Working too hard on your accounting and tax business? You may want to tune in to this episode. Today’s guest, Roger Knecht, host of Building the Premier Accounting Firm Podcast, discusses the strategies for having confidence in competence for accounting and tax firm owners. He shares how embracing technology allows you to work more efficiently increase your profitability. Roger also shares his insights on overcoming intimidation towards technology by being aware of the three players who are part of the challenge. Are you tired of grinding for eight hours a day? Step up now, and start moving forward by tuning in to this episode on The Abundant Accountant Podcast with Michelle Weinstein and Roger Knecht!
Listen to the podcast here
Confidence And Competence: Two Key Elements To Success For Accounting And Tax Owners With Roger Knecht
We have a very special guest. Our special guest has helped over 1,000 firm owners start their businesses. In that time, he also created programs to address every aspect of running an accounting firm and helped author the book called Red to Black, which is the guide for accountants to help their clients with the most common challenges faced in business cash flow and in the black. The nine principles to make your business profitable.
If you are a firm owner, we do talk about that in our episode because there’s a great skill or maybe tactic that he recommends to figure out what keeps you up at night, where do you need to make yourself more efficient? Before we bring our special guest onto the show, I do want to share that, as a tax and accounting professional. I know that a lot of you are completely sick of grinding fourteen hours a day and sacrificing time with your family and friends and postponing vacations.
This vicious cycle that you might be in, it’s not your fault. I know that there’s nobody training on how to fix these problems. How to work 6 or 8 hours a day? How to leave at 4:00 or 5:00 so you have dinner with your family and how to go on tax season vacations? Vacation during tax season. If that’s what you want, then here’s what I have for you. If you want to step up and take full control of your firm’s profitability and double your revenue with ease. My team and I have set aside many hours to speak to some of you personally about how you can apply some of these ideas that we are going to talk about in our episode, but also how you start charging premium fees to your clients.
How do you get the clients to appreciate you for the value that you offer and provide and finally get paid your worth because it is possible? If that’s you, then head on over to TheAbundantCall.com and book your call with myself or my teammate Denise. Whatever your biggest challenges are, trust me, we have seen it and we know how to overcome it. Head on over to TheAbundantCall.com. Pick the first spot that you see. We have been slightly busy, but we’ll make space for you. If you don’t see something on the calendar, then send an email to Hello@ThePitchQueen.com. Let’s welcome our very special guest, Roger. Welcome, Roger, to the show.
Thank you for having me. This is going to be fun.
This will be fun. I have done your bio but so everyone can know who you are and what you do. Can you share it with the readers your 60-second pitch of what it is that you do and how you help accounting and tax firm owners?
I’m happy to. I work with accounting firm owners. Helping them start and build their accounting business, offering quality accounting services and getting paid what they are worth, essentially building the premier accounting firm in their area. We offer training, certifications, coaching, and support to accounting professionals to accomplish exactly that.
I’m very excited to have you here. We are talking about the different strategies that you have and that you’ve implemented with other firm owners. Having confidence incompetent for the firm owners. I’d love to go through the difference between what confidence means and what competence means and how they go hand in hand. That’s what we are going to talk about. Thank you for being here. To start out, why don’t we start out with the definitions of the differences between those two words for anybody who might be slightly confused and how they go together?
Over several years of working with accounting professionals, I have been repeatedly asked, is there a secret to being successful? What’s the difference between someone who’s having a thriving business offering quality accounting services and someone who’s struggling to either grow the business or be successful?
Over the years, I have narrowed it down to two key elements or characteristics. The first being confidence. Confidence is that ability to look a business owner in the eye and simply say, “I can take care of your accounting needs.” That way may range from a variety of things, depending upon the services you are choosing to offer. It could involve the bookkeeping services you are providing to produce the financial reports. It could be the tax saving and planning advice you are providing to the client as you are planning and preparing the returns.
It could be the advisory services that you are providing. It doesn’t matter, but it’s the confidence to look to the business owner as a peer and say that I can take care of your needs. The second part of that is then the competence. I’m not so much challenging the ability to produce quality reports and do the work effectively, legally and so forth. What I’m referring to is the competence to do the work efficiently.
