Mike Foster takes a look at the changing role of accountants and bookkeepers and the move into business mentoring.
Mark Lee’s recent article opened with the statement: “It has become increasingly common for accountants to describe themselves as ‘accountants and business advisers’. However, he added: “I have heard many tales of ‘accountants and business advisers’ who still limit their work and advice to the traditional areas”.
This fuelled my thoughts about how my role as a mentor can be integrated into any accountancy or bookkeeping practice. This could be an additional ‘value added’ service that fits perfectly with the value pricing models rather than our traditional hourly rate calculations. So is mentoring an opportunity for practice owners who are looking for an innovative way to extend their offering and potential income?
Mentoring is ‘value added’ as it is likely to save your clients many hours of worry and procrastination, help them maximise their time, and save money, simply by you sharing proven strategies and your experience to help them avoid the common pitfalls or mistakes quite often made by others.
The role of a mentor is a perfect fit for accountants and bookkeepers as quite often a mentoring relationship, much like traditional accountancy relationships, is considered longer than a coaching relationship or consultancy assignment. In addition, we are in the ideal position of working with a variety of clients and therefore have a number of experiences and case studies to share.
There is much discussion about what is mentoring compared to coaching: A business adviser or consultant? A mentor is somewhere between a coach and a business adviser. A mentor helps you develop with a combination of effective questions and guidance, whereas the role of a coach is more focused on developing the solution from within. An adviser or consultant is usually recruited to add a specific area of expertise and in most cases usually takes the directional lead.
The term ‘mentor’ has previously been commonly used in the workplace by companies whereby a senior colleague may mentor a junior person as part of their personal development and growth within the organisation.
Perhaps the best definition is that mentoring is a professional relationship in which an experienced person (the mentor) assists another (the mentoree) in developing specific strategies, skills and knowledge by sharing their own experience in a thought-provoking manner to enhance the person’s professional and personal growth.
A mentor is well described by Virgin Startup as 'The role is about guidance and helping your entrepreneur to achieve their goals and realise their potential. You’ll help them understand problems, identify solutions and implement their plans.'
Again accountants and bookkeepers are ideally placed to share their experience, knowledge and expertise to resolve the frustration often experienced by business owners when they may not actually know the answer themselves and need the guidance of their trusted adviser to fuel their ideas and motivation.
From a practical perspective you can look to offer a mentoring service that covers all the areas of running a business. Steve Pipe and AVN have captured this concept with their PMI model and tools. Another consideration is to focus on a specific area where you can be seen to stand out from the crowd. This may be helping your clients know their real numbers, consider the growth drivers in their business, systemisation or operational excellence. For example, I have recently seen a mentor focused on the food industry looking at the benefits of recipe management.
The other consideration is who are you offering such a service to. Will you mentor any of your clients, a select few or will you again specialise and look to focus on a niche sector? Offering your service to chosen vertical markets in which you have your expertise will ensure you add value, but also help you work with your ideal clients, concentrate your marketing efforts, better understand the needs and how you can help, identify product or service gaps and easily adapt as you know your environment.
Mike Foster is founder and director of The Entrepreneurs Mentor.
About Mike Foster
Mike is an experienced collaborative business leader and trusted new business development specialist. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, the marketing function and supporting other business owners with mentoring, training and business development activities.