The Strategy to Change Your Firm’s Business Model
Whether we are in a pandemic or not, there is always value embedded in how firms focus on building their business model. In this webinar, we will study what strategy is since we use that word so much. Then we can approach our future business models with more intention and planning. We'll also explore what parts of your model can make you more valuable to your clients.
Firm owners will learn what strategy is
Firms will learn from a case study what goes wrong in the building of a business model
Firms will learn the struggles of scaling and what problems happen at various team sizes
Firms will learn the questions they can use to practically explore what parts of their model can become most valuable
Speaker(s): Jason Blumer - CEO, Thriveal CPA Network and CEO, Blumer CPAs
Hello everyone and welcome to CPA Academy. My name is Christine, and I will be your moderator for today's webinar on The Strategy to Change Your Firm's Business Model, presented by Jason Blumer with Thriveal and sponsored by Bill.com. And we'll actually be hearing from Monica Ortiz with Bill.com in just a few minutes here. Before we get started, I'd like to do some audio and visual checks with you to make sure I set you up for success.
I'd like you to head over to the questions box on the GoToWebinar control panel and if you don't mind just shooting me a message to let me know that you hear my audio and you see the title slide and you see our wonderful presenter Jason on his webcam today.
Hello from Parma, Ohio Charlotte, Marilyn. Good afternoon Michael, nice to see you again. Memphis, Tampa, Colorado, Nola, wonderful. Well, thank you everybody for letting me know. If any of you are experiencing any technical trouble today, you can let me know in that questions panel, and I will make sure to help you out. This is also a great spot to put any questions and comments that may come up for our presenters during the webinar. All right, now let's go through some housekeeping for credits. This is a one-hour webinar, and it qualifies for one CPE credit. In order to earn the credits, you must stay logged in for 50 minutes of our allotted time and answer the poll questions.
Today, we're going to have five polls total throughout the presentation and to earn the full credit, you'll need to answer at least three out of the five polls. We also recommend that you take the time now to download today's presentation materials, which can be found in the handout section of your GoToWebinar control panel. All right, now that we're all set, let me turn it over to today's presenters, Monica Ortiz and Jason Blumer. Welcome Monica and Jason, the floor is all yours.
Awesome. Thank you Christine. Hi everybody, happy Wednesday. I'm Monica, director of event marketing at Bill.com, and I'm so pleased to welcome you to today's webinar with Jason Blumer, The Strategy to Change Your Firm's Business Model. For those who aren't familiar with Bill.com, we are a leading provider of cloud-based software that simplifies, digitizes, and automates complex back-office financial operations for small and mid-sized businesses. Our customers use our AI enabled platform to manage their end-to-end financial workflows, to process payments, manage cash flow, and create connections between their businesses and their suppliers and clients. We partner with several of the largest US financial institutions, including the majority of the top 100 US accounting firms.
And we integrate with leading accounting software providers. No matter what success looks like for your firm, technology and automation have become a necessary part of the equation. Together with Jason and other speakers, we created the automating success masterclass program to introduce you to the industry thought leaders who have adapted and thrived and together, we will walk through what it takes to redefine your business for today's world. Without further ado, I'm excited to introduce Jason Blumer. Jason founded Thriveal in 2010 as a way for firm owners to connect. And in the 10 years that Thriveal has been supporting firm owners, he was joined with by Julie Shipp, who has become a co-owner with Jason.
And together with their team, they support firms in reaching their goals through live events, a monthly podcast, written content, webinars, coaching, consulting, so much more. It's a really great opportunity for us to learn from Jason today and to get to know Thriveal, the online community where firm owners gather to ask questions and share ideas. We'll be posting the link in chat, but if you're interested in exploring Thriveal programs, you can do so by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Without further ado, please join me in welcoming Jason Blumer.
Hey, hey everybody. Thanks Monica. Appreciate you guys letting me hang out with Bill.com. I wore my cool Bill.com shirt today for this awesome webinar. I've already done one webinar in this automating success webinar series. I'm really excited to dive into this content. There's a lot of strategy to a business model. People don't always know what a business model is. It's pretty confusing, and I hope I'm going to give you some real clear specifics as to what a business model is. So, here's some of the things we're going to run through. This is the agenda. We're going to dive into Klein, Rowe and Co. I'll mention that in just a minute. Then we're going to just hit some high levels strategies of growing a firm and then uncommon sense, common nonsense.
We're going to learn some new vocabulary in that area around a great book on strategy that I've always loved for years. Then we're going to talk about the smile curves, that's where we'll start talking a lot about the strategies of business models. And if you haven't heard me talk about those before, that's pretty intuitive stuff. I really enjoy that, and we built some special things for the accounting profession. And then we're going to come up with some questions. These reference back to that uncommon sense, common nonsense and then we're going to solve the KRC issues, which is Klein, Rowe and Co. So, let me mention Klein, Rowe and Co. It's a fake firm. For this series which was great, Bill.com put this case study together.
It's a pretty long case study. It's about owners, and they just launched on their own, how they built a team, went through marketing technology. And they messed some stuff up. They killed it for a while in their firm growing it, but there's some things they really got wrong. And what's really cool that Bill.com... I don't think anybody I've done webinars with has done this before. They built a case study just to give you some context as to a lot of the things you're learning in this webinar series, the Automating Success Webinar Series. What we're going to do is we're going to post the link to the case study online.
It's on Bill.com's website, and you definitely want to read that if you come to any of these webinars because it walks you through it... I mean it really is the reflection of a real firm, how a real firm would operate and grow, but you'll see some of the issues they run into. We're going to solve some of those. What I like to do is when I do the webinars, this is the second one in the series I've done and I have a couple more coming up. When I do the webinars, I want to solve some of those problems. And really, we'll be solving some of the KRC issues toward the end and a lot of those have to do with things we're learning in our own firm. Julie and I, my partner, we not only lead Thriveal, but we've led our own firm for about 20 years.
