How 3 CPAs are Transitioning to Consulting
by Sandra Wiley, President
From my conversations with accounting firm partners and managers across the country, it’s clear that everyone knows it’s so vital to transition into consulting and upskill their teams in that area. That’s why we created the Boomer Certified Consultant Training program: to help firms know where to start. And while there are other courses out there, a lot of the discussions are theoretical. You rarely get a chance to hear from the people who are transforming into consultants right now.
With that in mind, we recently hosted an hour-long webinar featuring three panelists from our Certified Consultant Training program:
Nathan Eads, Shareholder, Lally Group
Katherine Little, Partner, T.E. Lott
Travis Free, Manager, K·COE Isom
Each of these professionals comes from firms of various sizes, with different areas of expertise. Yet, they each recognized that their firms needed to diversify their service offerings to become true trusted advisors for their clients. They were a part of our inaugural class last December. Since returning to their firms, they have successfully sold consulting engagements to new and existing clients – even during one of the strangest tax seasons in the history of the profession and during a worldwide pandemic!
So, what did they learn from the experience, and what have they accomplished since returning to their firms? Here’s an overview.
Mindset is the first hurdle
We asked our panelists, “What was your biggest challenge prior to attending the Certified Consultant Training?” Their answers, unanimously, had to do with mindset.
Katherine Little mentioned that many people in her firm weren’t clear on the difference between advisory and consulting. Team members might answer questions clients had about their finances or perform tax planning and believe they were already delivering consulting. Little knew there was a big difference, and it would be difficult for people to make that transformation without guidance.
Nathan Eads recognized that his biggest challenge was an internal one. As just about every accounting professional knows, it’s easy to attend a conference or training program and get fired up over new ideas. The real challenge is keeping that momentum going once you return to your work. Before enrolling in the training, he wanted to ensure he was “all in.” He wanted to be ready to commit time to consulting, even if it meant spending less time on the compliance work he’s been doing for over twenty years.
For Travis Free, one of the biggest obstacles was getting comfortable with having business development conversations. A few years ago, the firm decided since their accountants and CPAs had the closest connections to clients, they should be the ones in charge of business development. As is the case in many firms, their professionals had an enormous amount of technical knowledge. Still, they weren’t sure where to start when it came to having sales conversations with clients.
Process and accountability are key
Next, we asked our panelists what they found most helpful from the Certified Consultant Training.
Free said he appreciates the real-world toolkit provided to everyone who attended the training program. The consultants who facilitate the training are some of the most sought-after consultants in the profession. We tried to be exceptionally transparent about how we do what we do, the tools we use, and the process for selling and delivering consulting engagements. Free says getting real-world advice – not theoretical tips – helped him establish a really good starting point for providing consulting services to clients.
For Little, the most crucial aspect was ongoing accountability. Some training programs begin and end in the classroom. Our Certified Consultant Training program requires participants to actually deliver a consulting engagement to a client after they return to their offices. To help reach that goal, we create accountability groups and schedule coaching calls, where our participants can share their challenges and successes and get ongoing support. Little said that ongoing accountability has been vital to keeping the momentum going.
Before attending the training, Eads had an idea of the type of consulting service he wanted to deliver but needed a process to get from concept to execution. The Certified Consultant Training provided that process. “By the second day, I could see how I could launch the service and see the path forward,” Eads said.
It’s been roughly six months since our panelists completed the initial training. Despite the challenges of tax season, COVID-19 and assisting clients with PPP loans, all of our panelists have made changes in their firms, had business development conversations with new and existing clients, and successfully sold consulting engagements. We couldn’t be happier with the results they’ve shared thus far, and know they’re on the fast-track to having successful consulting practices in their firms.