Undertaking a rebrand to better represent his firm’s advisory offerings, Sandeep Singh needed to adopt a workflow that streamlined advisory services. Already a big believer in Xero and the cloud, he needed to get to grips with a strong and flexible forecasting and reporting tool. Client pain points were at the top of his list to fix, and the focus on advisory had increased to almost 80% of Astute’s offerings. Therefore, it was important to fill the gaps in his knowledge and use a customisable and reliable tool to back up his advisory services.
Sandeep looked to Futrli and our Advisory Certification to see how he could fill the gaps in his knowledge. Using the cloud to run a virtual CFO service across the globe meant he could take better care of clients. Some of the clients on his books have been experiencing aggressive growth, so full visibility was crucial. Sandeep knows that leading with education in client meetings is the best way to get clients thinking in the right way about their future, so certification married up with this perfectly. Scenario modelling and projecting financial information are powerful tools, and they’ve helped the scaling of Astute’s advisory offerings.
The focus put on education by Astute advisors allows clients to empower themselves with their financial data. Sandeep can now cherry-pick the clients he wants to work with. Giving himself a choice with clients means he can focus on the industries he favours. He gets specialist help in the form of industry peers so that his offering at Astute is as well-rounded as possible.
Interview in full
With eight years in industry under his belt, Sandeep Singh took the leap and opened up his own firm in Brisbane. Rebranding to Astute Advisory Group this year, the practice serves a myriad of medical professionals and medium-sized enterprises. Sandeep has been conscious to grow sustainably, and his aptitude for strategy is clear. His focus on education allows his clients to empower themselves with their financial data, so you can understand why he’s able to cherry-pick the clients he wants to work with. We caught up with Sandeep to discuss cloud software, client meetings and how he’s approached Futrli Advisory Certification.
Tell us about Astute Advisory Group
When you run your own business, you want to do it in your own way. This mantra has helped a lot with our advisory processes. 80% of our revenue is advisory based, only 20% is compliance. If they ask to start with compliance we tell them no, our firm is built differently, and I’ve stuck to that from day one.
We’ve got a very clear niche as to what we’re targeting so we can be specialists in our industries and actually develop with something we’re passionate about as well. This year will be the firm’s growth phase so I’m looking forward to getting stuck into Futrli’s forecasting.
What’s in Astute’s app stack?
I use Futrli predominantly for my forecasting, insights and dashboards. We played around and tested a lot of different add-ons, but the fact now Futrli links in through Xero HQ makes it all work nicely. We use Practice Ignition, which shows a lot of things I need to see on a daily basis – payments and project work. We’ve chosen specific software and stuck with it.
What made you embrace cloud accounting technology?
My relationship with the cloud really started when I set up my own firm in 2016. At the time we were struggling to find proper forecasting software which would do exactly what we wanted it to do. When we started off with Futrli it was great because it was much more advanced than Spotlight. Futrli has a few things that Spotlight had not worked on previously – you can tell Spotlight isn’t a complete product. That’s a key reason we decided to use Futrli instead.
What are the main benefits of cloud accounting for you?
Using the cloud to run a virtual CFO across different countries, with different time zones and internet connections, you always wonder if it’s reliable. When you’re able to deliver on those things remotely, it gives you a lot of peace of mind.
It shows your team can be in different locations as well. If you have the right employees, you don’t need to have large offices and large overheads – you can expand quickly to have a national presence.
Which industries make up your client base?
We have got a lot of medical professionals, but also medium enterprises in the tech field. Even some startups that have grown aggressively; within two years they’ve grown by around 500/600% and now expanding internationally. Helping them across those areas has been a very interesting and challenging job. We’ve got award-winning clients who have gone on to win Telstra Business Awards in Queensland and nationally!
The people we working with were crying out for advisory services. We meet and they see the amount of tech we’re using, the visibility they get from dashboards, the real-time reports, they get excited. They get peace of mind and understand that someone’s there looking at it on a real-time basis and is able to provide them with the right advice and strategy.
How do you attract these clients?
Almost solely from referrals. Because of cloud-based software, we’ve been able to base our entire service on advisory and then bolt on compliance, which is different to what other firms do. It has helped us a lot as well to implement advisory much easily, and the fact that we’re cherry-picking clients give us huge advantages to who we want to work with.
What’s the secret to successful client meetings?
I ask what their pain points are, and we have a structured questionnaire we have for client meetings. It lasts about an hour and we just talk about themselves and their business. I then get back to them within a few days with a solution. I remind them, just because they’re highly profitable doesn’t mean they’ve got the cash to supplement growth.
One of the things we try to do with every engagement is educate. We’re really happy our clients understand the value in that because they become more empowered.
We’re not trying to sell advisory, clients actually understand the value of what we’re providing. They know they’re making very informed decisions.
How have you found Futrli Advisory Certification?
I like learning and educating my clients, so I always want to know what’s happening. The team at Futrli seem the same. When I was going through certification, I picked up a few things about how to use the system, but also how to integrate certain conversations, whereby I could do things much better than I was before like how to use Futrli as an engagement tool, which I never did at the start.
The educational process within Futrli has been fantastic because it takes real-world examples and makes you think. I’ve taken my time through it and, there have been so many times I’ve paused it to make notes about which client this part relates to, done screenshots, rewritten our scripts… Even coming off the training and practicing implementing what I’d learnt with clients.
I’ve not been doing it just to get certified; I’ve done it to help my business. My goal with anything in my business is to understand why I’m doing it. The videos are fantastic, the instruction and training are amazing. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before in terms of the training process.
Do you have any advice for future advisors?
Small and medium enterprises are the lifeblood of the economy, with more than 2 million actively trading businesses in Australia. Most small business owners are really struggling at all life stages of their business. Now more than ever, they need their accountants to act as their trusted advisor.
Get your practice and client accounts on the cloud, and upskill yourself and team. Companies like Xero and Futrli have certification courses that will get your advisory and software skills up to scratch. When it comes to your clients, get to understand their pain points, and create strategic partnerships with other advisors to specialise without limitations. That’s what we do here at Astute Advisory, and it helps our clients get a better service.
Attend industry events such as Xerocon, see what cloud software solutions are available for your business and for your clients. There’s a lot of tech out there, so make sure you choose the right software for you. Lastly, don’t just say you are proactive, be proactive!