In my last article (here) I shared my beliefs that accountants should exploit the technology available today and free up their time from producing compliance accounts.
Spend that time getting to know your clients better, help them grow their businesses, become the business advisor of choice and become really well financially and emotionally rewarded for it as a result.
The best way to help your clients is to get to know them, understand them, what makes them tick, what they’re passionate about, what they do that’s valuable and what they really want out of their business and their lives.
A little deep and unnecessary? Not at all.
Everybody in business needs help and support in some way. The most successful entrepreneurs and business magnates use coaches and consultants. Small and micro business owners are no exception.
People have put effort and energy in to their business and having someone to share their aspirations, their dreams about that business is incredibly important. Be an ear for them. Re-ignite their passion. Chances are, they’ve forgotten the bigger picture, why they began their business in the first place.
Let’s face it, most people set up a business because they want to work fewer hours and on their terms, take as many holidays as they want and spend more time doing the stuff they love. Maybe that’s spending quality time with their children as they grow, maybe that’s winding down on a golf course.
Establishing a business takes a lot of time and effort though doesn’t it. They build a business that’s centred around themselves and find they’re working for the worst boss in the world; themselves.
They began that business for a reason, maybe they saw an opportunity to make a difference.
Sit down with one of your best clients, someone you enjoy working with. Learn and understand what that original spark was.
Then find out where, compared the current reality they expected to be by now. eg: ‘Where 5 years ago did you expect to be now?’
This will help you (and them) ascertain, are they making the level of progress they hoped they would. If they are - great! if not, find out what got in the way.
Find out where they want to be in 5 year’s time. I don’t simply mean profits or revenue, I mean how many hours will they be working per week, how many holidays will they be able to take - without being bombarded with texts, emails or phone calls whilst trying to relax on the beach. Also, what impact they want to have through their business. What are the numbers that really matter to your client.
You don’t need any more skills than the ability to listen intently and ask probing questions to better understand. The mere act of opening up and talking to someone about their aspirations will re-inspire your clients.
So, ascertain where they are now, where they want to be in 3 - 5 years’ time and then probe them to find out, what’s stopping them getting to where they want to be? What are the frustrations, the challenges, self limiting beliefs.
Once those challenges are written down and on the table they become an objective in themselves. Something to overcome on a problem-by-problem basis. Most times, because these problems haven’t been written down and considered the combination of the problems is a mass of worry and frustration floating around in that business owner’s head. Work through each problem, ask them how they believe it could be overcome.
Have conversations about each problem. The immediate answers aren’t always the best answer they can come up with. The immediate answers are usually the dismissive ones. eg: ‘That’s just how it is’, ‘It’s my personality; I’m a soft touch’ and so on. Continue to explore with your client what - if they could wave a magic wand’ could be done about it.
Going through this exercise with your client will be incredibly insightful for them. It will begin to give them clarity on what they want from their business and around the immediate challenges getting in the way.
This exercise also better positions you from being ‘just an accountant’ in their eyes to someone who’s genuinely interested in their business and has given them real food for thought.
Write up any actions they’ve suggested would be worth taking whether it’s getting sales training, talking to an employee, approaching a supplier to do a better deal. Write them all down, then go through and prioritise those actions with your client. Set ‘do by’ dates against each action and then present that action plan to your client. This is essentially a prescription from you as their accountant even though the actions are ideas are ones they’ve come up with.
Follow these actions up with them regularly, ask them how they’re doing with them.
Look out for my next blog to discover how to make that free meeting a regular income Business Advisory role in the form of a virtual FD.
Shane Lukas, Managing Director of AVN and Amazon Number 1 Best selling author of What’s Next for Accountants: How to make the biggest threat facing the profession your biggest opportunity.
Managing Director of AVN, an association for accountants, helping them become more successful and have more enjoyment.
Amazon #1 best selling author of What’s Next for Accountants: How to make the biggest threat facing the profession your biggest opportunity.
Personal motivation: To help people everywhere improve their ability to make choice. Whether it's freedom of choice, the brains ability to make choice, or improving the lifestyle choices business owners can make where they feel they have no choice but to work too hard to keep the income coming in.