We've gone through a lot of ups and downs and growth paths. So, let's dive in. Christine, let's go ahead and knock out the first poll question, and then we'll keep trucking from there.
That's good Jason. All right, that first poll question should be up on your screens now. We're going to give you about 60 seconds to get your vote in and keep in mind if you are in full screen, it always helps to minimize or reduce the size of your screen to avoid any freezing with the polls. But if you are experiencing any technical issues, you can let me know in that questions panel, and I'll make sure to come by and help you out. All right about 30 seconds left everyone. All right, if you're hearing my voice, we have launched poll question number one. Let us know about your firm's business model. Our model is efficient and humming, need to do a little work to get this where we want it to be, we are not providing the service we want to provide, or what is a business model?
All right, and we have hit 60 seconds. So, I'm going to close the polls down and three, two, and one, and share the results.
Very cool. Let's see, I want to make sure I can see those results too. Okay, there they are. Okay, so what we're going to be doing is sharing the results of probably the first two polls. The other three won't be necessarily things we'll want to share, but I always like to see the results of questions around the topic of business model. It looks like over close to 60% want to do work on their business model, 10%, who the heck knows what a business model is, it is weird, but 18% are doing great. So, a great portion of you want to improve it or you know you're really lacking in the business model. So, let's keep moving on. So, 70% of you really want to know more about a business model.
Of course, that's why you're in this webinar and I hope the others, the other 18% or the 10% that don't know what a business model is I hope you can learn a little bit from that. So, let's start with the strategy of growing a firm. There are some strategic things you need to know about growing a firm. So, growth activities is a job, right? A lot of people struggle with I want to grow my firm. If I told you to put a 2-hour block on your calendar every week, make that recurring every Friday say from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and make that your growth block, we do that with groups we lead. That's the first thing we want them to do, and we call it a strategy and planning block. So, a lot of planning goes into growth and a lot of strategy.
That block, that's meant to house all the things you're meant to do in growth. And I think a lot of people don't know what goes in that list of things, and there are a lot of growth activities. If you're running a firm just like there are a lot of tax returns to review or accounting to do, there are a lot of growth tasks to do. And I think the reason people don't work on their firm a lot of times, because they just don't know what to do. It's a job. Growing a firm is a job just like anything else and so much goes into it. I hope you can take like three or four points away from this webinar and put them in that recurring calendar blog. That two hours where you focus on your firm.
Sometimes, that's the first strategy to grow a firm is to wedge into your calendar two hours a week. Now, we would say you want to get that up to a full day within a year or two. You want to be spending they say about 20% of your time on strategy and growth. Now, that's typically once you've grown your firm probably to a size 10, 12 or higher team members. That's when you're probably needing to spend a full day on that, but many things grow into growth. It is a job and a lot of firm owners are busy working, right? They don't do the growth activities. And if you don't, then you're going to struggle to grow. And what's going to happen is you're going to overload yourself with work.
And when I say work, that's things that produce revenue. That's what I mean by work. And if the owner is doing a lot of the things that produce revenue, there is no time for growth, but you have to have blocks and calendar blocks or that's how I manage my time. You need calendar blocks to do both, that's very important. Step number one, if you get a calendar block on your calendar for once a week, two hours, it's going to change the growth trajectory of your firm over the next year if you do that. Even if for the first two months you sit there and stare at your computer screen for two hours, what's going to happen is you're going to start to go, "Oh, I could develop some processes. I could work on my marketing.
I could experiment with my pricing." So many things. The first month, you could just brainstorm things I should be doing that I'm not doing that grow my firm. That's what you could use that two hours for and again, we've been doing this for decades. So, it does work and you do need time to grow your firm. And you're not just going to accidentally fit it in. So, that's why we say get that calendar block on there. It's going to wedge out all of that work you're doing for clients, which you do have to do. And it's going to force you to start working in your firm. Growth is a task assigned to owners, owners grow firms. So, your team members can't grow firms. Really as you grow, team members are meant to produce the revenue.
And it's in smaller firms, 12, 15 team members or under, the owner is still going to be doing revenue production wok. My partner and I do, we have a team of 10. And we've had bigger teams, but in the pandemic, we've had to shrink those a little bit. We still do revenue production activities, which is consulting things. Those are most of what we do. We don't do the accounting tax payroll. Our team does that, and our leadership team leads that. As you grow, your team is meant to produce the revenue over time, and the owners or the leaders don't as you grow. So what happens as you grow, you add layers of leadership team. You keep getting bigger. Your accountability chart or your org chart expands, and then you keep moving up and passing work down.
That's how you grow a firm, that's how you protect your own capacity as an owner to grow a firm. Ultimately, it can work that a firm is fully funded by the clients, with the team producing that revenue. Theoretically, that's what you're aiming for. Now again, as small firms 12 to 15 team members or under, we don't fully get there, right? The owners are still doing revenue production work, but there is a sense where you need to be doing the higher level advisory related things that team can't do. And you need to push down a lot of those easier tasks, accounting tax payroll in some certain orders down to a team. That's really important. If you don't, you're going to be overwhelmed. You're actually not going to be able to grow.
If you're struggling to grow, that might be one thing you're doing. The team is meant to have and hold a lot of that work. That's really important when you're managing your growth. Also, when you let your clients lead and take over and get in the driver's seat of your relationship, that's another thing that slows down your growth. Growth is complex, takes practice and accountability to master. So, you need a place to practice. That's why you need that 2-hour block to make sure you're doing the work of growth. Again, you guys know, we get better at accounting. We get better at tax work. We review things in different ways, all of these things we grow in and our skill. If you're a firm owner, growth is something you'll grow into.
