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Clients have best year yet through marginal gains

5th Aug 2019
Editor AccountingWEB
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In part two of our diversification series, practice owner Glenn Martin outlines the role incremental changes plays in his ‘best year ever’ advisory concept.

Every accountant has heard the advisory services sales pitch, but as Glenn Martin realised, not every client wants the whole shebang. “Most small businesses don't want to revolutionise the world,” said Martin. “They just want to do things a bit better.”

This ‘aha!’ moment shaped Martin’s advisory approach, where he’d focus on marginal gains to give his clients their ‘best year yet’.

“People just want to do marginally better,” he explained. “If you do marginally better every year for the next five years, you'll probably be 30-40% better than what you are now – which is a significant result.”

Advisory is hawked as different things to different people. But for Martin he feels his marginal gains advisory approach “will get people to deliver awesome results” because his role is to be the person to “plug” the gaps in the client’s “armour”

“As a sole trader the hardest thing is to advise yourself,” explained Martin. “A lot of people have the skills but they don't know how to bring them out. You just need to encourage them and tease it out of them.

Some may sniff at advisory services but as we’ve seen with probate piquing accountants’ interest, advisory presents an opportunity to diversify and to recoup any lost revenues due to digitalisation and Making Tax Digital.

And the need to break into offering advisory services was summed up by forecasting software Fluidly on AccountingWEB’s industry insights page:

 “If you’re stuck in a compliance rut, eventually your clients are likely to vote with their feet and look elsewhere for advice. Advisory is the key to remaining relevant and profitable.”

Manage the client’s expectations

Martin's best year ever concept is all about managing expectations and through that, building confidence and momentum. He doesn’t get stuck in the advisory weeds.

He uses the example of working with a client to get one new client a week from their website. The starting point, he explains, is to work backwards from the end goal with the client.

To get one new client Martin calculated that his client needs to get, say, five website enquiries. Therefore, they’d need 100 hits and X amount of visitors to their website.

So each month a social media agency would provide a report with the results. If the client budgeted for, say, 15 prospects in the month and got 20, they’re on the phone to Martin “buzzing” about the great month they’ve had due to the five extra enquiries they weren’t expecting.

“It's a simple metric,” said Martin. “He finished for the weekend on a high and goes away and has a good weekend, goes fishing with his family because he knows he's achieved what he wanted to that week.”

The advisory landscape

The rise of the advisory trend is already reshaping the role of the accountant. The AAT has reported that nearly two in five AAT members in full time or part-time employment would describe themselves as a ‘consultant’, an ‘adviser’, or both.

But why now? Perhaps it's because the arms-length lengthy email often misses the mark for the overworked, busy client.

As Fathom recently outlined on AccountingWEB: “The problem is many people simply don’t find the time [to read long emails] – and when they’re missing out on something as important as financial insights, it can hurt their business.

“An in-person meeting forces the business owner to sit down and work on the business and gives them a forum to ask questions.”

Martin, meanwhile, keeps things simple. The client's goals are printed on a single page that client can slip into their back pocket.

And while the financials may be most firm’s go-to metric, Martin recognises that these days mental health is just as important as the numbers. That’s why having four weeks holiday a year is factored into some ‘best year yet’ conversations. Ultimately, it’s what works best for the client.

“Everybody has a model of what their business should be like, but unless you sit and write down what you want in the short term, it doesn't come out. It gets lost.” 

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