With the amazing automation and technology tools accountants and bookkeepers now have at their disposal (and new ones launching every day), you have more options on how to grow your practice to really thrive. According to the IFAC Global SMP Survey 2018, advisory services is the only practice area showing growth for accounting practices globally with 86% of firms providing some form of advisory or consulting service.
If the standard data entry or day to day bookkeeping and accounting work is reduced thanks to these automation and technology tools, there are now a few options on how to continue growing your practice. One is to continue providing the same quantity and quality of services you always have been and enjoy your free time, another is to take on clients within that same service model, and the last is to expand your business to offer advisory services as well. These additional services will help create much stickier relationships with your clients as they will be dependent on you for more of their needs.
Here are four advisory services I have seen other bookkeepers and/or accountants adopt to expand their business to new and existing clients, as well as some tips on how you can adopt them into your practice.
1. Specialized financial and KPI reporting
Although this can often be viewed as part of a standard client engagement, it also seems to be the service that is dropped the quickest when time is limited, and other work is made priority.
- Create custom financial reports that drive action in trouble areas. Typically the standard reports available in accounting software don’t really tell your client what is going on in their business and what they need to change. Create reports and take the time to explain them in a way that will help your client make decisions for their business.
- Benchmarking for region/industry to ensure competitiveness. Small business owners often want to know how they compare to other similar businesses. The challenge for you in this case is to ensure the benchmarking data you are comparing them with has a trusted source.
- Select KPIs to set goals and manage regularly. Similar to custom financial reports, ensure your client is hyper-focused on metrics that matter, and can drive positive change in their business. When those KPI’s have been met, select new KPI’s to target and work on those. Don’t feel like you or your client need to track all meaningful KPI’s to start as it may feel very overwhelming at first.
2. Strategic and succession planning
Does your client have the staff, processes and tools to grow the business to their dream state? Here are some ways you can help them achieve that:
- Setting thorough short- and long-term business plans and budgeting. Establishing 1-, 3-, and 5- year plans will go a long way to ensure your client’s current business activity is contributing to their longer-term goals.
- Looking at creative growth options for traditional businesses. Through the use of social media, SEO optimizations and other more recent marketing tools, you may be able to bring to them new ideas of growing their business outside of the SALY (Same As Last Year) model.
- Incorporating succession planning into longer term business plans. Does your client really have the team required to be able to grow the way they have planned to? Do they know who is next in line for leadership? These are critical questions that you can help them work through in conjunction with their organization and hiring strategies.
3. Human resource and compensation expertise
Very few small businesses take the time to create the structure they will need as the business grows. But you can help with that by:
- Creating and delivering company and employee policies. Too often, these only exist in much larger organizations, but exist for a reason; to protect both the company and the employee in terms of laying out expectations, knowing what to do in certain circumstances, an opportunity to enforce company culture, and many more.
- Defining employee cycle processes and facilitating related partnerships. Does your client’s leadership team know what the hiring and termination process should look like? Do they follow it? Introducing great tools like Fitzii or Plum.io can help take the pain out of what can often be an arduous process.
- Developing and managing pay scale ratings and roles. Without a clear compensation strategy, small businesses often find themselves not knowing what certain roles are worth and what to pay their staff upon hire or promotion.
4. Workflow architecture and systems integration
This is by far my favourite and an area I loved to dig in. Being a technology-lover myself, and detesting menial tasks as I did, I loved finding better ways to have client data flow in a way that eliminated duplicity and increased ease of use. If you’re like me, you may want to start:
- Reviewing and standardizing processes, automating where possible. Apps should not be adopted until the workflow is clear and you understand the pain point you are solving for. So before you can start implementing apps with your clients, be sure to take some time with those processes first.
- Researching and selecting technology solutions, then implementing. Beware a popular new tool that everyone’s buzzing about as it can be an easy way to adopt a tool where there are better options out there. Take the time to properly research and find the right solution for your client. Many will have onboarding teams who can assist with your client implementations.
- Continually manage this evolving technology. Technology is changing at a faster pace than we can keep up with it sometimes. Be sure to keep tabs on changes to your existing app stack as well as new tools on the horizon that could be a better fit. The business needs of your clients may also change of course.
This list is based on accountants and bookkeepers I’ve met who have adopted advisory services to grow their practice. If you choose to add an advisory service to specialize in, I recommend you find one that highlights your own personal strengths. By creating a service you already have strong skills in, you will reinforce your role as essential to your client’s success. Happy Advising!