Rather than taking 10, 15, or 20 hours to do a 5-hour job. What we are talking about is you have within your business systems processes to ensure that as you are doing the work, it’s basically repetitive. There are redundancies so that you are able to ensure that the quality is there, and it’s through that efficiency that you are able to ensure that each of the clients are receiving the same quality of work,. You are also able to then grow the business and put in people to implement those processes and ensure that the same results are coming out on the back end. That competence ensures that the system’s being followed and you are doing the work efficiently and then profitably.
In your years, what have you seen the firms that are not profitable doing? What do you see consistently? You can see what success has meant for people and the secret to being successful, and you’ve narrowed it down to these two characteristics. What do you think the firm owners that are not profitable that you run into are doing wrong in the competence department and the confidence department?
I will give you an obvious example that I have found many times because I find people grow their business and whether they are working too many nights and weekends or they are overwhelmed. They are not enjoying the satisfaction of running their business. They have got clients. They are getting paid well, but they seem to be overwhelmed.
One of the frustrations that I first run into is that they are inefficient and oftentimes because they have not gone through the process of documenting what happens in the business. They can’t delegate very well, so they are struggling because of maybe the client relations they have presuming that they expect that they work directly with them and only them rather than their staff perhaps. They are becoming their own bottlenecks.
The confidence isn’t the issue. They are growing the business. They have clients. It’s the competence where they struggle in this scenario where obviously, if they could find a way to systemize what’s going on and delegate a little bit better, but also leverage technology and utilize what’s being produced out there for the accounting profession and all these different tools and resources to automate processes.
In that, you are still charging the same fee for the work, but now you’ve gone from, let’s say, an average of ten hours per client to take care of their bookkeeping and accounting needs. You’ve now found ways to leverage your time and you are doing it in 8 or 7 hours. The excitement comes from how can I do this work more efficiently and whittle away at what the time commitment is per client still charging the same amount, but now my profit is going up per hour for the work I’m already doing for the client. I’m happier. I’m not working the weekends and nights. I’m not feeling that stress and overwhelm.
That’s an indication of I have got the clients I want. I’m doing the services that I like and enjoy, but I’m finding out figuring out how to do it efficiently and therefore, it results in greater profits. That’s a common story that I experience is people share with me some of the challenges they are facing, and a lot of people may be able to relate to that.
I’d love to hear a case study if you have one of a firm owner that was working too many nights and weekends feeling overwhelmed and also what steps did they take in order to address the second part, which is confidence to do the work efficiently. What did they implement to make that happen that ended up having them increase their revenue in their sales and become more profitable?
I’m going to give you a good telltale case study of one of the things I experienced and it’s a common one, but the story is very simple. It’s going to be Sherry for this story.
What happened to Sherry?
Sherry was intimidated by technology. She felt that she was very good at what she’s done. She liked doing the work. She enjoyed doing the accounting and bookkeeping but felt that technology was going to eliminate her position. One of the challenges that she was facing was that she was still charging hourly. Therefore, there was no incentive to systematize and reduce the workload per client because in her mind working more efficiently could mean I’m now charging less per client because I’m doing less for them.
The first challenge was to help her realize that there’s a better way to price her services. We first had to tackle that issue. It gave her permission to become more efficient because she saw that I can still charge the same fee that I’m typically charging to my client, but now I’m motivated to do the work more efficiently and quickly.
Now, she’s excited about systems and delegation. Then the next thing was her fear of technology was eliminated. She started to see then that these tech stacks, as we refer to them, could be to her benefit. All of a sudden, she started to realize that these things were going to simplify her job and allow her to get away from more of the recording of transactions and reconciliations and move more into the analysis and build relationships with her clients.
In the end, what it did was it eliminated a lot of the things that she held onto because she thought that’s what she enjoyed doing and freed her to leverage her experience, her perception and the perspective that she could bring to her clients. Now all of a sudden, if you look back, it took over a year to do this. I don’t want to imply this as an overnight success. It took her over a year, but she was able to transition her clients. That transition freed up her time to become more efficient, and it allowed her to become more involved with her clients at more of an advisory level and doing more analysis than doing the actual transactions and preparing the reports.
