May 2021

minute read


Great teams do the basics really well

For the past 12 years, we’ve been thinking and rethinking, working with and talking to accounting firms day in and day out. Our main goal: To develop clarity around what a modern accounting firm’s business model should look like.

When I started practicing over 30 years ago it seemed there was no playbook for running a successful accounting firm, especially one that wasn’t all life-consuming. And if there had been, I bet the definition of “successful” would have been significantly different than how we might define it today.

The year of the pandemic presented many challenges. But even with all the challenges, it allowed our team to focus on getting our thinking clean in such a way that we’re now able to communicate with our members a step-by-step approach to moving their firms forward.

It’s difficult to implement a step-by-step roadmap for firms when they join Rightworks, mainly because firms are not all starting their journey from the same place; they each have their own strengths and weaknesses, and each of them have different aspirations and goals.

A modern accounting firm should have a well-designed business model, serving ideal clients and proactively leading those clients with modern, relevant technologies—all the while building a business to support the culture the firm desires.

With that said, we’ve organized everything we’ve learned to date in what we’re calling our 13 Business Model Basics.

13 Business Model Basics

We’ve organized all of our education and training to support our Business Model Basics. Let me give you an overview of our organization structure.

To start with, we’ve organized our Business Model Basics within four categories we’ll call Elements:

  1. Leadership
  2. Products
  3. Operations
  4. Experience

To drill down a step further, we’ve tied each of the Business Model Basics to one of these Elements as follows:


  • Culture
  • Ideal clients


  • Client accounting model
  • Payroll model
  • Individual tax model
  • Business tax model
  • Advisory services model


  • Client communications
  • Security
  • Practice management


  • Web and mobile
  • Marketing and sales
  • Onboarding

Now, let’s go just a little deeper. For each Business Model Basic, we’ve developed a series of steps—or as we call them, “tasks.” Tasks are action items designed to help you and your firm work through and improve each of your Business Model Basics.

It’s important to understand that improving your firm is a process, not a one-time event. It takes time—but more importantly, it takes a commitment on your part and on the part of the firm.

Completing the tasks will be an important part of the evolution of your firm, but simply completing a task doesn’t necessarily measure how effective your firm has been at executing on the Business Model Basic. For example, completing all the tasks associated with building out your payroll model will assist in defining your payroll model. However, the effective ongoing client-to-client adherence to that model is a more subjective measurement and the reason I now take you to the last piece of our system: the Business Model Basics GPA.

Business Model Basics GPA

The Business Model Basics GPA is exactly what you think it would be: It’s your GPA (Grade Point Average) for how effective your firm is at executing on the Business Model Basics. We’ve tied our GPA tool to our Business Model Basics, allowing you and your team to subjectively grade how well you feel the firm is executing on sub-areas of the business model component. Scores by each of the team members are summarized and presented, showing your firm’s areas of strength and areas for improvement. Periodically assessing your GPA provides you opportunities for continuous improvement.

In a nutshell…

Rightworks now has a new tool: Business Model Basics. This tool, based on our 13 Business Model Basics, offers associated tasks that firms can follow, and periodic GPA assessments to guide them to continuous improvement.

As I said in the title of this article, “Great teams do the basics really well.” And it’s also how firms get better every day!


Summer: A time to get back to basics

Summer is almost here!

In “normal” years, this would be the season to work on firm improvement. Ignoring 2020 (which was an anomaly all across the board), the types of improvement projects our member firms have undertaken in past tax seasons include:

  • Fixing problems or refining issues their team identified during tax season
  • Figuring out what their accounting or advisory services should look like
  • Making their culture better internally

Projects like these and many others are why Rightworks Business Model Basics were created, to help firms jump start their improvement process. In years past, firms fought for time on the education team’s calendar so we could use the Business Model Basics to help them strategize what steps to take and how to evaluate their improvement progress.

Now, with the launch of our new Business Model Basics tool, the strategy is structured for you, which means that firms who work with coaches can use their coaching time to dive more deeply into the areas where they’ve hit snags or need additional assistance.

Data: The key to effective decision-making

As you may have heard the Rightworks team (and most of the industry) say in the past, “Data is key.” We all look at data to make business decisions: Where should we focus our time? Where do we need to improve? What’s working well—and what isn’t working?

So, with data-gathering in mind, we’ve also made changes for the Rightworks Academy member firms that use coaching. The coaching now follows the Business Model Basics structure (with a few exceptions), which will help us gather data on where Rightworks Academy needs to develop more resources, hold more training sessions or focus more attention at the Rightworks conferences.

Whatever improvements you have in mind for your firm, just be sure that before you start, you and your team take some time, take a deep breath and re-center yourselves after the May 17 (June 15 for some) tax deadline. Then start working on those summer and fall projects. The Rightworks team and the Business Model Basics tool will be here to support and guide you through the process!


Not your typical security reminder (but a good one!)

