Want to grow your QuickBooks practice? Leslie Shiner is an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor, trainer, and presenter. In this presentation, Leslie shows you the opportunities in QuickBooks training and consulting.
As you contact new potential clients, follow these steps to create a successful consulting engagement. Communicate along ever step of the way to set expectations and keep the client informed of the progress. Use your engagement to develop a long-term relationship with the client for ongoing work.
The client interview is the first step to a successful engagement and is often overlooked by inexperienced consultants. This is your opportunity to discover the expectations of your potential client. As part of the interview, you may need to review the client’s QuickBooks file to assess the condition of the data. This will help you as you estimate the time required for the engagement. Carefully asking the right questions can provide valuable information. You may need to revisit the results of this interview during the engagement. It can help you clearly define the scope of the engagement and avoid the pitfall of being drawn off topic by the client. Remember that while you are assessing the client, they are also assessing you, your knowledge and your expertise. As you ask the difficult questions, determine if this is an organization that you want to do business with.
The client interview is the first step in defining the scope of the engagement. As you look at the QuickBooks data file, you can determine the needs of the client. Are they just looking for a simple implementation? Have they already created the file and it is a mess? What types of ongoing support will they need?The client interview will help you stay focused on asking the right questions.
The client interview is often your first opportunity to assess the needs of the client. This can be performed over the phone. As you may need to take a quick peek at the client’s QuickBooks data file, you may want to perform this interview using remote access technology such as GoToMeeting. Most consultants do not charge for this development time. Therefore, it is important to limit the amount of time set aside for the client interview. You should be able to collect the information you need within a 30 minute time frame. While you may provide a few quick tips or tricks during the interview (to establish creditability,) take care not to include training as part of this interview. For a good sample of a Client Interview, check out the Sleeter Group at www.sleetergroup.com. This is just one of the free tools available to Sleeter Group members.
As you perform a Data File Analysis, be sure to pay attention to specific indicators. Look at the client’s cash flow to determine that you will be paid in a timely manner. Consider setting a package price for Data File Analysis instead of an hourly rate. Then require either full payment or minimum retainer before starting work.Look at the payment history for professional services. If professional service bills are not paid in a timely manner, it could mean that the client does not value professional services. You do not want to work with a client who is hiring you because their CPA or Tax Preparer told them they had to, but they have no real interest in your servicesCompanies who pay very little for bookkeeping staff do not see value in accurate data or financial reporting. These are the types of clients who only use QuickBooks to write checks and send invoices, instead of using QuickBooks as a financial management tool. Unless you can convince the client of the value of a good set up books, your training will not be valued. If you are able to clean up the data, you may find that it will be a mess again within a very short time frame.Finally, if you find that a client has a little to no profitability, a poor current ratio or little liquidity, it may mean that you do not have the potential for a long-term relationship with a client. On the other hand, this could be a way to help the client turn around the company and improve profitability. If you chose to help this client, be sure to get a retainer or get paid immediately for each consulting session.
Upon completing the interview, including the brief data file analysis, you need to determine the scope of the engagement. You will need to communicate this scope to the client and make sure the client fully understands and agrees to what is included and what is notincluded in this engagement. Determining the scope and then sticking to the scope is often where inexperienced consultants fail. Clients will often ask you for more information, more corrections and more work beyond the scope. It is imperative that you feel comfortable answering the client with clarification, such as: “While this is an important issue and something that I can help you with, it is not in the original scope of this engagement. We can revisit this once we’ve completed the current work and meet the needs you and I established at the beginning of this engagement.”
The ProAdvisor Member website has several example engagement letters. As you review each letter, notice the change in wording depending on the type of engagement. Also, notice the similarities in each example.
Sticking to the scope of the engagement and consistently providing feedback to the client will improve your ability to complete a successful engagement. While you may spend most of the time working with the bookkeeper or accounting staff, make sure to include the owner or manager in your feedback. Consider creating a Session Summary report following each session to summarize what was covered, what decisions were made, and what the client must complete before the next meeting.