If we want to refer to it as that, her job satisfaction went up and her earnings went up substantially because now, she’s moved away from this old chaotic way of charging hourly to something much more liberating. She, in the end, saw that it was fun to figure out how I can leverage technology and tools to free up my time and yet still charge the same amount for the services I’m providing.
There are some clear steps she took and I can share this story over and over again, as people have embraced technology and opened up the fact that they do have experience and, through that experience, have the ability to do more with their clients than the compliance work. That’s where it started to make sense for her.
I’m not a firm owner, but I was at an event where we saw each other and intimidated by technology. I get it. I was intimidated by technology like every booth except us and a few people were technology company. It’s overwhelming for a firm owner who’s reading. You can probably understand what I’m talking about. There are 8 million different accounting softwares, which ones do you do? Which ones do you choose?You need to leverage technology and tools to free up your time and still charge the same amount for the services you're providing. Click To Tweet
I was on the phone with a client of mine, and she had twelve to narrow down. I don’t remember what part it is for her firm, but how do you overcome this intimidation of technology so someone can implement these strategies to have the confidence and competence to do it more efficiently in their firm?
What would you say are like 1 or 2 things someone could do that would benefit them on getting past this fear and intimidation of technology, yet the efficiencies on the competence side like you were sharing earlier when we defined what the second part was of competence and it’s to do work efficiently? What could they do to start making this subtle change? I understand it took Sherry a whole year to make these changes. To be honest, human beings don’t like change, so we got that against us too.
There are a few things. This is truly something that everybody’s facing or dealing with at one level or another. The first thing that I want to clarify is part of the challenge that’s faced with technology is there are three players going on in this and you’ve got to be aware of each of the three players. One is you, the business owner. You’ve got to be looking at the priority I need to be automating and the old talk was going paperless. What are we doing to simply automate and leverage technology?
As a business owner, your perspective is cost, training, and implementation. There are a few variables you got to look at. The next is if you have staff, it’s how are they going to embrace it? Is it something that is scary that they think it’s eliminating their job? Is it something that is going to be exciting or is it overwhelming? Meaning it’s hard to roll out and implement.
The third is how is this going to affect your relations with your clients. Is this something that they are going to have to log into and they are going to have to use? Is this something you will now have to ask them to participate in while it’s being implemented? Those three questions are the beginning ones.
The next set of questions comes from is what we are looking at technology-wise benefiting your clients. Meaning are we bringing it to them to say it’s going to improve their onboarding and their experience with us getting us documentation that we are needing and all of a sudden, are we going to be able to train them well or is this purely an internal application? Is this something that only we internally are going to log into, use and utilize? That’s the second question. Is the client going to be impacted? Is it for us? Is it for them?
The third is where you now address the shiny syndrome. There’s shiny object syndrome, the squirrel analogy. I think there’s a lot when you go to maybe a trade show like we were both at. There are a lot of different technologies and things, and you are wondering, is this what I should be researching, learning, and implementing?
The easiest way to answer that question is in your business, what is the thing that’s consuming your time that is not automated? What have you taken the time to maybe create an Excel flow or something where you’ve tried to internally create something? This isn’t your wheelhouse and so you are trying to tape together something internally.
There are plenty of firms out there that have identified best practices and there are companies out there that have tried to create systems to automate those things. If you can see in your business what’s consuming a lot of your time, what may be old school that may involve paper trails or a lot of emails and so forth. There are typically systems that you can pay now to implement in your company that automate, systematize and manage those things.
You can look at project management software. You can look at document sharing software. You could look at the software that’s related to payroll, perhaps. You could be dealing with things that help with reconciliations, with forecasting and budgeting. There are a lot of technologies out there that if you found that you were spending time in your business, maybe too much time doing this but it was a core part of your company.
It may be worth your while to go to a trade show or begin looking online for solutions that have figured out a best practice approach to this that you could merely pay a small fee to implement in your business and take whatever you are doing now to another level merely because of the fact that you’ve implemented in the company now this new system.
