Do you have any long-term clients who you undercharge in fees, and you worry that they’re going to leave you if you raise their rates?
If you answered YES, then this week’s The Abundant Accountant Podcast is a MUST LISTEN! Marc Schnoll joins the show to share how he learned the importance of owning your worth and charging adequately for it.
Marc started his firm about 14 years ago and has had a long-term client since the beginning. As the years have passed, the amount of work that Marc and his firm have done for this client has increased dramatically, but the monthly rate they charge has not.
There were countless hours of email messages and phone calls that were going uncharged. These messages and calls weren’t being tracked and, because Marc was afraid to lose the client, he didn’t want to raise his rates for quite some time.
However, after a lot of thought, doing a 90-day analysis was a necessary next step. Marc realized that it was time to raise his rates NOW!
The information he found by doing this analysis opened his eyes to how much value he was providing and how badly he was undercharging.
If you’re tired of being underpaid, and you’re ready to own your value, then this episode of The Abundant Accountant Podcast is a MUST LISTEN!
Enjoy, and thank you for listening and tuning into The Abundant Accountant Podcast!
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Special thanks go out to Marc for taking the time to chat with Michelle. Be sure to join us on the 1st or 15th of each month for our next new episode!
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Here are a few key secrets we talked about in this episode:
- Michelle introduces Marc Shnoll.
- Marc shares a little about who he is and where his firm is located.
- After working with a client for 15 years, Marc realized that his firm was undercharging for the amount of work they were doing for this client on a daily basis.
- Marc was receiving approximately about $4,500 a month for his work, but the work was worth seven or 8 times that.
- Marc would often check his email first thing in the morning and he’d have a series of emails from this same client. We’re talking about 300 emails over a 90 day period.
- The firm also had an entire staff person dedicate about half of their work time to this client.
- After a 90 day evaluation, Marc realized they needed to increase this client’s rates – listen to THIS episode to hear how much they increased it and the result.
- If you’re ready to start analyzing what your clients are paying you, so you can start asking for what you’re worth, Marc suggests some things you should review to determine your price.
- When raising rates, you must consider whether or not there is a better or less expensive option for clients, because they may make the choice to leave. You have to be ready for this.
- After 15 years Marc’s client decided to leave, but it actually was a good thing. Marc shares why, in THIS episode!
- By analyzing the work and the amount of money he was being paid from his long-term client, Marc realized that he was undercharging across the board. Marc raised his rates 10 to 15 percent, and will likely raise his rates again next year.
- Doing all of this work, raising rates, and analyzing the work they were doing for clients, helped Marc raise his confidence levels. Especially when dealing with clients, which meant he was better able to believe in his worth and ask for what he was worth.
- Marc’s final piece of advice was to have the confidence and know you’re worth it.
Learn More & Connect With Me Here!
PS. P.S. Are you tired of feeling like you have to give away your knowledge and expertise for free? Register NOW for my FREE Accountant Masterclass and learn to implement my 3 proven strategies for your accounting practice to stand head and shoulders above your competition and offer superior value and unmatchable service to easily build your practice with premium clients who eagerly pay you what you’re worth. Get FREE access NOW at abundantaccountant.com.
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How To Show Your Value As A Trusted Professional As An Accountant With Marc Schnoll
We have a very special guest. Our guest has built a career serving business owners and leaders as a CPA. Our special guest concentrates on personalized financial accounting and tax planning services for individuals and corporations. In addition, our special guest specializes in the real estate industry, from developers to managers to brokers. I have personally worked with our special guest and would love to welcome Marc Schnoll to the show.
Thank you, Michelle. I’m glad to be here.
Thank you so much for being here. I’m very excited to have you on as we talk about how to show your true value as the accountant professional that you are and be that trusted professional to your clients. I’ve heard this question a lot from a lot of other accounting professionals. There are a lot of people that have clients that they’ve had for a long time. How do you show your true value now to the people who might be paying you whatever they were paying you in the past?
It makes sense because something like this could be a make or break in your situation or an extreme learning lesson. I know you’re going to be sharing a certain story, but I want to make sure that each reader can learn from your personal experiences, some solutions that work for you, and how you can apply them to your firms and your businesses. That’s what we’re here for. Marc, can you introduce yourself real quick to everybody? Where’s your firm, where do you live and how long have you been in business? A little bit about you.
My name is Marc Schnoll. I am the owner and operator of Sexton and Schnoll CPAs in Gainesville, Florida. We’ve been in business for many years. I bought the practice from the former owner back then, and we provide all manner of services. We’ve been transitioning to focus on tax planning and those higher-value services. Over the last year, that’s been our focus.
