Accounting firms are getting more creative and innovative, and many see the value in receiving independent recognition for their efforts and publicizing that fact. The innovations help improve the firm’s bottom line, and the recognition and publicity aids in attracting and retaining top talent. It also substantially enhances the firm’s brand, as existing and prospective clients see increased value in being associated with an innovative firm.

Here are two examples of what I mean:

  • An Oakbrook, Ill., firm initiated a Client Relationship Enhancement Program that required client relationship plans by each partner, non-billable client visits tracked via the firm's time and billing system, and exit interviews with all lost clients. As a result of the program, the firm netted over $250,000 in new fees in the first six months, much of that through multiple engagements as the client relationship deepened. The number of prospective clients referred by existing clients increased by 24 percent compared with the previous year.
  • A Providence, R.I., firm took incredible advantage of state tax credits for its clients. Rhode Island provides state income tax credits to rehabilitate historic structures, a dollar-for-dollar offset. Developers often can't use all of the credits, however, and instead sell them. The Rhode Island Historic Tax Credit Fund acquires the credits, and allows its investors to save on state taxes by purchasing these credits at a discount. There are no limits, other than the amount of the tax liability, to the amount of tax credits that can be used in any one year. The credits can be carried forward for up to 10 years. The firm’s clients utilized more than half the credits available in the state. Client savings totaled $2.2 million, and the firm recognized $500,000 in revenue.

What’s fun for Practical Accountant is that we want to recognize as many innovative firms as possible, and we formally do so in our September issue. At that time, we announce the winners of the Practical Accountant's Practice Innovation Award, which last year included those two firms.The award is given to public accounting firms that develop a new service area, improve services to their clients, or promote efficiency in the practice of public accounting. It is very easy to apply. Firms submit a brief but detailed description of the innovation(s) and the resulting benefits, especially any associated increase in revenue or cost savings. Most submissions are about 300 words.

Winners receive a plaque, and are profiled in our September 2007 issue. Prior years' winners can participate as long as the submission is on a different basis from their award-winning innovation. Judging is by Practical Accountant's editorial staff.

Submissions, with the name of the firm's contact person, must be received no later than June 29, 2007, preferably by e-mail. Regular mail should be addressed to:

Howard Wolosky
Practical Accountant
SourceMedia
One State Street Plaza, 27th Floor
New York, N.Y. 10004

Or, email me directly at, Howard.Wolosky@sourcemedia.com.Please apply and reap the benefits of being recognized as an innovative firm.


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