For Sherry or others that you’ve seen, especially those intimidated by technology, it’s overwhelming. How many new technology components do you recommend one ad to their firm? Strategies to getting more confident that you are the best for that client, but also the competence in doing this efficiently in their firm. Have you found a magic number or bare-bones and minimums on the efficiency side?
I have found that this is different per firm that I have worked with. There’s not a cookie-cutter approach, but I’m going to answer your question this way. Oftentimes, I’m looking at it takes longer to train and implement to roll out this new platform than you expect. If you are talking to the company itself and they are telling you, “We have got this onboarding process that we can get your team trained and you using this within your business or with your clients in three weeks.”
Double it. It’s going to take you that much longer because, inevitably, you are going to have interruptions. You are going to have other things that are going to become a priority while you are launching, learning, and training on this platform. It’s going to take you longer to implement. The second thing is they are looking at it from the standpoint of, “Yes, we have done this with other firms, but this is how it’s supposed to work if you give us your undivided attention and we can’t give it.”
The first thing is time. It’s going to take longer than you expect. The second thing is I have seen instances where you are asking the question of how many of these different platforms and tools should we be using? You may, over time, be using 2, 3, or 4 of these, but as you roll them out, I would do one at a time. If you are doing two, it becomes somewhat chaotic. You don’t know the first, you are rolling out the second and it’s chaotic.
I have found that best to roll out one, become comfortable with it and fully integrate it. Once familiar with it, you can bring in the second and then tie the two together. You are not learning two platforms or systems at once. You are learning a second one once you’ve already mastered the first. When I say master, I mean that loosely. You are comfortable and competent with it.
Master, they are going to come out with an update. They are going to come up with some new shiny thing that they are adding to their platform that you are going to need to learn. There’s always that evolution. If you can at least go one at a time, I feel that it’s a more enjoyable experience and it’s not overwhelming.
It’s less overwhelming and less intimidating for those that are intimidated. Thank you for sharing that. Is there anything else that you think would be a good strategy for someone reading, who not only wants to build that confidence and that they are the best firm for that client sitting in front of them, but also the confidence piece to be more efficient and be able to deliver and have that confidence even in their competence? One within the other to increase revenue. How much revenue did Sherry increase? Can you share some numbers?
In her example, I’m going to share two things. One, she obviously saw a decrease in the time commitment that she was needing to make. For her, because we changed her pricing, she was able to keep the revenue for her clients the same, and then decrease the amount of time it was taking. She immediately started to see a win in the sense that she was working less and making the same.
The second came from that pricing change. We did start working towards increasing the revenue for the services that she was providing. She saw obviously a net gain in the revenue. Now, she’s working less and making more. It’s hard. If you are looking at it from a revenue increase, she was looking at nearly a quarter percent increase. It’s 25% more revenue, but at the same time, she’s working less and so she’s got us spread there.
She was working as much as ten hours less a week. For her, that was a big deal. She was working well over 40 and now she’s working as much as 40 hours a week. She felt like she had received a breath of fresh air. She got her weeknights and weekends back. For her, it was fine. She was happy, and at the same time, she had the increase.
If you’ve got the 25% increase in revenue while at the same time decreasing the amount of time she’s working. For her, she felt like she hit the jackpot. She was happy. That’s the experience that you are looking for, and I know that you are big on pricing and such. All of a sudden, what’s happening is you are taking first the person who’s not charging enough and giving them a pay increase, but you are also saying you are working too hard. You need to figure out how to systemize this and give them permission to work less.
All of a sudden, because their compensation is not time to their hourly rate, they feel like working less and they are winning on both sides of the spectrum. For her, it was as if she made a jackpot here because she was working less and making much more. That’s the answer to that. Your question that I do want to answer. There are two things that are going on here. Sometimes people, when they are speaking with me, are wondering, “Where should I be focused? What do I need to work on? What comes first, the competence or the confidence?”
