Practice Management

How Can You Make the SHIFT to Trusted Advisor?

How Should You Make the SHIFT?

Right now you are facing an uncertain future. What that means is that doing nothing is no longer an option. In order to evolve and remain relevant, you must acquire a new set of tools, talents, and thought processes that complement the financial acumen you already have — the five SHIFT strategies

Solve Problems

Every client you have is experiencing pain points in some aspect of his/her business — these are the things that worry them and cause them to lose sleep at night. Key pain points may include lack of cash flow, difficulty finding good staff, need for cost-effective ways to find more customers and boost sales, uncovering new ways to grow, lack of work/life balance, and productivity challenges. Curing these sources of pain is of enormous value to your clients, but it will require much more than historical financial reports and analysis.


To move into the domain of WHY you must empower your client to articulate and quantify the extent to which these pain points are causing financial, strategic, or personal pain:

  • Financial pain is about lack of results, and most companies will measure how they are doing by a key performance indicator like gross profit margin, breakeven, cash gap, total sales, or return on equity (ROE).
  • Strategic pain is often more difficult to measure but is just as significant and is usually tied to the way the organization goes about producing, distributing, and selling its products or services. To uncover strategic pain, you will want to explore business risk, quality issues, productivity, employee turnover, delivery challenges, supplier issues, market positioning, market share, branding, and similar issues.
  • Personal pain may reveal itself as work/life imbalance, difficulty sleeping, strained relationships, excessive stress, indecisiveness, bad habits, and fear of moving forward. Anything that relates to the feelings and emotions that your prospect has around their financial or strategic issues, and resolving them, will fall under this heading.

To uncover and quantify pain try asking simple questions like, “What is the biggest challenge you are facing in your business?” and “When your customer thinks of buying your product/service, what is the most difficult issue associated with acquiring it?”

Once you have identified the 2-3 most important pain points, you can then spend some time identifying and documenting the key strategies and steps that your clients must take to cure them and prevent them from recurring. Practical insights and powerful step-by-step instructions will move you from WHY to HOW — and into the domain of the trusted advisor.

How To

It’s vital to critically evaluate the reports, dashboards, metrics, and graphs (if any) that you currently present to your clients. Remember, your clients are not accountants and they have no desire to learn accounting. If you aspire to become the trusted advised, you will need to help them fix the key pain points quickly and easily, so they can just focus on making more money doing what they love.


Where an expert focuses on “telling” and providing answers, a coach or trusted advisor listens, asks great questions, offers insights, and collaborates with their client to uncover the solutions across all disciplines, not just the financial stuff.

To move toward WHY, it is imperative to get in front of your client regularly and open a dialogue with them. You are not expected to have all the answers, but you will be expected to lay the foundation, provide focus/clarity, build the relationship, and assist your client to explore questions and options before arriving at decisions. In order to assist your clients at this level you need to know who they are, what is important to them, and what motivates them to take action. As part of the process, you will also discover what they have learned, how it has impacted their business, and what you could do better.

Finally, as you move toward HOW you will need to identify and develop the materials and apps you need to gain leverage on your clients and empower them to take action. This is not an easy task to accomplish, given the rate at which new apps are being introduced and promoted. According to the latest figures from Accountex, the cloud accounting app ecosystem is forecast to double in size in 2017 — from 400 add-on apps to 800+.

When in doubt about which apps and materials to use, ask for advice from trusted colleagues with proven experience in delivering impactful advisory services. It pays dividends to work collaboratively with your colleagues and the add-on partners that exist in the ecosystem — and doing so also allows you to avoid wasting time reinventing the wheel.

Remember, trusted advisors are always open to new ways of doing things, and this includes technology, processes, communication styles, and delivery channels. It is only by trial and error that you will uncover what works and what doesn’t.


A key component of the shift from WHAT to WHY and HOW are the core skills and competencies that you (and every member of your team) must acquire in order to execute the transition seamlessly. You will need to identify and document the requirements for each team member, based on his/her role in helping your firm to achieve the results you are striving for.


Movement toward WHY will primarily involve soft skills, often associated with coaching and consulting. These skills can be taught, and are appropriate for all levels of professionals in your firm — including new hires fresh out of school.

Ascension to HOW involves mastery of both WHAT and WHY along with the ability to break down strategies into step-by-step instructions, visuals, and storytelling. Perhaps Einstein summarized it best when he said, “If you cannot explain it to a six year old, you don’t understand it well enough yourself yet.” The essence of mastering HOW is tied to your ability to deliver insights in ways that influence, inspire, and empower your layperson clients to take purposeful action. When your clients become engaged and accountable in the process of learning and growing, your ability to create value (across all aspects of the business) increases exponentially.

Training is not a one-off exercise — it’s a lifelong commitment for anyone who is serious about becoming a trusted advisor. That’s why, in addition to a detailed training plan, your firm will also need a comprehensive budget for training over the next 12 to 36 months, and a formal plan for evaluating the progress and competency of each team member. Money spent on your team’s skills to deliver effective solutions is far more impactful and cost-effective at growing revenue and net profit than are advertising and social media.

