Business advisory has been a bit of a buzz word for some time now – you’re probably sick of hearing it. But there’s a reason it’s bandied about so much: it’s where your real value to your clients lies.
As compliance work becomes increasingly automated and devalued, your specialised in depth knowledge continues to be highly prized by business owners. But only if you can demonstrate the difference it makes and the impact you can have on their business.
In a recent Accountants Helping Accountant webinar, Kirsty McGregor of The Corporate Finance Network and Capitalise, explained how you can deliver business advisory services to all your clients, without it taking too much time, and even if you haven’t done it before.
Build advisory into the DNA of your firm
Don’t think about advisory as an add on, or a separate part of what you do. Do it as a matter of course with all of your clients without trying to work out if this one or that is suitable.
Share your client’s successes. When you’ve helped a business and made a difference, share their story in your marketing and on social media. And it’s not just about finance. Write blogs and social media posts giving good business advice on areas like HR, marketing etc. It benefits your clients by upskilling them and prospects can see that this is what you do for your clients. If the public persona of your firm is just tax and accounts, that’s all that prospects will see that you do
What to talk about with clients
If you haven’t done it before, yes, it’s daunting. But there is always something to talk about and it will depend on the stage the business is at. Remember, you don’t have to know everything – ask questions rather than feeling you have to come up with solutions instantly. And know your power. As an accountant you have amazing common business sense and you understand the potential opportunities and challenges that the business owner may not.
Early stage businesses
You have a great opportunity to get involved early on and make a real impact on the business. Ask about their management systems, KPIs, how they use their management information. If they’re growing, or want to grow, what’s the best way to fund that? If they’re innovative, you can look at R&D reliefs. And of course tax planning. Do they have board meetings? Can you go along to those and really interrogate the numbers to see what’s working, what isn’t, and how things can be better?
If the business is well established and running smoothly, you can still add value. They may know how things looked 12 months ago but so much has changed and they are likely to be facing some challenges. Look at their working capital needs and cost management. Look into their product lines to see which are profitable. If their credit rating has taken a hit over the last year, helping them to boost that will make a difference to whether they can get credit. And even if all is going well, perhaps you can help them think about growth and bring some excitement back to the business. Being a sounding board is valuable in itself.
As well as working capital, financing, capital efficiencies, credit improvement and cost management (which are relevant to all types of business), talk to mature businesses about succession or exit planning. How can you make the business more valuable and easier to sell?
Add to every meeting agenda
If you aren’t used to doing this, it might be tempting to skip it when you meet with a client. But if you add it to the agenda you’re committed to discussing it. Just pick one or two topics that are most relevant for the client, run a SWOT analysis, and think about possible challenges they might need to be protected from. A benefit of this is that you can develop action points at the meeting, so you can hold the client accountable for doing what they say they’ll do. This in itself is incredibly valuable.
Coach your team
You don’t have to be the one to do all of this. Every one of your team should be looking for opportunities as a matter of course. If they don’t yet have the skills or experience, give them a simple business development checklist so they understand what to look for (AVN members can use the Windows of Opportunity chart). And remember to praise anyone who makes a suggestion, whether it’s viable or not. You want to encourage as many ideas as possible. If it doesn’t come to anything, feed back the reasons why so your team are continually upskilled.
When you work in this way, your business advisory services become a natural part of what you do every day.