How to build an advisory practice with Mark Wickersham and LivePlan
US business planning software developer LivePlan has teamed up with practice consultant Mark Wickersham to run an online tutorial series on how to build a business advisory service.
Hosted at Selladvisory2018.com, the training program revolves around four 90min online sessions hosted by Wickersham and Kathy Gregory, the program manager for strategic advising at LivePlan. The program is built on top of the LivePlan Method advisory template and costs £439 for UK practitioners.
The topics covered include:
How to price business advisory services
How to bundle advisory services as part of your wider offering to appeal to buyers
Communication techniques to educate your clients about the value you offer
“Accountants are being told over and over to ‘go be an adviser’ because your job is being commoditised,” Kathy Gregory told AccountingWEB. “What they’re not being told is how to do that and how to make money doing it. That is where we connect with them.”
Oregon-based LivePlan has been operating in the UK for nearly 20 years. Its parent organisation Palo Alto Software developed the business planning tool that Barclays Bank used to hand out to its business customers. Since then LivePlan has evolved into a planning add-on for QuickBooks and latterly Xero. A big part of the developer’s activity goes into user education and training, including the LivePlan Method.
“Advisory is not very well defined, so the method is how we teach accountants to do it properly,” Gregory said.
Based in part on the six sigma approach, the LivePlan Method lays out a standardised template for all the steps that need to be taken to deliver business advice. “You need to understand how to do all of these tasks,” Gregory said. “Can you lay a name of someone within the firm to each activity? If you can’t, that’s where the knowledge gap is. If you can, that’s where the scope of work is.
“Your job as the adviser is to take the line items from revenue only – and perhaps translate them into unit sales or billable hours to make them more relevant to the client. Those become the actual drivers of the business – that’s what you want them to build towards.”
Having agreed goals with the client, the adviser meets them every month to compare the actuals to the planned numbers. “Any gaps represent operational flaws, so you can discuss with the business owner where the gap is and what they can do about it.”
Alongside the online course, the LivePlan processes are set out in a guide that includes typical meeting agendas and script suggestions to help the adviser navigate through client conversations. “How do you have those conversations? That’s just as much part of the process – this is what we spend most of our time teaching people what to do,” said Gregory.
LivePlan is one of 12 forecasting, planning and analysis software applications listed within AccountingWEB’s new Software Reviews section that will appear on the site shortly. Keep your eyes peeled for announcements.
AccountingWEB’s Head of Insight has been with the site since 1999 and likes to spend his time studying accountants’ technology habits. When not nerding out, you can find him exploring obscure indie music and searching for the perfect organic sourdough loaf from his base in Brighton, UK.