You'll figure it out more as you do it. You do need to do it more and more as you grow, or you're going to become overwhelmed. Strategy basically is a skilled attempt to look forward into the future and plan for your growth. So, let's talk about the word strategy. Just another word for strategy is intention. If you say I'm going to be more strategic in my firm, that means you're going to be more intentional, that means you're going to look into the future and you're going to start planning that future a little bit more. Now being strategic is not looking back into history, right? There's no strategy in the past, there's only learning. Strategy is always forward, like winning a war or something like that. There's strategy to place your people, your team. So, you're trying to predict a future in a sense which none of us can do.
There are ways to be intentional and look forward. And we're going to see some of that as we hit these next blocks. Basically, strategy is predicting the future. It's like all right, I'm going to take this risk and experimenting with a price, or I'm going to take a risk in creating a new service, right? All of these things are different levels of risk that you could take. And if you take a risk about the future and you invest in a team member because you're growing in a certain niche or something like that, then you'll gain more profit if you win. Now, if you make a wrong bet of the intentional strategy of the future, then you'll just learn a lot of lessons. That's what it's about. So, that's what growth is about.
Growth means you do have to take risks, and you do have to look into the future. And you do have to intentionally try to plan for the future. Now, what we're going to get into with these next bullet points is how do you plan and own the future, and I believe it's with a calendar. Let's talk about why. Because in a professional services company, a knowledge company, a service based company, whatever you want to call it, managing your capacity, that is your time to devote to growth activities or revenue producing activities or selling more of your capacity, your ability to produce revenue in an efficient way, selling more of that is where you win. So, managing your time as you walk into the future, that's how you become more strategic.
Why? Because time is static, right? All of us have the same amount of time. When you get good at managing that time, that is the key to growth. That's why one tip and trick is to put a strategy and planning block on your calendar. If you've heard me talk before, I say that all the time because it is life-changing. It has been for me in the years that my partner and I have been doing that. If you say at the end of this webinar I want to be more strategic, then what you're talking about is your calendar. You're saying I want to be more intentional with my calendar, the future of my calendar, that is what you're saying. I'm interpreting that into a practical way, so that you can own it and really figure out how to do that.
In Thriveal, we teach a course called strategic calendar work blocking. It is a whole hour course that Julie and I teach on how to manage your future intentionally with a calendar. It's very complicated. It goes through a lot of steps, but basically what Julie and I do is we plan our whole calendar a year in advance. I mean no white space, right? 8:00 to 6:00 every day, we plan our whole calendar in advance. Now, you might think that's crazy. You might think that's not possible, but it is possible. And there's a lot of components to doing strategic calendar work blocking, but calendar work blocking from a strategic perspective, that is how you grow a firm. That's how you win because we all have the same amount of time.
Time is static for everybody. The way you manage it and your efficiency is how you're going to win. I want to say to you your calendar is your strategic tool. If you own that, if you maintain it, if you spend time in it, if you plan it, I think it should be a digital one, not a written one. If you manage these things, if you do it well, if you move things around, if you let clients or team have some parts of your calendar, but not have other parts, if there are sacred parts of your calendar, if you batch things appropriately, you put all your tax returns in a two or three hour block, and then you do email. You don't switch back and forth. These kind of things, your firm's going to grow.
You're going to unleash a wall, and you're going to start pushing forward with a lot more efficient growth because really, humans are just inefficient people. We really don't manage time well. So, a calendar is a visual reflection of how we're doing, or how we're not doing. Let's interpret this strategy now into a great book we're going to see in a minute, but before we get into that book, Peter Thiel wrote a great book called Zero to One. Now, this is not the book we're about to dive into, but this is a good book, Zero to One. He's a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley. He says, "Today's best practices lead to dead ends. The best paths are new and untried."
So, what I'm doing right now is I'm setting up the strategy, and then we're going to get more practical as we go through this webinar. Bear with me, we're going to get more practical on business models when we get to the smile curves. But right now, I'm trying to convince you to be strategic, and then I want to convince you and give you new language in a minute that shows you how to deal with this strategy. There's some new vocabulary that's going to come out of a book we're going to talk about in a minute. So, let's do poll question two and talk about that, and then we'll keep trucking.
Sounds great. All right, poll question number two is up on your screens now. Please tell us about your firm's view on growth. We are doing well and are not experiencing any growth ceilings, or I am here to learn more about our growth, it is difficult and we are still learning, or some poor decisions in our firm have hindered our growth. We'll give you about 30 more seconds here to submit your vote. All right, if you're hearing my voice, we have launched poll question number two. This poll question number two out of five. Looks like we are already at 94 voted in. I'm going to close the polls here in three, two, and one and share the results. There you go, Jason.
Okay. As they show up on my screen, let's talk about the results of these. So, growth is tricky. We just wanted to have a general question on growth, and 13% of you said we're doing great, right? And then this pandemic, that doesn't surprise me because firms are struggling in this pandemic. It is, it's a hard market a lot, but this is not surprising. Fifty-four percent want to learn more and it's difficult. Of course, thankfully, the 10% really has shown that the poor decisions are hindering your growth, but almost 80% of you really are ready to learn. And you're growing and you want to figure this out. Christine, let's keep going with the slides. That's good stuff.
Man, a lot of you are really trying to figure this growth thing out and y'all, don't beat yourself up. Growth is really tricky. It's hard to figure out, but you can figure it out. We're going to give you some practical ways to do that. So, let's dive into this book, Uncommon Sense, Common Nonsense. I love this book. Jules Goddard is a strategy professor in the UK. We've had him on our podcast years ago, and this book is really... I call it a contrarian book, kind of like Peter Thiel's zero to one book. Peter Thiel is a contrarian, that is they take the common perception in an industry, and they take the opposite view. And they start looking at things in a different way.
