/** END Brainfish widget **/

In today’s episode of ‘From the eLearning Trenches,’ we asked one of our learners, a partner in an accounting firm, to provide feedback on the extent to which they engage in discovery conversations with business clients?

Learner Reflection

We encourage all our business clients to set an annual review meeting in April/May of every financial year to undertake the following. However, this is a fee-based service and so it may not be financially viable all business owners.

  1. Review of financial reports for the current financial year . This allows for the review of upcoming tax liabilities and the cashflow implication a large tax payment may have on the business.
  2. Revisit business goals set for the current year and review performance.
  3. Goal setting for next financial year. Including potential impacts on cashflow, details pertaining to additional resources required (more staff, additional retail space or P&E) for growth, macro and micro economic factors (change in interest rates for those with higher debt:equity ratios) and industry specific challenges.
  4. Review of long-term goals for business and business owner(s). This will include accessing funds from the business for diversification of asset portfolio, review of business structure and succession planning.
  5. Discuss other implications for the business. Engaging a solicitor to review/prepare Power of Attorney/Wills and insurances for the business owners, engaging a financial planner to setup diversified asset portfolios, potentially engaging a loan specialist to review all current loans and hire purchase agreements to ensure the business has the best finance options.
  6. Provide summary report 24 hours after client meeting.
  7. We will then monitor actual performance (via real time bookkeeping information) for the year and provide feedback on a monthly or quarterly basis.

In addition to the above, we also provide quarterly reports to selected business clients (who do not subscribe to the above service). This is often personalized information based on real time information (via their online bookkeeping files). However, it is not specific to each business’s goals. Instead, it is reporting on standard ratios with a short summary on each and a comparison of financial reports to prior years.

How can we make this a formal process with all our clients?

  • Look into new software add-ons and Apps that allow for interpretation of data with little input from the accountant.
  • Offer the above service packaged into annual fee (and allow payment on a monthly/quarterly basis)
  • Provide business health checks as part of annual reporting.
  • Continuous engagement with the client(s) to ensure they understand the value of the service offering.

Feedback from our experts

The learner has outlined a formal process for annual review of business clients that incorporates a lot more than a tax planning session. A proper strategic review provides opportunity for the accountant / advisor and the client to review progress with the business, discuss next steps, confirm business priorities and agree on service support for the next 12 months.

This process of annual discovery and re-engagement is the best way to demonstrate interest and engage in a collaborative exercise with the client.  It does not need to be as comprehensive as the 7-step process the learner has outlined, even a simple ‘discovery’ conversation over coffee once a year can help to open up conversation and explore the client’s financial goals.

A simple process for an annual review meeting follows:

Step 1: Pre-Meeting Preparation

  • Review the client’s financial statements, tax returns, and any other relevant financial documents from the previous year.
  • Identify key financial metrics and performance indicators that are important for the client’s business.
  • Prepare a list of questions and topics you want to discuss during the meeting based on your review of the financial information.

Step 2: Schedule the Meeting

  • Contact the client to schedule the annual review meeting at a convenient time for both parties.
  • Communicate the purpose of the meeting, emphasizing that it will focus on discovering insights and opportunities to improve their financial health.

Step 3: Conduct the Meeting

  • Recap Previous Year: Start by briefly summarizing the financial performance of the previous year, highlighting key figures and trends.
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions: Encourage the client to share their goals, concerns, and challenges related to their finances and business operations. Ask open-ended questions like:
    • “What are your business objectives for the upcoming year?”
    • “What financial goals would you like to achieve?”
    • “Are there any specific financial challenges or areas of improvement you’ve identified?”
  • Review Financial Data: Walk the client through the existing financial data, pointing out relevant trends and areas that need attention. Use visual aids like charts and graphs to make the data more understandable.
  • Identify Opportunities: Based on the client’s responses and your analysis of the financial information, suggest opportunities for improvement. This could include:
    • Cost-cutting measures
    • Revenue-enhancing strategies
    • Tax planning opportunities
    • Investment options
  • Set Actionable Goals: Collaboratively establish clear, measurable, and actionable goals for the upcoming year. Ensure these goals align with the client’s objectives and address the identified opportunities.

Step 4: Provide a Summary and Action Plan

  • After discussing goals and opportunities, provide a summary of the meeting’s key points. This should include the goals set, steps to achieve them, and a timeline.
  • Offer recommendations for specific actions that need to be taken and assign responsibilities if applicable.

Step 5: Follow-Up

  • Within a few days of the meeting, send a written summary of the discussion, including the goals and action plan, to the client.
  • Schedule periodic follow-up meetings throughout the year to track progress, adjust strategies as needed, and provide ongoing support.

Key take-away: By using existing financial information and focusing on discovery during the annual review meeting, you can help your business client make informed decisions and improve their financial health without incurring excessive time and cost. This approach fosters a proactive and collaborative relationship between the accountant and the client, leading to better financial outcomes.

This assessment task and response is taken from the Virtual CFO Advanced eLearning Course. Click here to explore this course

Also, take a look at the Virtual CFO Essentials eLearning Course

Discover the pulse of our eLearning community as we unveil daily feedback from enrolled learners. Exciting times ahead as we share this valuable information with the accounting, advisory, and administrative experts in public practice!