What Do Accountants Really ‘Sell’?

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Over the past few years, I have asked thousands of accountants and bookkeepers to fill in a reply to “Don’t sell me accounting services, sell me…”, all of which centered around what we at Woodard call “transformation work.”

Some of the answers included:

  • Psychological well-being
  • Knowledge
  • Solutions
  • Process
  • Time back (i.e. adaptive capacity)
  • Direction
  • Opportunity
  • Measurements/metrics
  • Automation
  • Standardization
  • Leadership
  • Coaching
  • Profits
  • Scalability
  • Work-life harmonization
  • Financial security
  • Strategic planning
  • Visibility/clarity
  • Stability

There were two others on the list that are my favorites and, at least in my opinion, represent the theme of the entire list: “Don’t sell me accounting services, sell me purpose and hope.”

If we consider these fill-in-the-blank answers to be “products,” it begs the question: “How many accountants and bookkeepers sell these products?” We need not guess. According to our demographic studies and polling exercises, fewer than 20 percent of accountants surveyed consistently provide transformation work like financial analysis, business coaching and technology advisory.

While most accountants stay confined in the “back office” of the client’s business with their heads down focusing on compliance work and recordkeeping, many small businesses are suffering under the weight of pervasive cash flow issues, ineffective teams, disparate processes, owners whose organizations have outgrown their leadership skills and dated (or under-deployed) systems and technology.

Simply put, many small businesses are either devoid of purpose or without the freedom to act on their stated mission. In concert, many small business owners are increasingly exhausted, bewildered, overworked, undercompensated and without hope.

Throughout this article series (and its parallel educational offerings at www.TheTransformativeAdvisor.com), we wish to challenge small business advisors to embrace the transformative work they perform for their clients. Moreover, we want them to provide the very “products” their small business clients seek and desperately need.

Further, we challenge accountants and bookkeepers to lead the charge. As highly experienced advisors with deep insight into the financial position and performance of their clients, these professionals are perfectly positioned to turn the tide for their clients and, collectively, for the global state of small business.

Stay tuned to this article series over the coming weeks as I address:

  • Four reasons every accountant and bookkeeper should embrace transformation work
  • The seven barriers to becoming a transformative advisor and how to address those challenges
  • A drill down on the three focuses of transformation work: financial measurements (i.e. visibility), business operations and technology
  • Case studies of small business transformations, including an update on the ongoing metamorphosis of my own company as it navigates the processes of reorganization and refinement

In the meantime, I challenge anyone reading this article who wants to begin performing transformative work to walk through at least one of the exercises below for at least one of your clients. None require any special education, and you can probably perform any one (or all) of them within your existing clientele. 

Exercise 1: Conduct a One-Hour Financial Consultation

Time Commitment of 1 Hour. No Learning Curve

Connect at least one client using QuickBooks Online to a free trial of MyAdvisor.ai, produce a report and meet with the client, preferably in person, to discuss the results and determine one thing they should change. Then, measure the resulting increase in wealth.

Exercise 2: Get One Client to Stop Doing One Thing

Time Commitment of 1 Hour. No Learning Curve

Find one thing a client should stop doing. For most accountants or bookkeepers, there should be little research or preparation involved.

You can probably think of examples off the top of your head. But, to get your thoughts directed, you may want to consider:

  • a product line your clients need to discontinue
  • a person your clients need to stop employing
  • a vendor or consultant relationship they should terminate
  • a location your clients should close

Approach one client who trusts you and is most likely to heed your advice. Get them to stop performing the action. Then, measure the resulting increase in wealth.

Exercise 3: Give One Client Two or More Days of Their Time Back per Month

Time Commitment of 1-3 Hours. No Learning Curve

Poll your clients to find at least one who is spending at least four hours per week on a manual entry process. Examples include inputting bank or credit card transactions, manually capturing time or expense entries from employee-submitted reports, manually capturing sales/billing information from customer-facing systems, etc.

Work with the client to automate this process through bank feeds or Excel imports (using a solution like Transaction Pro Importer) or connecting their accounting solution to other software products they use, leveraging existing integrations where available.  

If the client’s budget permits and you want to invest eight to ten hours into this exercise, consider implementing a new software solution that displaces the manual process (e.g. a time or expense product that integrates with the client’s accounting solution). Then, measure the resulting increase in wealth.

Tell Your Story

We encourage you to tell your stories of client transformation on Twitter at #transadvisor. If your story can’t be contained to the character limits, email [email protected]. We will include it in this article series and/or on our blog at www.TheTransformativeAdvisor.com. 

About Joe Woodard

Joe Woodard

Joe is CEO and Founder of Woodard Company and Woodard Events LLC, which created and promotes the Scaling New Heights event. He is an author, business coach and national speaker who has trains accounting and business professionals in areas of practice development, changing technology trends, strategic consulting and how to maximize the use of accounting software in their practices. 

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