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Climbing the steps to success

Are you ready to become a real business adviser?

9th Oct 2017
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Following on from his previous article about business advisory services, Steven Briginshaw has found from discussions with accountants and his own experiences that there are three obstacles stopping you from becoming a great business adviser.

The accounting world is changing for the better and pressure is being put on you, and every other accountant, to deliver more and more value to your clients.

Gone are the 70’s and 80’s heydays where firms could charge what they wanted for a set of historic accounts. Prices are being squeezed as compliance work becomes a commodity; through technology and client expectation.

It’s now, and quite rightly so, all about helping business owners build and grow their dream business and make an impact doing it.

Even Richard Branson stated when the 17 UN sustainable development goals were launched in 2015 that “business can be a force for good, and support the creation of a thriving economy for people and the planet”.

The interesting thing is as an accountant are you are in the right place at the right time to not only impact your clients’ business and life but your own too. The question is: are you the right person?

You’ve got to walk the talk

Would you take fitness advice from an unhealthy and obese personal trainer?

How can you advise someone on something if you haven’t done it yourself? Giving advice should come from your experience of implementing that in your own firm, not from theory or because someone else says it can be done.

Walking your talk gives you more credibility with your clients and you will know, not just hope, that your clients will get their desired results in the desired time.

It also gives you an inner power, which leads nicely to the next obstacle.

Having the confidence to advise

As an accountant you’re in the perfect place to give business advice. After all numbers are the language of business and numbers are your thing.

 But if you’ve not given advice before (and if you’re not following your own advice in your firm) it can be scary. You may not know what to do, where to start or what to say.

All because numbers are easy for you doesn’t mean they are easy for a non-accountant business owner. You have a gift and the ability to really help business owners build their ideal business and make an impact.

Take the plunge (first in your own firm) and do what comes naturally to you by explaining what the numbers are saying and improving your clients’ business. The more you do it, and the more experience you gain, so too will your confidence.

Having the time

Like most people you probably have too much to do and too little time. You most likely don’t have time to even think about the numbers in your business let alone offer additional services to your clients.

You have too many clients to serve and your team has a backlog of work to catch up on.

As crazy as it sounds, this is the ideal time for you to become your own finance director. Life can’t carry on like this so you need to start asking questions about your business model, who you serve and how you do it.

Schedule time with yourself to first interpret the numbers in your own firm, complete detailed analysis on your numbers and finally implement different ideas, strategies and tactics to improve your business. This has to be a priority for you.

As you go through your own business advisory journey, share what you are learning and implementing with your clients. You only need to be one step ahead to help make a difference in their business.

So are you going to continue to do the same thing, of under-serving your clients, with your firm eventually going out of business? Are you going to sell up and exit now, with an “it’s was a great ride, but that’s me done” view because you see the writing on the wall and you don’t want to change? Or are you going to step up to deliver what your clients really want? Are you ready to become a business adviser?

Replies (9)

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By Jack Spratt
10th Oct 2017 11:39

"Gone are the 70’s and 80’s heydays where firms could charge what they wanted for a set of historic accounts"

Not when I was there.......

Thanks (2)
Replying to Jack Spratt:
Steven Briginshaw
By Steven Briginshaw
14th Oct 2017 11:17

I can’t say first hand as I wasn’t born then but happy to share some of the stories I’ve been told, from reliable sources, if you’d like to hear them :)

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paddle steamer
11th Oct 2017 13:05

No, I am going to continue to be a pretend one.

The catch is most of my clients do not really want to examine the numbers, they will stay polite for a little but then their eyes glaze over and one can see the life draining from them.

The actual business advice they want is things like understanding use classes for premises, small rates relief, evaluation of marketing approaches, suggestions who to go to for a,b,c and d, do you know a bank manager who might be interested in y, a little hand holding re business insurance, a bit of input re the awkward member of staff they have, which utility companies are not total ***** etc etc

I have one set of clients where we once a year do a close out meeting and I then produce a bottle of malt and we just have a natter about plans, the next year etc as the level drops; that is true value added.

Thanks (1)
Replying to DJKL:
Steven Briginshaw
By Steven Briginshaw
14th Oct 2017 11:27

Thanks for sharing DJKL.

There certainly are different levels of support for different clients priorities.

I would say, from my experience working with 100s of business owners, the majority of clients don’t want to examine the numbers but most want to know how to grow and improve their business. Which, as we know as accountants, comes back to making fact based decisions using the numbers (historic and predictive).

The two part article series is explaining how as accountants we can help our business owner clients more by doing what we’re good at, understanding and interpreting numbers.

I’m sure you use the numbers to make the best suggestion for your clients when you’re advising your clients about the marketing approach or the best project a, b, c or d, as you mentioned. So you are a ‘real’ adviser already :)

Accountants often become the intelligent business friend to the business owner as well and get asked the other questions you mentioned, which, depending on how one feels about it, can be a bless or a curse.

Thanks (0)
Replying to Steven Briginshaw:
Man of Kent
By Kent accountant
15th Oct 2017 23:17

"... the majority of clients don’t want to examine the numbers but most want to know how to grow and improve their business..."

Or put it another way, they don't want to pay you to examine the numbers for them but they will pay if you help them grow their business.

Thanks (1)
Replying to Kent accountant:
Steven Briginshaw
By Steven Briginshaw
16th Oct 2017 15:02

Spot on!

Thanks (0)
paddle steamer
16th Oct 2017 11:12

In all honesty with, for example one set of my clients
(group of small retail business entities-one extended family with multiple shops), the numbers, frankly, do not add that much.

The people running these entities are traders, I cannot waste their time discussing margins, they already know what they can charge from the market, the competition; frankly it is naive to think an external accountant can really tell them anything meaningful re this.

Similar re increasing sales, this is down to footfall , enquiry conversion and given they cater to tourists, the relative cost of Sterling. (That is Mark Carney's job, not mine)

Re purchases and suppliers, well they already negotiate with suppliers, buy in bulk where they can, drag discounts for early settlement from some, do area exclusive deals with others and sort a few neat sale or return deals (which can be interesting at year end), frankly they negotiate miles ahead of most accountants so, re the numbers, what am I trying to tell them that they do not already know?

Now, I am not totally naive re retail, I spent a few years in the early 1990s as FD of a company with 10 shops and 50 staff, but in all honesty it is often not the numbers that drive these enterprises forward, maybe, further up the food chain, but for my clients number analysis, beyond that needed for my being happy to sign off the accounts, tends to add little.

We all spent time in training learning ratios but in most cases, down the bottom of the food chain, little analysis is needed, the business problems tend to leap out and wave at us without bothering to look at ROCE or liquidity ratios etc.

I suspect the issue is my clients and their size, but down here, just above the contractors but below the family entities where they each have a job title, analytical review etc has limited application.

Thanks (0)
By elamoxon
23rd Oct 2017 13:33

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