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Cultivating the Advisory Accountant

The accounting profession is undergoing a major shift. With automation and artificial intelligence (AI) taking over many routine tasks, firms are moving into advisory services.

Clients no longer want just a tax return or financial statement. They want insights and strategies to drive their businesses forward. As a leader in your firm, your challenge isn't just in offering these advisory services but in growing and cultivating team members adept at delivering them.

Here's how to grow and cultivate team members to excel in advisory roles.

On-the-job training

It's tough to teach advisory services in a classroom. The nuances are best grasped in real-world situations.

Create a mentorship program in your firm where more seasoned advisors guide less experienced team members. Observing client meetings, strategy sessions and other advisory-related activities can offer valuable insights.

Encourage mentor/mentee teams to use the four-step training model:

  1. I do, you watch

  2. I do, you help

  3. You do, I help

  4. You do, I watch

Don’t let the fact that your team is virtual or hybrid top you, either. You have an opportunity to expand your mentorship program across geographic boundaries by having virtual meetings with clients via Zoom or Microsoft Teams.

Formal upskilling

Many of your team members may be highly competent when it comes to technical skills but not feel as comfortable delivering advisory services.

Seek out formal upskilling programs to help them develop confidence. Soft skills that can help in client interactions include:

  • Communication. Speaking clearly, listening, understanding client needs, and articulating insights in a way that resonates with the client.

  • Critical thinking and analysis. Advisory services require a deep dive beyond looking at a client's numbers. Seek training to help them identify patterns, predict trends, and suggest actionable strategies.

  • Emotional intelligence. A successful advisor is empathetic, understands client concerns and addresses them sensitively.

Industry conferences

Accounting conferences offer two main advantages. First, they help people tap into the latest industry knowledge. Many conferences now offer a Client Advisory Services track with workshops and sessions highlighting the best ideas in the profession. Your team members can bring these insights back to apply in your firm.

Second, conferences provide excellent networking opportunities. Building relationships with peers from other firms can be invaluable. They provide different perspectives and experiences, and often these relationships can lead to collaborations or referrals.

Peer groups

Peer groups provide a safe space for your team members to discuss challenges, share successes and seek advice. So seek out peer communities that can help them tap into that collective wisdom.

Challenges that might seem insurmountable may have already been tackled by another person in your peer group. So sharing and learning from others can lead to faster, more efficient solutions.

Peer groups can also act as accountability groups, ensuring people remain committed to their goals.

Every time your team members connect with peers, they will return to the firm with a new tool, course, or insightful resource from which the entire firm can benefit.

Cultivating team members for advisory roles isn't a one-off effort—it's a continuous journey. External training is essential, but the foundation lies in your firm's culture. Promote a culture of continuous learning where mistakes are seen as learning opportunities, and every team member is encouraged to explore and ask questions.

Investing in your team's growth will enhance their capabilities and secure your firm's future in the rapidly changing accounting profession.


Could you benefit from a peer network of other advisory service leaders?

The Boomer Business Transformation Circle is a peer group of advisory service leaders from top accounting firms who benefit from sharing knowledge, best practices and lessons learned. Apply now to get plugged into the Circle and start transforming your firm.


As the Solutions Manager for Boomer Consulting, Inc., Deanna works to help clients and prospective clients identify their dangers, opportunities and strengths. Once these are identified, she works to develop a personalized game plan for their firm to focus on the area, or areas, they need to improve on most. These areas are critical to a firm’s success and future-readiness; Leadership, Talent, Technology, Process and Growth.


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