advisory essentials 

77 ways to wow! the complete guide to small-business consulting


by edward mendlowitz, cpa

plus: 125-item toolkit, with fully customizable, immediately-useful practice aids 

  • more than 200 pages, large 8.5×11-inch workbook format, 15 detailed chapters.
  • full of actionable checklists, examples, illustrations, exercises, self-assessments, templates, reports, samples, and spreadsheets.


high-value, low-effort strategies for dazzling and delighting small-business advisory clients

  • coil-bound for easy-to-use lay-flat pages
  • quick, cheap, and easy
  • surprise, delight, and amaze clients
  • grow your practice in just minutes a day, one client at a time.
  • build lifetime billings
  • upsell bigger engagements
  • reap endless referrals
  • field-tested and proven

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  • the pdf ebook is printer-friendly but not editable. for fully editable and customizable versions, choose the bonus toolkit.

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the proprietary toolkit includes more than 100 fully-customizable practice aids to start immediately implementing 77 ways to wow!

available only as an add-on to your handbook or pdf ebook purchase.
delivered as a digital zip file containing versions in word, excel, and csv for your convenience.
(only 77 cents. not sold separately.)

the 125-page customizable toolkit provides

  • checklists,
  • practice guides,
  • tables,
  • spreadsheets,
  • client conversation starters,
  • examples,
  • illustrations,
  • sample reporting forms,
  • self-assessment tools,
  • flash reports. and….


  • the seven-minute financial statement analysis
  • cash, minutes, and internal controls sample reports
  • cash balance reports
  • organization minutes checklist
  • financial controls and fraud prevention practices
  • trigger points for calling in forensic professionals
  • the five biggest flaws to look for in any business
  • key business performance data points
  • instructions on financial controls for a new manager
  • common scenarios in fraud cases
  • the essentials in a buy-sell agreement
  • how to review an existing buy-sell agreement
  • urgent tasks upon the death of a  business owner
  • business valuation fundamentals
  • creating contingency plans
  • worst-case scenarios for clients to consider
  • lessons for clients in prudent risk management
  • the critical financial statement ratios clients need to know
  • how to approach a break-even analysis with clients
  • what clients need to know about pricing, with tables and spreadsheets
  • how to handle projections
  • explaining accounting policies and assumptions
  • managing bank loan covenants with clients
  • working through trend analysis with clients
  • the quick way to understand a p&l and a balance sheet
  • the only five numbers clients really need to know
  • how to evaluate business performance in 12 data points
  • what’s what with swot for clients, with scenarios and graphs
  • the seven main pricing strategies
  • the four-step plan for branding
  • examples of brand value
  • eight notes on billing strategies
  • practical strategies for problematic collections
  • five steps for continuous improvement
  • inventory ins and outs, with spreadsheets
  • calculating the value of payroll
  • when earnings get complicated
  • why every business client needs a business valuation, and how


ed mendlowitz, 77ways to wow!
ed mendlowitz, 77 ways to wow! the complete guide to small-business consulting

chapter 1: key performance indicators

  • examples: five kpis for most organizations
  • illustrations: examples for specific operations
  • kpi – sample reporting form
  • absentee ownership technique
    • exercise: self-assessment test
  • daily reports (about 3 minutes)
  • weekly reports (about 2 minutes)
  • monthly reports (about one-half hour)

chapter 2: elements of a financial statement

  • financial statement reports
  • audits
  • reviews
  • compilations
  • other financial statement and reporting and attestation services
  • benefits from an audited financial statement
    • seven-minute financial statement analysis
  • statement of cash flows categories

chapter 3: cash, minutes and internal control

  • happiness is a positive cash flow
  • happiness is a positive cash flow – some more information
  • five sample reports
    • sample 1: daily cash balance report
    • sample 2: daily cash balance report with held checks
    • sample 3: daily flash numbers report, version 1
    • sample 4: daily flash numbers report, version 2
    • sample 5: daily cash and loan balances report
  • organization minutes
    • checklist: 34 items for organization minutes
  • start with the cash

chapter 4: controls and fraud prevention

  • 10 financial controls for business
    • script: how to explain internal controls to clients
  • what keeps businesspeople up at night
  • i try not to let poor internal controls keep me awake
    • benefits of an internal audit
  • anatomy of a fraud
  • forensic techniques as a fraud deterrence tool
    • using financial controls to get started as a manager
  • charities that let people steal from them
  • serving is not an honorary entitlement
    • managing with the right financial tools
  • fraud in not-for-profits
  • fraud prevention techniques
  • hewlett-packard’s due diligence?

