We often refer to the three essential tools in business as ‘The business development trifecta’. We’re Kiwis after all.
The business development trifecta of services includes:
An annual business plan
An annual forecast
Ongoing reports with an accountability framework
It sounds simple, yet there are so many businesses who don’t do these three things. They carry their plans around in their heads and expect their team and their bankers to know what their vision and goals are. Even worse, many accounting firms promote services such as business planning on their websites when they don’t have a plan themselves. There’s no authenticity in that!
The power of the annual business plan
Seven simple rules on business planning:
It must be done every year. It’s simply best practice in business.
Keep the plan to one page (print on two sides if you must).
No more than four annual goals, with ‘cascading’ 90-day goals and actions.
No more than five KPIs.
Share the plan with the team (sanitised for sensitivity if needed). Link their career goals to the plan.
Make progress towards the plan highly visible to the team. Celebrate success along the way.
Review the plan at least quarterly.
Most of your clients aren’t self starters. Most will benefit from someone independent who sees their business from a different perspective facilitating the planning session and holding them to account regularly. When clients work with you to create and update their Plan, you’re combining their expertise (operational) with yours (experiential, financial, strategic). 1 +1 = 5.
Where’s the value in a forecast?
In most accounting firms, the majority of forecasts get prepared because clients ask for the service. In other words, the bank needs one.
Our basic proposition to the accounting industry is that every real business deserves to understand how their cash flows (or doesn’t!) and that forecasting and cashflow coaching should not be a marginal, on demand service.
It’s our job as accountants to take a stand for business success and therefore teach clients best practice. Best practice is to understand your business’s cashflow cycle. The benefits of this approach are many.
Forecasting is the first step in better cashflow management and therefore better decision making. Let’s teach our clients that.
Ongoing reporting and accountability
Having an annual Business Plan and Forecast is pointless to clients if they can’t see how they’re tracking to plan. It’s an obvious statement that they need reliable reports in real time to do that.
But it can be hard to sell reporting as a service. Where is the value for clients? How many actually read, let alone understand those reports?
For our clients to value their management reports, we need to bring those reports to life. The easiest and the most supportive way to do that is to wrap an accountability service around the numbers. We call that coaching, but if you don’t like the word coaching, accountability as a service name is just fine.
As part of your accountability service, your clients should receive ‘pre-work’ questions with their reports. This encourages them to read those reports and provide feedback on what they mean as well as progress towards achieving their goals. They’ll also be asked about their most pressing business challenges they need help to solve. Your coaching meeting will now be value-rich, rather than focused purely on the numbers.
Building recurring revenues from the Trifecta of services
These three services should be delivered on an ongoing basis, creating recurring and sustainable revenue for accounting firms. Better still, build the Trifecta into your monthly service plans, creating sticky relationships and putting compliance in its place – at the bottom of the value ladder.
The Gap 2014 Limited is a cloud based Business Development services portal supporting hundreds of accounting firms throughout New Zealand, Australia and the UK. Our core purpose is for accountants to achieve their true purpose, and that’s not just to take care of compliance; it’s to help them run a better business.
We’re running two high-value, full day workshops in London in March: