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A too-busy-to-change mentality can cost accounting firms new business

Mary Ellen Biery
November 28, 2014
Read Time: 0 min

How many times in the last year have you or someone at your accounting firm said, “We’d love to expand into that area, but we’re too busy”? Or “I’m too busy to switch over to a new way of doing things that may be better/more efficient”?

How many times have you had to refer a client out to another financial services firm because your firm is too busy putting out fires with tax and audit work to provide business analytics or other advisory services


It’s clear that many accounting firms are missing out on new business with existing and prospective clients when they focus solely on offering compliance-related, Type 1 services such as tax preparation, tax planning and compilation/audit/review. Technology consultant Sleeter Group surveyed small and medium-sized businesses earlier this year and found that these level 1 services are the most common services received by respondents who currently engage a CPA. At the same time, owners obviously have unmet needs related to growing their companies. Business planning and business strategy are among the top 5 services desired by owners already engaging a CPA and by those who plan to engage one.

In addition, the survey found the top-rated reason for switching CPAs was that the former accountant gave only reactive advice and didn’t offer proactive guidance. In other words, if your firm doesn’t offer help before it’s requested, you could be losing clients.

“I hear firms every day tell me that they have current clients come to them and ask for valuation work, but they don’t have the time or infrastructure to capitalize on that work,” said Aaron Lively, regional valuation consultant for Sageworks. “So they hope the clients will come back after they pass them off to a valuation firm.”

Accountants need to be able to reduce time spent on mundane or routine tasks as much as possible in order to devote that saved time to new or expanded services. One way to do that is to utilize technology that automates financial statement analysis, benchmarking and “what if” scenarios.  If you can spend your time analyzing data rather than searching for and compiling it, you can provide greater value to your clients through strategy and insight. 

Another advantage to using technology to automate data-related needs (specifically, web-based technology) is that multiple people at the firm can easily access the client information and the systems used to provide advisory services. If you’ve ever lost a key partner or staff member who “owned” a specific service line, such as valuations, you know how hard it can be to figure out someone else’s “system” of spreadsheets, report templates and client information. 

Leveraging technology is also important for your firm’s reputation. Clients already recognize that accountants aren’t trailblazers when it comes to technology. Only about 1 in 8 of the business owners in the Sleeter Group survey labeled their CPA as “ahead of the curve” when it comes to technology adoption. Clients, many of whom have adopted technology to boost results in their own businesses, might be swayed by service offers from more tech-savvy firms if they view their accountant as “behind the times.” 

Another issue is that clients may begin to view the accountant’s tax preparation or financial-statement services as outdated and undifferentiated from other firms, so they may resort to price-based comparisons. During a recent webinar on how accountants can prepare for growth in the valuation industry, an AICPA official noted that accountants – even sole proprietors – can better resist fee pressures by using technology to drive the business and work faster than other firms.

Sageworks’ ProfitCents technology has recently been honored in CPA Practice Advisor’s 2014 Readers’ Choice Awards for the best budgeting/forecasting and business intelligence solution. For more information on how to stop giving away revenue and stop giving clients to firms that haven’t done anything to secure those relationships, listen to an on-demand webinar about leveraging technology with ProfitCents. 


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About the Author

Mary Ellen Biery

Senior Strategist & Content Manager
Mary Ellen Biery is Senior Strategist & Content Manager at Abrigo, where she works with advisors and other experts to develop whitepapers, original research, and other resources that help financial institutions drive growth and manage risk. A former equities reporter for Dow Jones Newswires whose work has been published in

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