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How Accountants Can Meet Business Planning Demand

Any accounting firm looking to evolve their business beyond compliance services should be leaning forward, asking new questions and bringing more strategic value to the relationship.

Oct 3rd 2019
CEO Palo Alto Software
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Accounting services today are evolving (or should be) to reflect the growing needs of clients. In the public accounting space, accountants who focus on compliance-based services like tax and audit can take a more passive approach to sales, almost waiting for clients to come to them for these services.

For those who want to expand, a recent survey conducted by the Palo Alto Software team, found more evidence for a growing demand for business strategy guidance.

Small Business Owners

Small business owners in particular are demanding this type of advising support from their accountants. According to a recent survey of small businesses, nearly 60 percent said they want strategic planning and review from their accountants. More specifically, 45 percent said they want help writing business plans, and 42 percent are requesting cash flow planning.

One common small business goal is financing and obtaining the best possible loans. To do this, business owners must have a strong sense of their company’s financial health.

Accountants can offer invaluable guidance on this front by helping clients to plug in accurate forecasting inputs or simply help them to think about forecasting in a stronger way. Help your client by asking them important questions:

  • Is this business financially viable and a going concern?
  • How much money does this business really need to get started, or to expand and grow?

How Accountants Can Start Advising Now

The term “strategic advising” can seem daunting, but what accountants are really doing is finding new ways to support small businesses with insights from the work they are already doing for them. One approach that accountants can start today is developing a customer survey.

When in doubt, simply asking your customer what they want directly often leads to important revelations. Learn more about the struggles your customers are facing, and identify gaps and opportunities to better serve them based on these challenges. You may find that your results point to small-business-specific services, or a broader offering.

Next, consider how you can begin integrating strategic guidance into your existing services. The next time you have a meeting with a small business owner, for example, offer to dedicate a segment of your meeting to a discussion on where their business stands, what their financial goals are, and what financial insights would help them to make better decisions.

The early days of advising doesn’t have to be extremely formal -- simply showing your clients that you are headed that direction will go a long way.  Once a general strategic advisory offering is conceptualized, team members can be trained and process surrounding the service can be used to scale the accounting business and provide a packaged service for a specific amount to every small business client, every month.

With a strategic advising service offering at their firm, accountants can provide long-term, dynamic value for their clients and support the development of better business plans, among many other benefits.

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