Many accountants believe that business advisory work has become a kind of holy grail. Let’s take a closer look…
Many accountants believe that business advisory work is the way ahead for the profession. As compliance work becomes less and less valued by business owners and brings in lower and lower returns, business advisory has become a kind of holy grail.
And those forward-thinking accountants are right. Your skills with numbers can make a big difference to a business, helping them to understand their figures, to grow and generate better profits. But all too often, business owners don’t see that you can offer them anything other than a set of accounts and a tax return.
Why is that? And what can you do about it?
Bear with me if I digress a little.
You will be all too painfully aware that the economy has suffered a massive blow from the Covid-19 pandemic. Thousands of employees have lost their jobs as businesses across many different sectors have been forced to close or make redundancies. While some of the newly unemployed will be searching for (and hopefully finding) new jobs, others have decided to set up in business for themselves. You can see the appeal: it’s an opportunity to take control of their working lives and make their own decisions.
And of course, it’s easier than ever to set up in business. Website designers, virtual administrators, content writers, and anyone else you can think of, are only an online click or two away. Technology, and the ease of outsourcing, means that anyone can set up a business in their spare room and build a website that includes e-commerce to sell their products or services in a matter of days. Next, they simply need to create ads on social media or – using only their smartphones – create a sales video to drive people to their websites.
Or at least that’s the way it seems. Even before the current crisis hit, the reality for most of these business owners was a little different. Very few of them survived more than five years and, of those that did, very few did more than just survive. In fact, the majority were barely ticking over, with their owners gaining no enjoyment from it whatsoever. In the situation we’re in now, the potential for failure is higher than ever.
So what do these new business owners need in order to flourish and grow, so they can employ more people and help to raise the economy up again? They need help to understand their business, to understand their cashflow, VAT, tax, running costs, debts and payroll, otherwise they’ll be shutting up shop again pretty quickly. And the good news is that – as we said earlier - as an accountant you’re in a wonderful position to provide this help. But first there are a few hurdles you need to overcome.
Chief amongst these, perhaps, is that your clients and potential clients see you as ‘just’ an accountant.
If you appear overworked and too busy to respond to them within working hours, then they’ll see you as not being in control of your time and just as frantic as they are. If your fees are rock bottom they won’t really value the service you provide.
If this describes your position, to suddenly offer them advice on running a better business wouldn’t only come as a surprise, they’d also probably question what – if anything – an overworked ‘mere’ accountant could teach them.
That’s why I intend to help you reach a position where not only are you practising what you preach, but where you can demonstrate to clients and prospects that you’ve created a successful accountancy business that enables you to work fewer hours for a better income.
Accountants often tell me they hide their income and success. I’ve even known some who, having two cars, make a point of visiting clients in the older one so that they can’t be accused of overcharging! As an anecdote, it’s mildly amusing. As a strategy, however, it’s completely mistaken. Whether it’s working fewer hours, having a nicer house or taking more holidays, always let clients see your success.
If, as a result, they accuse you of overcharging, politely point out that they’re being short-sighted. If they’d like, you can help them to achieve the same.
After all, would you rather take advice from someone who looks like a failure, or someone who’s living the dream? I know which I’d choose, and I’d pay good money for the privilege, too.
This article is based on Chapter Two of my Amazon best-selling book, Putting Excellence Into Practice, and you can download your copy here.