At the Alliance of Comprehensive Planners, tax is our middle name. We are a group of comprehensive, fee-only advisors who are committed to working in a client’s best interest. Many of our members apply a tax perspective to their planning, adding increased value to clients’ financial landscapes.
This tax focus has led many CPAs and tax professionals to our doors. Running a successful CPA practice is no small feat, and adding a financial planning component can be difficult. But with the right resources, tools, and support in your corner, you could find that holistic planning enriches and enlivens your practice as well as the client experience.
Today, we are going to show you how the resources and community at ACP can help you successfully launch the financial planning arm of your tax practice.
The information for our post today came from our ACP Insights webinar series. Melvin Spain at Spain Wealth Management LLC presented incredible information on how ACP helped him add financial planning to his CPA firm. Let’s dive in.
It starts with taxes
For Melvin, owning his own business became a dream right out of college. His entrepreneurial spirit inspired him to seek out and later purchase a CPA firm in Franklin, TN. Starting out, he barely had enough money to pay his staff and keep his new practice running, let alone make a significant profit.
Advice from a local football coach kickstarted the growth phase of his career. The coach said, “the most important thing to growing your business is to develop relationships with prospects, clients, and the community.” Melvin took this advice to heart and began meeting and talking with people wherever he could. Whether it be a church get-together, rotary meeting, or other local association, Melvin established himself as part of the local community.
He found a passion and excitement for developing these relationships, even more so than the day-to-day work that kept his business growing and thriving. While tax work played an essential role in his business, clients began asking questions centered around larger financial planning issues. They wanted to talk about net worth, cash flow, estate planning, and more.
These lingering questions motivated Melvin to look for ways to include financial planning into the pre-existing, well-structured tax planning process he and his team spent years creating.
The path to ACP
Melvin didn’t find ACP right away. He continued to have more clients ask him about financial planning. His firm’s skills in tax and income planning were well documented, but they never had the opportunity to look at a client’s holistic financial picture. This made answering questions about retirement planning, education planning, and goal setting difficult.
Encouraged by new opportunities, he spoke with friends and colleagues about the financial planning space. Melvin spent a short time—less than a year—in commissions. But the rhetoric of making money, selling products, and generating a living at the expense of the client’s best interest didn’t align with the work he did as a CPA.
A CPA is an advocate for the client. They work together to devise solutions, and this collaborative nature was missing in the commission-based firms he interacted with. Melvin’s experience with commission-based financial planning almost made him abandon the pursuit altogether until he met Bert Whitehead, ACP’s founder.
Melvin had the opportunity to sit in on client meetings with Bert and was pleasantly surprised to find that the meetings ran similarly to the ones he held with his clients. He found that much of the work is done with the clients—working together to devise the best solution and path forward.
He saw authentic engagement and demonstrated value in each client interaction. This genuine process urged him to learn more about ACP and how the organization could help him implement financial planning into his practice.
Tools for successful integration
Melvin was energized by the client engagement he found shadowing Bert and wanted to include those principles into his financial planning venture. Melvin found the tools and resources at ACP instrumental in his ability to successfully launch the planning aspect of his practice. Let’s take a closer look at the materials he found most helpful.
- The ACP System
- For Melvin, this system provided him with an actionable, scalable, and standardized approach to incorporating financial planning into his firm. With proven systems already in place, he felt guided and supported every step of the way. This alleviated stress and instilled confidence in him, his staff, and clients as these changes occurred.
- ACP Pyramid
- Melvin is a visual learner as are most of his planning clients. The pyramid illustrates financial assets in a simple way. It gives the advisor and the client a benchmark to evaluate assets, net worth, business ventures, real estate, goals, and more. Melvin found this tool helpful when analyzing and assessing a client’s progress toward their goals.
- ACP Fee Calculator
- Knowing what to charge is essential to building a successful planning practice. For Melvin, and many CPAs, he was used to billing clients hourly. But the ACP model encourages an annual retainer. For planning clients, Melvin found the retainer model to be much better suited to them because they could call him with a question and not be concerned about billable hours. It deepened the relationship and trust his planning clients had in him and the work he provided them.
- The ACP fee calculator helped Melvin understand what to charge for planning services and how to best structure his pricing to be in the best interest of the client but also his business.
- ACP Real Estate Calculator
- Tennessee is a hot area for real estate. Many of Melvin’s clients invested in real estate, whether through rental properties, real estate investment trusts, or commercial real estate. This tool was particularly useful when evaluating the right amount of debt and exposure clients should assume in their real estate ventures.
- ACP Financial Life Cycle
- Another excellent visual tool, the Financial Life Cycle, helped Melvin and his clients map out the best course of action to pursue the client’s goals. It served as a visual benchmark to determine where clients are and where they want to go. It helped answer the question: where am I in my financial journey?
- The Five Fundamentals of Financial Fitness book by founder Bert Whitehead
- This book provided a foundation that Melvin returned to again and again as he built the planning arm of the business.
How ACP enhanced both tax and financial planning
CPAs carry notable clout in the financial space. They tend to be trusted professionals and that foundation of trust permeates financial planning as well. Melvin found that adding financial planning services was a natural progression for his skills and firm, but he still enjoys and loves the tax aspect of his business.
ACP helped Melvin intentionally add financial planning to his practice. It wasn’t an overnight shift, nor was it a move away from tax planning. Tax preparation is still his main service, but now he can choose when and how to add financial planning clients.
We know CPAs are extremely busy, so adding financial planning can be a challenge. But Melvin found that by pacing himself, being intentional about signing clients, and using the ACP system, the transition happened as smoothly as possible.
Adopting the ACP methodology made an impressionable impact on every part of his practice, including the tax work he did so well. Melvin mentioned three distinct areas that he improved as a professional due to ACP.
- Income tax planning
- Even if someone isn’t a planning client, the knowledge garnered from ACP brought more depth to the relationship and the outcome. He could not only help clients see how much money they could save but understand how their choices impact their business’s bottom line or their personal net worth. Learning and using the ACP fundamentals gave him the confidence and resources to demonstrate these tangible outcomes to clients which made a big impact on their lives.
- Holding family meetings
- Melvin found an incredible benefit in meeting with families—parents, their adult children as well as all corresponding financial and legal representation to get everyone on the same page in terms of estate planning, taxes, and more.
- He found this to be a great tool for high-net-worth clients.
- Cash-flow planning
- Running cash-flow projections for clients, even those who weren’t there for financial planning, could help bring a comprehensive angle to their financial picture. For one client, the projections helped illuminate how much money he could withdraw from his portfolio, what he could reasonably expect from rental income, and how that money would support his projected lifestyle expenses.
Melvin said that his firm does a much better job of looking holistically and comprehensively due to ACP. He believes that for tax professionals, adding financial planning services will be the future. For those who want to add the planning dimension to their practices, he wholeheartedly recommends that they look into ACP.
Between the exemplary resources and the supportive, genuine community, ACP paved the way for the future of his practice. Are you ready to see the difference ACP can have on your business? Schedule a call with us today. We can’t wait to meet you.