I won't share all this with you, but basically here's what they're saying. Moving forward, people build companies based upon some kind of falsehood or truth, right? They think they know what they're doing in their industry, but really what they're doing is they're copying other people. And that always hurts them and that's not a strategic way. So, you saw what Peter Thiel said. Best practices are really not a way to go beat your competitor. You need to innovate and create new ways to do things. Basically, here's a quote they said, Jules Goddard said in this book and it's in the middle of the slide. He said, "The winner knows something that its competitors do not know." Now, if we flip back to Peter Thiel's... let me flip this.
This book Zero to One, if you go to chapter eight, chapter eight is secrets. That's the name of the chapter. I love that chapter. It talks about finding secrets, things you know that your competitors don't know. That's what we're about to talk about, and I'm going to give you some visuals from this book of how to think about having uncommon sense, not common sense, uncommon sense. Before we have that discussion, let me put at the bottom of this screen. You're looking at the bottom. I'm going to give you some new vocabulary, right? You're going to need this in the next few slides. Uncommon sense is the winning firm sole strategy and the winning firm, let's call you the winning firm.
So, you are the winning firm. Your uncommon sense is a strategy only you know. Common sense is winning strategies shared with your competitors. So, that's your strategies that your industry, your accounting industry also know about. Uncommon nonsense is the losing firm's sole strategy. These are the dumb things that some of the firms in your local hometown are doing that are foolish basically. And then common nonsense, these are what your industry is doing. They really don't work, they're foolish ways to run a firm. They seem to be right, but they're not right. As we use these strategies, I want you to look at this visual.
Basically, what they did is they drew a line down the middle of the page and things above the line are things that are true, and things below it are things that are false. You have two circles, and they're going to overlap. There's your firm and there's their firm. The their firm is really the industry. So, your firm is the accounting is your firm, and then their firm is the accounting industry. So, here's where they'll put this. Common sense are strategies to grow that are true, that are shared by the whole industry. That's what common sense is. Common nonsense are strategies that are shared by the whole profession that are based upon falsehoods. That is these things we've been doing forever don't aid us in our growth basically is what that means.
Now, let's look at some of these other ones. Now, the rest of the profession has uncommon sense, right? That's basically the truths that the industry is basing things on. It's uncommon and they have some sense, and then uncommon nonsense are the falsehood that the industry is basing things on. And then you have your own uncommon sense, right? Uncommon sense and of course, the circle I want you to look at is the your firm circle. And again, these are higher level concepts. We're going to get into the practical in just a minute, but your firm what you're trying to do is base your growth strategy not on what your profession does, that's not true, not even on what your profession does that is true, but it's your secrets.
It's the things you know that other people in your firm don't know. And you know what, I can give you some examples, and I'll do that in a minute. Well, I'll do that now. Basically, what we're looking at is you want to gather some secrets, things you know you're winning strategies that your profession doesn't know, or that your competitors don't know. And one thing we figured out, I'm going to give you one of our secrets. Okay, you want to write this down. We've been building out an onboarding process for our firm and for our clients for years, written books about it. There's a lot about the onboarding process, and what it does it's just various steps, like seven to 12 steps, you walk a new lead that's come to your firm.
You walk them through a various steps of processes, and what it does is it helps them perceive higher and higher values as they surmount and overcome these barriers to entry. What we figured out psychologically that is if a client knocks on our door and says we want to be your client, what we do is we put barriers in their way. Pretty simple barriers at first, easy ones like, "You can be a client, but you have to go fill out this form first. You can't meet with us until you go fill out the form." We place requirements on the client, that's what you're doing. Give them a requirement, give them a barrier, a hurdle to jump. And what people do psychologically, we found humans want to surmount the barriers.
They want to get over them. They want to say, "Oh, I'm right for you." What they do is they flip around and start selling themselves on why they must become a client of yours. And we started using this on-boarding process more and more. We're even building it out even now more and more adding steps, and what you can do is you can lower these barriers or add them, right? We'll require a meeting. We'll require that we look at their financial statements or tax returns. We'll require that particular clients, we want to log into their online QuickBooks or something like that. These surmountable barriers are things they want to jump over, and let you work with them. What they're doing is they're selling themselves on you, and this works and where does this end, right?
This onboarding process ends when we finally do a kickoff meeting to let them in the firm. Now in between there was the pricing, and we figured out that's a huge strategy. Giving barriers to people humans to get into psychologically that they sell themselves on getting in the firm, it prepares them to be priced. And there's a meeting they must come to. It's a screen share. We never share price over email. We always share it with a live screen share. It takes a lot of time to do this. Some people are like, "I ain't got time for that. I want you to fix the notice I just got in the mail." We're like, "You got to jump all the barriers if you want to be our client." And some won't, and so that's the goal is to move some people out of our life. Here's some takeaways.
Theories that inform how we grow our firms are based on truths and falsehoods. I'm just saying to you, you have some beliefs that are inaccurate probably, and the way our accounting profession works, we know our accounting profession does have some beliefs about growth that are wrong. And you have to figure out what those. Are your theories of growth based on truth? Do you even have theories of growth, and what may have been uncommon since in the past has grown to become common sense? The things that were good, that were innovative like let's say we went virtual eight years ago. We moved into a cloud, becoming a cloud firm eight years ago, and we didn't have tons of cloud products.
I think the only one we were on was Bill.com then, I think. We've been with Bill.com for eight years, but there weren't a lot of cloud products eight years ago. There were some. We struggled in becoming based on the cloud. Now being cloud and digital, that is just normal. You really are going to struggle if you can't operate in the cloud, especially with a pandemic. If you send everybody home and you're not virtual or digital I like to say, then you're going to struggle. Is your growth theory long term? Is it not based on trends? And trends are technology. Technology trends are things you want to try to not embed the theory of your firm in, because accounting firms grow based upon their really strong service to humans, not in the technology they do or don't use.