I know that learning how to show your value as the trusted professional accountant that you are has been one of the biggest focuses that you’ve been working towards. I think a lot of people deal with a situation where they have a client for a long time. You start to realize that, “I haven’t increased their prices. They now email me once a week, but they started emailing me once every day. They want me to respond to them immediately.”
Now you’re this personal concierge CPA. It keeps going and going. You’re so busy running your business. You’re growing your team and working with all your other clients that you never increase your prices. It hits a wall one day. Can you share your personal experience about a situation like that with a client? Maybe give us the backstory first and then we’ll go through the solutions that work for you on what you did differently.
That’s a great intro to this story that I want to talk about. I had a client. We’ll call him John. He had been a client for many years, and he had had a series of businesses. A few years ago, he opened up a new business and we were his outsourced accounting department. We did everything for him. His bookkeeping, payroll, year-end tax planning and accounting. If he had any questions, he contacted us. He literally did not have an accountant on staff. This was a business that started relatively small. It grew in revenue. In his first year, it might have been a couple of million, and in 2021, it was up around $15 million in revenue.
He had multiple entities. The number of entities grew year over year as his business expanded. He was very successful. Through it all, we were his go-to person from an accounting perspective. In the beginning, we set a monthly fee that seemed fair at that time. I think it was in the vicinity of $1,000 a month or something, plus some year-end tax work. Over the course of the year, we might have netted $25,000, probably less than that. Over time, his business grew geometrically and our fees grew more linearly. By the end, the monthly fee was about $2,500 a month. The extras might have averaged out to another $2,000 or so per month. He was our largest client by revenue.
The total you received was about $4,500 a month, so everyone can understand this.
Along those lines, yeah. Understand that his business had grown so much. By revenue, probably 7 or 8 times. Complexity is when you have multiple entities, and those entities interact with one another. Every time you add an entity, it’s not just a little bit of extra work. It’s often a lot of extra work. Of course, tax planning and those sorts of things get more and more complicated and sophisticated. Additionally, we had a very close working relationship. He emailed me all the time, and by all the time, it wasn’t monthly or weekly. It was often daily.
He had a habit of working late at night. I’d wake up in the morning, and frequently, there’d be a series of emails from him that required a response. Some of them might have been very easy. I might have known the answer off the top of my head so I would respond. Sometimes it would require some research or I’d have to ask a staff person to gather the information so that I could respond.
I think this is pretty common. Typically we wouldn’t bill for each of those emails. It was included. I had a general sense that he probably should be paying more, but at the same time, it was our biggest client relationship and you may be don’t want to rock the boat. It’s also a hassle to track the two minutes I spent responding to this email, even if it’s hundreds or thousands of emails of this type. Over time, the gap between what he was paying and the level of service we were providing increased.
How did you know that, “My firm is not receiving the value that I deserve anymore?” What was, for you, maybe that wake-up call moment where you do need to rock the boat a little bit, as you mentioned? What are 2 or 3 things that you can share with others reading that might have this long-term client and that their business is growing geometrically and your fees are staying linear, not going up? What are 1, 2 or 3 things that you realize, “I’m not getting my value here?”
As I mentioned, we’ve been focused on tax planning and delivering those services to higher-end clients. We actually prepared a tax plan for this client. The plan was designed to save him a ton of money, nearly $1 million in tax over a two-year period. In my mind, a very successful plan. As a follow-up to that plan, we realized it was time to reevaluate the relationship and the services we were providing. I did an analysis of what exactly we were doing for him and what we ought to be charging for those services. What I found astounded me.
I knew that there was one staff member who was spending about half his time on this one client. His salary and benefits are probably half of what this client was paying. When you include the other costs, obviously, in a firm like ours, salaries are the biggest cost that we have. It only represents about half of our overall costs. In my view, what does it cost to provide service to this client? One way of looking at that is to take the salary input and double it. That would be a reasonable estimate of the overall cost to serve this client. You do that, and basically, this client was paying for this staff member’s time and the related costs associated with that. That means that he was getting our admin, other staff members, and my time for free.Don't give your admin's time for free, your staff member's time for free, or your time for free. That is not how you should show your value. Click To Tweet
That is not the way to show your value as a trusted professional accountant, correct?
