This article was kindly provided by Dale Crosby of Business Aptitude.
Recently, BRW published a detailed report on ‘how to find a good accountant.’ The report interviewed small business owners and highlighted increasing demands from clients. The recommendation to clients was ‘not to set and forget when it comes to your relationship with the agent structuring your books and tax affairs. Appraise whether they are doing the job you need them to do now – not the one you initially engaged them for. And appraise them regularly.’ The days of servicing compliance needs and expecting clients will stay with your firm are gone! If you are committed to growing your practice, you need to firstly understand what it is your clients want, and then help them to get it.
One of the greatest challenges we face when working with accounting firms is encouraging them to ask their clients about their needs, and relate them back to the services the firm is providing. Principals and partners of firms will often tell us they already know their clients very well. However,the chances are very high that you do not know your clients as well as you think. When was the last time you sat down with your top clients and really asked them about their business and personal financial goals?
Not only will it result in a better service to your clients, but a focus on listening to clients is the best marketing you can do. A report on marketing for professional firms by Nisus Consulting highlighted that “more listening, closer relationships and off-the-clock investment are better marketing (than promotion) and provide the real differentiation clients want to see.‘
Are you a good accountant or a great advisor? Do you provide added value to your business clients? When push comes to shove, many firms back away from providing added value because they are unsure of their abilities. However, from our experience, the process is not complicated. If you are committed to becoming a great advisor, the first step is to understand your clients’ needs – including their personal desires and goals. Put in place a program for listening to clients – on their terms – to offer them a more integrated accounting, financial and business advisory service. Develop internal capabilities by hiring the right people or use external partners such as BOSS to create capacity. Give yourself time to focus on specific activity and results to make it happen!
Business Aptitude, one of Australia’s leading Practice Management consulting groups, provides accounting firms with hands-on support in the areas of strategic planning, systems, team development, client management and external communications.