How to turn your team into de facto business advisers

30th Sep 2020
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The accounting industry is changing, with an increasing focus on offering robust business advice. Businesses no longer see their accountant as someone to get the compliance work done. They want to work with a firm that offers tailored, outsourced business advice; in short, they want a partner who’s equally as invested in their business as they are.

But if your firm has yet to dive headfirst into the deep waters of ‘advisory services’, how do you make that initial transition? And how do you turn your practice staff into a team of talented and valued de facto business advisers?

Changing expectations of accounting

Today’s business owners want to work with a trusted adviser that can offer it all – an end-to-end accountant that becomes an invaluable asset to their business. And to do this well, your practice must offer a full spectrum of services

Clients expect you to offer:

  1. Compliance – this covers the bookkeeping, basic accounting, statutory accounts and tax returns that are generally seen as the bread and butter of being an accountant. 

  2. Financial performance – these services aim to help your client improve their underlying finances, by boosting cashflow, driving revenues and making sure the client is profitable.

  3. Business advisory – this is the high-value end of the spectrum, where clients expect advice, strategy, expert insight and an element of coaching and consultation work. 

The impact of tech on your advisory capabilities

Increasingly, business advisory is the sweet spot for improving and expanding your service offering as a practice. And new technology has played a huge part in this transition

Modern accounting firms now have a cloud accounting platform and a ‘tech stack’ of integrated apps at the centre of their workflow process. The streamlining and automation that this tech delivers has freed up hours of data-entry and compliance time, and that gives your staff the capacity to focus more closely on client interactions and high-level advisory services.

Putting advisory at the heart of your offering

With the business time available to offer true value-add services, there’s a golden opportunity here for your team to carve out a niche as outsourced advisers to your clients.

This means your team must:

  • Focus on client relationships – to offer razor-sharp, objective advice, you need to know your clients inside out. This means creating the best possible working relationships with your clients, getting to know their business, their personal goals and the things that keep them awake at night. 

  • Expand their skills and horizons – being ‘good with the numbers’ is great, but other core skills are needed. Soft skills and good interpersonal communication are vital, as is a deep understanding of strategy, coaching and tech knowledge – all areas where you can add real benefit for an owner and their company.

  • Offer the right mix of advisory services – the advisory services you offer will be driven by the needs of your client base. If your clients expect you to act as an outsourced finance director, you’ll need to become a virtual FD. And if they want advice on HR management, or strategic planning, or help with insolvency issues, those are the furrows that you should plough. If there’s an advisory need, fill it!

  • Know which tech adds value – your tech stack will form the foundations for much of your advisory work. If you plan to offer strategic and financial planning advice, you’ll need forecasting, reporting and analytics apps to help you deliver this. The tech is there to provide the data, and you’re there to provide the insight and innovation.

  • Bring in the right talent – you should focus on hiring and training employees who are great with client relationships, problem-solving and producing resolutions. They must be tech-savvy, but great with people, and with an innate ability to get under the skin of a business. Increasingly, that’s the skill set of the ideal accountant adviser. 

  • Understand their value and fees – business advisory services take time, attention and real client empathy to deliver. As such, these services attract higher fees and it’s important that you know the value you’re adding, understand your price point in the marketplace and set a clear scope and fee for each service or project.

Having the right information at your fingertips

As an adviser, you want to become an invaluable part of each client’s team – a much-needed cog in their business machine and a safe pair of hands that they simply can’t do without.

To achieve this, you need to be on top of the latest business opportunities and threats – whether it’s the impact of Covid-19 in their sector, or the opportunity to jump into a new market. This is far easier to achieve when you have the professional support of Thomson Reuters and our mix of accounting services and software tools.

If you’d like to talk about the potential for advisory services in your firm, please do get in touch.

This is far easier to achieve when you have the professional support of Thomson Reuters and our mix of tax, accounts and practice management tools. These tools ensure your firm is in the best place for decision-making, collaboration, and compliance .

Find out how Thomson Reuters can support your firm and clients