Correct. It was an eye-opener when I literally looked at how much time we weren’t billing for. If we were billing, it was underbilling because we weren’t capturing it all. Our staff people do a very good job of tracking their own time. I will admit that I do not do a great job of tracking my own time. Think about when I’m working. I might wake up and check my phone in the morning and there’s a handful of emails that I might respond to or be thinking about as I’m getting ready for my day and responding a few hours later. When I did this analysis, I looked at a 90-day period and found that he had sent me something like 300 emails in that time.
Even if each one took two minutes to respond to, think about all that time. That’s ten hours of time right there just in responding to emails in a 90-day period that we haven’t been billing for. Multiply that by four, add to it all of the other times that I’m supervising staff, doing research and responding. That average email is probably more than two minutes. There’s a lot of other stuff that goes behind it. There was a ton of either unbilled or underbilled time. I realized we had a problem because I didn’t want to continue doing this. By doing this, I mean serving this client at a loss. I did not want to do that.
Yet I knew that when I presented a new pricing structure to this client, he likely would back. In fact, that’s what happened. We went back and forth for a while. I mentioned that he was paying an average of about $4,500 a month and what we asked for was $12,000 a month. We could have made an argument for even more, $14,000 or $15,000 a month, given all of the services we were providing and the additional services in maintaining that new tax plan that was going to save him $1 million. I knew that it was going to be a rough road to get that increase. Ultimately, he decided to go somewhere else.
I think that’s where your true value shines. A lot of people might have kept that client, but at the end of the day, you were at a loss position. You lost revenue but one thing that all of us can’t get back is time. For each person reading, Marc, might be in your same shoes. We all have these clients that we’ve had for a long time. I know that you’re recommending your idea with the salary estimate for that person, the staff member, and double it and make that the fee if it’s going to be one person on the account if I understood that correctly. Feel free to clarify.
Also, do a deep dive analysis over your past 90 days to see how many emails you sent out, how many phone calls, and how much time did you spend with some clients. For some, like this one, you might be operating at a loss. The client is getting a great deal, but your other clients might be suffering. Did I get that right? What would you do differently?
Now you would do an analysis so each person can do that. What are two other things each person can do or schedule out in your calendar to go look at where maybe you are not gaining or getting the value you deserve as the accounting professional that you are in your firm? Where are some clients that you need to go do an analysis on?
I would look at the time rather than doubling it. In our firm, doubling it lets us break even. Obviously, we want to make a profit. The first question is, what does it cost to provide service? For us, doubling the time inputs is a reasonable estimate of that. The question is, how much profit are we looking to make? The other is how much value are we providing? Looking internally, you want to look at what kind of profit margin you want to make on this client. If it’s costing you $5,000 a month to provide service, what margin do you want? That’s going to be a guide to how you want a price.
The other question is, what do you believe the client’s options are? That was an analysis that we went through as well. When I said, “We feel like we should charge $12,000,” could the client replace us for that? Certainly, the lower level services, the bookkeeping, the day-to-day accounting, they could certainly get for well under that. To get higher level services, tax planning, staying on top of all of the deadlines and guaranteeing our work that if we mess up, we fix it all costs money, and that is valuable. Could he replicate that for less than what we asked? I don’t think so.All the services you offer, even the lower-level ones, costs money. You can't replicate that for less than what you're asking. Click To Tweet
I don’t think so, either. With all that said and done, can you share with everyone what the outcome was real quick? I know you said he walked and left, but what did that free up? What did you realize when this client left? What’s changed in your business, in the firm, with your team and the people that were servicing that account? My guess is this left probably a lot of time. Can you share a little bit about that?
It is true. The client did walk, and after fifteen years, it wasn’t an easy thing. It didn’t happen overnight, but we did have a positive relationship. He didn’t have any qualms about the work we had done. We helped an orderly transition, and that has been fine. After that, what has happened is it’s opened up a ton of capacity in our office. Historically this office is pretty busy year-round. That’s a good thing, but sometimes that can be too much of a good thing. With this client leaving, we have a greater capacity to bring on new work. By new work, it’s the higher value stuff, whether it’s new tax planning clients or maintenance work where the client is paying more on a per-hour basis.
We don’t bill that way, but it’s a better ROI for us with the work that we’re doing. This staff who spent half his time on this one client took a vacation in the summer, and that’s something he literally hadn’t done. This is a guy that I’ve got to push to take a long weekend and taken some time off. From a lifestyle perspective, it’s better. I don’t wake up at 6:00 AM, look at my phone and have a bunch of emails from this client. I can go right to work on things that are going to get us paid.
