seven steps to indispensability

two women sitting across a desk from one anotherand the six benefits that will accrue.

by gary bolinger
profit in disruption

being seen by a client as indispensable has at its core two factors:

  • the client’s perception that you understand their most important things and
  • that you are key to helping them achieve them and stay on track.

more:how do you rate on the 34 kpis for client relationships?|the key that unlocks client advisory services|if you can’t explain it, no one will buy it|the three types of advisory services clients need today
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success is a perception that varies with individuals. for control freak entrepreneurs, feeling successful is a big deal and if we can help them feel more in control and thus more successful, then we are well on the way to them seeing us as indispensable.
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how do you rate on the 34 kpis for client relationships?

technology is an enhancement, not an alternative.

by gary bolinger
profit in disruption

in order to effectively engage with clients, the following are key ingredients of the relationship:

  1. trust
  2. quality communication
  3. ongoing valuable benefits to both persons and aiming for the classic win: win
  4. regular framing of the relationship.

more:the key that unlocks client advisory services|if you can’t explain it, no one will buy it|the three types of advisory services clients need today
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mutually agreed transparency, high-quality and considered communication, striving for two-way benefits and correctly framing the relationship will create the desired beneficial outcomes in that relationship. such terminology can appear lacking in empathy, but these factors translate into an improved business and personal relationship.
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the key that unlocks client advisory services

man looking at 5 keyswhich of the five types will you deploy?

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profit in disruption

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by gary bolinger
profit in disruption

an annual strategic review is key to a structured advisory services practice. the review provides an annual event where everyone’s attention is focused.

more:if you can’t explain it, no one will buy it|the three types of advisory services clients need today|you can’t separate the business from the client|tell managers what ownership means|clients: what accountants don’t understand|why accountants fail at consulting
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the review can follow the annual financial report or precede when budgets are being put together. the annual strategic review articulates and confirms your strategic role. and make no mistake, the annual strategic review delivers a process to secure recurring fees and upon which to hang your advisory hat. the client receives a copy of the plan and then the fun starts when you support them in the implementation of their plans, one project at a time and one action at a time. billable time.
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if you can’t explain it, no one will buy it

woman working at desktop computerwhat’s your advisory process?

by gary bolinger
profit in disruption

every firm that is serious about advisory services needsoneclient-facing advisory process that you can articulate to the market, but that is also consistent with how you deliver advisory services and of course operate internally. there is no need to “customize” the advisory process based on the client.

more bolinger on advisory:you can’t separate the business from the client|tell managers what ownership means|clients: what accountants don’t understand|why accountants fail at consulting|advisory vs. low-value clients|what + who leads firms to better service|how accountants are profiting in disruption|ask the right question(s)|seven elements of engagement for cpas|true advisory work isn’t just consulting

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the value in advisory services is not just in fees from strategic reviews but from all of these services, and often the fees from consulting can be very significant. for this reason, your advisory services need to be structured and not ad hoc. it is important that you have an articulated, repeatable advisory process, which must be client-facing, not just a list of technical services.
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the three types of advisory services clients need today

how to use the whole-of-client approach.

by gary bolinger
profit in disruption

planning for positive change and why people do what they do (or don’t) is fundamental to advisory services.

more bolinger on advisory:you can’t separate the business from the client|tell managers what ownership means|clients: what accountants don’t understand|why accountants fail at consulting|advisory vs. low-value clients|what + who leads firms to better service|how accountants are profiting in disruption|ask the right question(s)|seven elements of engagement for cpas|true advisory work isn’t just consulting

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your clients have both personal and business goals. over time you should assist the client in achieving both business and personal goals.
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you can’t separate the business from the client

don’t fight it, work within it.

by gary bolinger

so, you have a client who owns a small business (use whatever definition you want for small business). there may be two or three owners of this business. the client(s) spend a lot of time working in or on the business. most small business owners spend more time workinginthe business rather thanonthe business.

more:tell managers what ownership means|clients: what accountants don’t understand|why accountants fail at consulting|advisory vs. low-value clients|what + who leads firms to better service|how accountants are profiting in disruption|ask the right question(s)|seven elements of engagement for cpas|true advisory work isn’t just consulting
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with a structured approach to advisory services, you can get the client(s) to spend a little more time working on the business to enhance the possibilities for growth, improved profitability and long -term success. so, your firm needs to develop that structured, repeatable approach for advisory services.
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tell managers what ownership means

younger businesswoman and older businessman smiling and talking in office hallwaydon’t assume they see the benefits.

by gary bolinger

not long ago, i was in a firm meeting with several partners and senior managers. the plan for the meeting was for me to provide an update on current and emerging issues facing the profession and firms. the issue of succession planning came up (as it frequently does). i had been scanning the room to attempt to determine who was really tuned in and who was just warming the chair they were sitting in.

more:clients: what accountants don’t understand|why accountants fail at consulting|advisory vs. low-value clients|what + who leads firms to better service|how accountants are profiting in disruption|ask the right question(s)|seven elements of engagement for cpas|true advisory work isn’t just consulting
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a senior manager had caught my attention because he seemed intent on learning and understanding what was shaping his chosen profession. so, i took the opportunity to bluntly ask if he was interested in being an owner in the firm. i got a raised eyebrow from some of the partners. they obviously thought i was asking a question with a rather obvious answer. but …
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clients: what accountants don’t understand

knowing them is just the start.