When finishing up a limited engagement, make sure to have a meeting with the owner or manager. Summarize what was accomplished. Review the scope of work in the engagement letter and ascertain agreement with the client that everything outlined in the scope was completed. If you were making notes of additional needs that fell outside the engagement, now is the time to discuss with the client those additional needs. Let your client know of the other services you offer.If the client says that everything is satisfactory, do not just say: “Well, call me when you need me again.” This is an opportunity to create an ongoing relationship. Create a reminder in your own calendar to follow up with the client after two months, and then again at the six month mark. If the engagement was successful, it may be easier to create more work with this client than to find another client. You’ve already created a track record and proven your worth!
Revisit the client interview to assess the client’s training goals and objectives, the accounting skills and QuickBooks expertise, and the number staff that requires training. Only then will you be able to prepare a training program that will meet the needs of your client. Make sure to offer training in blocks of time rather than by training objective.
Too many consultants lose out on opportunities to create a long-term relationship by being seen only as a troubleshooter. The client calls with a problem, you fix it, and then you have to wait for the client to have another problem before you ever work with the client again.While trouble-shooting can get you into the door with a new clients, be sure to use this opportunity to let them know about your other services. Look over their QuickBooks files to spot training or clean-up opportunities. Let them know that you can help them find more efficient ways of entering data and better ways to extract data for meaningful reports, better financial management and improved profitability.
As the old saying goes: “Make new friends but keep the old – one is silver and the other gold”Many consultants become complacent with current clients in the search to build their practice with new clients. However, your current clients can be a source of additional revenue. Remind your clients of all the services that you provide. You may want to consider creating an “Ongoing Client Interview” to find additional opportunities with your existing clients.
Practice Opportunities in Training & Consulting
Practice Opportunities in Training & ConsultingPresented by:Leslie Shiner, MBAOwnerThe ShinerGroup
Leslie Shiner• The ShinerGroup – Owner• Financial & management consultant for over 25 years • MBA in Accounting and Finance from U.C. Berkeley• Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor• Columnist • Remodeling Magazine • Custom Retailer• Author • A Simple Guide to Turning a Profit as a Contractor
Agenda• How training & consulting engagements can help you grow your practice• How to create a successful engagement• Types of QuickBooks engagements• Resources available to you• Pricing and promoting QuickBooks training & consulting engagements
Market QuickBooks Implementation QuickBooks Support QuickBooks Training Services Business Consulting 4 MillionQuickBooks Users Reviews and Audits Accountant Tax Planning Services Tax Preparation
Market Your Practice• Offer an array of services to clients who own QuickBooks • Use training to build your brand• Provide a turnkey accounting solution including: • Implement QuickBooks • Monthly review to correct errors • Provide additional training for new concepts • Assist clients to define and refine their process • Uncover other revenue opportunities• “Foot in the Door” opportunity at a lower price point so client builds a comfort level with you• For the love of it!
Promote Yourself and Your Services• Become a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor • QuickBooks ProAdvisor referral database• Begin with your existing clients • Offer low-cost QuickBooks classes • Send newsletters • Ask for referrals• Develop strategic partnerships • Local Chamber of Commerce • Other business professionals such as IT consultants, insurance brokers • Non-competing QuickBooks ProAdvisors or CPAs
Reach Out and Be Seen• Become active on social media sites • Create Facebook page to include tips and tricks • Use Twitter to: • Link to interesting articles • Send tips and tricks• Write articles for business journals and community periodicals and blogs• Visit the Practice Resources section of the ProAdvisor member website for additional marketing tools and resources
Create a Self AssessmentDetermine the Determine the Determine the services you types of work types of work provide you want to do you can do Training can What What are you open the door additional passionate for ongoing training do you about? engagements need? Or add training What makes to your current you „light-up‟ What do you repertoire of when you talk excel in? services about it?
Successful Training & Consulting Follow the • Client interview steps to • Data file analysis create a • Determine scope of engagement successful • Create an engagement letter training & • Implementation, training and consulting consultingengagement • Post engagement
Client Interview• Interview the client to assess skill level QuickBooks need • You may need to assess the condition of QuickBooks file • You may need to re-visit the interview regularly• Initial meetings with a prospective client are bi- directional • They are also evaluating you including your knowledge, experience, reputation and communication skills• Make sure the organization is one that you want to do business with • Do you see integrity and honesty?