chapter 5: assisting clients with buy-sell agreements

  • what to do with an existing agreement
    • checklist: 16-item buy-sell agreement review
  • what to do in considering a buy-sell agreement
    • checklist: 20 buy-sell agreement issues to consider
  • when an owner dies without a buy-sell agreement
    • checklist: eight things to deal with right away
  • buy-sell agreement drop-dead plan
  • buy-sell agreement default plan
  • valuation for “drop-dead” buy-sell agreement
  • valuing the business when an owner dies without a buy-sell agreement
    • valuation method #1
    • valuation method #2
    • valuation method #3
  • owner loans
  • four not-so-good alternatives
    • alternatives if nothing is done
  • restrictions when stock is transferred to an employee
  • the one-owner contingency plan
    • checklist: 15 consequences that could have been avoided with planning
  • contingency plan for a sole business owner dropping dead
    • checklist: six first steps
    • checklist: ten critical decisions
    • checklist: eight pre-planning items
  • working until you drop

chapter 6: valuing a family-owned business

  • fair market value
  • standards in a divorce
  • selling the business
  • buying the business as an investment
  • job value to the buyer
  • strategic value
  • partners, members or shareholders agreements
  • valuation in a personal financial plan
  • when price is not always the most important thing in selling a business
  • work hard and retire when you are able – a little story
  • in•er•tia

chapter 7: overlooked insurance coverage

  • umbrella insurance
    • workers’ compensation
    • unlicensed and uninsured contractors insurance
    • uninsured motorists
    • cyber liability
    • consult your insurance agent
  • maria sharapova and risk management
    • question: what type of risk management program should she, or could she, have had?
    • checklist: 11 lessons from the maria sharapova case

chapter 8: the top 11 financial statement ratios for client discussions

  • what’s wrong with the quick ratio or acid-test ratio?
  • ebitda
  • free cash flow

chapter 9: break-even analysis

  • three forms of break-even analysis compared
  • effect and sensitivity of changing costs on pricing analysis
    • illustration: effect of changes in variable vs. fixed costs
  • determining whether to raise or lower prices in order to make more money
    • illustration: effect of price changes with 40% profit
    • illustration: effect of price changes with 30% profit

chapter 10: business plan financial projections

  • checklist: five essential elements in projections
  • meet mr. no
    • checklist: 26 reasons for “no
  • summary of significant assumptions and accounting policies
    • illustration: basic assumptions
  • accountants’ report letter when a cpa works on the projections
    • sample: accountants’ report for compilation of projection
  • bank loan covenants
    • checklist: six critical covenants

chapter 11: trend analysis

  • trend ubiquity
  • trend awareness
  • tricky trends
  • discussion of nasdaq index
  • trend analysis
    • sample: statement of operations
    • sample: balance sheet
  • key to differences in trends
  • statement of operations
  • balance sheet
    • the quick way to review and analyze the p&l
    • the quick way to review and analyze the balance sheet
  • purpose of trend analysis
  • for those whose software cannot transfer financial reports to excel®
  • just two minutes a month
  • graphic demonstration of trends
  • the five numbers needed to run a better business
  • business performance measurement
    • checklist: 12 areas where performance can be evaluated
  • business focus
  • swot analysis
    • strengths
    • weaknesses
    • opportunities
    • threats
  • lifecycles of an organization
  • what to do
  • detecting, observing and reacting to trends
    • illustration: the “do-nothing” scenario
  • peeling away layers of an onion
  • defining profits for a manager, in tables and graphs
    • graph: sales
    • graph: profit contribution

chapter 12: pricing, billing & collecting

  • how pricing strategies are changing business models
    • illustrations: seven examples of pricing strategies
  • myriad ways to set prices
  • giving 20 percent off
  • “how to brand sand”
  • a four-step approach to branding commodities
  • what’s a brand worth?
    • illustration: sports, media, and celebrities (dead and alive)
  • billing
    • illustration: eight notes on billing strategies
  • collecting
    • checklist: practical strategies for problem situations
  • theory of constraints
  • throughput, inventory, and operating expense relationships to conventional financial measures
  • the “five focusing steps” for on-going improvement
  • allocating business resources
    • illustration: mark up and gross margin
  • materials purchased
    • illustration: cost sheet
    • illustration: playing games with inventory
    • illustration: interim inventory valuation
    • illustration: inventory valuation method
  • payroll costs
  • headcount
  • overtime
  • fixed vs. variable payroll
    • illustration: calculating actual payroll costs
  • actual hours worked in a year
    • illustration: cost per hour, based on actual hours worked
    • illustration: 20% overtime hours at straight time rates
    • illustration: 20% overtime hours at time-and-a-half
    • illustration: hourly cost summary
    • illustration: payroll cost per department
    • illustration: direct labor cost analysis
    • illustration: calculation of billing rate multiple for a professional service business and billings and revenue per employee
    • illustration: overhead cost allocation
  • cost variances
    • illustration: absolute lowest cost on a special one-time-only job
    • illustration: suggested response
  • report of direct labor cost variances
    • illustration: calculation of direct labor variances
  • weighted average
    • illustration: when the client is borrowing at three different rates
    • illustrations: weighted average
  • organization charts
    • samples: organization charts

