Content seriesView full content series
How Do I Get Into Advisory Services?by
In the first of a 4-article series on streamlining compliance work, presented by Intuit Pro Connect, Nayo Carter-Grey, EA explores the option of stepping into advisory work; something even predominantly compliance-focused firms can achieve, if done properly.
Advisory services are all the rage in accounting right now and it may have you wondering, as a predominantly compliance-focused firm, what you can do right now to offer these services.
Merriam Webster defines advisory as containing or giving advice. So, if your clients are anything like mine, you are constantly giving advice to ensure their business continues to thrive.
Stop Giving Away Advisory Services for Free
Whether it's that quick phone call or quick question over email, our clients are constantly asking "what should we do?" And usually, we will drop what we are doing to research and get back to the client right away with our findings all without charging an extra fee and, in the name of excellent customer service.
Well, what if I told you your client is willing to pay you for your expertise? After all, they believe you are the expert in these matters, or they wouldn't have reached out to you for advice in the first place.
So, it's time to take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself if you truly value all the hard work you do to stay up to date on all the new laws and regulations, as well as continuing to hone your skills to best serve your clients.
If your answer is yes, are you charging your clients for that expertise? And if you aren't, do you believe you should be? The answer is a resounding yes, you should be.
Why Aren't You Offering Advisory Services?
But before you can start collecting money for your advisory services, it's a good idea to identify exactly why you haven't been doing so in order to avoid this from now on. Initially, I didn't bill for advisory because I wasn't confident in my ability to communicate the advice in a polished manner.
I knew what I was talking about, but I didn't know how to formalize the process and delivery and just service my client. This led to me to allow the scope to creep, which has probably been a barrier to entry for most firms.
The way I started to be more confident in advisory services was to take the time to write out a process of how to offer advice for one service in my practice. In my case, it was to provide advisory services around "how a client could use QuickBooks Online (QBO) more effectively." I used the sample company in QBO and mapped out a process on the top 10 things I could look for in a client's QBO file that I could help them improve. This helped me add structure and gave me a framework to build on.
Once I had my structure, I created a document that I could tangibly showcase and deliver to a client over a Zoom call that detailed all the ways they could make the most of their subscription. It was transformative for me and my clients.
I continued to improve my skills by taking any training I could get my hands on at the time to continue learning all the benefits of the platform. Now I had a formal process, knowledge and insights from others, along with my experience, which gave me all the confidence in the world to go out and start promoting and delivering the service.
But, you don't have to feel overwhelmed with this process because Intuit has put together a comprehensive guide to help you structure the advisory services your firm offers or will offer in the future.
What Advisory Services Do You Want to Offer?
The next step along this path is to decide which niche area of advisory services you want to dive into. This is important because you don't want to start advising on areas of business that you aren't necessarily well versed in. So, for example, if you don't prepare tax returns in your firm, it may not be a good idea to offer tax saving strategies.
Another way to determine which area of expertise you should dive into is to look at the needs of your existing client base. Specifically, ask:
- Are there pain points you are constantly trying to help them solve?
- And if so, how can you help?
- What advice have you given in the past that others in their particular industry could benefit from?
- What are the opportunities for advisory that you can foresee given your previous experience with these particular clients?
Pay attention to how you have served these clients from the moment they were added to your client roster to how they have grown.
You could also look at the areas in the business cycle that you are most passionate about. I'm talking about the things that you get excited and volunteer to do in your firm.
Do you enjoy workflow processes or building the technology stack? It is possible to use your interest in these areas to drive your advisory practice, since these are the things you are most passionate about. It's so much easier to talk about the things that interest you vs. things that just don't excite you.
Niching on specific advisory can allow you to become the expert in that arena and help streamline your delivery process. It also allows you to continue building your confidence because you are devoting your time and energy to being the best in that "area" instead of trying to be everything to everybody, which is tiring.
Time to Get to Work
Now that we have identified your area of expertise, it's time to roll out the service. What I suggest is that you start with new clients first.
The reason I suggest you start with a new client is because they are eager for advice from a professional. They will be receptive to paying for the new service since they don't know anything different, unlike your legacy clients who are used to you giving away this type of service without cost.
You can also take the feedback and wins from the advice you offer new clients and turn them into testimonials and case studies in order to continue to develop and formalize the advisory services and sell them to existing customers.
One thing that will be key in offering advisory services to existing clients is ensuring they have a good understanding of what is included in their current engagement. Once they have that understanding, you will be able to let them know if the advisory service they are requesting is in or out of scope and bill them accordingly if they decide they would like to proceed with your expert advice.
I know offering advisory can seem like a daunting task, but I know from personal experience that once you decide to pursue this service, it's very rewarding - and again you are already probably doing it. You can talk and advise on things that you are an expert in and watch your clients benefit from that advice
You will have a front-row seat to see the impact your advice is having on their lives, and that is the most rewarding part!
Nayo Carter-Gray, EA, will be speaking at AccountingWEB Live Summit this May. She is owner and founder of 1st Step Accounting LLC, where her goal is “making accounting a little less taxing” for small business owners. She is a QuickBooks Online Advanced Certified ProAdvisor...