Client Interview• Determine the following: • Overall strength of the company • QuickBooks needs • Implementation • Ongoing support• Use an “interview guideline” during initial conversations with the client • Most valuable when used as a “guide” when conducting pre-engagement meetings• You fill out the interview form • Not the client
Client Interview• Use the interview form to determine: • Contact & company information • Previous consulting data • Income tax return history • QuickBooks goals • Licenses, users & networks • Computer hardware & IT setup • Payroll needs and history • Sales/customer information • Sales tax, inventory & other needs • Gain insight into data file setup
Data File Analysis• Conduct an analysis of the client‟s existing accounting software before you begin providing consulting services• This provides: • A look at the client‟s financial stability • The cleanliness of their accounting information • The complexity of the accounting data they track • A time estimate to clean up existing data or set up and start new data file• This analysis also provides value for the client and can become a billable “pre-engagement”
Data File AnalysisKey indicators for you as a consultant are: • Client‟s ability to pay for services in a Cash Flow timely manner Payment history for • Client‟s value of professional professional services services/consulting Wages paid to • Client‟s value of financial reporting & bookkeeping staff accurate QuickBooks data Overall • Survivability of client and your potential profitability/current ratio long-term relationship with client
Determine Scope of Engagement• Use the client interview to determine the scope of the engagement• The process is deferent depending on… • Is this an implementation from scratch? • Is this a clean-up project? • What is the skill level of the client? • How much training will be needed? • What is the opportunity for ongoing consulting?• Clearly discuss the scope with the client and come to an agreement on the goals
Engagement Letters• Clearly communicate expectations with the client • Avoid misunderstandings and protect yourself• CPA‟s can be held to higher standard • Check the rules and regulations as they may change • The AICPA website is a good source of information• Even if you are not a CPA, engagement letters are an important part of your business • Create a written agreement for every consulting service you perform
The Engagement Letter Confirms:• Terms & objectives of engagement• Nature & limitations of the services provided• Time frame of engagement• Fees and billing information• Licensing, permissions & third party disclosures• Approval for credit card payment (if you accept credit card payments)• Agreements and signatures
Creating the Right Engagement Letter • Sample engagement letters can be found in the Practice Resources section of the ProAdvisor member website • Practice Resources includes samples for • QuickBooks setup • QuickBooks diagnostics • Ongoing QuickBooks services • QuickBooks training • QuickBooks tune-ups • Technology consulting
Implementation, Training, Consulting• Perform the work as outlined in the engagement letter• If you discover additional issues outside the scope, discuss with client and get written approval for additional work• Consistently provide feedback to the client on process, timeline and achieved goals• Make sure to include the owner or manager in this communications • Don‟t limit yourself to only the bookkeeper
Post Engagement• Look for ongoing consulting opportunities • During the engagement, track the scope of work and make note of additional needs that will need to be addressed• Let the client know about other services you provide • Measure client‟s interest in additional ongoing consulting and training• Revisit your clients regularly • Do they need help with a new version? • Do they know about all the new features? • Do they have additional training needs? • Do they know to call you if they hire a new bookkeeper?
Types of Engagements ImplementationData File Most TrainingAnalysis Common Consulting Engagements Local Remote Support Support
Maximizing Productivity• QuickBooks implementation is usually a one-time event • Except for some residual support services• As a result, you have to accurately estimate the amount of time required to complete the engagement
Issues to Consider for Implementation • The number of QuickBooks users in the company • Number of users needing training • Number of computers that need installation • Complexity of the client‟s data entry • Condition of current accounting data • Determine what features the client will need • Assess the level of bookkeeping & accounting software experience? • Verify the time frame for setup • At beginning or in the middle of a fiscal year • Quantity of open transactions to manage
Data File Setup• Implementation becomes the foundation for support services• Performed at the beginning to set the standard• Can help create other non-QuickBooks engagements: • Tax returns • Income tax planning • Financial analysis• Is the most difficult to budget• High level of complication and unforeseen issues
Simple Setup• A simple implementation may be warranted• Clearly define the scope of the engagement for this implementation and data file set-up • Make the scope as narrow as possible• Define financial information needed • Compile the information • Refer the client to a bookkeeping service • Setup QuickBooks with essential balances only • Use the Tax Return• You may need to consider refusing the engagement