Now here's what you have to do. You have to have good strong technology. If you don't, that is a minimum. You're going to be blown away. If you don't have like a tool like Bill.com, then you're just going to be taken over by people who... that is a minimum. Every firm should be on Bill.com. It is really the basic gateway tool you should be using, and you don't always know which firm growth assumptions are true, which ones are false, do you know what you believe. And winning firms act on that uncommon sense that they have in the form of experimental risk. If you think you have a secret, if there's something you know about your firm, you got to act on it. You got to go test it and try it out, that's really important.
And then winning firms know something that the other firms don't know. So, let's dive into poll question number three and then we're going to dive into some practical things now that we've got a lot of the theory out of the way. And Christine, I'll let you do that, and I know we're going to not show this one probably.
Oh, good. All right, poll question number three is up on your screens now. Does your firm provide bill pay for your clients? Yes, we offer AP with Bill.com, yes, we offer AP services manually or other automation, we are not currently offering or considering AP services, we are considering AP services or finally, we would like to hear about Bill.com. You've got 30 more seconds to submit your vote. All right, we're closing the polls in about 10 seconds here. This is poll question number three out of five. Closing the polls in three, two, and one. Thank you everybody for voting. Back to you Jason.
Thank you guys, appreciate that Christine. Okay, so let's dive into it... Okay, I want to share with you the Stan Shih smile curve. Stan Shih is a Taiwanese person. He may have passed away. I'm not sure, but he started Acer computers. And I want to spend a few minutes on this. He created this visual to show that the fabrication of this computer equipment has actually different levels of value being added in the commodity chain of these pieces of technology. And what it did is it turned out to be a smile as you put it on here. What you see down here is the commodity chain that's the flow, that's the timeline flow of information of this technology.
And then the value on the left hand side, whether it be low or high. What he figured out and he just developed this to help himself understand exactly where can he add value in the process of creating new technology and selling it. In the R and D and branding areas and the design of the technology, he found that there is high levels of value, right? As you go down the smile curve, between these two lines, what you find is in manufacturing, and I think a lot of us realize this that manufacturing has the lowest level of value in it. Though manufacturing does have value, right? There is value in assembling technology components together into a computer, so that you can then on the right hand side distribute, market, and then sell this to the public, right?
This is where the right hand side is where you produce revenue with it. What he found was conceptualizing technology in the beginning part of the commodity chain is what increases the value, and then the logistics, the moving these products in efficient ways out to people who want to purchase them for money, these are the valuable parts of what you can do. Now, the fabrication part presses down the value add. Now, what we did is we wanted to create this smile curve for accounting firms and see if we could do it. And we spent some time looking at it, so let's add our smile. Now, what I want to show you here is on the left hand side is low value, high value, right? And then work completion is earlier to later.
I want to show you as a firm grows, the earlier parts of its value creation and the later parts of its value creation, what from our perspective raises and creates the value. So, let's go through this. Y'all, this is where we're going to get practical on what your business model can become to become strategic and start creating more value. And we create more value, what do you do? You get to ask for more of a price, right? That's what you do. So, we're never trying to increase our price. We're always trying to increase our value. Price just follows value, which is some things we're going to talk about in some pricing webinars. Okay, so let's put our things on our smile curve here. Let me pop up the first couple here, let's see.
There we go, okay The first thing you want to do is envision and create new services. These have high levels of value, right? These are your secrets. These are the things you know that your competitors don't know. These are the things you sell that your competitors can't sell and of course, we all sell accounting tax payroll maybe on it. But when we package that stuff in ways with names and prices for consulting packages, we're going to create more value and embed that into what the clients are purchasing. We want to package it in ways that they understand it better. What we don't sell is we don't sell tax return preparation or accounting. Actually in the first meeting we have with clients, we always try not to talk about accounting tax payroll at all, right?
We're talking about the relationship, who are they, what are they growing to become, what is their greatest strength, what is their greatest weakness, those kind of things. So, envisioning new services that the market we sell to will purchase has huge levels of value, and it's what really sets you apart. Then testing and experimentation through pricing, that's how we do it. When we get leads, we're always trying to sell new things. We're trying to create new products and sell them, put a price to them. That's price testing with our market. You want to try to be always selling new things to your clients when you can. So, testing and experimentation has some level of value being added.
Now if we get to the lower parts of the smile curve, we see the compliance tax payroll and audit have the lowest levels of value. Now, they do have value because all of us know we make money by selling compliance related services. They just do have the lowest level of value added to them. And then as we get into these other sides, extraction and reporting that is not only doing the work, but then reporting the work becomes a separate level of value. That's why we sell these two things separately. If we do accounting for clients, they don't just get to meet with us and go over the financials just because we do the accounting. That's a separate thing, right? That's really where you're getting into advisories.
Anytime one of the humans in our firm meets with the human of a client, the meeting of two humans is where value happens in a knowledge worker firm. So, you want to make sure you're pricing any two human interactions, right? Now, the compliance part is where one of your accountants or tax people are alone by themselves producing something, right? But when they enter into a meeting, that's a different price because it's a different value. And anything that has value has a price. Now, you have to convince the client of that it's true. This is actually a truth, but see, that's a falsehood of our industry, is that you'll do accounting for clients. You'll also talk to them until your blue in the face, and you're giving away a lot of your value and extraction and reporting is a huge part of your value.
Now later in the process, in the high end really is analysis, measurement, coaching, and consulting. This is not only where extraction, reporting. Extraction and reporting maybe you're pulling these things into a dashboard tool, a financial analysis tool like Fathom or something like that, but analysis and measurement is where you're having business related conversations with your client. That's an extremely high level of value, and it is something that accountants do for free all the time, which is a falsehood of our industry. Now, let's put our lines on here and let's find out what three sections of this smile curve are driving our profession. So, pre-innovation is one thing that presses up the value injection into what we do.
