Marketing lessons from a 310-million-year-old fossil.
On Wednesday’s Business Development Call, we rolled out our Automated Tax Operating System v. 2.0. This is a really big deal, for a lot of reasons. But even if you have no interest in adding TOS to your own practice, it’s worth understanding why we think it’s such an important addition to the Tax Master Network suite of services.
I launched TMN in 2005 with an idea that business owners wanted more than just tax returns from their accountants. So I created a system for accountants and financial advisors to give their clients the proactive planning concepts and strategies to save thousands, tens of thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of dollars, year after year after year. The system was a hit, and we did a lot of things right.
But nobody’s perfect, especially over 16 years. And I can tell you the biggest thing we did wrong was not building out better systems for implementing those plans. We finally realized what we needed was more than a piecemeal collection of checklist, forms, and templates. We needed a truly automated system for coordinating all the moving parts and managing them under a single comprehensive umbrella. The Tax Operating System® represents years of work and over a million dollars invested in growing a tax-planning practice to give it the real-world testing we needed to roll it out to you.
Wait a minute . . . the whole point of the meeting is to sell yourself and gain a new client, right? Well, no. That may appear true (and notice I said “appear” true, not “be” true) when you’re just getting started and you don’t have any clients. But as your business grows, it becomes less and less true. Many TMN members have reached the point where they really have all the clients they can handle – they just want to replace some of those clients with better ones. (It’s the business equivalent of watching Chip and Joanna Gaines rip out old laminate countertops and replace them with shiny granite or quartz.)
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We’ve said before that the tax planning process works a lot like going to the doctor. If you’re sick, and you visit the doctor, typically three things happen:
1: First, the doctor examines you and diagnoses the problem. Does your stomach hurt? Maybe it’s food poisoning. Maybe it’s something more serious like pancreatitis. Maybe it’s really bad and it’s cancer. Regardless, the doctor has to figure out what the problem is before they can solve it.
2: Next, the doctor prescribes the solution. What’s it going to take to fix the problem?
3: Finally, someone has to fill that prescription. That might involve a trip to the pharmacy for medication. It might mean surgery. It might mean physical therapy. But if the problem is serious, it’s not just going to fix itself.
The tax planning we do for clients follows that same model.
The “diagnosis” takes the form of an initial tax assessment. It starts by looking over your client’s business and personal tax returns, along with any supporting documents like investment portfolio statements. Then we diagnose any mistakes and missed opportunities that might be costing them taxes you don’t have to pay.
The prescription takes the form of a Tax Blueprint® — a written tax plan that introduces clients to the concepts and strategies they can use to pay less.
Finally, someone has to fill the prescription. That’s where the Tax Operating System® comes in. The Tax Operating System® starts with the implementation guides, checklists, forms, and templates, and referrals to specialists that you need to set up the strategies we recommend. It goes on to incorporate the day-to-day accounting, payroll, tax preparation, and other activities to document them and audit-proof your returns.
Let’s take a closer look at that diagnose/prescribe/fill the prescription model we just discussed. Where do we really create the savings?
Diagnosing tax problems isn’t all that hard. It usually just takes sitting down with a tax return and asking a series of questions. But identifying those problems doesn’t put savings in the client’s pocket.
Prescribing the solution is harder. We have to identify the appropriate green lights, prioritize which ones to address first, and create a plan that communicates them to the client. But again, even after we finish that step, there’s no more money in the client’s pocket. And sometimes look at the ideas we present – an S corp, a charitable trust, or a monetized installment sale – and say, “I could have found that online, or read it in Forbes.”
The real action – and the real value – comes when we fill the prescription. That starts with a foundation of accounting and payroll and tax prep that might look like what clients get from any other accountant. But now it’s not just bookkeeping to make sure the debits match the credits and the balance sheet balances – it’s bookkeeping with purpose. Now the tax returns don’t just record history – they record how we implement those green lights we prescribe.
Filling the prescription also involves managing processes and outside vendors involved in creating and maintaining special-purpose entities, tax-free benefits, retirement plans, business and investment exit strategies, and charitable giving.
Most tax professionals have no experience juggling all of these tasks. That is where the automated Tax Operating System® comes in. Upgrade your TMN membership to Advanced level, and you’ll have complete access to the system. TOS is a powerful, proprietary, trademarked system that lays out all of the tasks in comprehensive flowcharts, coordinates them in a secure, cloud-based platform, automatically reminds you of important deadlines, and generates the forms, templates, and checklists you need to document client compliance and audit-proof their returns.
I can tell you, because I’ve been managing TMN since 2005, that creating the Tax Operating System® has transformed the way we fill tax-planning prescriptions and bridged the gap between theoretical concepts and actual savings in clients pockets.
The system is built on Salesforce’s powerful Financial Services cloud platform. In fact, your TMN Advanced Membership includes a complete license to incorporate Salesforce into your practice and us it as your primary CRM. It’s almost surely more powerful than what you’re using now. And while you can buy it separately from TMN, you won’t get TMN’s powerful customizations. (Those of you who are joining our FATE 201 program will be delighted to learn that you’ll use the same Salesforce system for that new business as well.)
Where does that leave us? It’s as easy as 1-2-3:
1: Tax planning is the best way to open doors to new and enhanced client relationships.
2:Implementation is where you really monetize those relationships.
3: TMN’s new Tax Operating System 2.0 automates the process of monetizing those relationships and leaves you free to do even more for your clients and yourself.
If this all sounds intriguing, and you’d like to join the next cohort putting TOS to work for your business, schedule a time to talk with Ashley Winters. She can help you evaluate where you are in your business now and whether you’re ready to take the next step. If so, she’ll find you a slot in the next available cohort. (The July 1 starts date is filling fast.) If not she’ll help you with using TMN Basic membership to put yourself in a position to take advantage of this powerful new system. Just click here to set up that call!
If you’re looking to grow your business to the million-dollar level or beyond, you’ll need all the help you can get. But that ambitious level is now easier to reach than ever, thanks to the power of automating implementation. Don’t miss out on the opportunity!
The Briefs is a weekly column on marketing and business planning for tax professionals and financial advisors looking to better serve clients and grow their business.
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