The promise of AI: Freeing up staff to holistically serve

Discover the promise of AI for the accounting profession, and learn how your firm’s business model is at the center of it all.

minute read

Last Updated April 12, 2024

A man and a woman in business attire shake hands while smiling.


“The promise of AI” is vast—and it can mean different things to different people. From smart homes and customized experiences to predictive healthcare and disaster response, AI (artificial intelligence) has promised it can do many things.  

For me, it’s a quick, “Hey, Google. Lumos!” to turn on my home office lights. (And yes, for the Harry Potter fans, “Hey, Google. Nox!” turns them off.) Or when I leave my house, and my Nest thermostat knows, it turns the thermostat to “Eco mode” until I return. 

But what’s the promise of AI for the accounting profession? Well, I can tell you that it’s not going to replace people, but it will help your firm serve your clients more holistically. And it all starts with—drumroll, please—your business model. So, let’s get into it.  

Know your business model 

An image with a pull quote that reads: If you want to run a modern accounting firm, you need to have a clear business model.

If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you know that I often discuss the importance of an accounting firm’s business model. I fully admit it. But that’s only because your business model is the entire foundation of your firm. And if you want to run a modern firm (i.e., a firm that allows you and your staff to live the lives you want to live), you need to have a clear business model. 

And that means—now, say it with me—knowing WHO you want to serve, WHAT you want to sell and HOW you want to deliver your products. 


Who do you love to serve, and who are you great at serving? Those are your ideal clients. They take your advice, and they submit documents and payments on time. (Bonus: They use your tech stack!) 


What products and services do you and your staff enjoy providing the most? And what are the products and services that are 100% in your wheelhouse? (Hint: They’re not typically the ones that non-ideal clients are demanding.) 


How do you want to deliver your products? Choose the tech stack that makes your products and services as friction-free as possible for your team and clients. (Tip: You should consider AI now if you haven’t already.) 

Your business model isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it thing. It’s something that’s going to change as your firm evolves. If you haven’t given your business model another thought since you started your firm, pull it out, dust it off, dig in and make some changes. It’s your business, so you call the shots. 

Transition from reactive compliance to proactive partnership 

A group of business people sit and collaborate around a table that's covered in laptops and paper. Two men are shaking hands while smiling.
Become a partner to your ideal clients by providing them with advisory services.

Many traditional firms have gone down the path of reactive compliance, focusing mainly on compliance work like tax returns, payroll and client accounting. This has prevented firms from adopting a more proactive approach to serving clients. 

Moving away from just providing compliance services means becoming a proactive partner to your ideal clients. It doesn’t mean you’re getting rid of compliance-related services altogether. (You are a firm that most likely does tax returns, right?) But it does mean that you need to start being a partner to your ideal clients by offering a more holistic set of advisory services. 

To do this, you must create a clear picture of your firm. And that’s going to involve a little math. 

Paint by numbers 

As Stephen Covey says in his book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”: Begin with the end in mind. For firms, this means you need to know what the firm of your dreams looks like. 

  • How many ideal clients will you have? For the sake of our example, I’ll say 100.* 
  • How much revenue do you want to take in? And for this, I’ll say $2,000,000.* 

Divide your ideal revenue by the number of clients; this result ($20,000) is what you need to bring in from each client. Next, print your client list (yes, I know, I said “print”) and review your list to see who matches your desired revenue. 

Maybe you have 30 clients that already fit this scenario and need to find 70 more ideal clients to fit into your advisory model. You may have existing clients who could move into this new model or you may need to find new ones who will help you reach your goals. 

Just keep in mind: This new model won’t happen overnight. Reaching this proactive advisory model will take time, but you’ll get there.  

And the promise of AI will help along the way. 

*Darren Root used these numbers in The Modern Firm® podcast, so we’re going to go with it. 

Play with AI 

An image with a lightbulb icon and pull quote that reads: What can you do with this reclaimed time? You can provide advisory service to your clients.

While many firm leaders and owners are excited about the prospect of AI, staff members feel a little more hesitant or skeptical about it. Remember, AI isn’t going to replace people…but people who embrace and use AI may replace people who don’t. And that’s not meant to be a scare tactic. It just means that you shouldn’t be afraid to try it! 

Many of the applications you use today, from expense and payroll management to accounts payable and financial reporting, use AI. It’s probably made your work life a little easier. And dare I say, maybe it’s even given you time back into your day? 

So, what can you do with this reclaimed time? You can provide advisory services to your clients.  

Start with Spark 

Begin slowly and play around with Rightworks Spark—an AI tool created specifically for accountants. Like ChatGPT, Spark takes your questions and prompts and then responds to your queries in seconds. But Spark offers a layer of protection that ChatGPT doesn’t. It ensures that the information you provide in your prompts doesn’t become part of a larger language model that’s viewable by just anyone. 

Free up time for your staff 

With an AI tool like Spark, you can easily free up time for you and your staff. Let’s look at a couple of ways you can do this. 

Example No. 1 

Let’s say you’ve entered a few prompts into Spark, asking for a simple explanation of a new tax law or deduction that includes online citations. You can carry on the “conversation,” asking Spark to explain it in simpler terms or to craft a summary to a client about the new law. This conversation can then be shared with anyone in your firm, where it can be reviewed and verified before you pass it along to a client. 

What’s the benefit? You didn’t get stuck in the Google research hole, and Spark crafted a simplified summary for you. It did the heavy lifting, so your time is better spent elsewhere. 

Example No. 2 

You have a tax plan meeting with a client, and you want to ensure you’re advising your client with a plan to help their business. So, you tell Spark some information about this client (e.g., how much revenue they have, how many partners there are, what type of business) and ask for a 10-point tax plan—without entering any specific personal identifying information for the client, of course. 

Let’s say you’re given a list of 10 items—some of which you may already provide for this client, a few that you don’t yet (but your firm can do), and others that your firm doesn’t offer. You can ask Spark to remove the ones you don’t like and find others. 

And then you ask Spark to take the tax planning items you like and put them into a letter, slide deck outline or even an email, and it’s done for you almost instantaneously. Again, you will want to ensure that any information you’re presenting to a client is verified by someone in your firm.

What’s the benefit? AI did the heavy lifting for you. It helped you craft a tax plan for a client, adjust it as needed and even create a presentation outline, letter and/or email. You got the benefits of working with a knowledgeable “firm partner” but in much less time. It’s a win for the client, and it’s a win for you. 

The promise of AI… 

…is whatever you want it to be. For the accounting profession, AI promises to help you create the modern firm of your dreams. And it also helps you holistically serve your clients. All it takes is a Spark to get started. 🔥💥 

Learn more about the benefits of embracing AI by tuning in to The Modern Firm podcast.

Subscribe to our blog

Get Rightworks articles delivered straight to your inbox.