And then on the other side, post insights. This is what I call sense making. The sense making part of what we do in our profession has extremely high value. Sense making, you can't do sense making unless you have a price attached to that. And that's why we sell accounting services and meetings with our teams separately. Those are two different things, and they're priced different. They can have monthly accounting, but they can have four meetings with our team. That almost doesn't sound right, but I believe it's a falsehood of our profession that we actually sell those combined, because we're doing multiple things that have different levels of value within that one service.
Now, government required extraction, or government required compliance and that's what compliance is, right? Compliance is anything that government's making you do. Governments making you do stuff, it presses down the value. These are where your values lie. If you're struggling with growth, you're struggling with making money, you're struggling with being profitable, there could be a lot of ways, but one of those is to build out a business model that does these things better. You see where the value is to your clients. That's where you're going to price your services higher. Now, what's also true about the government required press down of that value is that that's where technology, technology is replacing a lot of that compliance.
And you want it to, right? You want to replace those compliant commodity related services. You're just a smart business owner if you're using technology to do it. what is your response to the smile curve as you're looking at it? Well, we've been talking about strategy. So, your strategic moves are moving up the smile curve. That's what you want to do. Remember we talked about that strategy and planning block you should have on your calendar. It's two hours every week and it's the same time, right? That's a rhythm. It's the same time on your calendar. That way, it gets embedded into your life. It's not at very varying times. It is a sacred blocked time. We would even say leave your office to complete that.
That's where you're going to start brainstorming your next strategic moves, and your strategic moves are going to be moving up the smile curve. Practically, you're going to be moving towards these things. Now, I bet if you printed this out because you can print out these handouts, if you printed this out and you put this in your notebook where you're going to have your strategy and planning, you could come up with other value, high value areas that are pre-innovative and that are post insights, right? Insights are aha moments that your clients typically can't have on their own. They can't do sense making of financials. They only want you to do the financials. It takes you, a person to come in and go, "Do you know what that means?"
Well, that's a huge value to them because what do they do with insights? They act on them, that's the cool thing. They act on insights, and in coaching is where you can keep them accountable to acting on the insights of the sense making from the compliance work you've done. And that's where you can make those strategic moves up the smile curve, and I think that's just a practical way to look at where you need to make your next moves to be strategic. Okay. As we're wrapping up here, let's talk about how do you find the right strategy for your firm. Well, we have some questions for you. Let's start down here in the lower left hand side, which is basically the... and these are all falsehood questions down here, right?
Let me check the time. All right, we're getting close. We want to do some Q and A on strategy business models and moving up the smile curve too, but let's hit these falsehoods. That is your strategy for growth based upon things that are untrue, and one of them on the left-hand side is your firm's uncommon nonsense, which is what do we continue to keep doing over and over that's grounded in our past and/or our culture, right? And if you bought a firm, you know you bought a culture. It might be that you have a past and a culture that's been given to you, that's been handed to you. And what do you keep doing that's foolish, that's not working, that's just basically only about you and your firm?
And then as we get into the profession, those overlapping circles are really that's everybody, that's the profession. That question there could be what ineffective thing does our profession continue to do that we fully participate in? Some people may say hourly billing. They may say that's one of them. I would say basically on the right hand side, what do we see other firms doing that produce poor results? We don't do this, but I would say being wide open with your capacity, right? Not managing your capacity is one of the most foolish things you can do when you run a knowledge firm, right? You cannot give away your capacity of your team or yourself, unless you're exchanging that for revenue.
And when you don't do that, your firm gets lopsided and you get eaten alive and you work 80 hours a week, or don't have enough money. You didn't price your services and extract all of the values you built your firm, yet you gave all of your teams capacity away, so you're showing lower margins in your firm. Not managing your capacity, how to price and really I think some other firm, other things perfect this profession does is they don't manage the team's capacity. They let them be as inefficient as they want, and inefficiency in a team especially when you're larger. If you're a firm that's 12, 15 team members or higher, you really have to nail down and work hard to manage the efficiency of a team. That's why my partner and I do strategic calendar work blocking. We block our future out.
Our team has to do it too. Basically, what our team's doing when they're blocking their future on a calendar is they're doing time sheets in advance, right? Because in advance in the future is where the strategy lies. There is no strategy behind you, it's only learning. Those are some ideas of what may be falsehoods and what may be truths. As we move up above the line and we start looking at what are the truths, let's look at what other firms are doing that are true, and then let's look at what good things our profession is doing. You can ask yourself, what new things do other firms seem to be doing well? That a competitive analysis is a great thing to do. That's what we're doing today.
We're thinking through what do other firms do, and then what good things are we doing that everyone else is also doing, which they don't set you apart, right/ Positioning yourself as a firm that is different, not better, but different, being different is a stronger positioning strategy as in a competitive landscape than being better, right? Because none of us can go to Twitter and go, "Hire our firm. We do tax returns better than anybody." I mean you can't make that claim. Even if you could, it's not a good positioning because your market's not going to believe you. They don't have to believe you. Basically, you want to be different. On our onboarding phase to our firm, it takes a month or a month and a half to get into our firm.
Generally in a pandemic, we've shortened that. See, the onboarding is something you can control. This is where you're going to win. What secrets or ideas do we know that we would be willing to try? This is the question you want to keep answering in your strategy and planning block that you're all going to put on your calendar now. What secrets or ideas do we know that we would be willing to try, because you have to experiment and take risks? And what secrets do that the profession does not know? I've shared onboarding with you. That's a great one of ours. I've shared calendar work blocking that our team does. That's a requirement placed upon our team. That sets us apart, firms don't do that.
