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In today’s episode of ‘From the eLearning Trenches,’ we asked one of our learners, a partner in public practice, to consider how they can more effectively move clients financial reporting to business advice and strategic planning

Learner Reflection

As part of this course, we have changed the name of our sign off meetings for annual accounts to ‘Business Health check” meetings and written a process on running these – how to prepare, how to run a meeting etc – looking at current year, previous years and future plans – part of introducing our clients to more advisory is to approach like below.

The conversation can very depend on client’s needs, priorities and scope of service provide. The following extent may be considered.

  1. Initially, conversations with clients may focus primarily on financial reporting, including the preparation of financial statements, analysis of key financial metrics (such as the gross profit ratio), and compliance with regulatory requirements. At this stage, the focus is on providing accurate and timely financial information to support decision-making.

  2. As the relationship develops, conversations may naturally shift towards identifying opportunities for improvement and growth. This could involve analyzing financial performance in greater detail, identifying areas of strength and weakness, and exploring strategic initiatives to enhance profitability and competitiveness.

  3. As clients become more comfortable and confident in the advisory relationship, discussions are likely to become more strategic in nature. This might include long-term planning, market analysis, competitor benchmarking, and exploring new business opportunities. Advisors may provide insights and recommendations on strategic direction, investment decisions, and risk management.

  4. Advisors may offer value-added services beyond traditional financial reporting, such as strategic consulting, business planning, and performance management. These services are aimed at helping clients achieve their strategic objectives and navigate challenges effectively

in addition to this we also have approx. 15 clients now that I as partner meet with on either a monthly, 2 monthly or quarterly basis, in which we prepare a strategic plan, budgets, cashflows and other reports as required (e.g. productively of their staff etc). we are growing this side of the business and our focus is to train up other staff to start this on a smaller level with smaller clients so that they can grow and develop with the client.

Feedback from our experts

As accountants transition from manager to partner, it becomes more important to reframe business client conversations to discussions in relation to strategy. Whilst this occurs somewhat naturally with most experienced advisors, it’s easy to drift into the comfort zone of discussions around tax compliance and planning issues and advice.

In this example, the learner actively reframes the end of year meeting to ‘business health check.’ In reality, there should probably be 2 meetings with the client each year, the first to review financials and confirm the business position in relation to revenue, growth, profit and value. This meeting serves as a bridge to a second meeting where discussion focus on forward planning from a strategic perspective. This then provides opportunity to add value in other areas.

When you reflect on the relationship you have with your business clients, how do you manage this transition from compliance to advice? Do you believe you spend enough time adding value to clients beyond the traditional accounting work performed by your firm?

Take a look at the 5-step action plan below to effectively transition from compliance to advice with your business clients:

  1. Assess and Understand Client Needs
  • Conduct Client Audits: Evaluate your clients’ businesses to identify their current challenges and future goals.
  • Communicate Regularly: Establish open lines of communication to understand their strategic objectives and financial goals.
  • Tailor Services: Customize your advisory services to align with the unique needs of each client.
  1. Invest in Training and Development
  • Enhance Skills: Encourage continuous learning for your team in areas such as financial analysis, business strategy, and industry-specific knowledge.
  • Certifications and Courses: Invest in certifications and advanced courses related to strategic business advice and consulting.
  • Internal Workshops: Hold regular workshops to discuss case studies and best practices in strategic advisory services.
  1. Leverage Technology and Data Analytics
  • Adopt Advanced Tools: Utilize accounting software and analytical tools that provide deeper insights into business performance.
  • Data-Driven Insights: Use data analytics to identify trends, forecast future performance, and provide actionable recommendations.
  • Client Dashboards: Create client dashboards that offer real-time data and visual insights into their business metrics.
  1. Develop and Offer Strategic Services
  • Financial Planning and Analysis: Provide services such as budgeting, forecasting, and financial modeling.
  • Risk Management: Advise on risk assessment and mitigation strategies.
  • Business Performance Improvement: Offer guidance on improving operational efficiency and profitability.
  • Strategic Planning: Assist in developing long-term strategic plans that align with the client’s vision and market trends.
  1. Build a Proactive Advisory Culture
  • Proactive Communication: Regularly initiate discussions with clients about potential opportunities and risks.
  • Client Education: Educate clients on the benefits of strategic advice and how it can impact their business growth.
  • Value Proposition: Clearly articulate the value of your strategic advisory services and how they differ from traditional tax compliance

Key takeaway: Transitioning from compliance to advice does not happen naturally. Proactive Managers and Partners need to shift the focus of conversation with discovery and health check meetings.

This assessment task and response is taken from the Business Analytics for Managers eLearning course (assessment task 3.3). 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!