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About the author

Rhondalynn Korolak

Rhondalynn Korolak is the founder of businest® and Make the SHIFT™. Businest® was selected as The App You Should Be Using at Accountex in 2016 and was also named one of the Top 10 apps in 2016 by Intuit QuickBooks. Dashboards only diagnose financial pain... businest® fixes it.

Rhondalynn practiced as a lawyer and chartered accountant with PWC in Calgary, Alberta, and she is also a business coach, best-selling author, keynote speaker, and expert on business improvement. She has distilled the secrets to business success that she learned working with some of the world’s most successful brands, and produced a simple step-by-step process that you can apply in your accounting or bookkeeping practice to attract more high-value customers, close more sales, and boost the bottom line and cash flow.

Rhondalynn is the author of On The Shoulders of Giants, Financial Foreplay, Sales Seduction, and the Make The SHIFT™ advisory services training model. Rhondalynn can help you put strategies in place to grow your practice and ensure that your clients would never think of going elsewhere.


  • This article is so wrong. It clearly does not understand the current roles and responsibilities of bookkeepers or accountants in the Australian context.

    Maybe the issue is that these positions means something very different in America.

    In Australia it is the bookkeepers who are taking he best tools and the best techniques into business and increasing their efficiency.

    Our basic laws around doing business, employing people, gst and accounts record keeping only begin to create the ongoing role for bookkeepers well into the future.

    Business people don’t want to understand how to interpret the way the business operates in the context of gst, implementing the best software etc etc. they engage experts (the bookkeeper ) to do so

    • Regardless of whether you look at Australian, North American or British research, these same stats keep coming up:
      – adoption of cloud software still only 20-25%
      – compliance revenue continuing to rise (average revenue per client is down and we are delivering more value for the same price or less)
      – while 90% believe they need to evolve and make the shift to advisory services today, only 10% have done so
      – only 8-9% believe profession is future-ready today

      The app ecosystem is growing exponentially (Accountex predicts it to double — 800+ in 2017) and demanding more and more of our practitioners’ time and effort to learn, review, and evangelize these apps with their clients. Both accountants and bookkeepers are struggling to find the time.

      If bookkeepers in Australia are leading the global industry by taking the best tools and the best techniques into business and increasing their efficiency, that is groundbreaking indeed and worthy of exploration in a follow up, stand-alone article. Would you be willing to share your research on this topic so we can highlight the visionary role of our bookkeepers?

      There can be no doubt that accountants and bookkeepers have very different roles – if they didn’t, they would not have different job titles. That being said, the intelligence behind these apps and cloud software is automating a wide-variety of tasks which offers both the accountant and bookkeeper the unique opportunity to get paid primarily for the value that they bring to the table. Regardless of the specific work or advice for each profession, the shift will still necessitate new skills, focus and mindset being taken on by each to excel at these new roles in the realm of WHY and HOW.

      Where it was once touted that the jobs of the future would be in coding… most have now come to the realization that the most valued positions/professions will actually be in the managing of big [bad] data, interpretation of insights and explaining those to the key stakeholders. With the right strategy, skills and implementation, both accountants and bookkeepers are uniquely positioned to excel in this new environment.

      • Hi Rhondalynn Thanks, very happy to keep up the dialogue. We at Institute of Certified Bookkeepers are very much of the view that Professional Certified Bookkeepers need to know and implement the best tools that are being brought to us.

        I think we are saying the same thing, with the same perspective that all such professionals need to be very much in tune with what is happening in technology and that to be a professional service provider (Bookkeeper or Accountant or other) that they have a responsibility to Know, Inform, consult, implement and improve the way each business uses technology.

        This is a concept and position of our current conference series where I present the current state of A.I (which although I acknowledge Artificial Intelligence, today I believe we only have Automated Intelligence and I am very much looking forward to Augmented intelligence).

        The Professional Bookkeeper needs to know what is being developed around them, which absolutely will have the impact on how they do what they do. No longer will our entire time and budget be exhausted on creating data, we will use the benefits of technology improvement including what is being called “Cloud” (internet connectivity of data and apps with a few other elements of technology) to provide better certainty and better understanding.

        Bookkeepers are the experts who understand the business and implement the improvements and automation to business process. If that’s what the term “Trusted Advisor” relates to then I think we are well down the journey.

        Your article from yesterday “What got you here wont get you there” published in Accountants Daily has some great strategies. Very similar thinking to what we are presenting.

        • Glad to hear we are on the same page with respect to our thoughts and strategies on this important issue. I look forward to having the opportunity to collaborate with you and ICB. I am interested to hear your views on a. i. (in particular the evolution from automation to artificial and then augmented).

          I understand 86% of your members are women. Nothing would make me happier than to see Australian women at the forefront of our industry globally – leading the charge with visionary strategies, commitment to continuous learning/improvement and inspiring SME clients to step up and take purposeful action that boosts results.

          This is such a pivotal moment in the history of our industry… the likes of which we have not seen since personal computers and desktop accounting software were introduced back in the 80’s. I forsee that this time we are better prepared and will have much more control over our own professional destinies.

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