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How we put advisory into our practice

Nov 7th 2017
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Our small accounting practice in Perth currently does about 60% of our revenue as advisory services.  And the advisory comes from a range of services that you would typically associate with any mid sized tax practice that deals with family owned businesses.

Do we want to drop tax compliance?  Never.  Tax compliance is a great opportunity to leverage into the advisory space – well that is what we found anyway.

A great advisor is solutions focussed

The starting point, for us at least, was to acknowledge our traditional tax focus.  We often thought of ourselves as a weapon to use in a crisis.  If there was a problem we would swoop in like tax warriors coming into save the day.  Our clients made money, or made a problem, and we did a great job on finding ways to save their hard won wealth from the ravages of taxation.

It took a long time for us to realise that some of these issues we dealt with were avoidable.  The other advisors covering the “soft” issues were simply useless.  The crisis that our clients sometimes found themselves in would not have arisen if we had stepped in earlier and taken a more engaged role.

If we had come forward with additional service offerings for our clients 5 or 10 years ago: a lot of these people would have been much happier than what they are now.

A solution has a price

The stumbling block we all had (and still do at times) was telling our clients the price of our solutions.  Historically would typically just talk about a large scale “theme” of what was needed and then see if the client wanted us to progress.

We then tried to price things upfront and then become horribly over-exposed as the advisory work done took forever. So we then tried to incorporate all contingencies into our advice and price it properly.  And the clients never took it up.

The turning point came about when we converted our solutions into a workshop.  The workshop with clients is engaged and interactive and it ends.  The reports we present afterwards are of a high quality and are typically done during the workshop.

And we told the client of the price of a workshop in person face to face.  We did not email the cost after the event. 

A price must be affordable

The advisory work as a modular workshop then lent itself to a set number of hours – 4 to 5 hours for a large engagement and 2 to 3 hours for a small engagement.  We then back up some solutions by directing people through to our blog as a low cost option of showing advice.

This was important.  Clients could not handle an 8 hour workshop (especially with kids or competing work demands).  Likewise they did not want to be face to face with us for 5 days straight.  They had work to do.

The advice must be face to face

The strategic competitive advantage we have in our business is that we are located in Perth and we give business accounting in Perth.  The delivery of electronic information and the presence of offshore advice firms cannot fully replicate the ability to shake the clients hand and look them in the eye.

The focus on increasing the contact hours with clients, as compared to back room hours, was a big game changer for client acceptance. 

The advice must have options

You will be amazed at the number of clients who are happy to share their tax advisor. If the cost of a workshop is too costly for clients you can simply combine a few clients together into the one workshop and reduce costs for each attendee. 

Practically is can be much easier presenting a workshop on say, tax planning, for 3 couples as they tend to bounce ideas of each other.  This varies of course depending on the day but it is often the case. 

The workshops are accountant focussed

We do not present that we are life coaches or motivational experts.  Our workshops are directly related to our role as an accountant – so we do Xero efficiency reviews, tax planning, setting and tracking financial KPI’s, understanding a cash flow statement or crisis management planning. 

Further: workshops do not need to be run by partners.  Advisory work should be run by your team members.

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