Accounting-firm growth consultant and multi-year “Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting” honoree Michelle Golden has launched her newest venture, Fore LLC. Applying Golden’s original techniques for up-front pricing, Fore LLC provides education and implementation consulting to CPA firms committed to converting from a time-based billing model to pricing their work in advance.
“Alternative pricing has been a hot topic for decades, but uptake of non-time-based pricing approaches in the CPA profession was sluggish and limited to a handful of innovators. That’s changed,” says Golden. “Demand from larger firms for this type of pricing help rose sharply this year, no doubt because of heightened talk of impending industry impacts. One driver is time savers like artificial intelligence and blockchain. Another is the growing need to become anticipatory organizations that innovate to replace compliance work with higher-value service offerings. I’m excited to help firms who are the next group on the innovation curve: the ‘early adopters.’”
Wider industry factors also precipitate the need for new pricing approaches. The 2017 Rosenberg Survey of 347 CPA firms reflects no rise in organic growth from 2016—both years low at 5.8%. And the 2017 IPA Survey of 540 CPA firms shows a top-line organic revenue decline from 6.3% to 5.3% over twelve months. Accounting Today's 2017 Top 100 CPA Firms report recaps that large firm revenues are still fairly flat and low since the post-2010 rebound. With this slow growth, the costly distractions of consolidation and retirement transitions, and massive technological changes on the horizon, firms seek to create greater value for customers and get paid accordingly.
“We’ve seen some unexpected advantages to pricing in advance,” Golden shared. “Fore’s Advanced Pricing Methods℠ invoke mindset changes that lead to positive cultural shifts. The methods help CPAs who struggle to articulate their full impact in client problem solving, or who take their contributions for granted. One change that occurs is that CPAs begin to see themselves and their work differently. Instead of a firm-centric task-and-time-expenditure perspective, they learn to focus on customers’ outcomes and results.
“Advantages also include much richer conversations between the CPA and the customer,” Golden continues. “When CPAs become more attuned to what’s most valuable in buyers’ eyes, they do more of it—it becomes a terrific cycle. Among CPA firms who want to augment compliance by becoming stronger business advisors, managing partners say they see a pricing-model change as a crucial next step.”
A longtime independent consultant, Golden surprised the accounting industry in 2013 when she took her unique expertise in practical pricing methods and product-positioning skills in-house. She became a partner and growth leader of Kennedy and Coe (now K·Coe Isom), then the largest CPA firm to have institutionalized pricing in advance. The firm doubled in size since 2013 and now ranks approximately 60th in revenue among U.S. firms.
Since 2010, Golden has helped many other firms adopt her Advanced Pricing Methods℠ including two Top 50 CPA firms. To help the growing number of firms seeking assistance, Golden now departs her in-house role and launches Fore LLC—with the blessing of K·Coe Isom who is Fore’s first customer—to meet the CPA-industry’s demand for better ways to price.