chapter 13: quality of earnings when performing a business valuation

  • cash flow: “show me the money”
  • why ebitda falls short
  • capitalization of earnings rate
  • four categories of adjustment
    • sample: 13 non-recurring costs
  • income taxes
  • capital structure
  • sustainability of earnings

chapter 14: creating value for business owners and board members

  • checklist: 50 reasons for valuing a business
  • eight ways of valuing a family-owned business

chapter 15: valuing a business in a client’s personal financial plan

  • drill down to cash flow
  • your money or your life

… an excellent guide to providing services to your client where the client will never question your bill and want to know how many hours you’re billing for. truth be told, advising your clients is where the most fun is.

don’t just read this book, put these ideas to use on your clients, and i guarantee your clients will thank you and you will have more fun than you thought you could ever have in accounting.

– frank r. boutillette, cpa/cgma partner withumsmith+brown, pc

why this handbook. why now!

by ed mendlowitz

this handbook contains a lifetime of ideas that i’ve used to assist clients in running their businesses and becoming more successful. also, the more i helped them, the better and more fulfilling my practice became, and the more fun i had.

assembling all the information for this book caused me to relive them, especially when i first learned or used each one and the clients’ reactions. i would like to say that i was paid very well for each idea. i wasn’t. but it strengthened my relationships and bonds with my clients. it was very rare when i lost a client. that is how my practice grew – by retention with nominal annual fee increases and occasionally a new client who was retained and accepted the annual fee increases.

this handbook contains a plethora of information, and i hope my colleagues use what’s in here and that the clients that read this book meet and insist that their accountants follow the pattern suggested here.

while my name is on the cover, the information in it was not “invented” in a vacuum but required the help of many people. underlying this book are my career’s interactions with bosses, fellow workers, partners, staff, colleagues and clients. i have been blessed to be part of a great profession. this book attempts, in a small way, to return some of the help and mentoring i have received.

caveat: while this book has been written to assist fellow professionals, if a client reads anything here, they are advised that before doing anything of a technical, legal or tax nature, they should consult with their own advisor who can advise on not only the technical issues but also the specific applicability to the client’s situation based on their individual circumstances.

consulting for clients

with covid-19, the situation changed. they now knew (1) they needed outside-the-box help; (2) that it is transactional, in that these are separate self-contained services with a beginning, middle and end, and (3) that they preferred to hire their accountant for those services without an on-going obligation to either “buy” additional services or have their regular fees bundled with an add-on permanent fee in case they might need such type of services in the future.

many small business clients have either developed a lower reliance on their accounting firm for financial reporting or are planning on outsourcing all of their accounting functions to them.

this wide spectrum indicates a major disruption in how accountants will be involved with their clients.

i should define “small business” clients to create a frame of reference. a small business client is any family-owned or closely held business. size does not matter. every business is extremely important to the owner and those working in it. in that regard, every business is a big business to them. perhaps instead of using the term “small business” client, i should say “family-owned” or “closely held” business. a single-owner business with two employees has important issues that its accountant can help them with, just as a two-owner business with 1,500 employees and warehouses in multiple states and three countries. the larger size business will have more complicated issues and might represent greater potential revenue, but their problems are no more important to them than the problems a three-person business has. the effective accountant advisor will treat both with the attention they require.

i have been an accountant for many years serving many types of clients and developed my practice where i felt i needed to “give away” the consulting and coaching services. however, that is not the whole story. here is some more of what i did and do.

be the first person they call

there is no question that i provide significant consulting, coaching and mentoring to clients as part of my regular fixed-fee services. i do it because that is how i see myself—as their consultant. and it is continuous and ongoing. one of the benefits is that i am the first person they call when they have a problem or something new arises.

