Advisory beyond the numbers: Helping your clients to grow post COVID-19
By Carl Reader - Chairman at d&t Chartered Accountants and Head of Accounting (EMEA) at Practice Ignition
Most of us over the last couple of months have been really focused on survival. We've been focused on making sure that our clients can keep their lights on and indeed, that we as practitioners can keep our lights on as well. We've been exploring furloughs, CBILS, bounce back loans, you know, this is the kind of thing that we've been knee-deep in.
But we're now at the point where we can see some light at the end of the tunnel for our clients. We can see that normality should start returning. Now, there's no guarantee that the government's forecasts of a timeline back to normality will actually come to fruition. However, we can help our clients by helping them understand the different scenarios that might be out there and how they can get through them.
So how can we help clients at this time?
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The first thing is to make sure that we use the numbers as the platform for our advice, but not the limit to our advice. And when looking at businesses, I would typically look at four key areas...
The first one would be the growth model. So what way is the client going to be looking at growing their business? Are they going to be looking at growing organically by acquisition, by franchising or licensing or distributorships? Explore the different growth models open to the business and make sure that they work in today's climate. If your client is particularly well-capitalized, for example, acquisitions could be a great way to develop that business.
I would then look at the funding model and we've done plenty of work on funding models over the last few months, haven't we? Make sure that the funding model doesn't just get them through the next few months as the CBILS scheme has been set up so far, but actually, they have a funding model that works in the medium to long term as well that can take them through the next three to five years.
Look at the management model, how they are staffing their team? How they are systemising?
And then finally look at their leadership model, how they are running the business. So there were four models I would look at.
Now we can also look at those within our own practices as well. We can look at how we're going to grow as a practice. Are we going to take on clients organically or are we going to acquire fee banks? Are we going to niche what we do or not? Those are the considerations that we need to bear in mind when we're looking at how we're going to develop our business and how will we fund that growth? For me, the cost of marketing is very similar to the cost of acquisitions and we've got a hyper-targeted business. At d&t, we've got a very clear niche and we've got, I believe, one of the more mature marketing teams and marketing processes within the industry. But even so, when we consider the cost of marketing activity, both direct and indirect, the cost of our sales teams, the costs of the general branding and flag-waving that we do, it's not too dissimilar to a pound for pound fee acquisition. The only difference is, that we can choose exactly what type of clients we want to make sure that we get true d&t clients.
From the management perspective, systemising your practice, again, as we would advise to businesses, it's an ideal time to work on the nuts and bolts and to look at the processes within your firm to make sure that there's no leakage because there's no point filling a leaky bucket.
And finally leadership, we've all been forced into positions of leadership quite uncomfortably over the last couple of months in both our client businesses, but also our own businesses. How can we develop that leadership both within ourselves and our leadership teams to really up the game for everybody involved?
So that's just a snippet of my thinking around how we can take advisory beyond the numbers. Don't get me wrong, the numbers are important. We need to make sure that our clients and indeed ourselves know the good, bad, and the ugly scenarios. But from there it's about working on the key drivers of a business and making sure that we've got clarity on the growth model, the funding model, the management model, and the leadership model. And that gives us the basis to advise our clients businesses and to work on our own businesses for growth after coronavirus.
Carl Reader is chairman at multi-award winning firm d&t and Head of Accounting (EMEA) at Practice Ignition. Carl serves as Chair of the Practitioner Panel at ACCA. Carl is widely recognised as a thought leader in the accounting profession, speaking globally to accountancy audiences about a range of topics. He has been recognised as one of the leading voices on social media by ICAEW, is regularly featured in the accounting press, and was formerly a member of the Accountancy Age 35 under 35.
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