Our Value Is Greater Than Our Fees 

by Steven Bankler, CPA, PFS, Cr.FA, CFF 

Our Value Is Greater Than Our FeesWe Solve Problems® at Steven Bankler, CPA and we attract new clients by explaining that we add value to their businesses by helping them save and make more money.  We are deeply involved and proactive with our clients so we can generate better ideas to help them be successful.  

Ninety-five percent of our clients own and operate businesses.  Because of this fact, we don’t prepare many individual tax returns that aren’t affiliated with a business.  This allows us to focus on small business consulting, asset protection, entity structures, exit strategies, and helping business owners protect their companies.

We demonstrate the benefits and savings we can offer to our potential clients and discuss our focus areas in our first meeting with them.  We tell the prospective client where we can save them money and show them that the savings they will realize from our services generally exceed the fees they will pay us.  For example, for a potential client, we could restructure and split off entities and identify other tax savings, which could save them approximately $15,000 the first year and my fee would be $7,500.  While initially they may have come to us to reduce their accounting fees, they soon realize that there is additional value they can receive from our professional services beyond a reduced annual invoice.  We rarely experience pushback from clients on our fees, but when we do, we take the position that our fees are higher because we’re delivering more than a tax return as we demonstrated in the example above where we think we could find a $15,000 tax savings.  We may discount the first year slightly, but we rarely write off more than five percent of our work.  In addition, to remind clients of our value, we send out a letter at the end of the year summarizing our work and the savings we’ve delivered to each client.

We can also address any fee pressure by telling our prospective clients how we care for our staff.  One of the biggest complaints we hear from new clients is the turnover in their past accounting firm’s staff that causes the client to feel like they have to continually explain their business to new people.  We work to ensure high retention in our team members.  Four out of our five staff are CPAs and we pay them 10% higher than market and don’t expect them to work an extreme number of hours.  We work Monday-Thursday until 5 p.m. and close Fridays at noon all year long.  We set our clients’ expectations up front about our commitment to have happy, long-time team members, which means that we cannot complete last minute tax return requests.  We work on a first in, first out basis, and if a client brings their return to us at the end of March, they know it will be extended.  By taking care of our people, we can avoid staff turnover and improve client satisfaction. 

Resources Help Us Be Successful

We have participated in the PCPS/TSCPA National MAP Survey for over thirty years (we’re a little partial since it originated here in Texas!) and we use it to benchmark our firm to help us identify areas we can improve.  Similarly, we help our clients improve by benchmarking their company annually using ProfitCents reports, which helps our clients understand how they are performing compared to their industry.  

We also participate in a PCPS Small Firm Networking Group and always leave with ideas to implement.  For example, at one networking group meeting we heard about a firm who was conducting client spotlights.  We now write Client Spotlights on a quarterly basis, post them on our website, and highlight them in our conference room.  The last paragraph of the client spotlight really serves as a testimonial and the difference we have made for the client.  Our clients appreciate being bragged about and they add credibility to our sales process.

The Trusted Business Advisor 2.0 Toolbox also provides many tools, such as the Pricing Tool and Overcoming Pricing Objections Tool, to help price based on value and overcome common pricing objections.

We wish we could say everything we’re doing is our idea, but we learn from others.  CPA’s get ideas from many different sources and have access to many resources, but the ideas don’t make a difference unless they translate into action.  By taking action, appropriately describing our value and pricing appropriately, we can deliver on our promises and make our clients’ businesses more successful.

Steven Bankler, CPA, PFS, Cr.FA, CFF is the sole-owner of a five-person firm in San Antonio, TX.  For more information, visit www.bankler.com.

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