The path to real, sustainable growth in accounting firms runs directly through the consulting level. Because when a client looks to you for guidance on future decisions, it means they recognize your firm as a trusted advisor who brings the knowledge and insight they need to make smart decisions, month after month. The impact of this consulting dynamic on long-term revenue growth, client relationships, and market relevance cannot be overstated.
That’s why so many CPAs and accounting firms are focusing on client advisory services as a way to build deeper, consultative-level relationships with clients. Through CAS, firms can offer efficient, technology-enabled services that open the door to these types of relationships in areas ranging from financial planning and analysis to payroll services and more.
One low-hurdle opportunity that firms can take advantage of to jump-start their transition to CAS is cost and expense management consulting. If your firm is not actively considering providing cost and expense management services, it should be.
Cost Management: The Shift
Compared to some other service areas that require firms to have a deep level of expertise before consulting with clients, expense management offers a relatively simple path to higher value consulting. Firms already do financial reporting and manage client spend – card-based spend management technology allows them to take it a step further to provide actionable insight into client spend and initiate next-level discussions about budgeting and forecasting.
For many, the term “expense management” immediately equates to “corporate credit cards.” But it is much more. With expense management, all of a company’s funds are brought together in one centralized location, so finance leaders have complete cash flow visibility and can schedule, track, and control expenses before they happen. This approach differs from traditional cost management, which is usually decentralized by department and records costs only after the fact.
These technology-enabled cost management capabilities meet the growing needs of clients to better understand spending patterns to achieve greater cost efficiency, avoid waste, and protect their budgets. This can lead to entirely new – and more valuable – customer conversations and growth for your firm.
Customers don’t know how to ask for it
According to recently published findings from CPA.com A survey of costs and cost management, cost management offers significant, largely untapped potential. The survey collected information from more than 350 accounting firms, as well as more than 750 clients from small and medium-sized companies.
Among SMB respondents, 72% said they are interested in taking a proactive approach to cost management. And those already using card-based expense management technology see value, with 97% of respondents saying it keeps them in control and on budget. In fact, 51% say it was a game changer for their organizations.
The need for a more proactive approach is only growing, but clients don’t always know how to ask their firms for this support. Only 34% of accounting firms surveyed said they already offer expense management as a service, an area that represents major potential for firms interested in transitioning to consulting services. Being intentional about talking to your clients about their accounting processes from the start is an easy first step.
Generating new value for your firm
Cost management provides a powerful tool for building stronger long-term client relationships and managing efficiencies, helping to lay the foundation for steady growth for a CAS practice. Some of the most important benefits that The firms said Achievements in cost management include enhanced profitability, greater efficiency and deeper customer relationships.
Here are some of the findings:
- Three-quarters (74%) of accounting firms that define expense management as a revenue stream say that expense management services help them attract and retain clients.
- 63% of the same group say the innovations offered by card-based spending management technology make them more efficient and profitable.
- Among SMEs using outsourcing and expense management software, 72% said they were interested in exploring additional services based on how their accounting firm handled expense management.
This is undeniably beneficial for both clients and firms.
Start a conversation
Whether you’re considering how to begin your transition to CAS or looking to expand your portfolio of services, cost management consulting offers a growth opportunity worth exploring. The demand is already there for firms – all you need to do is talk to your customers to get started.