We've hired a project manager. That's somebody who manages the flow and the movement of work, so that the technical team does not have a do it. That's a secret probably that we apply to our firm that others don't. I'm giving you a lot of different secrets that increase our value, which allow us to extract more value for the client and price their services higher. Hopefully, those questions in the deck are going to be what really help you aid in a lot of your strategy as you grow your firm. So, let's hit poll question number four. I'll remind you one thing, and then we'll do some Q and A real fast. So Christine, let's hit that.
Sounds good Jason. All right, I have just put up the fourth poll. It should be up on your screens now. Does your firm offer or plan to offer client advisory services? Please take the next 60 seconds to get your vote in. Thirty seconds left. If you're hearing my voice, we have launched poll question number four. You will have one more poll question left for the remaining webinar. All right, I already got 94% voted in. I'm going to keep it open just a few more seconds for the remaining 6% here. All right, and we'll be closing the polls in three, two, and one. Back to you Jason.
Awesome. Thank you guys. I hope you learned a lot about strategy. So, here's some things we can think about as we solve now the KRC, the Klein, Rowe and Co as they've grown. We're going to have to blow through this really fast. I want to do some Q and A if there are any Q and A. So, let me just throw these four up here. Business model issues you'll find in the case study and if you haven't read it, I won't dive into these too much, but they focused on revenue creation, instead of value creation. We've addressed that. They throw people at revenue. So, any knowledge based or service based company that grows really fast, they tend to throw people at the revenue, they hire real fast, it always jocks up their labor metrics and their margins go down. That's what happens.
That's not a good strategy for growth. Distracted owners, unattentive owners, and then there was no strategy in the KRC helping them know what to say no to. And that's a key when you manage your capacity, basically managing your professional capacity, your ability to work and produce revenue. And managing your team's capacity, that's the owner's job, right? That's not the team's job. That is your job to manage the capacity, and who you give capacity away to in each client is even important. There's one team member you can't give their capacity to that client. This team member's capacity should be given to that client, because some of your team's capacity are higher value than some of your other team.
You have to leave that higher value teams capacity free for higher value work. That's really important to manage your capacity in that way. Now, what KRC didn't have is a strategy for the future, right? We block our strategy in a whole year in advance, and it's hard to do that. It's really hard and it's hard to maintain it. We stick to that, that is our guiding light. Our calendar tells us what to say no to every day. We're always saying no to the right things, that's the key to strategy. If you're struggling in growing, you probably have said yes to the wrong things, probably is what's happened. As we look at the issues, then the business model solutions, let's just pop these up here.
And I know again you haven't read the case study. So, there's really not much we need to say about these because I want to get to Q and A, but the moves a firm chooses to make or not make in terms of revenue growth or clients accepted, that's the key to the firm's future, it's a big word, sustainable growth. So, sustainable means long term. When you see the word sustainable any time I'm teaching, it's long term. We're always trying to build firms that scale for a 20- or 40-year period, not in the next three to five years. We want to shove habits down into the culture of our firm that sustain us long term. That's why you have to be an owner for 20 or 40 years to be amazing at growth, just want to throw that out there.
Fast revenue growth is difficult to sustain if the new team supported the revenue aren't trained and led well. Teams need leadership and then strategic firms mature in their ability to say no overtime to the wrong growth in people. So, saying no which is the key to your strategy, right? Let's be intentional or being strategic means being intentional and practically, what that means is being really good at saying no to the right things. And you're going to grow in that as you mature as an owner. So, those are solving the KRC issues. As you look at the case study, you'll see these problems in there. And we tried to solve them with practically approaching the strategy of business models today.
I hope get this slide deck, pull up that case study, try to match those up. And just by matching those things in one of your two-hour strategy and planning blocks, you're going to start to see things that you didn't see before. And what's going to pop in your head is your own issues. You're going to start learning a lot by these tools that Bill.com has given you. Okay, let's see. After this, so one thing I want to mention is Thriveal has an incubator program. It's a 3-day program if you're ready to implement strategy in your firm, and we touch on all of this stuff. It's three long hard days. This is like an MBA cram down your throat in three days. It's like eight or nine hour days. We teach this in a studio. We teach it twice a year.
It used to be live. Now, it's virtual and the sessions fill up all the time, because we can only have about 15 to 20 people in these, because Julie and I spend time with everybody and coach. And it's very intimate time that everybody goes through together, and the things you'll learn here could take... You could spend a year working on them easily, but you'll come away with some major changes to your firm for the strategy. And there's some people that just came this past August, but we've been doing this for a number of years. So, sign up Thriveal.com and incubator if you want to do that. Thriveal.com/incubator, sorry and again it fills up. August 21st through 23rd is probably half full already, so that's really important. Okay, polling question five and then we'll be done. Let's hit it.
All right, that last polling question is up on your screens now. Would you like someone to contact you about Thriveal's incubator program for growing firms? Maybe about 60 seconds. All right, thank you everybody for voting. We're going to close the polls here in three, two, and one. Back to you Jason.
Awesome. Thank you and then Monica Ortiz is going to join me here on the deck here. We're going to talk about Amy Franco, a friend of mine has a another webinar in this series coming up. Monica, you want to mention that?
Absolutely. So, we've had a couple questions, and you've been getting a lot of love on chat Jason.
If you're interested in more from Jason and people like Amy Franco is also fantastic, we will be sending out a link for the on-demand recording of this webinar and a link to the master class page, where you can see what's coming up. And we've got classes scheduled out all the way to February of next year. So, we have some questions. I would love to get to those. In terms of growth, can you remind everyone what is the right recommended cadence of how much time do you put aside?
