From Accountant to Advisor: 5 Steps to Add Value to Your Small Business Clients

Reducer blog (3)Looking to up your accounting game? In this guest blog, our friends at Reducer offer 5 steps to take in order to start adding value to your clients and embrace a more advisory role. 

Things that are difficult to escape from:

  1. Quicksand 
  2. Persistent calls claiming you’ve had an accident
  3. The word “advisor” in the accounting world

The benefits of becoming an “advisor” have been the talk of the town for the past few years. And the reality is, most accountants are already "advisors". You advise your clients in the conversations you have with them on a daily basis through the services that you deliver for them.

But as technology has taken over this industry, the opportunities to deliver more for your clients have rapidly increased. 

The advantages of taking on an advisory role have been made pretty clear -  not only do your clients grow, but your own firm can in turn attract more clients and charge higher fees for the work you do.

Pretty cool, right? But where do you start?

Taking on a true advisory role doesn’t have to be hard, and you likely have the tools at hand to start advising your clients straight away. 

We want to make it as straightforward as possible to adapt your practice. So, here are five steps you can take to immediately start adding value to your small business clients:

1. Understand your clients

Have you ever had someone explain to you how something works even though you’re an expert in the field already? Or perhaps you’ve been lectured about the latest Millwall fixture when you’ve got no interest in the subject at all (who would?). 

Nobody likes to be bothered with information that doesn’t suit them. It’s frustrating. Business owners, already slumped with a heavy workload, certainly don’t want to listen to advice that doesn’t concern them. 

It’s impossible to offer valuable services to a business you’re not in tune with. 

So, the first step in adding value to your client comes from understanding their business, its strengths, and its pain points. This will allow you to deliver an advisory service that is personal to each and every client.   

How do you learn to understand your client? 

Have lunch together, ask questions, visit their business, dwell over the good, the bad, and the ugly. Do what you can to understand the business from their perspective and the value you can add to your client will multiply tenfold. Listening is your best tool. 

By communicating clearly, consistently, and openly with your business clients, you’ll easily appear to have their best interests at heart.

2. Prioritise your clients’ challenges

Happy with your little catch up? Time to get down to some prioritisation. 

You can’t work on everything at once, so it’s always best to pick out the biggest challenges your client is facing and tackle these first. 

You could build up a matrix of the impact and effort each challenge will take to overcome, or organise problems by urgency and importance. Naturally, you want to tackle the challenges that are both urgent and important to begin with, but low effort solutions can see immediate impacts. 

Cash flow is often cited as the biggest obstacle for business owners in achieving success. In fact, just over 80% of businesses fail due to cash flow problems. Prioritising this first would help put a business back on their feet so they can focus on the bigger picture. With information of their cash flow already at hand, this would be an easy way to become a trusted advisor.

Addressing their pain points will make it far easier to build a constructive growth plan for the future.

3. Use the data and knowledge you already have

Don’t just hoard your data - use it.

As an accountant, you’re in a unique position to add value to your clients. Both your access to data and experience with other businesses arms you with the information needed to offer valuable advice to your clients. 

Data is integral in understanding the financial health of a business, and if you’re using cloud accounting software, you’ll simply need to click a few buttons to create valuable insights. Remember, however, that decision-making through data alone is a risky business - consider your client’s hopes and needs for their business. 

Unless this is your first rodeo, you will likely have plenty of experience working with other businesses to know what works and what doesn’t. Use this to your advantage. 

4. Let technology do the work

It’s no secret that there’s been a tech revolution in the accounting industry. Gone are the days of papers piling up on desks, staplers echoing in the office, coffee stains on every document you print. Instead, the cloud has taken over and accountants are increasingly looking for digital solutions to replace traditional day-to-day tasks. 

This shouldn’t be a surprise. The unprecedented efficiency of technology is introducing new solutions to age old accounting problems. Leveraging the digital tools available to you will be integral in delivering advisory services to your client that are in-depth and low-effort at the same time. 

If your client isn’t using cloud services already, making the transition is a smart idea. The cloud offers flexible, real-time information that is easy to understand, with insights at a level playing field to larger businesses. By having access to this wherever they are, they’ll never be in the dark on how their business is doing. 

Hours spent on tedious tasks can be turned into just a few clicks through AI, so allowing tech to do the heavy lifting frees up time you can use to add value through better human insights. 

5. Expand your service offerings

To add value to your client, you’ll need to offer more services than the traditional remits of being an accountant. Simply offering tax preparation will do little to bring your clients to greater heights. Instead, you’ll need to go above and beyond to offer new innovations as they enter the market, helping your clients to get ahead of the field. 

Technology is a great segue into expanding the services you can offer. The app ecosystem in the accounting industry is growing everyday, with cloud integrations at the forefront of bypassing tedious processes to multiply efficiency tenfold. 

Services can include cost management solutions that reduce businesses’ spend in a matter of seconds, or payroll solutions that could free business owners of an 18 hour a month burden. Automation and smart forecasting will help to direct your business clients in a focused, personalised way certain to contribute to their growth.

Being proactive and offering services that are fresh on the market will help to give your clients a head start so they can run their business like a pro.  

Are you ready to expand your role?

So, in a nutshell:

  1. Understand your client’s needs
  2. Tackle key challenges first
  3. Use the information you already have
  4. Embrace the digital tools available
  5. Offer more services to your clients

The great news is you’ve got most of the tools needed at your disposal to up your advisory game. You're probably already doing it to some extent.

By coordinating your existing accounting habits, you can expect to develop deeper relationships with your clients that not only add value to them, but add value (and streams of revenue) to your own accounting firm as well. 

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