Technological innovation is automating compliance and regulatory processes for accountants and clients alike. While this won't happen overnight, it is a trend that is sure to revolutionise the tax industry. Accountancies are tailoring their business models to this new reality with a shift towards business advisory services. To an accountant, the thought of providing advisory services might be undesirable. They are no doubt more used to providing compliance and regulatory information and services as and when the client asks for them. The comfort that arises from such a situation may give rise to complacency, and there is a tendency to mythologise this aspect of professional services. What is Advisory? Demystifying what it means to give business advice in an accounting context is a first step in closing the skill gap. It is easier to cultivate skills if one knows what they are developing them for. While you could ask 100 accountants what advisory is, and get 100 different answers, it is important to define advisory in terms of what it means for your business. Rather than trying to do everything, having a narrow scope helps to pin down some kind of meaning. The main thing is that whatever your type of service, make sure it has value for your clients. Provide something that works and allow it to branch out to accommodate changing needs. Cultivating the Skills to Offer Advisory There is a tendency to deliver advisory services like compliance and regulatory work. While this is what accountants are known for, it may well be a hindrance to developing advisory. In fact, most accountants have those skills, they just haven't developed them. One skill whose value cannot be overstated is the consultative approach. Advisers have no problem communicating the value their business provides from their perspective. They know clients need this service, and that they should pay for it. This is where the problems arise, and it can start to seem like a sales pitch. The focus should be to market advisory services from the client's perspective. Asking questions about a client's company will quickly acquaint you with their needs both now and in future. Information is an accountant's biggest asset. Information from the client allows an accountant to communicate the value of advisory. The client needs to understand why they should have them, which stems from their needs being understood and catered for. An easy way to get this conversation started is to ask clients to tell you about their business. The temptation to feel like an impostor or like a fraud when broaching this topic is rife among accountants, yet they don't need to feel like they are selling to an account so much as partnering with a person. Asking about the company is a good way to open the conversation, but you can better understand the needs by conducting a SWOT analysis for instance, which can uncover needs that clients were unaware of. Developing knowledge of new software is also a strength that accountants can draw on. Clients will be moving towards digitized compliance and regulatory work, which frees up accountants for advisory, but also gives them more work. When each client uses a new kind of software, the onus is on the adviser to develop the necessary knowledge to be able to advise clients on purchases and data management. Learning to provide a worthwhile customer experience is crucial in keeping clients satisfied. This might mean showing some compromise in the short- to mid-term. For instance, offering to assess a client's software, data, and data-keeping practises to ensure they are compliant. The software they are adopting is still relatively new, and there will be hiccups along the way. Changing one's attachment to chargeable hours will likely result in better client retention also. Offering a nominal fee for consultative work, in particular when getting to grips with a client's business, could be a useful differentiating factor in a market that keeps getting more competitive. The Takeaway The ultimate problem for an accountant moving into advisory work is convincing both themselves and clients that they are authentic. Self-belief in one's ability to communicate the value of the service, to take a consultative approach, and to build relationships will make sure that you feel authentic and that your clients see you as authentic. Using the wealth of knowledge that accountants are known for to assess and resolve client's needs will play a huge role in the success of any shift towards mainly doing advisory work.

Posted by Accountants' Club at 2021-12-10 17:30:08 UTC