Voices

Art of Accounting: Raising staff awareness of firm consulting services

A while ago I spoke to two staff people who were not aware of their firm’s capabilities. It was at an Accountants Club of America lunch. I met one of them during the pre-breakfast networking and the other I searched out after the program because of the question he asked the speaker.

Both young staffers said they were unaware of their firm’s consulting services and asked how they might learn more about them. Boo hoo to their firms. I have previously posted a column about raising client awareness of firm services, but few firms seem to create similar awareness among their staff (see Art of Accounting: Raising tax client awareness of additional services). I believe keeping staff aware of special services is very important for staff growth, development, morale and discussions with clients, allowing staff to recognize opportunities and select additional specialties. Here are some ways this is addressed at Withum and that can be copied by your firm.

• We conduct firm-wide CPE programs showcasing many consulting services. A recent program was held in East Brunswick but had video conference hookups with our offices in Orlando, Boston, Washington, D.C. and New York. We had eight sessions with those practice leaders presenting. Some of the presentations were on Withum Work Flow, forensic litigation support, valuation services, digital, data analytics solutions, application modernization, management advisory and transaction services, cybersecurity and SOC services, business process and application automation and modernization, CFO transformation and some industry-specific advisory services.

• After the program, the slides and an advisory services fact sheet were sent to the entire professional staff, so those who were not able to attend could be aware of the topics and see brief summaries of them.

• We also highlight selected services at our annual State of the Firm (SOTF) meeting along with the latest edition of our SOTF video.

• Niche leaders issue client-oriented newsletters and client alerts that are also sent to our entire professional staff. Further, younger niche members are mentored on contributing to these, making them more aware of those services and helping to develop their writing and communication skills.

• When we receive a new client for advisory or nontraditional services, Bill Hagaman, our managing partner and CEO, sends a firm-wide email with the name of the new client, a description of how we were contacted and by whom, the team that worked on the proposal, the team that will perform the services, how they were assembled and the approximate fees. These are quick reads and give great overviews of the services available at Withum.

• I am pretty tuned in to what goes on here, but last week one of Bill’s emails said we received a client in California who wanted their audit performed virtually. I’ve seen such work done but partially and based on special circumstances. This was the first time I had heard of such a client request. I have since found out that we are building quite a reputation in the virtual audit space.

• We are organized in niche teams, both for industries and specialty areas, across all of our offices. This not only brings the best people we have into each grouping but shows the younger staff the broad range of services — traditional and advisory — that we perform and which they can grow into.

• Our advisory services fact sheet can be downloaded here. This will provide an idea of the range of services we offer and which you can also provide or consider. Look over the fact sheet, prepare your own list and then organize a CPE program for your staff with the firm experts who would perform these services. At our small firm before we merged with Withum, we used to have one-hour monthly lunch-and-learns, with three 10-minute presentations on a service we provide to clients. They worked very well, and reinforced to our staff the dynamism of our firm and the opportunities available to them. It also created a wider vision for them than the 1040 or QuickBooks file they might have been working on at that moment.

I believe it is essential for staff retention to keep staff aware of special and nontraditional work to excite them and to show the many paths their careers can take. Keeping them a secret or not sharing with staff makes no sense. Start sharing today.

FYI, here is a link to the Accountants Club site: http://accountantsclubofamerica.org/.

Edward Mendlowitz, CPA, is partner at WithumSmith+Brown, PC, CPAs. He is on the Accounting Today Top 100 Influential People List. He is the author of 24 books, including “How to Review Tax Returns,” co-written with Andrew D. Mendlowitz, and “Managing Your Tax Season, Third Edition.” Ed also writes a twice-a-week blog addressing issues that clients have at www.partners-network.com along with the Pay-Less-Tax Man blog for Bottom Line. Ed is an adjunct professor in the MBA program at Fairleigh Dickinson University teaching end user applications of financial statements. Art of Accounting is a continuing series where Ed shares autobiographical experiences with tips that he hopes can be adopted by his colleagues. Ed welcomes practice management questions and can be reached at (732) 964-9329 or emendlowitz@withum.com.

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