Value is not what it used to be in the professional services industry, and the result is a transformation in the way services are delivered.
Clients expect more for their money whether it be accounting work, legal counsel or even health care services, says John Schweisberger, CEO at RBZ.
“As a client, I would expect that you know what you are doing technically,” Schweisberger says. “That’s not a differentiator, in most cases. The question then becomes, do you know what your clients’ goals are from a business or a personal standpoint now and long term? That is far more important and relevant.”
A client wants to be confident the firm he or she hired to provide a service can push beyond general knowledge and has a deep understanding of his or her’s business and circumstances, as well as wants, needs and desires both for today and into the future.
“You want to have somebody who has dealt with the kinds of issues you are facing,” Schweisberger says.
Smart Business spoke with Schweisberger about strategic growth in the professional services sector and why it demands more of both the service provider and the client.
What has driven expectations in the professional services sector?
It has become a very competitive and somewhat commoditized world.
Law firms have been at the forefront of these changes and, for the last 10 years, lawyers have felt significant pressure to justify fees and use a fixed-price billing method. The call for change stems from clients asking, ‘What is your motivation to be efficient with my money?’ And, rightly so.
It’s been less prevalent in the accounting world in some respects, but it’s still changing. There will always be a need for accounting services, especially required services such as audits.
But when it comes to intricate tax work and other highly complex, nuanced situations, business owners are finding value in working with professionals to solve these matters. As a client of these services, you expect to receive significant value in return.
The introduction of cloud accounting platforms has spawned a whole sub-industry that is springing up to offer outsourced accounting to assist in these matters. It’s raising the bar on what clients expect from professional service provider and moving companies to take a closer look at what they are spending and demand greater value in return.
It could be something as simple as the filing of your company’s tax return. When you provide information to your accountant to handle this process, stay connected to it. Take the time to understand what went into that process and ask questions of your accountant. It may not lead anywhere, but it could reveal opportunities that would make the process more efficient or perhaps, even save your business money.
You owe it to yourself and your business to assess the value of the services you are getting today.
Will they be the same services you need in the future? The firm you need as your business continues to grow, change and morph into an international or global company can be quite different than the one you used during your company’s early days.
Are you confident that you will have the support you need for where you’re going, not for where you have been?
How do you compare cost vs. value?
When you are buying services, you need to be able to assess value, not just cost.
Take this example: Your accountant spends an hour transferring numbers from a K-1 to a tax return. Or, he spends an hour structuring a transaction in such a way to help you minimize your taxes and save you $5 million. Which hour is of more value?
From a client standpoint, that’s pretty easy.
The lesson is you can’t operate under the explicit assumption that every hour is of equal value. You need to have a discussion. Your accountant may be surprised to learn what you are willing to pay for truly adding value.
What’s the bottom line?
You want insight that helps you understand things about your business that you didn’t know before.
It has to go beyond peace of mind. You can’t just ask your accountant for insight and guidance, you need to demand it because otherwise, it’s just a cost to be managed. The firm that understands this is the firm that is most likely to be there for you from the start and into the future. ●
Insights Accounting is brought to you by RBZ