I think those are some of the things that people can apply now and some of the lessons that you learn. Since you’ve been through this, you’ve had this client for a long time, you went through this whole experience and the guy walked. What would you do differently going forward to show your value as the trusted accountant that you are? What are the lessons learned? What are 2 or 3 things that you do differently now that other people can learn from your experience?
One thing that this showed me is that, for these long-term client relationships, the odds that we’re undergoing on many of them. Something that I did is I raised fees across the board 10% to 15%. I think we’re worth a lot more than that, but I also don’t want to shock everybody. I expect in 2023 that I’ll be doing the same thing and trying to be more aggressive about pushing fees so that these longer-term clients start to pay something closer to what we’re worth without shocking them. We don’t want everybody to leave right away. That’s one thing.
The second thing is that with new clients, we are far more focused on making sure that we are paid what we are worth from day one. If it’s a client where we’re doing a lot of this day-to-day work, we’re pricing it higher. If they don’t want to pay it, that’s fine. If they want to pay for a bookkeeper, maybe they don’t want me and that’s their choice. If they’re going to get me, they need to pay for it. Does that make sense?
It makes 1,000% sense. That confidence you have when you say that translates probably into how you speak to your clients. Maybe going through this whole process with this client increased your confidence because that was like, “I’ve never heard Marc talk like that before.”
I think it has. It showed in black and white, A) We’re spending a ton of time, and B) We’re providing a ton of value. In the end, this client was running a $15 million business without any accounting staff. It’s mind-boggling when you think about it.
On a $15 million business, what would the cost be to him to have an internal accounting? If he had that internally, what would he be paying every month? I don’t think $4,500 a month to someone on salary to do everything that you were doing. When each person’s reading is doing the analysis, also something to think about is what if your clients brought on someone internally? What would that cost them?
That’s exactly right. For that $4,500, they very likely could get, at least in this area, we understand salaries vary around the country, a full charge bookkeeper that’s very good, probably do all of the day-to-day stuff. If that person went on vacation, nobody would do the bookkeeping or the payroll that week. If that person gets sick or quits, you’ve got the HR problems, but then that person is not going to have the skill to do the tax planning, the tax projecting or the tax returns at year-end. I believe we were providing tremendous value for what he was paying.
I completely agree and I appreciate you sharing so authentically here on the show because this is creating not only a firm of abundance and abundant clients that you love and will pay you not only your value but also have the life. The fact that your staff member was able to go on a vacation, finally, you can’t get that time back. That is extremely valuable to your team members. That’s how you’re able to continue growing your business.
I’d love to end it with a question, do you have any 1 or 2 things that maybe have popped up for each person reading who says, “I want to be able to show my value a little bit better as the trusted professional accounting person that I am to my clients?” Are there any last words of wisdom from you, Marc, for each person reading?
Have the confidence to know that you are worth it. Sometimes that means you may lose a client, but that client doesn’t see the worth. You’ll find the clients to do, and you’ll be better off for it.Know that you are worth it. Some clients may not see it, but you'll find some that do, and you'll be better off for it. Click To Tweet
I appreciate you being here with us. I always say if your clients leave you, that’s perfect. It opens up the opportunity for a new one to join you and your firm, and you get to help someone who actually sees the value of who you are. Thank you so much, Marc, for being here with us. It was an honor to have you.
Thanks for having me, Michelle.
What an amazing episode with Marc with an important topic that I think a lot of accounting professionals I talk to are dealing with. You have clients you’ve had for such a long time, and you haven’t raised your fees enough, and then you feel like they’re a pain. You don’t want to work on the accounts. Your staff is tired. You’re not paying them enough, and it’s the worst feeling in the world.
It actually follows into newer clients that are paying you your value, but these older clients that you didn’t raise fees on are sucking not only your energy but sometimes your time. That is not the life of the abundant accountant. I highly encourage each of you to do some of what Marc talked about. Maybe do a 90-day analysis on a long-term client you’ve had, and see how many calls you have made, how many emails you have sent them, and how many meetings you have had and never charged for. Get a clear picture if you are in a lost position so you don’t deal with what Marc had to deal with. You can focus on those long-term client relationships and the new clients and provide the value and service that you ultimately want to do for each client. Take one thing and put it into action.
Also, if you are tired of feeling like you give away your knowledge and expertise for free, you can register now for a free accountant masterclass and learn my three proven strategies to easily build your practice with premium clients who eagerly pay you what you’re worth. You can get access now over at TheAbundantAccountant.com. I want to thank each of you for reading and being here with us. I’d be grateful if you could leave a rating and a review if you have a second. I always love hearing from each of you. I do read all the reviews, and I want to say thank you for being here.
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