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Here’s How to Clarify Your Clients’ Future (and to Include Yourself In It)

To transform the way your clients perceive you from a mere number-cruncher to a trusted business advisor, it is crucial to actively participate in their business planning process. It becomes even more impactful if you take the initiative to suggest that they develop concrete plans for their future endeavours.

As we have discussed previously, establishing specific and achievable goals for the future is key to expanding your firm effectively. Vague aspirations simply won’t cut it; you must strive for precise objectives that can be documented with deadlines.

Similarly, your clients will greatly benefit from having specific targets to work towards. This approach surpasses general desires such as “earning more money” or “gaining more clients by the end of the year.”

During your next conversation with your clients, inquire about their concrete goals for the next year, five years, and ten years. It is likely that they haven’t considered such long-term objectives beyond vague wishes for a better future. The beauty of this discussion lies not only in how it benefits your client but also in how it highlights the value of your services in their eyes. As clients recognize this value, they become increasingly willing to compensate you appropriately for your time, expertise, and services.

Setting goals

If you find that your client doesn’t have specific goals, it’s important to take advantage of this opportunity. By initiating a planning session, you position yourself as a key player in the future success of the company. Your guidance and expertise will be the driving force behind their business growth. Unlike other accountants who simply handle compliance work, your clients will have the privilege of boasting about how you paved their path to success.

When engaging in the planning session with your client, it is crucial to establish specific numerical goals. Rather than settling for general statements like “increase yearly profits,” dive into their figures until they can articulate a goal such as “increase yearly profits to $150,000.”

Similarly, when a client mentions wanting to improve retention rates, focus on the current rate of 60%, and work towards increasing it to at least 75%.

If a client expresses a desire to charge higher prices, help them set a goal of increasing prices by 5% while minimising customer loss to no more than 5%.

These goals provide significant advantages for your clients.

One major advantage of providing clients with a real destination is that it allows for measurability. By setting specific goals and deadlines, you can easily track whether the current actions are leading your clients towards their desired outcomes. If adjustments to the plan are necessary, you will have a clear understanding of where those changes should be made.

The second advantage is that this approach emphasises the importance of aligning business ambitions with financial figures. When clients recognize this connection, they are more inclined to seek your expertise as a numbers professional and involve you extensively in their endeavours. This presents an opportunity for you to offer tailored and exclusive services that can significantly enhance their business and help them achieve similar objectives.

Setting achievable numbers

The initial stages of your work are crucial when it comes to establishing goals with your clients. It is important to encourage them to aim high but within reach. Setting unrealistic expectations may lead to resentment if they fail to achieve those goals.

A helpful tip is to allow the client to determine the final numbers. While you can provide suggestions for adjusting the goals, ultimately, let them have the final say. This way, they cannot hold you responsible for setting unattainable targets, giving them an excuse not to fully commit. By letting them set the final numbers, they are taking accountability for their level of dedication.

To determine what is achievable for a specific client’s business, it is essential to analyse the numbers beforehand. Before your planning session with the client, create a list of potential goals such as yearly profits, customer retention rates, price increases, and efficiency savings. Then establish a reasonable range between a low and high end for each goal. You will likely find that most clients share similar desires and can easily adapt these variables for future clients with minimal effort on your part.

Cash flow

One of the most common goals for clients, especially those with new businesses, is to improve their cash flow. To establish a good rapport with your clients, it’s important to include cash flow numbers in your pre-meeting preparations. Increasing cash flow is something that almost all clients will appreciate, as it can greatly impact their business’s success in the upcoming years.

Fortunately, improving cash flow doesn’t always require major changes. Sometimes a simple adjustment can make a significant difference. For instance, by ensuring that accounts are settled by the end of each month instead of allowing them to linger, you could potentially have an additional $4000 to work with every month. For small and medium-sized businesses, this extra income can be a game-changer.

By addressing your client’s cash flow concerns and suggesting practical solutions like this one, you can demonstrate not only your expertise but also your commitment to helping their business thrive.

Working the plan

During the implementation phase of the plan, your key responsibility is to provide accountability for your client. It is essential that you proactively follow up with them to ensure they have taken the necessary actions, such as implementing the agreed price changes or collecting dues on time. By doing so, you will reinforce your role as the driving force behind their increased profitability.

In order to ensure the success of your client’s business, it is recommended to include a monthly check-up meeting as part of the planning stage. This face-to-face meeting serves two important purposes. Firstly, it reinforces the idea that you are an essential part of their team, actively contributing to their growth and future development. Secondly, it allows both parties to collaborate and make any necessary adjustments to the plan in order to ensure that monthly milestones and yearly goals are met.

If your client expresses concerns about the cost of these meetings for their small business, reassure them that the expenses will be covered by the increased profits generated from your collaboration. By directly tying your own financial success with that of their business, you emphasise your investment in their future success.

Assuming all goes well, all you need to do is present a fresh set of numbers at each monthly meeting to maintain your client’s engagement with your services. In the worst-case scenario, you will already be reviewing these numbers and can easily identify any potential issues or warning signs. By proactively addressing these concerns in a timely manner, you not only save the day but also demonstrate exceptional value for your client’s money.

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