Making it easy for clients to pay
If you build it, they will come.
That could well be the mantra of the growing number of CPAs who are getting creative and trying to tackle specific problems they face in their practice -- CPAs like Allan Ratafia, who takes the spotlight for BizPayO, an electronic payment system that accepts charge cards and ACH transactions. It was built to be a convenient solution for online payments that didn’t place the burden of processing fees on the vendor.
“BizPayO was developed by me to solve a problem in my practice, and that problem was getting paid quickly on deadlines without having to incur all the processing fees,” Ratafia said. “Anyone in the service industry has this issue with late payments, fees and so on.”
The platform is designed for service businesses that want or need to accept online payments, but don’t want to absorb the processing fees. BizPayO’s niche is that it allows businesses to recover third-party processing fees via an intuitive interface that lets clients and customers just click a button to pay what they owe, with the fees already included.
Clients can pay what they owe a firm via two buttons: charge card or echeck. With the charge card button, the processing fee is passed onto the customer, so if they owe $100 and the card fee is 3 percent, they will automatically pay $103. The echeck (ACH) button incurs no fees, so they also have a fee-free option.
After five years of using BizPayO in his own firm, Ratafia and Co. CPAs, Ratafia decided to roll it out to his business clients so they could use it with their own customers. Today, the solution is commercially available to anyone, but Ratafia prefers to focus on service industries like accounting, legal and engineering.
“BizPayO is designed to help an accounting firm grow their practice, get paid quickly and price their business properly,” Ratafia said. “Accountants are good at doing accounting work, but not necessarily good at the front end: picking up clients, pricing, raising fees, collecting payments.”
Ratafia is a CPA, not a software engineer, and he didn’t build BizPayO by himself. Before BizPayO was even a twinkle in his eye, Ratafia had established a company separate from his accounting firm called Build Your Firm. As a young accountant running his own practice in the 1990s, he was often recruited to give advice to colleagues trying to establish their own firms, which he did as a courtesy.
"When I started my practice 30 years ago, I ran my practice as a young person, and I focused on being efficient and processing, and picking up clients," Ratafia explained. "This was much different than the way people taught me how to do it. I started my practice by learning from flaws I learned from other people I worked for, including PwC."
Eventually, he realized the opportunity in consulting and reached out to a client he had in the digital world to help him build online teaching and training resources. He founded Build Your Firm in 2003 with his partner Hugh Duffy, who now serves as chief marketing officer.
Build Your Firm is, at its core, a marketing and web development consulting company for accountants that provides programs and internet marketing services to help them better use marketing for practice development, improve their hourly fee realization, and ultimately improve a firm’s profitability. The biggest service Build Your Firm provides is building and running firm websites — today, the company runs about 1,000 websites for accountants.
It was through running this consulting venture, where Ratafia addressed other firms' pain points, that he got the idea of creating a technology solution for a pain point, online payments, he experienced himself.
“It was really more of an instinct in that I needed to get paid, and I needed to get paid when I wanted, rather than the client controlling when that would be,” Ratafia said of his motivation to create BizPayO. So with the help of software developers, he created his baby.
Today, BizPayO is still growing and gaining new features, most recently client engagement letters that, for example, encourage clients to sign up for recurring payments. For more information on the tool, visit https://www.buildyourfirm.com/bizpayo-standalone.htm.
For more on professionals creating their own solutions, check out this accountant who built a budgeting app to fit the unique needs of his nonprofit clients, and this firm that now markets its sophisticated aircraft tracking tool for clients in the aviation industry.