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Onboarding Initial Strategy Sessions With CSI: Cost and Value

October 16th, 2023 | 7 min. read

By Brian Paulson

When you’re first starting with an accounting firm, the onboarding period is the most critical for your business. However, some small business owners still have hesitations about how much onboarding costs and how much value it will actually provide them. Is it worth it?

At CSI Accounting & Payroll, we’ve fine-tuned our onboarding process over the past 50+ years. We know exactly what small business owners need to know to set themselves up for success when they start with an accounting firm. Prospective or new clients often ask:

  • How much is CSI’s onboarding fee?
  • What happens during CSI’s onboarding?
  • Do I need to go through onboarding?

Blog - Onboarding Initial Strategy Sessions With CSI Cost and Value

What is CSI’s Onboarding Fee?

Most services have a startup cost, especially ones that require a lot of work upfront. Monthly accounting is a perfect example of that. However, if you’re not sure about the cost to get started, the following sections will lay out more information about what onboarding entails and what its value is.

So, how does CSI charge for onboarding? It’s not the same for every business! The formula to find your upfront cost to work with us is:

Onboarding fee = (Monthly fee * 2) + $1,000

Notice the monthly fee in the equation? This means that your onboarding fee is heavily based on the number of monthly business transactions you have, plus the complexity of your accounting

cost monthly accounting fee

What Does CSI’s Onboarding Entail?

When you first start with CSI, you’ll have weekly meetings or communications with your dedicated onboarding manager. These check-ins, which are part of your Initial Strategy Sessions (ISS), usually occur over the first two or three months but can vary based on the upfront work required. 

Please note that at the time of this article being posted, CSI is overhauling our onboarding process. The process may look different than what is described below.

The First Session

This initial session is about fact-finding - to have your accountant understand how your business operates. Your onboarding manager will ask for further explanation if something doesn’t add up. 

This meeting will also get all of your surface-level questions addressed. Once we have a better understanding of your history and goals (as opposed to just numbers), then we can give you a better answer to deeper questions. This is more of an in-depth conversation than a quick Q&A session.

The Second Session

Here, we begin some accounting education. This will make your accountant’s job easier and keep your fee minimized.

You will go through “Entrepreneur’s Bootcamp,” which discusses how to do some basic accounting, including:

  • How to properly document your income and expenses
  • How to pay bills
  • How to handle reimbursements
  • Other points based on client FAQs

Afterward, you’ll receive your own copy of Entrepreneur’s Bootcamp and our client accounting manual. These are useful recaps.

The Third Session

In this meeting, you and your onboarding manager will review a financial statement so you can see exactly what we’re seeing. In the future, you will know what to look for, and you’ll start to understand how your accountant can offer advice based on your statements.

Other Onboarding Details

Aside from your ISS, there are many pieces being put together by our staff behind the scenes to set you up for success, including:

  • Setting up or reviewing your Xero or QuickBooks Online account
  • Reviewing your prior business tax returns
  • Reviewing your current tech stack and setting up integrations if needed

Don’t forget about back taxes, either! If you fall behind on any accounting at all, a monthly accounting service will need to catch you up to where you were.

Can I Skip Onboarding?

Skipping onboarding as a whole is not an option. It contains too much value and processes that are required to get started with an accounting service. Plus, you won’t get nearly the same amount of value if your accountant doesn’t get time upfront to understand your business, including things like:

  • Your industry
  • Your clients
  • How you operate

Client Education: Optional?

However, let’s say you’ve worked with an accountant in the past, and you feel that you don’t have anything to learn in Entrepreneur’s Bootcamp. Maybe you’re trying to minimize your onboarding fee, and part of the negotiation is removing the portion that can be seen as optional (although it shouldn’t be). It’s better to refresh knowledge than to potentially skip learning something useful.

If you really want to skip the client education step of onboarding, we can allow that. However, to discourage this, it will not lower your fee. It will also mean you are assuming risk moving forward that would otherwise be covered.

The Assumed Risks of Skipping Entrepreneur’s Bootcamp

We have to assume that all of our clients know everything covered in onboarding moving forward with our service. That means we aren’t looking for missing or incorrect data with a magnifying glass, and we won’t be able to guarantee audit-proofed books as we do with clients who undergo Entrepreneur’s Bootcamp.

We will also not be able to offer the same level of correction service if errors occur that are caused by a voluntarily-uneducated client. Not only will education help you avoid errors in the first place, but it will help prevent you from facing correction charges like back work and amended return fees.

Education also covers tax credits you may be eligible for. How informed are you? Even when your accountant knows your business inside and out, they also work with some other businesses. They will do their best to help you claim credits and deductions, but it’s always good to also be educated yourself.

Get Started With an Accounting Firm the Right Way

Onboarding is necessary to get you set up for success. Between software setups, introductory meetings, client education, back work, and whatever else is needed for your onboarding, the process is invaluable. 

If you’re interested in onboarding with CSI Accounting & Payroll, click the button below to schedule a free consultation and see if we can be a good fit for your business:


Not ready to talk? That’s okay! First, learn more about what a monthly accountant provides after onboarding is finished.

Brian Paulson

Brian began working at CSI in 1996, and he purchased the business in 2002. As Owner, his primary role is in the management and growth of the firm. Since 2002, the firm has more than quadrupled in size. In 2009, Brian started CSI’s payroll service to complement CSI’s accounting and tax services. Brian received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of North Dakota, with a double major in Accounting and Financial Management. He’s a member of both the National Society for Tax Professionals and the National Society for Accountants, and he serves on the board of directors for the Professional Association of Small Business Accountants, where he was once president. Brian also serves on the business advisory council for Opportunity Partners, an organization that helps people with disabilities find employment. He’s also contributed to several business books, including Six Steps to Small Business Success and The Lean Mean Business Machine. Fun Fact: To help put himself through college, he used student loans, delivered pizzas, and worked summers in a salmon processing plant in Alaska.