Many accounting firms who want to offer value-add services to their clients are finding it hard to “Cross The Value-Add Chasm”, as Michael Carter of Practice Paradox puts it.

Why is it so hard for them to achieve this value-add platform and model? Here are two major reasons:

  1. They don’t know what they don’t know.
  2. They’re afraid their client will think less of them if they don’t know an answer.

We realise that first reason sounds like a double negative. But many firms we’ve spoken to don’t know a lot about what’s available outside of Xero. They know little if anything about add-ons we consider part of any cloud-based business model—Receipt Bank, Chaser, CrunchBoards and the like. And specialised add-ons such as Deputy, Vend and Kounta? Forget it.

These additional services can make a big difference to a client’s business. But quite often firms don’t have the time or resources to look into them, let alone become experts. Without that awareness and expertise, firms can’t advise clients about them and deliver their value-add service. And when they can’t deliver what clients are asking for, they risk losing those clients to another firm that can.

The second reason is also quite common. Firms are afraid that by introducing a third party they’ll lose credibility in the eyes of their client. But from our experience it has quite the opposite effect. Clients appreciate you admitting the issue is beyond your expertise (or resources), and directing them to someone else who can help them with their business.

Every client’s goal is to make their businesses more productive and more profitable. And getting Real Advice in Real Time with Real Data plays a big part in achieving that goal. If you can’t deliver it, then you need to work out:

  • what you can’t deliver
  • why you can’t deliver it
  • what you can

Sometimes the client is the issue. If they can’t deliver the data effectively, how can you deliver advice and services that rely on it and its integrity?

This is where collaborating with third parties can help, by allowing you to offer a suite of services and advice to your clients.

Step one is to review what your firm can and can’t deliver. Work out where the gaps are, keeping in mind that some of them may lie with your client.

Step two is to understand that you don’t know what you don’t know. Don’t be afraid to admit there are areas you’ll need help with to deliver the services your clients are asking, or that you’d like to offer.

For step three, you need to decide whether to:

  • spend time learning how to fill the gaps
  • employ more staff (overheads)
  • work with a third party to help deliver the services.

To make that decision, you should think about what you want to focus on, personally or in your firm.

Chances are you won’t have all the skills you need to deliver these services to your clients. You may not even want to deliver the services your clients are asking for.

If that’s the case, collaboration will be your new best friend.


Here are four advantages to working with professionals who specialise in the areas you don’t want to.

  1. You won’t have to employ staff or spend time learning new skills to deliver the services to your clients.
  2. Your clients will appreciate you introducing them to someone who specialises in in the service they’re interested in.
  3. You’ll build a network of third parties, who you can offer to clients as advisors to meet their specific needs.
  4. They’ll refer clients to you in return as they recognise your own expertise in areas they don’t deal with.

Providing these value-add services by collaborating with other professionals will help your clients improve their business performance.

And help you cross The Value-Add Chasm.