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Tools, tips and insights for how to manage your tax business the smart way.

Your Client Onboarding Process Is Affecting Your Growth
December 21, 2016

By William Hamilton

Up until the 18th century, it was the common belief that California was an island.

No joke.

Below is one of the many maps from the late 1600’s depicting California floating off of the coast of North America.



This belief was held by many until Juan Bautista put the theory to bed in 1774 with his expedition.

What’s the point?

Many times throughout history, we collectively believe things that are totally, and completely untrue.

This is happening right now, today, in the majority of tax & accounting firms.

This “belief” is costing tax professionals millions of dollars in potential revenue every year…


What Are So Many Firms Getting Wrong?

Simply, one of the things limiting growth for many firms is the common belief about onboarding clients.

When, why, and how you onboard new clients is one of the most important and impactful things that happens in a tax & accounting firm.

Done correctly, it can allow you to realize exponentially more revenue from clients than if done incorrectly.

The faulty belief comes from many firms thinking “onboarding” means:

  • “Gathering enough information from the client to begin work and start billing”.

This couldn’t be further from the truth, but it’s the common belief held by the majority of the industry.


Why is Traditional Onboarding Broken?

This “traditional” view of onboarding totally discounts the biggest component of successfully growing client relationships – aligning your process to directly relate to the wants and needs of the client.

Let’s look a little deeper at the components of a client relationship, to understand that further.

When your clients decided to work with you, they did so, based on certain expectations.

They decided to engage with you for very specific reasons.

They wanted:

  • More attention than their last tax professional gave them
  • A more modern collaboration process
  • Help better understanding of their business cash flow so they could increase their profits & better their lifestyle
  • A closer relationship with a professional that would guide & advise them, not just help them stay compliant

The list could be 100 items long depending on the client, but the point is they had a reason.

Your onboarding process (or lack of one) either confirms or disproves the expectations the client had when they originally said “Yes” to working with you.

“Traditional” onboarding is totally broken because it doesn’t include the specific process and actions needed to address each specific expectation the client had when entering the relationship.


What’s the Alternative?

So if Traditional onboarding is costing you dearly, what’s the alternative?

The alternative is aligned boarding.

Aligned onboarding is how firms can successfully bring clients into their practice without giving up potential revenue and client retention.

Why can we say Aligned onboarding is what firms should be doing? Because it accounts for the reality of how client relationships truly work on a universal level.

Here’s the universal truth:

A. | The purpose of onboarding is to delight your clients

B. | Through this delight, your clients will absolutely & unequivocally accelerate the growth inside your firm

C. | Delighted clients send you more referrals, engage in more of your products & services, and are much more enjoyable to work with.

Are you starting to see the stark differences between the two approaches to onboarding?

One version is a mind-frame that’s totally lacking the benefits of the other.

Aligned onboarding does 5 unique things that Traditional onboarding doesn’t.

Aligned onboarding:

  • Reaffirms your alignment with your client
  • Proves you care, want the same results, and you’ve thought through your process
  • Guards against feelings of irrational buyer’s remorse
  • Enhances your overall level of service by forcing you to think through and perform against defined elements of value
  • Increases referrals by decreasing the time from “perceived value” to “realized value” for the client and makes that value more visible


How to Do It in Your Firm

To accomplish this, you have to begin the client relationship at a very different place then you do with Traditional onboarding.

You have to start the relationship with defining what the client views as valuable.  You have to determine, in a very tangible way, exactly what value the client expects to receive by working with you.

Once you know that, you put together a very specific and strategic onboarding process to that will confirm for the client exactly how they’re going to realize that value from you.

If you want a step-by-step guide for how to implement an onboarding process that will actually increase your firm growth, check out our latest TaxProU course

 >> Unlock Firm Growth Through Client Onboarding <<

This course includes nearly 4 hours of on-demand content, including 10 downloadable templates, to help you create a custom onboarding system for your firm.

By taking the course you’ll learn:

  • What specific components are critical if you want your onboarding process to be successful
  • Step-by-step instructions for putting together your custom onboarding process that will unlock your firm’s full growth potential
  • How to integrate your new onboarding process with everything else you’re doing so you can realize better results


Key Takeaways

Here are the key points we’d love for you to walk away with from this post:

  • Onboarding is one of the most important (and unfortunately overlooked) processes inside of a tax & accounting firm.
  • The purpose of client onboarding is to delight your clients.
  • Traditional onboarding doesn’t account for the specific components that help you naturally capture the total-available-value from client relationships.
  • Alignedonboarding helps your client relationships in 5 unique ways.
  • To implement Aligned onboarding, you have to adjust your process to focus on defined elements of client value.
  • If you want or need help setting up a better onboarding process, you can get help here.


With tax season just around the corner, take a minute to review your current onboarding process.

Is it based on the traditional approach? Or is it fully designed to help move your clients from “perceived value” to “realized value”?

If you’re like most firms, you bring on a fair amount of new clients during the season due to referrals. Make sure you have an onboarding process in place that will let you maximize all those new relationships.  

About William Hamilton William is the co-founder of SmartCenter and a huge Lakers fan. All about finding ways to do things faster & better, he loves discussing anything that helps make life easier. Follow Will on Twitter - @Williamh4La