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Getting Started with Advisory Services



Accounting firms recognize their opportunity to deliver more value to clients by expanding their scope of services. Supplementing transactional and compliance services with higher-value consulting and advisory services helps firms tap into the potential for more profit and higher client satisfaction.


Yet when we speak to accounting firm leaders from across the country, we hear a common question: "Where do we start?"


Naturally, if you ask that question of four different people in your firm, you'll get four different answers. Your talent leaders say it all begins with talent. Your process improvement gurus believe firm processes are the foundation of expanding your service offerings. Your IT people argue that your advisory practice will never get off the ground without the right technology in place. Your business development team is convinced you first need the right clients to buy new services. So which is correct?


They're all right. Over the past several years, we've worked with hundreds of progressive firms to begin offering advisory services. While no path to transformation is without its challenges, we've identified six key ingredients for success.


Clients

Think about who you want as future clients. To succeed in advisory, you need clients who look to you for multiple services and advice, are coachable and willing to pay for quality services.


In all likelihood, you will have to give up something from the past to take advantage of future opportunities. This means developing client acceptance criteria and applying them to your current client base. Don't simply transfer the clients that don't fit the criteria to lower-level staff. This may alleviate problems for the partner, but it does not solve them.


With advisory services, your existing clients are your first marketing channel. You've already developed relationships and have an opportunity to sell additional services to them and ask for referrals. After all, successful clients tend to have successful friends and business acquaintances.


Plan

Does your firm have the business model to support advisory and consulting services? First, you must decide if your firm is a collection of rugged individualists or a unique ability team.


Technology is disrupting and commoditizing transactional and compliance services. To sustain profits and remain future-ready, you must play at a higher level with a collaborative team. Make sure your strategic plan reflects this business model and has a means for holding your team accountable.


Pricing

Firms finding success in advisory services recognize that the advisory world is a results-based economy, and the effort-based economy (hours x dollars) has passed.


Implementing subscription pricing is imperative as you package and price multiple services to your existing and new clients. This requires up-front conversations with clients regarding scope, pricing and change orders. It takes confidence and courage to price for value. Consistently look for ways to add value and improve the client experience.


People

Does your team have the skills to market and sell advisory services? Technical skills are important, but they're no longer sufficient to meet evolving client wants and needs.


Advisory services require a collaborative team with unique abilities to meet the clients' and market's wants and needs. Identify the unique skills you possess and those you need to develop or hire. Most firms have technical teams with accounting expertise. However, they lack other skills, such as project management, data analytics, marketing, sales, communications and process engineering.


Process

Leading firms leverage process improvement strategies to streamline their workflows for compliance and advisory services. This is about making the accountant's job easier and making it easy for clients to do business with you.


When investing in new technologies, ensure you're not so excited to run with the latest solution that you skip the critical step of reviewing and updating old processes. Even the best innovations will fail to meet expectations if technology and process are misaligned.


Platform

Technology is both a disruptor and a resource that can be leveraged. Most firms will continue providing traditional services while leveraging an integrated platform to automate and deliver timely and accurate information for performance, strategic and consulting services. From a client's perspective, the key is experience and having real-time decision-making data.


So, where should you start? Pick one and start building your confidence. Looking at advisory services as a whole can be intimidating to a firm just getting started, but it doesn't have to be complex. Select a focus and start allocating resources. Eventually, you will get these six areas in sync and discover the formula for success.

 

L. Gary Boomer, Visionary & Strategist of Boomer Consulting, Inc., is recognized in the accounting profession as the leading authority on technology and firm management. He consults and speaks around the globe on several topics including strategic and technology planning; mindset, skillsets and toolsets for the future; change management and developing a training and learning culture. He also acts as a planning facilitator and coach to some of the accounting profession's top firms.

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