Forecast tomorrow, understand today and action a better future for your business. Start your free trial today.
4 Ways to Nail Advisory
Posted on 15th September 2017 in Advisory
Written by Freya Hughes
If you ‘nail’ something on the internet, take your praise with a pinch of salt – it usually means you’ve messed up royally. While you can kill a few hours laughing at the misfortune of others online, there are some things you can’t afford to get wrong. At this tumultuous time in accounting, everything is changing and to survive, you need to be on the ball. We’re looking at our top 4 ways to nail your move to advisory so you know you won’t become the subject of another’s amusement.
We preach the importance of moving from solely providing compliance to the ever-evolving world of advisory. This is because, as a platform designed for accounting and business industries, we can see how firms failing to keep up with their modern counterparts are suffering. You need to be providing your clients with value-added services, which include (but aren’t limited to) strategy, coaching and even friendship. From our community of advisory accountants, we know that a great advisor will ask questions and dig deep into their client’s business.
Here are our 4 top tips to nail moving into the advisory space, so you’ll look a lot more like the woman on the left (above) than the poor soul on the right!
Historical reporting is really useful as it can help you set targets for future periods and see just how and why your figures are what they are. It is, however, way more beneficial to be looking to the future. While you can set yourself targets from previous results, using a forecast to help you predict where you can position your clients’ businesses in the coming future.
For example, imagine your client has plans to extend their retail store to another premises. A costly mistake if it fails, your client will look to you for advice and expect your help in how to plan the best way of moving forward. Making them a cash flow forecast will give them insights into how and when they can afford to invest in the new premises, what they can do to speed up the process and even alert them to when their cash is looking low. Alerts are so useful in forecasting – you can program your forecast to tell you if you’re approaching a limit on your bank account, preventing you from making spur of the moment snap decisions.
As metric fanatics, we find ourselves preaching the importance of KPIs regularly, and you only need to read our case studies to see how much our community of advisors and management accountants agree! Key performance indicators are an essential part of operating a business, as they give you a broken down quantitative view of each department in your clients’ businesses.
For example, if they have sales, marketing and manufacturing teams, then they’ll need to have an idea of which team is performing well, which might need additional support and where the most leads or conversions are coming from. Without a granular view, you’d be hard pushed to recognise trouble areas of the company, which over time could really impact the business’ bottom line. Think of KPIs as proactive trouble shooters – and make sure you pay attention to the results.
To put this into context, let’s look at how one of our partners operates with the help of KPIs. Fresh Financials’ Emma Fox has positioned herself in the industry as a blend of bookkeeper and management accountant, meaning she’s able to provide her clients with essential and value-added services. You can read the full case study here. While she measures metrics like actuals vs budget and their P&L current vs previous years, she told us in her practice she knows just how important it is to measure too:
“For the firm, our KPIs are pretty static because of our monthly pricing system. We track sales leads by staff, but we offer training as a service as well, so who’s doing the most training, cash flow, what happens when we get a new member of staff and whatever else crops up.”
Furthermore, we caught up with Anna Carthew recently who is the marketing manager at a hybrid firm called The Peloton. The reason this firm stands out is because they put as much emphasis on their accounting as their marketing for clients.
They have both sides covered, and their clients definitely appreciate it. Anna told us when it comes to selecting client KPIs, the firm look at what will benefit the lives of their customers. You can read the full case study here. After all, most business owners are in it to provide for their families.
“We make the targets personal so the clients really get what they want to get out of it, so we might measure things like how much time they’re saving this week to spend with their kids.”
So when you’re selecting metrics for your clients, bear in mind this personal touch. It’s an essential technique which is great to adopt as soon as possible. Think of it as when you pop in to grab a coffee at your local cafe and spend a few minutes chatting to the barista that knows your name and maybe even your kids. This interaction may be small but it does make a difference.
Business and accountancy are both becoming more complex, so it’s vital you and your firm keep up. Everyone learns in different ways, so that’s why we’ve ensured our certification is varied, covering different topics in diverse ways. When you’re trying to get your head around a concept, it really helps to have visual aids and we listened to the feedback of our community to build this course.
Our Certification course is accredited by Continuing Professional Development (CPD), so once you’ve completed the 6 courses, broken down into 25 modules, you’re a fully qualified advisor. The main benefits of CPD schemes include your team enhancing their qualifications – experiencing, learning and then applying what they get out of it. For them, they’ll find they’re learning how to become more competent and efficient in their roles. Your staff will become agile – able to adapt to changes and developments in the industry and in your firm – and have the ability to identify and close up gaps in their knowledge. You’ll see better brand perception, as you sell services as a united front, and your team will work in harmony as they’re all on the same page. Hello, staff retention!
You’re not a software reseller, and nor should you have to be. We recently launched white labelling for FUTRLI, so you can use the platform as your very own. You’ll have your logo and colours added to dashboards, so your clients are constantly seeing your branding. A fantastic (and effortless) way to up your brand recognition, our clients have noticed an uptick in brand loyalty too. When we spoke to Compass EAST, Nashville USA, Co-Founder Dan McCarthy marvelled at the impact white labelling the platform has had (full case study available here):
“Because their financial data is presented so clearly, we can see them start to really connect with their figures. There aren’t many firms that can boast that they have their own insights and forecasting app, that’s what white labelling has allowed us to do. It’s already improving client retention and referrals.”
If you’re still a little confused about what white labelling actually is, think of it as a supermarket’s own-brand products. Instead of opening their own factories for each and every product, they will have made a deal with a producer to white label a product. This is cheaper for the supermarket than making their own, and the original producer gets a cash injection. This is is a basic way to get you thinking about what your purpose is and when you need to be the expert.
5. Bonus tip: Think outside the box for client meetings
Speaking to accountants across the globe, we hear about some pretty inspired approaches to client meetings. Here are a couple of our favourites:
Andrew Van De Beek, owner of Illumin8 says he doesn’t actually bring up accounting in his initial client meetings. He’ll spend an hour or so getting to know the client, then draw a graph and ask them to put a cross on it to say where they think their business is (full case study here):
“At some point in the meeting, I’ll get up and put my own cross on the graph and say, ‘this is where I see you positioned right now’. Clients may be ahead of where they thought, or think they’re doing really well when there’s a lot of opportunity they’re missing out on.”
And Anna from The Peloton that we heard from earlier:
“We are a very friendly open bunch of people, and are doors are always open metaphorically and physically. We do a lot of our business in the office […] We all have lunch together as a team and one person cooks, so we try and schedule meetings just before so they can stay and eat with us. If they’re not local we do a lot of our meetings over Zoom or Skype.”
If you need any more advice on this one, have a read of our top tips for running a board meeting. A lot of these ideas translate into other situations, so you know you’re going to nail it.