How to embrace scope creep and boost revenue

July 12th, 2021 by Practice Ignition Team 4 minutes read

Do you tend to cringe when clients ask you to do more than the work they’ve originally hired you to do? Or when they take up your time, picking your brain on how to manage their accounting or bookkeeping better?

It’s called scope creep. And if your clients are in growth mode, scope creep is going to happen. When it does, it changes your workload and the service terms—whether established informally (verbally) or formally (by contract).

And here’s the deal with scope creep. The more complex your clients’ needs, the more they’ll expect you to help, says Jennie Moore, Practice Ignition’s (PI) Head of Accounting for AMER and owner of Moore Details, Inc., an Ontario-based bookkeeping firm.

“While this is a really good thing, clients tend to see us as superheros, always there for them to ‘save the day,’” Moore says. “Kind of like what a patient does with a doctor, our clients come to us with their pain points. Or they come to us because they don’t know exactly what their problems are and need us to both figure that out and to fix them. And while we do want and love to help people, it can feel like we’re losing control of the situation if there’s no transparency around the scope creep and the cost tied to it. We can lose a lot of revenue, essentially giving away our work and expertise for free.”

That said, talking about scope creep isn’t necessarily easy. Maybe you’re introverted, so tend to shy away from these awkward, salesy-feeling conversations. Or perhaps you just don’t know how to communicate what changes cost—may lack some skills in that arena. Whatever the reasons, you skip the awkward conversation altogether.

But not addressing this “elephant in the room” can lead to clients repeatedly taking advantage of you and your firm. It opens the door wide to endless “change orders” that can compound and get costly, trumping other work you need to do, perhaps even responsibilities tied to your own business growth. Even worse, left unaddressed and, in particular, without a formal contract that outlines changes in scope, this oversight can set you up for serious risk.

“For example, a client may suddenly ask you to go fix some errors that occured in the past,” Moore says. “If you don’t have a contract, with a clear date tied to when your work began and for what services you agreed to do, this kind of activity can be very risky and expensive, too.”

Looking at scope creep through the lens of liability, it’s critical to tackle the topic of scope creep, regain control, and boost revenue from here on out. Here, Moore offers tips that can help:

Do your homework

Time for accounting or bookkeeping changes? Take the time to do discovery, asking lots of questions around the nature of the need. Communicate with the client, getting clarity around where the business is now and where it’s headed. Invest time upfront in this homework, and you will likely uncover unforeseen ways you can help and offer value, all of which can go into your proposal. Also, the more homework you do upfront, the fewer “surprises” in scope you’ll experience late.

Use a platform that articulates your brand

There’s no question that your brand speaks to you and your business, specifically the unique value you bring to the table. Likewise, the tools you use to engage and guide your clients’ experience should reflect that value, or brand. While lots of accountants and bookkeepers fire off proposals, contracts and other documents on a Word or Google doc, it’s far more professional to manage it through Practice Ignition’s proposal platform, where you can customize all customer-experience documents with personalized videos, education, testimonials, interactivity, content and more.

Be Scope-Specific

When drawing up a proposal that responds to scope creep, the key is to focus on details. Break down exactly what you’ll be doing for that client, noting, for example, the exact number of bank reconciliations, vendor payments, payroll checks, tax returns, etc. Let the numbers (not you) do the talkin’! When you really reflect the true scope of what you do, it’s always easier to name your price and get paid for your worth.

Make it fun

With new clients, right from the start, let them know that you’re hoping and expecting their business will grow. Be excited for them. Be positive about their potential. Cheer them on! In the engagement phase, share with them your expertise around common growth benchmarks and, instead of fearing that growth and all the changes that will come of it, set deliberate growth targets with your clients—making it all a fun game in which, together, you hit those targets to up your clients’ score. Celebrate wins!

Embrace scope creep

This is a mindset thing. Instead of fearing or avoiding the awkward conversation around scope creep, see it as something to welcome and cherish. When scope creep starts to happen, it means your clients are doing something right—they’re growing or are becoming more successful. You’re helping them, being a partner in supporting their growth and success. It’s really an honor of sorts. So don’t fear it. Instead, love it. Own it. Embrace it! And always speak to scope creep from that positive, purposeful perspective.

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