September 2021

Back to the basics, forward to the future

It’s busier than ever here at Rootworks. But coming off of back-to-back extended tax seasons, we don’t have to tell you about being busy. In fact, I’m guessing that the craziness of the past 18 months has kept you from making as many changes as you intended.

If so, you’re not alone. And fear not…the Rootworks team is here to get you back on track by getting you back to the basics—Business Model Basics™ (BMB).

Before I delve into BMB, however, let me tell you what our team has been up to. The web team continues to crank out new, upgraded websites. Our outsourced communications team has been collaborating with firms on new marketing campaigns and social media posts. And our coaches and trainers are keeping pace—working with firm leaders and staff to help them get better every day. We’re also working on several new initiatives to be announced in the near future.

As a result of all this activity, the upcoming fall feels like a season of renewal this year. I know most people tend to think of spring that way, but we all seem so energized by new ideas, new ways of doing business and new results that renewal is the best way I can think of to describe it.

I want to encourage you to look at the coming months as a period of renewal as well. Over the last several months, you’ve had to think on your feet and adapt in a flash—whether you wanted to or not—and as a result, we’ve all learned that we’re capable of much more than we ever thought. So, in partnership with Rootworks staff, I encourage you to move forward and continue to make more strides toward becoming a modern firm.

Which brings me back to Business Model Basics, so let’s dig in…

If you’re not familiar with BMB, it offers a proven and tested roadmap to help you along your journey to modern status. While we know every firm is different, we also know that most have the same pain points. BMB was designed to help you navigate these challenges and implement change to overcome them.

There are 13 Business Model Basics, grouped into four categories as shown here:

Leadership—Leadership means many things to many people, but in the world of accounting it represents the beating heart of a successful firm. It extends beyond the partners—and is so much more than managing people and processes. True leadership permeates every facet of your business to:

  • Create a healthy culture
  • Attract and retain ideal clients

Products—Modern firms define a core set of products and the technologies that support frictionless delivery of services, process standardization and—ultimately—elevated profitability based on the model(s) you offer to your clients:

  • Advisory services model
  • Business tax model
  • Individual tax model
  • Payroll model
  • Client accounting model

Operations—In order to operate as a holistic, high-performing business, it’s essential to take control of your firm by mastering these important basics:

  • Security
  • Practice management
  • Client communications

Experience—It’s crucial to adopt modern technology, commit to digital processes and settle for no less than agency-quality sales materials to ensure a rich, frictionless experience for clients and prospects at each of these communication stages:

  • Marketing and sales
  • Onboarding
  • Web and mobile

Because I don’t have the space to go into each of the 13 elements in-depth, I’ll just mention that we have a free eBook that discusses Business Model Basics in more detail and is available to everyone (just select the Resources > eBooks link from the menu at the top of this page to download). We also have a Business Model Basics course available to our members.

I wanted to discuss BMB this month because I know from experience that many entrepreneurs/business leaders are hyper-focused on doing “the work” right now. So focused, in fact, that they can lose sight of the basics and unintentionally impede strategic planning and change implementation. And even a temporary loss of focus can cause issues, especially in a specialized and rapidly changing profession like accounting.

Whether you’re just starting your accounting firm or are taking a little “away time” from an established firm to figure out the changes you need to make, I suggest sitting down with other firm leaders—or even your entire staff—and get back to planning. Take an afternoon or a whole day to discuss and measure where you are according to the basics I’ve listed above. And don’t forget, Rootworks has your back, with resources to ensure you stay on a modern path to growth, sustainability and profitability!


Back to the basics: Goal setting

We all have a vision of where we want to go—and we make that destination a goal. Whether it’s a professional or personal destination, we create a picture in our minds of what it looks like and how we’ll feel when we reach the finish line. However, we often fall short of accomplishing our visions or the destinations feel too laborious to reach because we haven’t mapped out how to get there.

Fortunately, when it comes to your firm, there are small adjustments you can make so your goals feel attainable, and your firm succeeds in reaching the final destination. Below are considerations for designing your goals roadmap.

  • Be the driver and share the vision. Leaders are the drivers of goal setting. The most powerful vision for your firm is not a well-worded paragraph or a list of buzzwords, but a clear description of a preferred future. The goal is not to create something for your team to memorize, but to describe how the firm leaders see the future. With the end in mind— the vision of the firm—meet with staff to revisit the firm’s vision statement.
  • Use a template. Luckily, you don’t have to rewrite the book of goal setting. Using a template, like the SMART goals template, will guide you to set attainable goals and can serve as an outline for setting goals both large and small.
  • Recognize the timeline of your goals. Every goal should have a timeline associated with it, not just a deadline. By including milestones within a larger goal, you and your firm staff can manage deadlines, create tasks and set priorities.
  • Gather people, tools and resources. Working toward goals shouldn’t be an individual task. Within your goal-setting template and planning meetings, identify staff members with the capacity to take on the work. Then, with a clear view of the milestones, consider what resources and tools are available to support the work.

The Rootworks Business Model Basics™ tool is a great place to start designing the roadmap. Let the tasks within each element of the tool be your vehicle on your way to the destination!

Here are a few examples of current trends in firm goals and the resources that can be used to accomplish them.

Accomplishing goals should be a firm-wide task. As leaders, we need to be the drivers who design the roadmap for where we want to go. By using the knowledge and expertise of staff, tools and resources, the firm will begin to celebrate achieving important milestones.

And celebrating those small wins will motivate everyone in the firm to work toward the final destination: Your firm’s ultimate goals and visions.


