More than an accountant: A Trusted Business Advisor
Accounting isn’t available for re-invention. The rules were established long ago, and my debits and credits aren’t any better than yours. Accurate accounting, completed tax returns, and quality audits are an expectation of every client of a professional accounting practice. So, with accounting being somewhat of a “known quantity”, how does a firm show that it can do so much more than simply crunch the basic numbers, and demonstrate their value as a trusted business advisor? The answer is in knowing more about the client business and operation, and using that knowledge to identify opportunity for both the firm and for the client.
Accounting firms serving growing businesses must deliver value, insight, and long-term service to their clients. These firms desire to enhance their service deliveries to existing clients and prospects, and need efficient and effective tools to support the effort. For today’s accounting professional, that toolkit needs to include data collection, integration, and analysis. The accounting professional’s participation in these areas is critical. Data collection and integration efforts must be controlled in order to ensure accuracy of data in the financial systems. This becomes the first and most important element – making certain that the data in the financial systems is accurate and complete. Only then may additional steps be taken to add more value to the service delivery.
A primary method of adding value to accounting service delivery is to enhance the firm’s ability to provide data analysis and deep insight into business and financial performance. This is, of course, enabled through the monitoring and control of data flowing into the financial systems, ensuring accuracy of information used for analysis. Staying abreast of changing financial needs and finding additional opportunities to add value to client deliveries is a key element in gaining new business and revenue for the firm, and adding to the “sticky” nature of the firm’s services. Engaging with clients on key financial trends and industry performance metrics can help to set the firm apart from its competition, differentiating services and offering far more value to the client.
Financial analysis tools available today offer accounting professionals more capability and process support than ever before. With direct integrations to practice management and engagement solutions, firms gain the ability to map and sync data automatically from core firm applications. This ability can significantly improve upon the time and effort required to introduce data into the system, and delivers efficiency and scalability which allows the firm to easily expand use of the solution to the entire portfolio of client engagements.
There are numerous benchmarking and reporting tools today which make reading and understanding financial data easier and more accessible for business owners and managers, yet these solutions rarely address the needs of the firm in terms of mining the entire portfolio of clients for new opportunity where the firm can deliver more value and service. The selection of the right tool for the firm becomes a key element in this respect. The solution must deliver not only better analysis and reporting for each client, but should also be oriented to provide a system-wide view for the firm members and participants.
A key aspect to the efficient application of these tools is to systematize the activity, and structure it as a standard process within the business. When it becomes part of a firms DNA, to structure, compare and analyze client engagements for trends and similarities and then to take advantage of the opportunities revealed therein, the firm has a practice model which speaks to sustainability and growth over time. For smaller firms and solo practitioners, this approach is what turns individual accomplishment into a long-term business model.
The solution is out there, and it’s available today for practitioners who wish to introduce efficient and scalable ways to identify client opportunity, capture it, and deliver on it. Turn your firm into a value machine, and deliver the trusted advice your clients need. A little investment in this area can deliver large returns for years to come.
Interested in learning more about tools which can help your professional practice get more opportunity from every client? Contact me @JoanieMann on Twitter, or connect with me on LinkedIn or Facebook.