Yeah. Yeah, so every firm owner should start with two hours a week in a calendar block called strategy and planning, and we would say do a rhythm of that. So, that rhythm should be at the same time every time, each week. So, it becomes just a rhythm of your life, and it becomes sacred. You never move it, you never change, and that should grow to four hours within six to eight months. You should be growing the time you spend on growth. And when I say growth, the time you spend on growth, that means increase your calendar block is what that means. And then probably a year or two, you need to be easily spending a full day. Especially if you have 12 to 15 team members or more, you need to be spending a full day, because that's more of a complex firm. I hope that helps Monica.
Perfect. We have a question about what is the average number of years that your employees and clients have been with you. Randall's clients have been with him for 15 to 40 years. What's your opinion about employees and client retention?
Yeah. So, probably team retention is way more important. So, we have leaders that have been with us between five and 12 years. So, employee retention is way more important than client retention, and here's why. As a firm, as you grow and mature, sometimes you're going to out mature your clients. Now, your team has to mature at the pace you do as a firm. But as you as an owner grow and mature and learn and come to webinars like this, you're going to outpace your clients. And as you mature, your value increases, so your price has to. That's just the way you grow. It has to be done that way, or you'll get into a lot of trouble. You may outpace your clients, or there may be clients that grow so fast, they outgrow you.
You do need to replace those with some more appropriate clients. So, managing your client mix is appropriate. A lot of firm owners get into trouble. This is probably a falsehood of our profession as they feel really bad of firing clients that were their first client I mean, or their mother-in-law or something like that. You're running a business, and you need to act like a business owner. You need to replace your clients in appropriate ways that reflect and can fund your firm appropriately based upon the value you have to the market as you've matured. So, that's a ethereal answer, but you really want team retention. You want to keep them, but they must be growing and changing with you as you mature and grow, but your clients can come and go. We all would love to have clients that stay with us long term.
I like that too, because that's easy to sell them. They understand your value, but there are times when you come out of sorts with a client. You get off the page, you become misaligned over time. And you need to replace clients that you become misaligned with, or you'll get in trouble.
Okay. The incubator session, is it appropriate for someone who's trying to decide if they should go out on their own? Is it appropriate for bookkeepers? Who does this work best for?
Yeah. Yeah, it's anybody running a professional services firm, accounting firms, bookkeeping firms, tax firms, full service firms. You probably do need to know you're going to be running a firm, but now we've had a lot of people who haven't started their firm yet. They were just in a corporate job. They were about to launch their firms. So, they knew they were going to launch a firm. It's going to be best for people that are about to launch a firm, even if you haven't started one, but we've had people that have been running firms for 30 years go through the program too. So, it's for everybody, but you do need to probably run a firm, or a lot of the what we're going to shove down your throat is not going to be as valuable.
We're getting a lot of questions. I'm not sure we'll get to everything, but two...
We'll do a couple more.
A couple more, for sure.
What types of questionnaires do you have new clients complete?
Well, what you could do is you could go to Blumercpas.com and the first barrier to entry we place upon a client if you go to Blumercpas.com, and there's a front page because we want to change our website soon. But if you'll click into Blumercpas.com and then click on the link at the top that says become a client, you'll see the form we have them fill out. And we put very strategic questions on there. We say you have to answer these. So, we say click all these things that apply to you, and it's really a psychological mental barrier for them to go through. And it's purposely created that way. So, you can see that first barrier to entry. We make them psychologically go through. They're assenting to the value that we are to them.
We even say, "You think we're valuable or you have money to pay us," right? These are the things we have them click and assent to. It's very important for that human to make that ascent to you as a firm. They're making commitments to you when they do things like that.
Awesome and then one last question I think is, has strategy changed because of COVID and is it strategy that will be impactful long term, or will we back to a normal way of doing business?
Yeah, great question. Yeah, all of your strategies changed in the pandemic. You all should be pivoting. Pivoting is a word I know we hear a lot, but pivoting is trying to serve a new market, trying to unbundle your services, trying to repackage services price in different ways, maybe price lower. Pivoting could be changing your team structure. If you have the same team structure you did as last year, it may not be working, that is your team structure may support the revenue production that you were producing last year. It may need to be restructured and be more efficient. So these things, they should be. Now probably in the next couple of years, we're going to be dealing with this pandemic pivot changes.
And you're going to have to re-change back to a different way when an economy is healthy, but there will be some things that stick around. I think virtual and remote are going to be things that some of your clients are going to do. They were forced to do it. Some will do it automatically, some of your firms are virtual. So, there are some things that will stick around, but you do need to pivot while in a pandemic and then you have to pivot back out, because you're probably pivoting into things that are a little bit unhealthy just for a very unhealthy time period. And then you have to go back and serve in a more higher value way to an economy when it's healthier, which may not be for a while, so great question. Okay, I know it's probably a lot more questions, but...
I mean I will pull the questions together and we can-
... do them offline as well-
... for everybody Jason.
Okay. All right, thank you everybody for joining us on this automating success. I think there'll be a few more I'm doing. I know Amy Franco is doing more. So, keep joining us and read that case study and compare it to some of the slides. It'll help you gain some strategy and thoughts around your own firm. So, thanks for joining us, we appreciate everybody coming. Take care, we'll see you.
Wonderful, thank you Jason as always for a fantastic presentation and covering so much information in an hour's time, really appreciate it. And I'm looking at the feedback and just like Monica said, they are giving you so much love right now. They're saying, "Brilliant, this is exactly what I've needed, so happy to be on this webinar," so thank you.
Great. Okay, thank you guys.
Yeah. And as a reminder for the rest of you, we're going to process your CPE credit, and that will be made available in your CPA academy accounts within 24 hours, along with an archive recording of this webinar and a copy of the handouts. You'll also receive a link to an evaluation for this webinar and you can find that link in your inbox, as well as your CPA academy accounts. So, thank you again to Jason and Monica and to all of you for attending today. We'll see you soon in future webinars. Have a great rest of your day everyone.
Take care, bye-bye.