Public Accounting 2.0: the Next Generation
Have you noticed that several CPA firms that service small business to middle market companies just don’t seem to “have it all together?” Like the movie Groundhog Day, they are stuck in a never ending cycle of dissatisfied clients. Because this is “the way things work,” they are neither incentivized nor want to change. The ability to bring clients tremendous value is right under their noses; they just don’t realize it.
My epiphany happened during an international strategy class in my MBA program. We were discussing why companies fail when trying to expand into international markets. One of our best examples was Wall Mart. The low price leader in the United States can typically only be afforded by the upper class in China. It’s hard to imagine Bentleys dropping off and picking up customers at Wall Mart entrances. As I digress, the reason I make this point is any business, whether it be the large conglomerate or the regional accountancy practice, fails when they don’t have a clear understanding of what brings value to the market they service.
When I started my accounting practice, I wanted to approach the market in a completely different way. I’ve tagged this concept “Public Accounting 2.0: The Next Generation.” The goal was to bring tremendous value with transparent and predictable pricing. This is where the current CPA model fails epically.
In a previous blog post named, Blocking and Tackling: Back to the Basics for Small Business Owners, I address the issues that plague small businesses and even middle market companies. One of the most important areas, accounting and FP&A, seem to be miserably performed rendering these functions virtually useless. To add insult to injury, when tax prep time comes around, businesses are charged extraordinary rates to clean up the financial information provided to the CPA on the top of the lofty tax prep fees themselves. Unfortunately, tax prep is an unavoidable evil.
I want to now look at the typical financial impacts of a small business by working the old way with their CPA. Let’s break this down by detailing costs of accounting fees for internal employees and external support as follows:
Internal Bookkeeper – $20/hr. – Annual Salary = $42,000
Average Employer Payroll Tax – $4,000
Worker Compensation – $3,000
Benefits (if applicable) – $3,500
CPA Corporate Tax Prep – $3,500
CPA Average Financial Clean Up Cost – $3,000
Other CPA Phone Calls during the year – $500 – $5,000
In total these fees can range from $59,500 to $64,000 annually depending on the support needed from the outside CPA. This calculation is based on purely on my personal experience with 10+ years in public accounting. As my accounting practice falls into the small business category, this seems like a tremendous amount of resources being expended, for albeit, critical functions.
With having the luxury of building my practice from ground up, I wanted to look at a completely different way of doing things. My approach centers on value-added CPA functions that are affordable and focused.
That’s what distinguishes a Public Accounting 2.0 practice like Lalea & Black, LTD. A Public Accounting 2.0 practice understands how to organize technologies and resources into a system that powers a tightly constructed business model and elevates productivity and quality. We are committed to engaging in a continuous process of professional development and renewal. Our firm is always in motion—always ready to adapt and change with the business environment and technological advances. The results reflect our commitment, with better client service, greater profitability, and augmented equity for shareholders.
The basic process starts with inheriting the client’s internal accounting. Using technology, automation and a process flow assessment, we perform and manage the accounting process with our personnel. This costs our client the same or less then the gross wages paid to their internal bookkeeper.
By outsourcing, the business owner avoids costly taxes, employee benefits and using up other company resources like offices space and equipment.
Now that professionals are managing and recording transactions, the business owner has reliable and timely financial information providing the ability to use financial information for decision making.
Vendor and customer transactions are executed with SAAS solutions making transaction processing transparent and a breeze.
Since these transactions are received and paid mostly electronically, exposure to fraud and error are tremendously reduced.
Our model includes advisory at no additional cost. Now the client is not afraid to call and engage with us. We walk them through the most complex decisions and help them understand the impacts of different decisions. Again, we don’t charge for this because we don’t have to!! The miracles of efficiency are being demonstrated.
This results in the client receiving a Bookkeeper, Controller and CFO wrapped in one package.
All of sudden, the client has good information that is usable by management. They have comfort that their information is managed by insured and bonded CPA’s that have trained extensively to perform this type of work. Most importantly, overall costs can be reduced by anywhere from 25%-50% with superior quality and reliability. Not to mention, tax planning and prep is now more relevant, efficient and effective since it starts with good data; critical for executing a great tax plan. This well-defined and structured model, along with an organized plan for communicating with clients results in an optimized means of delivering services to businesses.
In my opinion, if I were a small/medium sized business, I would only work Public Accounting 2.0 models. The old way is exactly that, antiquated and expensive. Worst, of all, responsiveness and service quality always seem to be missing.
Our philosophy relies on engagement and partnership. In the long-run, we strongly believe this model has the opportunity to exceed the service expectations of small and medium businesses. We are confident that once they have the opportunity to work in the Public Accounting 2.0 model, they will never look back.
Daniel R. Litvin, CPA/MBA