Jeremy Smith, H&R Block H&R Block intends expand its retooled client accounting services program nationally after testing it in Kansas City, Mo., the tax preparation company's hometown. Block is talking to accounting firms that may wish to become franchisees and has a plan to buy firms. All of the candidates will have completed a program from BMRG Advisory Services in order to be considered.

 "What we are doing here is two-fold, one is trying to grow and modernize our client accounting services practice, it's something we want to offer through our offices," says Jeremy Smith, director of Block Small Business. The other initiative is to offer firms that graduate the BMRG program an exit strategy.

The in-store program represents a significant development of Block Accounting Services, which has been in operation for the last three years. But that is about to change as the company utilizes cloud-based applications to spread services that had previously been provided via the use of desktop software.

Several packages are being utilized to deliver a variety of services. These include Xero for bookkeeping, ADP for payroll, Bill.com for accounts payable, Tally for expenses, SmartVault for document management and Avalara for sales tax services

Block will offer outsourced bookkeeping, controller and probably "controller plus" services, but probably not moved all the way up to outsourced CFO services, Smith says.

Currently, the promotion of Block Accounting Services is low key. That includes in-store signs and collateral material and a sign in the windows, along with information on the company's website. Once the program has expanded beyond Kansas City, "we are going to start to turn up the marketing engine to make it more visible," Smith says.

To implement the other prong in expanding accounting services, Block hired BRMG owner Jennifer Katrulya as accounting operations director to help firms develop their businesses and potentially become part of the Block network.
Block will offer some firms that complete the BRMG course the chance to become franchisees or be acquired by the tax company. Smith refers to the program as a "succession plan in a box."

Katrulya says her program requires participants to work hard and demonstrate a willingness to change. During the first year, the program needs "people are willing to stay up to 3 am and work on weekends," Katrulya says. They need to be willing to work to fix problems in their firms and make a financial investment.

"The set of changes that you are going to make in the first year, probably won't work the way you want them to do," she says.

Among typical mistakes made by accounting firms are "overpaying for the wrong staff and underpricing of services," she says. Firms need to ask for a fee that reflects the value of services and walk away from those clients unwilling to pay.

She also warns that there will be employees who refuse to change and leave, while those that stay will probably surprise partners.

Bob Scott
Bob Scott has provided information to the tax and accounting community since 1991, first as technology editor of Accounting Today, and from 1997 through 2009 as editor of its sister publication, Accounting Technology. He is known throughout the industry for his depth of knowledge and for his high journalistic standards.  Scott has made frequent appearances as a speaker, moderator and panelist and events serving tax and accounting professionals. He  has a strong background in computer journalism as an editor with two former trade publications, Computer+Software News and MIS Week and spent several years with weekly and daily newspapers in Morris County New Jersey prior to that.  A graduate of Indiana University with a degree in journalism, Bob is a native of Madison, Ind
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