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Think “outside the books” for your Modern Firm’s website

During a recent discussion with Jill Winter of the Rootworks coaching team, someone asked her: “How should a Modern Firm think about and internally discuss their website?”

It’s a challenge, but one the Rootworks team has helped many firms overcome—by guiding them to think “outside the books” when it comes to mentally framing the technology elements of their business.

If you’re not sure what I mean by thinking “outside the books” (instead of the proverbial box), this may help clear it up: In accounting, we know that expenses show up directly on an income statement and indirectly on a balance sheet. This makes sense to us because, well, that’s just how accounting “works.”

But mentally framing how you invest in your business involves more nuance than simply lowering expenses to increase your bottom line.

With that in mind, try thinking about your website not as an expense, but as an asset that serves a key business function, needs to be maintained and can appreciate over time. This asset should always reinforce your firm’s primary goal, whether that’s growing your client base, refining your firms’ processes and interactions, or adding value for an upcoming transition/sale.

Rootworks members, don’t forget to check out the Web & Mobile element of the Business Model Basics™ collection at Rootworks.com (login required) for a checklist of related tasks to guide you on the journey to becoming a Modern Firm.


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Back-to-basics marketing: Start with the front door

If you’ve been following Rootworks or have been a member for any appreciable length of time, you’ve probably heard us talk about your firm’s website as “the new front door to your business.” That analogy is as true as it ever was, although now that we’re nearly a quarter of the way into the 21st century, we can hardly include the word new any longer.

In this day and age, your website is table stakes. And that means a modern website, not a website of yesterday. The old “electronic brochure” website doesn’t cut it anymore. Not by a long shot. Today, your website needs to perform more like a Swiss Army knife of marketing; it needs to check a few important boxes that are essential to your firm’s marketing success:

  1. Being found online. Your website serves as a hub for the important content that helps people find your firm in online searches, social media and other digital thoroughfares that serve to funnel traffic to your online front door. The Rootworks website subscription plan gives you fresh, high-quality content to fuel that online traffic machine and populates your site with that content without any legwork from you or your staff.
  2. Providing a modern client experience. Today’s most desirable clients demand the streamlined efficiency of conducting business online on their own timeline. The site for The Modern Firm® offers an easy hub for client accounting online, with secure access to all the apps in your ecosystem as well as the convenience of processing client payments.
  3. Collecting data on your sales leads. The modern website does away with the friction of teasing out lead information via cumbersome email threads. An intake form should reside on the site that pipes that data directly into a CRM. (Or, for Rootworks firms, our ClientView™ client intelligence module on the Rootworks.com platform.) This frictionless connection helps you organize your lead information for a stronger sales process and sets you up for superior new client onboarding and proactive service and upselling of your existing clients.

The newest Rootworks website checks all of these important boxes, and your site stays continually updated with a convenient subscription plan. Your site will always reflect the latest advancements from our development team—forever—for less money than a week’s worth of groceries every month. If you haven’t upgraded your site, you’re missing all of these important features and more that differentiate The Modern Firm from the laggard firm.

Even better, our team is working on new options that will give you more aesthetic choices to give your site the design theme you prefer. Schedule a demo with Andy or Alex to get a sneak preview.

If there’s one easy thing you can do to boost your marketing efforts in the time that remains this year, it’s giving your firm the advantage of our website subscription. Wouldn’t it be great to enter next busy season with a new site for your firm? It’s not too late to get it done.



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What we’re working on

Agenda for Day 1 of the Inspire conference is set

Join the Rootworks team October 21-22, 2021 at our annual Inspire Conference! Like last year, the event is virtual. We’ll present on a variety of key topics spread out across a number of breakout sessions. Why not use the time to get together as a firm to help celebrate accomplishments and look ahead?

Day 1 Agenda

  • 10:00 a.m. Demo theaters and virtual trade show open
  • 11:00 a.m. Welcome and opening keynote
  • 11:40 a.m. Breakouts:
    • Managing Legacy Clients as Your Firm Evolves
    • Creating an Effective Client Communications Strategy
  • 12:40 p.m. Inspire giveaway; must be present to win
  • 1:10 p.m. Breakouts:
    • Key Considerations for Making the Transition to a More Virtual Firm
    • Upselling Best Practices for Staff
  • 2:20 p.m. Breakouts:
    • Evaluating Firm Capacity and Production to Make Sound Recruiting Decisions
    • Managing Your Day
  • 3:30 p.m. Breakouts:
    • The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing
    • Strengthening Your Firm’s Culture
  • 4:40 p.m. Closing keynote
  • 5:00 p.m. Social hour; Demo theaters and virtual trade show open
  • 6:00 p.m. Day 1 concludes

For Day 2 of the conference, we’re excited to try something brand new. We’re working with our vendor partners to help them provide detailed and timely software training for our members. Stay tuned for details!

Log in to your Rootworks account to find a more detailed Inspire agenda, session descriptions and registration here.

Upcoming webinars

  • August 31 and September 2: Onvio Series Episodes 12 and 13: Using Project Management and Using Reporting Features
  • September 8: Staff Training: Dext Setup and Use
  • September 9: Staff Training: Online Presence vs. SEO: Why OP is the reigning champ
  • September 22: Staff Training: Virtual Presentations Best Practices
  • September 23: Fall Technology Update Webinar
  • September 29: Staff Training: Best Practices for Handling Tax Notices
  • October 1: Intro to Business Model Basics

See the entire webinar schedule and register via your Rootworks.com account under Resources > Events > Webinars.