During the past few years, the paradigm has shifted for accounting firms. In the new paradigm, public practitioners must build dramatically different business models that are much broader in scope (more services) and deeper in focus (more client-focused, more business-process oriented).
While many of the technologies we’ve been using for the past 30 years have served us quite well, the velocity of change in the business world has increased pressure on small businesses to keep up with customer demands. Your clients’ customers now assume they can work with every business via the Internet. Similarly, clients assume they can work with their accounting firm via the Internet.
In addition to working with clients via the Internet, new business models for accountants must align with what clients really want from us, and that goes far beyond the compliance services of tax and accounting. In short, we need to become what we’ve always said we were – the “most trusted advisor.”
In Part 1 of this series, I’ll explain what I mean by becoming the most trusted advisor, and I’ll lay the groundwork for helping you make that transformation.
Your Current Role
Think about the role you currently play in your clients’ businesses. Are you:
- The one who produces financial reports that show “yesterday’s” results?
- The one who fills out forms and files the tax returns?
- The “janitor” who cleans up client-entered data?
- The one who handles the money?
- The bookkeeper?
- The one who enters data?
Ever since the PC revolution, accountants have been isolated from the general ledger. This has moved the profession further away from being a partner in the business to being more of a servant who provides commoditized services.
These services have flourished in the “old world” of client-centric software, and accountants have built significant businesses around these models. For sure, these roles are necessary and even noble in the overall picture of the businesses we serve. But would you call the CPA who provides these services a “trusted advisor,” or would it be more accurate to call this person a “trusted servant?”
In January of 2013, The Sleeter Group conducted a survey to find out what small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) want from their CPAs. We found some significant gaps between what SMBs want and what they receive from their accountants:
- 68% of SMBs surveyed say they want strategic technology advice from their CPA.
- Only 38% say their CPA provides (or wants to provide) technology advisory services.
This is why I say it’s time to reimagine what it takes to become the most trusted advisor.
Your New Role as Most Trusted Advisor
In the “new world,” the meaning of “most trusted advisor” is changing. Now that we can collaborate with clients and access their data in real time, we have incredible opportunities that allow us to:
- Move from being isolated to being in the field with each client.
- Take a leadership role with our clients, where we help them find the individual solutions that fit their needs.
- Turn our relationship from serving to partnering for success.
These opportunities greatly broaden and deepen our client relationship, so that we can actually help our clients with what they want as opposed to just what they need.
But how do you do that? In Part 2 of “Becoming the Most Trusted Advisor,” I’ll discuss the next step – Making It Happen.