Accountants looking to expand their services into the realm of ‘virtual FD’ should start small, target specific clients and then replicate the model.
In a recent AccountingWEB video webinar, sponsored by ABN AMRO Commercial Finance, practice specialists Nigel Harris, Simon Blake and John Stokdyk offered up advice on the best ways to engage clients in conversations about finance and how to make the transition to virtual FD.
AccountingWEB editor John Stokdyk’s key takeaway from the session was to “just do it” and start experimenting.
“Work with one of your trusted clients, and if you haven’t got one, find a new one,” he said. “You really develop that skill by doing it - it’s like practicing the piano or skiing. So work with someone in a self-contained environment, see how it works initially and then review what you’ve done with the client.”
He added that if this works replicate the model with other suitable people.
Nigel Harris, a partner at Burton Sweet, agreed with Stokdyk that you need to offer some free initial sessions with some clients “as a taster” for a flavour of the new service you’re offering, and then “stick to your guns, don’t give it away”.
Harris advised looking at your client base and at the potential customers for this type of service, and go after them.
“Be honest: If this type of client is all window cleaners and hairdressers you need to go out and market yourself to potential clients. Target the specific ones and you’ll get a few,” he said.
Simon Blake, a corporate finance partner at Price Bailey, also had plenty of sage advice for accountants looking to make the transition.
“A virtual finance director is someone who has a very close relationship with the business and understands their needs without having to spend every day with them,” Blake said. “You need to be involved in the strategic discussions within the business but not getting bogged down with the day-to-day financial transactions that a full time FD might.”
Watch the video webinar in full, including a poll and Q&A session with questions from AccountingWEB members put to the panel.
Part two of the ABN AMRO Commercial Finance series on talking to clients about finance, written by Nigel Harris, will be available towards the end of the month.
About Robert Lovell
Business and finance journalist