by gary bolinger

you know a lot about your business clients. as a result of the compliance work you do – tax and financial reporting projects – you do know a lot about your clients. you know about profit and loss. you know about payroll. certainly, you have some knowledge about vendors and customers, at least from a financial perspective. you have seen marketing budgets, cost of sales and know what occupancy costs are. all of that is good.

more:why accountants fail at consulting|advisory vs. low-value clients|what + who leads firms to better service|how accountants are profiting in disruption|ask the right question(s)|seven elements of engagement for cpas|true advisory work isn’t just consulting
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but do you understand your clients? do you understand your clients in ways that can give you the kind of insight that is needed to indeed be a most trusted advisor? in fact, to be themost valuedadvisor?
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why accountants fail at consulting

couple meeting with investment advisor.the move requires commitment and resources.

by gary bolinger

most all cpas in public practice talk about transitioning away from traditional compliance services to offer more advisory services.

more:advisory vs. low-value clients|what + who leads firms to better service|how accountants are profiting in disruption|ask the right question(s)|seven elements of engagement for cpas|true advisory work isn’t just consulting
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when i have talked to firms in the past few years and i ask about percent of total firm revenues in a&a, tax and advisory, the percentage for a&a and tax constitutes a significant majority of total fees. but advisory alone is usually 10 percent or less.

even then, those advisory consulting fees are generally closely tied to some aspect of compliance. so, i’m not sure that i would really say that’s advisory. so, with all the talk – for maybe the last 20 years – about the need to grow advisory revenues, why are the revenues so low in relation to compliance services?
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the 5 key skills of innovation

businessman switching on your firm needs them now more than ever.

by gary bolinger

peter drucker once said, “every organization, not just businesses, needs one core competency: innovation.”

onecore competency. that is powerful. in today’s pandemic environment and, as we prepare for the post-pandemic environment, it is more important than ever in businesses of all kinds, including cpa firms. cpa firms need to prepare to assist clients for the world ahead. there won’t be a return to “normal” as we remember it for some time. and that means cpa firms must innovate in client service to add value in this new environment.

more:advisory vs. low-value clients|what + who leads firms to better service|how accountants are profiting in disruption|ask the right question(s)|seven elements of engagement for cpas|true advisory work isn’t just consulting
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innovation sounds big. innovation sounds big because we tend to think about historic innovations, and theywerebig. you know … the wheel, the printing press, railroads, mass production, airplanes, the electric light bulb, television, the internet and cellular phones.
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advisory vs. low-value clients

where is your energy best spent?

by gary bolinger

all firms have low-value clients. sometimes, they take more time than they are worth. there is never any growth with those clients. same thing, year after year.

more:what + who leads firms to better service|how accountants are profiting in disruption|ask the right question(s)|seven elements of engagement for cpas|true advisory work isn’t just consulting
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it isn’t all that much fun to work on those engagements. these clients are generally interested in the lowest fee possible, but they create a lot of work or anxiety in many ways.
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what + who leads firms to better service

maze with word you need commitment + competency.

by gary bolinger

you may remember the old abbott and costello routine “who’s on first.” after some back-and-forth dialogue, we get to “all i’m trying to find out is what’s the guy’s name on first base?” abbott responds, “no. what is on second base.” after some more banter, we finally learn that “i don’t know is on third base.” baseball almanac says that this is “one of the most famous baseball comedy acts to ever take place.”

more:how accountants are profiting in disruption|ask the right question(s)|seven elements of engagement for cpas|true advisory work isn’t just consulting
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setting all of this up, lou costello said to bud abbott, “if you’re the coach, you must know all the players.” and that is a true statement. you need a good understanding of your players’ (who) competencies (what). a partner must know all the players’ strengths and weaknesses.
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what do clients really want?

think about how well you know their aspirations.

by gary bolinger

most cpas believe that they have the answers to clients’ most pressing questions, but often miss the mark on what clientsreallywant.

more:how accountants are profiting in disruption|ask the right question(s)|seven elements of engagement for cpas|true advisory work isn’t just consulting
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we think they want advice on how to:

  • make more money
  • establish a successful business
  • gain more customers or clients

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how accountants are profiting in disruption

post with two signs, seek input on your road map.

by gary bolinger

we live and work in a world that is in perpetual motion. customer and client needs will be different tomorrow than they are today. market expectations will evolve.

more:ask the right question(s)|seven elements of engagement for cpas|true advisory work isn’t just consulting
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all of the change we experience results in transformation. transformation creates disruption. cpas are not immune from any of this.
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ask the right question(s)

stack of cards labeled with question markswhat don’t you know you don’t know?

by gary bolinger

the most valued advisors spend a lot of time listening. they spendmoretime listening than they spend talking. listening provides insights to enhance advisory services. of course, listening means that the advisor needs to spend time asking the right questions. questions are hard.

more:seven elements of engagement for cpas|true advisory work isn’t just consulting
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if you are engaged with staff, any question you ask will be different than when meeting with a partner. and different yet again with clients and prospective clients.
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