can’t answer, they reach out to Gusto’s HR experts, available through the Concierge plan.

“Before, I wouldn’t push payroll services to clients above a certain size because I thought they needed an HR specialist. Accelerator has given me the confidence that my team can absolutely deliver the majority of these services, and I can price them appropriately.”

Defining

Momentum doesn’t sell clients predefined service packages. Instead, the team presents each business with a tailored proposal. So, when mapping out the People Advisory services the firm might provide, Nikole began by comparing the tiered template Packages in Accelerator to what clients were already getting.

The results were stunning. The team was already delivering 90% of the services listed in Accelerator–they just weren’t charging for many of them. 

For example, they were providing hours of additional payroll support on the Gusto platform and processing timesheets. However, these services weren’t listed in the scope of engagement. Payroll was just a one-line item based on the number of employees a client has. “My team was doing things for clients that I had no idea about, and we 100% weren’t charging for them.”

Pricing

So, how has Nikole priced Momentum’s People Advisory Services? For one new client, they charged a $6,000 onboarding fee and the bulk of that was for the People Advisory set up. Plus, their monthly fees lately have been averaging an increase of $1,500 per month. 

Launching

Launching wasn’t a heavy lift. Nikole reframed her payroll services as People Advisory, and standardized the way her team delivered the services. 

“We started tweaking our proposals and adding different line items so clients could see more value in those services than they did previously. We also got together as a team to talk about what everyone is doing to share best practices.”

Delivering People Advisory Services showed Nikole how talented her team really is.

“I dived in and tested it with a client to find out what it’s like to deliver People Advisory Services. This helped me realize just how talented my team is, how much Gusto’s platform makes every step of it easy, and the incredible opportunity we have to scale People Advisory across our client base.” 

“Also, I’ve totally reimagined how I can use people data via reporting dashboards thanks to Accelerator. Previously, I was so focused on financial KPIs, I didn’t even think about the People Planning KPIs. Now I plan to use Reach Reporting to deliver our client’s People Planning KPIs and to help clients understand their people story.”

Growing

Nikole is keen for Momentum to expand its People Advisory offering. 

  • They started by identifying what they’re already doing and not charging for—and fixing that.
  • Next, they’re looking at things they’re not providing right now, but could do quite easily.
  • And then, they’re going to look at the things they need to develop and grow into delivering.

The Outcome: Finally Capturing the Value

Momentum has always taken a value-based approach to pricing, but the firm wasn’t fully capturing the value of the payroll services it was providing.

“By breaking out payroll into different line items of People Advisory services, we can talk to clients about what we can do for them. What if these things didn’t get done? It would have a significant impact on a client’s business—this is the value. And by defining this value, we can justify the price.”

“Accelerator really got me thinking about my own firm, and where I want Momentum to be in the next two to five years.”

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 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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