Comprehensive Implementation• Use these strategies when performing a comprehensive data file setup: • Use a checklist • Determine the availability of information needed • Year-to-date information, trial balance, bank reconciliations, past tax returns • Chart of Accounts, Item List, Customer List, Vendor List • Determine reporting intentions of management • Define user access privileges• Conduct the data file setup in phases
Multiple Phase SetupAdvantages of the multiple phase setup: • Client understands responsibilities • Fewer data entry errors • Establishes a long term relationship • Engagement produces 3 months to 1 year of consulting work • Clients pay more over longer periods of time than at any single point in time
Implementation• Sample date file multiple phase setup • Level 1 – COA, Customers and Vendors Only • Level 2 – Add A/R and A/P • Level 3 - Add payroll, sales tax and or inventory • Level 4 - Add customized reports & forms, industry specific configuration • Level 5 – Add integration with other solutions
Data File Analysis• Data file analysis allows for ongoing consulting • Regularly analyze your client QuickBooks data • Check for data entry errors and modifications• Help the client see the value of using QuickBooks as a management tool, not just a check writing program • Provide reasonable confidence when making key financial decisions • Educate the client regarding the value of financial information for purposes other than tax return preparation• Helps you to produce a tax return with greater efficiency
Strategies for Data File Analysis Report • Develop standardized procedures for use with all clients • Produce a written report of your findings • Defer as many corrections as possible to the client • Help the client learn how not to make the same mistakes • Use error corrections as a training opportunity
QuickBooks Support Services• Offer monthly or quarterly analysis services as a follow-up to the setup engagement• Establish recurring QuickBooks support services • Build a stronger relationship with client• Catch data entry errors and setup errors throughout the year • Increases productivity for tax preparers• Can lead to repair engagements or additional training opportunities • Increase your non-seasonal billings
Remote Support• Provide ongoing remote support • Use web-based conferencing• Sell pre-paid blocks of time or monthly support plans • No collections issues or bad debt • Benefit from the time value of money • Businesses use 60-70% of the support pre-purchased
Training• From your client interview determine: • Training goals and number of trainees• Determine need for onsite or remote training• Implementation is not the same as training • Difficult to train while you set up • Include budget for training as part of the implementation engagement• Provide „homework‟ for clients to start data input • Review data input regularly to make sure your client is on the right track• Offer training in blocks of time • Not by training objective
The Problem with Troubleshooting• Troubleshooting is an excellent foot-in-the-door opportunity • But it can also slam the door shut • Troubleshooting can kill ongoing consulting• Once you fix the problem, how can you turn it into more work? • Always use troubleshooting as an opportunity to find out more about the client‟s needs • See if there are additional areas of training needed • Suggest additional features that the client may not currently be using
Additional Support Services• Telephone and/or email support• Remote access for • Journal entries and adjustments • Shared bookkeeping responsibilities • Limited training objectives • Troubleshooting objectives • Report customization
Acquiring Necessary Skills & Knowledge• Be sure to visit the ProAdvisor Member Website for more information• ProAdvisor Certification and Advanced Certification • Training to assist in preparation for exams• “Train Your Clients” material • Trainings include presentations and student materials in module form • Utilize modules based on your client needs• Intuit Academy • Webinars, other live and virtual events
Other Training Resources• Self-study materials • QuickBooks on-line help • Intuit self-paced learning • Third-party reference books• Conferences and trade shows • Training seminars from Intuit – Intuit Academy • The Sleeter Group, Scaling New Heights • State CPA Associations• Additional Intuit-endorsed training • By Real World Training: www.quickbookstraining.com
Pricing and PromotingQuickBooks Training and Consulting Services
Pricing QuickBooks Services• One on one hourly training rates range based on experience, certifications, geographic area, etc.• Consider… • Different billing rates for remote services vs. onsite services • Fixed fee engagements – as long as the scope of work is well established • Pre-paid support plans for onsite or remote support• Intuit conducts yearly rate survey • Check out ProAdvisor website for latest information
Building an Ongoing Engagement• Many ProAdvisors ignore existing clients while seeking new clients • Look for new ways to train your existing clients• If you offer troubleshooting, make sure to use it as a jumping off point for additional services• Remind your clients of the other services you offer • Teaching your clients to be independent doesn‟t mean they won‟t need you anymore • Help your clients determine what they should do vs. what you can do for them
Thank You Leslie C. Shiner, MBAAdvanced QuickBooks Certified ProAdvisor LShiner@ShinerGroup.com (415) 383-6255 www.ShinerGroup.com
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