The Internal Value of Consultative Servicesby
Like many accounting professionals, I was once stuck in the traditional model of public accounting work that is limited by vision for change and opportunity and commitment to change. Then I got a wake-up call.
It came when I sat down with my business partner and started to look at what we did for our clients. What I didn’t realize at the time was that, although we were drafting a game plan for more growth and revenue for the firm, what was happening for me was a rebirth of joy in my work.
I can very distinctly remember getting a feeling when I used to wake in the morning that I would be just trudging through my day without much excitement in what I was doing throughout the day. There was a heaviness to that drive to work thinking about the deadlines and tasks that I was going to walk myself through.
It would slap me in the face when I walked through the door and hit me somewhere else as I left for the evening. I would distract myself through the day with the shiny objects around me but was left with a void of accomplishment even though I was getting “a lot” done.
In our practice, we were stuck without a plan to expand beyond our current service offerings and, more importantly, interact more with our clients. A vision of change needed to happen to get back to having fun conversations with our clients.
I didn't want to get on the phone for those highly reactive and traditional tasks like completing a tax return or getting a financial statement out. But to shift to the proactive side of the business and, therefore, a much more satisfying result, we identified two areas we needed to improve on.
An Action for the Plan
Firstly, because we genuinely care about the well-being of our clients, we identified client loyalty as one of these areas. Secondly, we wanted to ensure we were one of our clients’ most essential and trusted advisors.
Achieving these goals didn’t happen overnight. We had to try some different things and throw some things at the wall to see if they would stick and be willing to throw it out or pivot – and over time our tactics evolved and were eventually successful.
The most critical piece to this was that we were committed to implementing the change we needed. The benefit of this transition was not for my peace of mind and to eliminate any stress on my drive to work in the morning – it was for our teams and clients as well.
We recognized that our clients were asking for additional services that we were not giving to them, which at times made it rather easy for them to leave us. We were ultimately able to become connected advisors for our clients.
What is a Connected Advisor
Fundamentally, what am I talking about here? Let’s define what or who a connected advisor is. From my perspective, what we are talking about here is how we interact with our clients and how we service them.
If we are collaborating with our clients in real time using the same set of data, then we are connected to them and their business. That makes the next part of the connected advisor role even more achievable because then we can advise our clients on what to do next or perhaps help them with making decisions.
This creates a highly valuable deliverable for our clients, giving you a highly rewarding feeling when you are talking to your clients. If you want to think about this in another context, think about it this way: Imagine you were sitting down to help your kids with their math homework, but you are learning alongside them from the same source. How much more help could you be?
Traditionally, we were learning about the math homework after our kids were already asking us the questions and weren’t able to give them an answer that makes sense because we are relearning what they are learning.
Changing Your Perspective
The byproduct of going through this process and changing how we viewed our service offerings has been that I want to work longer and harder than I have before. I am re-energized when working with clients because I now have fun conversations with them.
I don’t mind jumping on a call or video chat with them at any time because I am now ready and empowered to answer their questions and concerns. As a result of this transformation, we are able to take on with new clients and our different service offerings are much more extensive.
Moreover, there have been highly valuable up sales that we have made with existing clients that have wanted this type of interaction with us for many years. As they say: happy clients, happy accountant.
David Emmerman is a partner in Emmerman, Boyle & Associates and a Xero Ambassador. For the past 15 years, David has had a passion for working with his small business clients and his team to develop a best-in-class accounting experience.