How to cross the bridge from compliance to reliance

31st January, 2017

Compliance work isn’t going anywhere, but the need to augment this with business advisory services is growing.

Unless accountants harness the power of new technologies to identify, create and deliver value-based services then accounting firm margins will feel the pressure.

Worse yet, those who don’t adapt to the new paradigm won’t be able to meet their clients’ needs – and will lose clients to firms that do.

So, how do you add value to your compliance work?

How to add value to your core service

To truly add value to your compliance-based services you need to embrace an entirely new process.

The idea is to add new processes which are low in labour intensity but high in value for your client.

Start with a client meeting, preferably face to face.

Each year you might meet with the client about the compliance job for the year ahead.

This is an ideal time to pitch your ability to create value in new ways for them.

What if you offered the following services to your clients for no extra cost to them?

  • Conduct a three-year business performance review presented graphically
  • Graphically show your client where the cash went — explain the difference between profit and cash flow in a way they will understand
  • Help your client set some high level financial targets for new fiscal year
  • Monitor those targets against actual results (easy if you have your client on cloud accounting), and alert them when something goes off track

The great thing here is that new tech tools can enable you to do these things for very little cost.

You can frame it as doing more for the client for the same fee they paid last year.

What could the client possibly say apart from “Great! I look forward to seeing all of that!”?

The important thing here is to take away the barriers by emphasising that there is no extra cost to the clients.

It’s also important to focus on the value for the client and promise to bring ideas on how to improve the client’s business.

Crossing the bridge

The reason I have chosen to call this article How to cross the bridge from compliance to reliance is because tech can afford accountants a way to move beyond compliance and into business advisory.

In fact, there’s never been a better time to do so.

Previously, if an accountant tried to pitch a client business advisory services then they may have been sceptical of the accountant’s ability to add value.

However, now that tech enables a cost reduction in compliance work, it opens the possibility of doing business advisory work for no extra cost to the client.

That’s powerful – it’s easier to sell something for free than for an increased fee, after all.

Once you start offering business advisory services, in the medium term you will hopefully come to be seen as a true business advisor to your client.

My advice is to stay close to the numbers and gradually add more and more value in a way that the client sees is natural for you. After all, we all expect an accountant to understand numbers.

Then as you start to have more and more meaningful conversations based on real time numbers, the client’s trust in you to advise them on their business performance will rise.

You’ll suddenly find yourself engaged in business advisory work without blatantly selling a certain methodology for which the client has no context.