Written by Freya Hughes, FUTRLI: As the industry evolves, firms must too. Compliance is a necessity, but today’s business owners are also looking for accountants to offer valuable advice. That means taking on an advisory role. But how can firms make the change?
Many recognise that the revolution in cloud-based technologies is a double-edged sword. While it brings greater efficiencies, it’s also leading to wider change in the industry.
FUTRLI client Mike Foster, from CRM Accounting, points out that embracing advisory services is the best way to preserve market share:
I think compliance has done its job. While it’s a valuable service, we’ve noticed that traditional styles of accounting aren’t quite hitting the mark for clients anymore. That’s why we’ve put advisory on the top of our list.”
Working in the advisory space opens doors, challenges your team, and most importantly, it gives your clients what they want and need.
To get there, firms need a combination of both technology-based and skills-based change. Technology brings with it more agility, allowing firms to work faster and smarter. But, it’s actually a change in how you do business – taking on a more front-facing and proactive role – that will bring the most opportunities to your firm.
Transitioning to that new way of working can be overwhelming, so to help you out we’ve created a rundown of the six key aspects to consider.
- One: Embracing tech and work smarter
- Two: Shifting the focus of your client conversations
- Three: Getting a deeper level of insight with non-financial metrics
- Four: Creating your advisory dream team
- Five: Overcoming resistance
- Six: Marketing your new advisory services
1. Embrace tech and work smarter
Manual processes can be error-prone. They’re time consuming, stealing hours you could use to help steer clients towards their goals. Why spend a day on your client’s accounts when the same tasks could be completed in minutes, or even seconds?
In a podcast on Accounting today (listen here), Lindy Antonelli from Armanino LLP USA points out that technology leads to an immediate increase in your speed of delivering services, reduced overheads and potentially improved profitability through the ability to service more clients each day, more efficiently.
By automating your manual processes, you’ll also mitigate a lot of risk from your reporting. Platforms like FUTRLI draw real-time data straight from your accounting package, without the need for manual entry.
Additionally, using cloud-based tools in your firm will mean you’re able to work from anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection. Take your work to your clients’ businesses, conduct meetings on the go, and say goodbye to the days of being shackled to your desk.
2. Shift the focus of your client conversations
Start meetings by getting to know clients as people, rather than just as clients. While it sounds clichéd, their business is their passion. Once you get them talking, you’ll probably struggle to stop them! But embrace this, and start noting down possible targets and goals they can start working towards with a proper strategy.
It’s important to identify the key revenue streams early, so you can start tracking them. Ask clients smart questions about how their business is performing – try to to see ‘under the hood’ of the company. Here are some examples:
- What was your forecast last year?
- How did you perform against your forecast?
- What are you sales targets for the next period?
This will help your clients understand what information you will need, to make your partnership successful.
Conversely, it’s also important to put yourself in their shoes. If you can start thinking like a business owner, you’ll find it easier to relate to clients. Thinking like your clients means you’ll be able to see how the business operates and what it hopes to achieve. You can then get right into the strategy of how to get them to where they need to be.
3. Get a deeper level of insight with non-financial metrics
Measuring financial and non-financial KPIs together are our favourite way to keep on top of how the business is really performing – and they’re easy to set up in FUTRLI!
Begin with monitoring just a handful of metrics, so clients become comfortable with the process, then reconvene, analyse, and add more if necessary. We’ve got a KPI Library on hand to help you get started if you’re new to metrics.
4. Create your advisory dream team
Like with any major change, it’s best to introduce advisory in stages.
Some firms have selected a small team to head up the transition, using them to investigate the best way to do it. Meanwhile, the rest of the team keeps compliance services going until the new model is perfected.
Next, have your team go through the advisory educational process in groups. Soon enough each member of your team will be advisor-certified, which means you’ll be able to add more value to your services.
FUTRLI clients, Blu Sky Chartered Accountants have successfully adopted advisory. Lead Client Account Manager, Sam Wood, told us that because each accountant at the firm is trained to a certain level, revenue has increased across the firm.
“The whole team are now so eager to sell forecasting to clients because they understand the value of it for businesses across the board, not just larger companies.”
5. Overcoming resistance
For those that experience some resistance, position it as a progression. It’s understandable that some people shy away from change. Being careful about how you word and position change internally, will make the change smoother.
6. Marketing your new advisory services
Sorting the internal practices, you’ve now got to take your new way of working to market. There are plenty of ways to promote advisory services, but the top scorer is referrals. In our recent webinar, discussing industry predictions for 2018 (read the UK version), David Heyer, CEO of Sequel CFO Australia, told us:
Referrals are still the number one for most accounting firms for revenue growth. I don’t believe growth hacking exists for accounting firms.”
Referrals that result from client satisfaction are free marketing. If it doesn’t seem to be happening for you just yet, try giving a client two of your business cards and asking them to share them with fellow entrepreneurs that might benefit from some guidance. If you’re providing great services and helping your clients, you’ll soon have a fantastic reputation as an advisory firm.
Written by Freya Hughes, FUTRLI. Exhibiting on stand 70 at Accountex Summit North 2018.