that’s why i am an accountant—to do interesting things for interesting people, to have them rely on my judgment and to have access to them.

however, there are times when there is a need for an additional service that is not part of our engagement, and clients are billed extra for it — usually, a fixed price based on the value to the client as well as the type of project it is and the demands on our time and skills.

occasionally the client is billed on a timely basis when the project is of unknown duration or parameters. and sometimes they’re billed with a fixed fee, with the right to negotiate an adjustment or bonus with the client afterward. there are many more, but don’t think that my method locks you into performing, for free, additional services that are beyond the scope of the original fixed price agreement with consulting included.

pricing matters

while i believe we will see a growing development of the single advisory engagements, using the right pricing method will be critical to making the sale.

i see fixed fees negotiated before the services start as the primary method. if an assignment is too large to be able to set a fixed fee, then it should be broken down into separate components or projects.

realistically if the accountant cannot visualize the project well enough to commit to a fixed fee, then how will the client be able to relate to the project, its cost and its value to them?

setting a fixed fee, in advance, removes the client’s risk of the project running too long or beyond the scope the accountant is engaged. it also empowers the client by giving them the decision to proceed or not. and it lets the client know that the project is not a business-as-usual service that is included in the routine or regular engagement.

since the fixed fee shifts the risk to the accountant, it is absolutely necessary to clearly and fully define the nature, scope, time frame and deadline of the project. this description has always taken me more time than i might have liked, but it paid great dividends when “extras” arose, and i was able to point to the agreement and have a change order agreed to.

just don’t call it ‘consulting’

getting back to the basics, i’ve done an enormous amount of consulting. i just don’t call it that and i don’t charge extra for much of what i do. the fees were built into the overall fixed fee for that client. because of the dynamics of my relationships and fee arrangements, i have developed many low-effort, high-value services to perform for clients. the list ended up with 77 things to do. but, in reality, there are many more that flow from that.

this handbook contains that list and descriptions of what i have done and what you could do – all easy, with minimal time – sometimes less than 10 minutes and with a high impact.

of course, there are many times that performing some of these freebies led to paid engagements. instead of calling them consulting, gave the specific name of the service. i have found “consulting” to be a no-no. let the big firms do the consulting. however, the smaller accounting firms will be their clients’ “trusted advisors” – a term only accountants use.

go through this book and pick out what you can do for your clients – one thing extra each time you see the client. try it – they all work. i know because i have done and continue to do everything in here.

everything on this list has been successfully done by me. my staff and i have used this listing for many years, and it’s gone through many iterations. this is the first time this list has had material added to it that could be described as practice aids. i believe it’s pretty comprehensive and presents fully usable information that can be immediately applied to your clients.

  • any reader is welcome to contact me with questions, suggestions, additions or comments. email me at with a brief subject or question, and please include your phone number so i can call to discuss.

i hope you enjoy this book as much as i enjoyed preparing it and using the information to assist clients.

about the author
edward mendlowitz, cpa

edward mendlowitz, cpa, is an emeritus partner in withumsmith+brown, pc.

ed has authored 30 books and has written over 1500 articles and blogs for business and professional journals and newsletters, including a tax loophole article for every issue of tax hot line for 27 years. ed has also written and presented over 350 continuing education programs. ed writes a weekly blog that addresses issues his clients have at, a weekly autobiographical column at, periodic practice management columns at and valuation and forensic articles at

he is the winner of the lawler award for the best article published in 2001 in the journal of accountancy, the 2018 folio magazine eddie award for his art of accounting columns in accounting today, the 2019 american accounting association history academy innovation in accounting education award and is on the bottom line/personal panel of experts for taxes, the and practical tax strategies editorial boards and the co-editor of the cpa journal’s financial planning column.

he is an adjunct professor in the mba graduate program at fairleigh dickinson university and the accounting program at baruch college and is admitted to practice and has argued cases before the u.s. tax court.

in 2017 ed was admitted to the estate planning hall of fame and received the aep(distinguished) designation. ed testified twice at the house ways and means committee on tax reform, equity and fairness. ed is also the president of the withum partners’ network, whose purpose is to support smaller accounting firms in areas they do not or cannot practice in. ed also has every professional designation issued by the aicpa: pfs, abv, cff, citp, cgma. and he is one of accounting today’s 100 most influential people.

ed can be reached at withumsmith+brown pc, one tower center boulevard, 14th floor, east brunswick, nj 08816, (732) 743-4582,

click here for more handbooks and practice aids by ed mendlowitz

77 ways to wow! the complete guide to small-business consulting


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