Advice for Accountants Transitioning to Business Advisors

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Accountants have long been a support system for their clients. They keep them compliant and ensure their numbers are accurate, but for many this is not a long-term growth plan and have been eyeing a more consultative or advisory role to the businesses they serve.

QuickBooks Advanced Certified ProAdvisor, trainer, and consultant Robin Hall has been witness to the change and often advises accountants on how to be better consultants. But why is this shift happening and why now? Hall explains how the business environment has changed and the need for more out of accountant relationships is partly a driver.

What is most pressing on accountants, particularly sole practitioners, is simply by doing a good job and working ethically, they are asked by their own clients if they could do more and are faced with the challenge of turning work away or expanding. This of course brings its own set of issues for the practitioner used to doing everything themselves.

“Instead of bringing someone in to just to do the next step, you need to know what you can take from your plate to put on someone else’s,” says Hall. “Even if it’s something simple like answering the phone; it rings, no one’s there to get it because you’re too engaged in something else. Bring in someone who can get the phone and do the work or answer the necessary questions. Have a backup.”

This may seem simple, but Hall stressed that there are other issues in taking the first steps toward expanding your practice and becoming more of an advisor.

Speaking from her own experiences moving from being a sole proprietor to a multiperson advisory practice, here are a few hurdles and – in her own words – she says she ran into, as well as advice that she hopes practitioners can learn from:

1.)   Get what’s inside your own head to whomever you hire to take on the extra work. For example, document your procedures. Every client is different, so note where passwords and other regular procedures. Figuring it out as you go, they can run the risk of drinking from a fire hose.

2.)   Moving from being a W-2 employee to being a consultant, you need to know how to set your rates and be confident in those rates. I’ve even had clients that said, “you’re too cheap.” It’s hard to do and initially I didn’t realize the value of what I was doing. You need to be able to articulate it out. If I’m a consultant I get down to business and I get paid for the quality of the work I do, I earn what I do, so anyone doing this kind of work needs to know that.

3.)   Always keep learning, don’t put yourself in a silo. Find someone who has done this before and wants to share, and bounce issues off of them so if you have that exchange it will benefit you in the long run.

Robin Hall is owner and principal consultant at VARC Solutions, a firm specializing in QuickBooks training and consulting as well as QuickBase development. She will be speaking at the Scaling New Heights conference June 21-24, 2015, in a session entitled Consulting Strategies for QuickBooks Mid‐Market where she looks to help accountants embrace proactive QuickBooks consulting as a year‐round revenue stream. Please visit this link for more information and event details.

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