Brought to you by
AVN LOGO

Are you running an accountancy practice? Or is it running you?

AVN helps you to take back control of your practice.

Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.

Have you been doing advisory all along?

21st Mar 2024
Brought to you by
AVN LOGO

Are you running an accountancy practice? Or is it running you?

AVN helps you to take back control of your practice.

Save content
Have you found this content useful? Use the button above to save it to your profile.

In a follow-up to our recent posts debunking 5 myths around advisory, AVN’s Emma Slack poses the question, have you been doing advisory all along?

Have you been doing advisory all along - AVN Inspiring Accountants - image of two women with laptop
Amy Hirschi on Unsplash

The term advisory is very much open to interpretation. And as Shane showed in his case study of Gloria Murray, there are many misconceptions surrounding it. One of the most significant in my view, is that it’s somehow a separate entity from what you’re already doing as a good accountant. This approach makes it seem far more daunting than it needs to be and is off-putting to anyone wanting to take the first step beyond pure compliance.

Of course, you can go as deep as you want into business advice. And yes, it can get into complex areas that are beyond the scope of the average accountant. But at a fundamental level, you already have the skills to be a valued advisor to your clients.

A simple first step into advisory

As I see it, your first move into advisory and adding value is simply to explain the numbers to your clients. Most business owners didn’t go into business because they wanted to deal with numbers. They went into business because they were good at plumbing or baking or hairdressing or whatever. They no doubt know how important their numbers are to their business. But, unlike you, they won’t necessarily understand the meaning behind the figures when they look at a set of accounts.

Take gross profit %, for example. What’s behind that number? Perhaps it’s lower than it used to be because their direct costs have gone up but they haven’t passed those costs on to their customers. Discussing this with your client and showing them where those numbers come from is a really valuable conversation.

And what about remuneration planning? Many business owners don’t understand the best way to take money out of their business. Often, they just take money out without realising the impact it can have, possibly even affecting the whole future of their business. Again, explaining the implications to your client is hugely valuable.

What most accountants get wrong

The trouble is that many accountants don’t see these conversations as ‘doing advisory.’ They’re just part of the normal service you give to your clients.

What really brings this into focus is when a client asks you ‘just a quick question.’ It could be about buying or selling a property, applying for funding, anything at all. To them it’s a two second question and quite possibly you give them a two second answer. But you can only do that because of your years of training and experience. And because it’s ‘only a quick question’ you don’t feel you can charge for it. So in fact, not only are you doing advisory, you’re giving it away for free!

The challenge is to make this added value visible to your clients so they will happily pay you for it. As well as delivering the advice, you need to ensure your clients recognise and appreciate the breadth and depth of the support you deliver. When you can demonstrate its impact on their business and their life they’ll start to understand the value.  

Always connect back to the real-life implications for the client, whether it's through tax savings, more efficient business operations or strategic financial planning. The goal is to make your advice relevant and actionable, helping clients understand how it affects their business's survival, growth, and future prosperity.

This article is based on a webinar Emma ran recently, How to Shift into Being an Advisory Accountant. The webinar covers the topic in greater detail, including how to change your clients’ perception of you from ‘just an accountant’ to a strategic advisor and how to communicate your value more effectively.

The full webinar recording is available on demand in The Accountants KnowHow Club. If you aren’t already a subscriber, you can trial it for just £1.