Art of Accounting: Selling consulting services

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A month ago I wrote that I “gave away consulting and coaching” services. However, that is not the whole story and because of the calls I got, here is some more of what I did and do.

There is no question that I provide significant consulting, coaching and mentoring to clients as part of my regular fixed fee services. I do it because that is how I see myself—as their consultant; and it is continuous and ongoing. One of the benefits is that I am the first person they call when they have a problem or something new arises. That is why I am an accountant—to do interesting things for interesting people, to have them rely on my judgement and to have access to them.

However, there are times when there is a need for an additional service that is not part of our engagement, and clients are billed extra for it—usually a fixed price based on the value to the client as well as the type of project it is and the demands on my time and skills. Occasionally the client is billed on a time basis when the project is of unknown duration or parameters; and sometimes with a fixed fee with the right to negotiate an adjustment or bonus with the client afterwards. Obviously each situation is different as are the fee arrangements. Here are some additional consulting services for extra fees I have done.

• Consulting with a client’s partners to finally get a buy-sell agreement;

• Working out an estate plan;

• Developing a succession plan for a business client

• Reviewing a client’s investments and updating his or her financial plan;

• Reviewing or setting up a cost accounting system;

• Reviewing a client’s pricing methods;

• Evaluating the cost of a client’s sales people and type of customer relationships they have;

• Performing a business valuation as a base to measure growth, for financial or exit planning or to identify value drivers;

• Doing a forensic evaluation of a client’s internal controls;

• Establishing a routine to perform “surprise” bank reconciliations or other control procedures for a client;

• Setting up a new business the client is starting;

• Preparing projections for a contemplated new business;

• Performing a comprehensive state sales and use tax review for clients that operate in multiple states;

• Analyzing a merger or acquisition, due diligence, tax plan and/or valuation;

• Transfer pricing study (done by the specialists in my firm);

• Helping a sole business owner prepare a practice continuation plan if they suddenly become incapacitated or die.

There are many more, but these should give you an idea of additional services accountants can perform that are beyond the scope of the original fixed price agreement with consulting included.

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. 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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