Effectively implementing business advisory services
In this series of blogs, Kevin Cowan, founder of GearShift forecasting software and former Finance Director with 15 years’ experience offering IT services to SMEs, explores how best to implement business advisory services…
Mid-tier accountancy firm income from non-audit work rose by 7% in the last two years (to 55% in 2015) and will continue to rise into the future, reinforcing an urgent need to add business advisory services to your practice offering.
It could be that you’ve already begun offering ‘virtual FD’ work, or perhaps you’re on the cusp of manoeuvring your practice to incorporate these value-added services and could benefit from insight into how best to implement them. Either way, there are a number of factors to take into consideration.
Managing a client’s expectations
When you provide advisory services, you’ll need a close working relationship with your client. This will help you understand their issues and ensure your advice is relevant to their situation.
As with any engagement, the scope of the work and any expectations should be clearly defined up front. Typical areas that could cause problems include:
- Set-up activities
- Frequency and method of communication with the client
- Response time to queries and out-of-hours support
If you get some clear ground rules down at the beginning of the relationship it will make life smoother for both parties going forward.
Whether you’re providing the service for new or existing clients, the likelihood is that you’ll have to undertake some initial one-off activities to get things moving. Outlined below are some examples of set-up activities:
- A review of the client’s business and financial performance to date
- Research into the issues and opportunities for their sector
- Setting up client reports and processes to support the new service
- Initial meetings with the client or other stakeholders
It’s worth considering how to implement these in a systematic and efficient way, as some activity may be repeatable for other clients in the future.
The importance of measuring progress
An often overlooked aspect of delivering advisory services is the need to set targets and measure progress. Targets should be an extension of the overall objectives of the firm and should cover all key areas of your business model – including sales and marketing activities.
Setting a small number of meaningful targets is preferable to a large pack of numbers and graphs that look good but provide little insight.
Working with the right systems
In the digital world we inhabit there’s no reason to work with cumbersome systems and inadequate information. Cloud-based financial software such as KashFlow and GearShift can help you understand your client’s business performance throughout the year and ensure you can provide proactive advice when it’s needed.
In addition to financial software, there‘s a range of sales and marketing software available to help you implement more effectively by generating new leads, improving customer conversion and managing ongoing client relations.
Regular client communication – key to developing your service
Getting in contact with clients once or twice a year isn’t going to cut it, you need to schedule in regular contact with the client and listen to the issues and opportunities they have. Their business and personal needs will change over time so keep close and be alert to how you could help.
The client’s expectations of you may also change, and as trust in your advice grows you may be consulted on a wider range of areas. In time the client may come to view you as an extended member of the management team, which is a significant competitive advantage for your firm.
Begin benefitting today
KashFlow is a powerful online bookkeeping and payroll solution for accountancy firms and their small business clients. By simplifying bookkeeping, invoicing and keeping track of accounts, and with its integration into IRIS Accounts Production, KashFlow helps you to become a trusted business adviser – rather than just a number cruncher.
Click here to find out more about GearShift, and for an in-depth look at how to implement business advisory services, download guide four in our series on adding them to your practice: