Case Study: Reveal Helps

GBQ Partners Drive Revenue Growth

  • We were contemplating developing a strategic plan to double the size of the firm and came up with a lot of good ideas but most of them were around how to do what we were already doing better as opposed to how we can add something new. We realized that sitting in our offices trying to make up lists of things that we could sell probably wasn’t the right approach. That’s when we reached out to Urko to help us figure out what people wanted to buy rather than what we wanted to sell.
    –Darci Congrove, Managing Director, GBQ Partners

About the Client

Founded in 1953, GBQ Partners has become the largest independent tax, accounting and consulting firm in Central Ohio. It has over 175 associates working in six offices and five states. GBQ has received numerous accolades including being named an INSIDE Public Accounting ‘Best of the Best’ Firm in 2016, its 8th year appearing on the list as one of the top 50 accounting firms in the nation.

The Challenge: Drive Revenue Growth

Due to an influx of new entrants, tax and accounting services had become ultra-competitive in Central Ohio. Compliance work was already perceived by many to be a commodity, and now new competitors were offering work at below-market rates to gain a foothold. This eroded GBQ’s margins and made it difficult for the firm to grow at its desired rate. The partners were eager to create new offerings to generate revenue but were unclear what customers would value.
Additionally, the partners wanted to create new service lines to provide their associates with alternative career paths. But first, the firm had to identify the financial and accounting-related tasks target customers wanted to get done to guide the creation of new services.

The Solution: Determine What Customers Want

With a ‘jobs-to-be-done1’ mindset, we understood that GBQ’s target customers – CEOs and CFOs at midsized privately held companies – don’t want to buy tax and accounting services; they want to get their financial and accounting-related jobs done. Consequently, we set out to reveal all the financial and accounting-related tasks CEOs and CFOs are trying to get done. We conducted 26 interviews with CEOs and CFOs, including a mix of GBQ clients and non-clients, and discovered dozens of financial and accounting-related tasks they want to get done. For example, we found the CEOs and CFOs want to:

  • Determine the profitability of existing products
  • Manage/predict cash flow
  • Understand and comply with new regulations
  • Etc.

Each task was then ranked according to how important it is to customers to get done and how satisfied they are with their ability to get it done given current solutions. Those jobs that are important and unsatisfied are opportunities for innovation and growth. The more important and less satisfied a jobs is, the greater the opportunity for innovation and growth it presents. Each important unsatisfied job represents a potential “blue ocean” market. By identifying and ranking opportunities in the market before generating new service ideas, we provided GBQ with a roadmap to guide them in the creation of new and improved offerings that they knew in advance customers would value becasue they were addressing important unsatisfied needs.

“CEOs and CFOs don’t want to buy financial and accounting services; they want to get their financial and accounting-related tasks done.”

With a list of ranked opportunities in hand, Reveal facilitated a working session with the partners to identify and select those opportunities which were most attractive to the firm. Leaders can formulate high impact growth strategies by matching their unique competencies with big market opportunities and this exercise made that match. In doing so, we eliminated all the other market opportunities that were not highly attractive, e.g., due to poor strategic fit, revenue opportunity, etc. The output from this working session was a short list of the best opportunities categorized into four themes and ready to be pursued in an idea generation working session.

Finally, for GBQ to capitalize on the most attractive opportunities, we facilitated a focused idea generation working session. The partners were split into four teams with each team addressing one of the four themes. We then led them through a structured idea-generation process to address the opportunities within each theme. The output was completed concept boards listing the opportunities addressed by each team, the best ideas, revenue models, recommended next steps, and other information to facilitate further development.

Focused idea generation is very different from traditional brainstorming because it enables firms to focus their creativity and expertise on only the best opportunities in the market. By targeting the best opportunities, GBQ avoided wasting time, money, and resources on generating, vetting and developing bad ideas. (Any idea that does not address an important unsatisfied customer need is a bad idea). This enabled GBQ to proceed with confidence and engineer a valued and unique position in the market with each new offering. They knew their offerings would be valued because the firm addressed only important jobs to be done so, if the firm could help customers get those important jobs done better (and virtually every firm can), then they knew their offering would be valued. And they knew their offerings would also be considered unique because the firm addressed only jobs that the market is not satisfying.

The Results

Three new service lines came out of the ideation and two have been successfully commercialized. Additionally, based in part on the opportunities we revealed in the research, GBQ has acquired ownership in an accounting staffing firm and a technology/cyber security services firm to address other jobs customers want to get done that lie outside of the targeted themes. All of these new service lines are generating revenue and driving growth.

Not only did this process enable GBQ to create winning new services, but it changed the culture. Darci Congrove, Managing Director, explains:

  • “One of the most important things that came out of our work with Urko — that enabled us to create new services and drive revenue growth — was a shift in our mentality from focusing on what we know how to do, to what the client is trying to get done. Instead of saying “Here’s the audit report,” now we ask, “What is the client trying to get done with the audit report and how can we provide good business advice along with that work product?”

    –Darci Congrove, Managing Director, GBQ Partners

1 The jobs-to-be-done innovation approach brings clarity to what many people still call the “fuzzy front end of innovation.” It’s based on the insight that people “hire” products and services to get jobs (tasks) done. When we have a job to be done, we look around for a product or service to hire to help us do it. By revealing the target customers’ important unsatisfied jobs in a given market before generating ideas, companies can consistently turn customer insights into revenue growth.

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