More firms are expanding their advisory services and looking for ways to help their staff develop the skills needed to deliver high-value services to clients. In many firms, only partners provide advisory services to clients. Those partners learned their problem-solving skills over decades of working in the profession, supplemented by occasional "soft skills" workshops.
But to meet the changing demands of clients, we need to be able to develop staff at all levels to be more consultative. People throughout the firm need quality training to move beyond the numbers and become agile enough to address any client challenge. So how can firms transform?
Step 1: Build alignment
The first step toward building your client advisory services team is building alignment with the following:
A shared vision. In a shared vision firm, individuals are rewarded for their performance supporting the firm's strategic goals.
A current strategic plan. A strategic plan improves communication around expectations, makes it easier to hold people accountable, improves buy-in to firm goals and energizes teams to push beyond their comfort zones.
Transformation should be part of your plan and vision so you can begin tracking the metrics that matter, seeing progress and measuring success in a defined way.
Step 2: Develop a plan
Your transformation plan will involve defining, packaging, pricing and selling transactional and compliance services and advisory services. You will likely find that some partners in the firm are already performing advisory services, but they may be providing these services free of charge or billing it as part of compliance fees.
Your plan will need to answer the following questions:
Who will lead the CAS initiative?
What will your menu of services be?
Who else has or can develop the skills to provide advisory services?
Participating in a peer community like the Boomer Business Transformation Circle can give you access to peer firm metrics, expertise and other resources to help you along the way.
Step 3: Train your team
The next step involves identifying existing knowledge and skill set gaps. If you're already delivering advisory services as one-off projects for specific clients, look at the projects you've done in the past. Who worked on them? What went well? What mistakes can you learn from?
Conduct a resources gap analysis to identify missing skill sets in your team. You can use this analysis to develop a training curriculum and personal training plan for each individual.
Step 4: Engage your clients
Define your target clients and filtering criteria for existing clients who may no longer be appropriate for the firm. Many of your existing clients will be a good fit, so identify them and discuss the value you can provide.
Let them know that your technology platform lets you capture the data needed for analytics for clients and the firm. They will be excited to learn about the gaps you've identified and how you can begin working with them to fill those gaps strategically. Getting existing clients on board will help you build the advisory model and achieve quick wins.
Step 5: Repeat the process
With a plan to scale, your firm is progressing toward a longer-term strategic vision. By monitoring metrics, you can better understand which consulting services are growing and which ones are not.
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.
Sandra Wiley, Shareholder, President of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is a leader in the accounting profession with a passion for helping firms grow, adapt and thrive. She is regularly recognized by Accounting Today as one of the 100 Most Influential People in Accounting as a result of her expertise in leadership, management, collaboration, culture building, talent and training.
Sandra’s role at Boomer Consulting, Inc. includes serving as co-director of the Boomer Leadership Academy as well as the Boomer Managing Partner Circle, the Boomer Talent Circle and the Boomer Learning & Development Circle. Her years of experience and influence as a management and strategic planning consultant make her a sought-after resource among the best and brightest firms in the country.