It’s an interesting question because a lot of the confidence does come from your ability to do the work. If you are going to tell a client that you are going to do the tax blending and preparation, I’m going to improve your profits, and I’m going to give you this financial sheet. There’s a lot that has to do with your skills to provide the work itself. Your confidence does come from your knowledge of what services you are providing. I have to give you that much.
There so much of the confidence does come from your ability to properly market and sell your services. If you are confident, it comes out in the marketing and sales that you are doing. You are going to land the clients that you get. Once you’ve got the client, now the game switches. You are no longer positioning yourself as an expert in the solution to the client’s needs. Now it’s can you deliver? It switches from that confidence to, “Are you going to deliver for the client,” like you said. This is your chance to over-deliver on what it is you sold them on.
The competence comes in. What we are trying to do is now bring value to that relationship and hopefully you are doing it in a way that you are able to not make money, but over time become more efficient to earn more money. it’s a chicken and an egg thing. It depends on each client. Sometimes I will work with individuals where their confidence is amazing.
They have a great presence. They have the certifications that give them the confidence to go out there and meet with clients. They have got the experience. From a CPA to an EA, they don’t know how to deliver and it’s like, “What’s the workflow? How do I onboard? How do I work with a client? How often do I meet with them? When I meet with them, what do I talk about?”
That’s the competence side of it. That’s the delivery. For others, it’s the complete opposite. They love the work. They can do the work. Unless you have paying customers, I don’t care how good you are. Unless you have somebody paying you for your work, who cares how good you are. We got to go to the confidence level and get you the clients that you need. It’s a unique conversation with everyone I speak with as to where we are going to start. I do have to admit that the confidence comes from the competent side, but that’s the nature of the discussion. I think I answered that question of yours.You must figure out how to systemize and permit yourself to work less because your compensation's not timed to your hourly rate. Click To Tweet
I would align with that. Thank you for that. Is there anything else you think would benefit readers who might be overwhelmed with technology? It’s very intimidating, changing this whole efficiency part, going away from hourly sounds like the most horrific and terrifying thing. Ways that they can improve their confidence because, like you said, confidence comes from competence.
It seems like from what I’m understanding and from all the students I have worked with too here. The competence piece on the delivery and over-delivering and under promising making is an important factor to this piece. Is there anything else that you would love to share with the readers and maybe something that worked with Sherry that we haven’t talked about yet?
One of the things that worked with Sherry and a lot of the other conversations I have is what we refer to as mapping the business. As business owners, we have got a lot on our plate. There are a lot of things that we are trying to manage and oversee. The first thing we need to do is to try and organize our thoughts and prioritize what’s going on.
The process of organizing, we implement the principles of map. We cluster these things that are on our mind that are weighing us down that are keeping us up at night into either marketing and sales, what we are doing to grow the business. The accounting which is the services we are providing and what it is we are offering the clients and what is it that they receive from our doing the work we do. Then it’s the production. It’s how we are working efficiently and profitably. It’s the systems we implement to ensure that we are taking care of the clients in a timely way and getting paid well.
If you can organize your thoughts, you can then prioritize them. What’s the priority I need to be doing that’s related to marketing in sales? What’s the priority that I can be implementing to ensure that we are offering the quality services that our clients need to help them in their business? What are the things I’m doing behind the scenes, part of our internal operations to ensure we are being profitable and efficient? If I can take those things that are on my mind, organize them, or prioritize them. I can then now delegate, which is the third thing.
Find out like, is there something I can put onto somebody else’s plate? Either they are better than I am. Is it maybe outsourcing it where I pay someone else to come in and help? Is it me admitting I need to do it, but I need some training to do it better? You are at a point where all that’s in your mind is overwhelming you. You’ve been able to put it out on paper, organize it, prioritize it, delegate it, and perhaps outsource it.
That exercise for a lot of people becomes very helpful. Mapping is huge. That helps Sherry because there’s a lot on everyone’s plate, mine included, and it’s nice to sit down and get that processed. Then after you’ve done that, it’s addressing well, “Where’s my gaps? Is it in my confidence? If I spoke to a business owner today, can I look at them as a peer and say, ‘I can take care of your business,’ or is it the competence?”