The conversations around security are usually serious—and even scary. So, let’s lighten things up a little this month with a friendly and humorous reminder about physical device security. It’s a video worth watching, particularly in our current work era with mobility and remote working so prevalent.


Security Awareness Episode 3: Computer Theft


A simple tool, a simple plan for communication

Start with the basics—Rightworks Business Model Basics

At the end of April 2021, we rolled out our new Business Model Basics tool, a roadmap for creating The Modern Firm®. It comprises 13 different sections, each with its own set of tasks and associated Rightworks resources.

In the marketing section of Business Model Basics, we have a simple tool to help jump start your marketing and sales efforts: the annual client communications plan. This plan is built in a simple spreadsheet that lays out all the relevant information about your marketing plans at a glance. All you need to do is fill in the blanks, based on your firm’s goals.

To get started, download the Annual Client Communications Plan Template. You’ll see a year’s worth of worksheets included among the tabs at the bottom of the window, along with a pre-populated sample tab.

Let’s take a quick look at how to use the spreadsheet using the sample tab. It looks like this:

Building your client communications plan

Using this sample tab as a model, start building your own monthly plans. Here’s a quick overview of how to build your plan, column by column:

  1. Objective—Start by listing your objectives in the first column. Not every objective you have for the year will be relevant to the current month, so list only those on which you intend to focus during the month.
  2. Project—In the next column, list a communications project designed to deliver your stated objective. Note that you may have more than one project tied to each objective.
  3. Audience—Enter the specific audience you intend to engage to meet your objective. Not every objective will be relevant to all clients or prospects, so define segments or subsets you can specifically target.
  4. Distribution Dates—Make note of when the communication needs to reach the intended audience. You’ll need to then reverse-engineer your timelines to prepare each project to meet your distribution date in a timely manner.
  5. Communication Channels—In the next group of columns, list your communication channels and make note of which channels you want to deploy for each project. Not all channels will be as useful for various projects/communication efforts, so be judicious and organize your plan to optimize your workload.

Build monthly plans that reflect the types of communications you might send based on the objectives you have that month. For example, if your office hours are different in the summer, you may elect to include a client service touchpoint in the month of May to announce your amended summer office hours to clients via email and social media posts.

Helpful tips

  • Start with a manageable plan—Don’t bite off more than you can chew. For example, if it’s more realistic to send a quarterly newsletter instead of a monthly newsletter, start there.
  • Be consistent—Have a regular cadence to your communications, and stick to the cadence.
  • Take advantage of Rightworks resources to provide content for your communications—For example, if you have a website subscription plan, you have access to a trove of fresh bimonthly content, including pre-written posts to use in your social media channels. This is an enormous benefit that will greatly reduce your workload—use it to your advantage!

Moreover, remember that practice makes perfect. The more you get into the habit of creating a monthly communication plan, the easier it will be—and the farther you’ll progress toward being a master of marketing for your firm. Get started now!


The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail
by Clayton M. Christensen

Harvard Business Essentials, Decision Making: 5 Steps to Better Results
by Harvard Business Review

Your Next Five Moves: Master the Art of Business Strategy
by Patrick Bet-David

Soundtracks: The Surprising Solution to Overthinking
by Jon Acuff

May News.jpg

What we’re working on

Business Model Basics is live!

This new tool, based on our 13 Business Model Basics, will serve as a roadmap with defined tasks that firms can follow. Each task is then tied to Rightworks resources.

Using Business Model Basics as a guide, firms can craft and follow their plan to improve.

The first thing you may notice after logging in are new modules on your dashboards. Under Resources, you’ll also see a Business Model Basics menu item that takes you to the new BMB landing page.

If you weren’t able to catch the Business Model Basics member roll-out webinar live, you can watch the recording here.

Upcoming webinars

  • May 5 – Staff Training: Staff Management- Hiring and Onboarding New Employees
  • May 6 – Spring Resource Update Webinar
  • May 12 – Staff Training: Working Remotely Year in Review
  • May 13 – Spring Update Webinar
  • May 19 – Staff Training: Engagement Letter Best Practices

Register via your account under Resources > Events > Virtual Events.

You still have time to join us at Empower on May 27!

This all-new virtual summer event replaces our usual Firm Retreats. A one-day online format makes it easier and more affordable than ever to get your staff involved and align your entire organization.

Breakout session topics include:

  • Modern Firm 101
  • The post-COVID conversation
  • Technology update: Browser-based tax software review
  • The importance of aligning website, content and online presence
  • Quantifiable culture
  • New product rollout
  • Using Business Model Basics
  • What’s happening and where are we going
  • Having an open mind to change

Plus, this event qualifies for up to 3 hours of CPE. We hope you’ll join us for Empower on Thursday, May 27, 2021.

View complete agenda details and register at

Cash Flow Tool discount update

Cash Flow Tool has increased their Rightworks Academy member discount to 40 percent off!

You’ll find more information on their vendor page at