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May 19

Some insights for Accountants who want to offer Business Advisory Services

Posted by Andrew Geddes at Friday, May 19, 2017

So you want to offer Business Advisory services?

The accounting profession is being bombarded with advice about moving into “high margin” Business Advisory work.

Most of the people telling us this are trying to sell us software or business coaching advisory IP.

To assess this opportunity, let’s firstly ask what our customers need and want?

Individuals need help with minimising tax, creating wealth, and managing risk to their income streams and assets (protecting their families).

So traditional proactive compliance services (accounting and tax) plus financial services (wealth creation and protection via legal structure and insurances) deliver what individuals need/want.

SME’s need help with the above and the following…

                *improving profit and cash flow in their business

                *improving the value and saleability of their business

                *planning and managing their succession

To assist clients in these three things needs specialist knowledge and skills that comes from study and experience.

Not all accountants have this knowledge and experience.

However, specialists can be engaged  and  “project managed”  by accountants who have learned how to do so.

Functional areas like digital marketing and sales, stock control and logistics management, and information and communications technology come to mind.

The FMRC/Geddes approach has always been to formally Needs Review our clients using our one page questionnaire… then design the service offering for this client that will meet their goals and achieve their desired outcomes; scope the job for value delivered and production cost; then price it with the client.

Usually firm partners and senior advisors are involved in delivering these services. Less experienced team members can do some of the preparatory work and then sit in on meetings and learn. Being a “minute secretary” for a Business Advisory project is a great way to be involved.

Experience suggests doing a couple of Needs Review discussions initially then delivering on these projects. Momentum can then be built over time depending on your communication skills and the receptivity of your client base. Having a set of four BA service offerings described in language the SME clients understand helps tailor written proposals following Needs Review discussions. Eg.

Possible Business Advisory Service Offerings…

1. Your External Chief Financial Officer

Managing cash flow and profits is a challenge for most business people. 

We can help you…                                              

                *get your bookkeeping happening efficiently and easily via the cloud

                *support and train your accounting team

                *set cash flow and revenue budgets to monitor with you regularly

                *set actions to improve cash flow and profits

*build relationships with your funders and re-finance with the bank when needed

We become part of your management team and meet with you regularly (monthly or quarterly) to plan actions and monitor implementation.  It can be done for a fixed monthly fee once we have scoped the job and assessed the amount of work needed.

2. Your Strategic Advisory Board

What three things do you need to do better in your business in the next quarter?

We can help you…                                            

                *set your annual strategic business plan with detailed actions to be implemented

                *design financial and action reporting to assess progress regularly (weekly and monthly)

*be accountable to an advisory board (with external independent specialists if needed) 

Setting two or three quarterly improvement imperatives and managing them as projects can really make a difference to your business success.  And having a formal board to assist you ensures implementation and accountability!!!

3. Getting ready to sell your business

Making a business saleable involves improving lots of little things and making you (the owner) dispensable so it runs without you.

We can help you…

                *understand the value of your business now

                *identify actions to improve your business’ value over time

                *identify what to delegate and how to teach others to do it well

                *get a better sale price

                *plan how to invest the proceeds and minimise any taxes

This is a special project and needs to be run well. We will make sure this happens.

4. Planning and managing your business succession

Your retirement can be staged over a long time if necessary. You don’t have to sell your business if you don’t want to. You can involve family members or senior employees if you wish as well.

We can help you…                

*build a senior management team (SMT) so you can start handing over responsibilities in a careful way

*grow new leaders in your business

*delegate successfully

*work towards your retirement in a planned way

*create an employee share participation scheme if you wish

Succession has many options. You can sell to a big corporate, to a competitor, to employees, to family members or simply put in professional managers and retain ownership. We can help you explore each option and select the one that is right for you.

We will work closely with you to help you set your goals and desired project outcomes.

We will scope the work and provide you with a fixed monthly fee where possible.

Then we will work with you to ensure all planned actions are implemented in a timely way.

Some firms have created a vast list of services in technical accounting language and simply listed this on their website. And asked clients to tick a box!!! This has not worked very well !!!!

The four Geddes Business Advisory service offerings are a natural progression from being an experienced compliance advisor.  You can subcontract specialised marketing and sales projects, ICT improvements or stock and logistics system developments. Sticking to your experience set and delivering actions with clients will build credibility and confidence. 

Making your  Business Advisory service offering project a success involves working through a series of steps…

1. Creating the service offering and resourcing the people to deliver (apps, skills, time)

2. Creating the Needs Review process (clients to be visited and conversation structure plan developed from your Needs Review questionnaire before each interview)

3. Website questions for the home page clicking to service descriptions (see above)

4. Website testimonials from clients

5. eNews articles/blogs on projects regularly as they are delivered

Creation of a Senior Management Team (SMT) to plan, implement and deliver the services to clients will often ensure its success.  Senior advisors will have to delegate existing duties to create capacity to be involved in the design and delivery of the new services.  Regular sales meetings reviewing Needs Reviews conducted, service offerings designed to achieve client goals and desired outcomes, proposals delivered and job scoping (timings, value delivered, production cost and prices) will build your team’s experience in this new offering.

It is not as easy as the spruikers make it out to be.

Remember, “Prior preparation and planning prevents p*** poor performance!!!!”.

Good luck.

Andrew Geddes

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