I get them as a client. They sign the engagement. I have got them as a client, but where do I start? What’s my onboarding? It’s chaotic. I get my clients frustrated in the first month because I’m not seamless or is it, I work with them for two months and I’m not overdelivering and they don’t see the value in what I’m providing.
I need to look at the competence of my delivery because the big secret here within the accounting world is client retention. You can get a client, but if you are not retaining them, that’s where the money is made. The money isn’t made on the monthly fees or the yearly tax services we are providing. It’s honestly made in the recurring business that we are able to generate.
If you are not retaining your clients, wowing them and having them give you referrals, you are missing the boat, so we have to address that competence side. It’s like a juggle. You might be spending this quarter on the confidence-related issue. Next quarter competence related issue and you go back and forth.
Is there any technology that you would recommend for mapping out the business or something a firm owner through if they want to go and go through this process on their own right now? Is there anything that you would recommend?
I would recommend a book that we have written. I hope this is appropriate for the audience here. The book’s called In the Black: Nine Principles to Make Your Business Profitable. It’s in there that we are discussing this process of mapping the business, and it’s through the book, we show how these principles are tied to short-term. What should you be doing this week, this month, midterm, this quarter or maybe this year? Then long-term this year and longer.
As we have chunked those things down, they become more manageable. You are able to, as a business owner, see what needs your attention. Mapping the business, we break it down into these nine elements and it becomes easily something that you can now manage and build your business around as a business owner. It literally does is it says in the black, it’s nine principles to keep your business in the black, and that’s speaking right to the accounting profession.
They can get it on Amazon. I’m going to assume.
If they want, they can go to our site and get a free copy of the eBook if you happen to be an eBook reader and that would be perfectly fine.
In the eBook, you guys can get to mapping right away. Thank you, Roger, so much for being here with us on the show. It was an honor to have you. A great start for, especially those who are completely overwhelmed with technology and intimidated by it. This is a good thing and taking one technology thing at a time and not implementing more than one until it’s put into place is fantastic. Thank you for being here. It was an honor to have you.
It was a privilege. I appreciate the conversation. You have some great questions and I hope that what we are doing here is literally helping the accounting profession.
I have been told. I have gotten a lot of people saying, “I listen to your show on the 1st and the 15th of every month and I have increased my fees. I have done this and that.” I’m like, “I don’t know you, but that’s awesome. That’s what I’m here to do.” I have people like Roger here or other guests and even myself just help those and we are never going to work with one on one. Some people implement what we talk about and that’s what this is about. Go download as eBook. Go to the mapping. Write out all the things that keep you up at night that drive you nuts and start delegating, organizing, and prioritizing.
Thank you, Roger.
Take care. Have a great day, Michelle.
Thank you all so much for joining Roger and I on another amazing episode on the show. If you are feeling terrified of the technology and overwhelmed by it all, and you are losing sleep and this vicious cycle of pleasing clients and feeling powerless is eating at you. I recommend to book a call. Let’s see how we can not only apply some of the ideas that Roger even talked about but other things like charging premium fees and having clients appreciate you for the value that you offer and having that confidence when speaking to clients to have the confidence to deliver the work.
If that’s you, then head on over to the AbundantCall.com. We’d be grateful if you left a written review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or even my website. If you’ve got an extra 30 seconds, feel free to leave a written review and share with us how this podcast has helped transform your firm. I look forward to speaking to some of you and if not, I will see you on the next episode here at the show. Thanks so much for reading.
- Red to Black
- In the Black: Nine Principles to Make Your Business Profitable
- Apple Podcasts – The Abundant Accountant
- Spotify – The Abundant Accountant
About Roger Knecht
For more than 20 years Roger has personally helped 1000’s of accounting professionals start & build their businesses. In that time we’ve created programs to address each aspect of running an accounting business & helped author “Red to BLACK”, the how to guide for accountants to help clients with the most common challenges faced in business – cash flow AND “in the BLACK – 9 principles to make your business profitable”. Roger also host a podcast, “Building the Premier Accounting Firm”.