25th February, 2016
A wiser head than mine* recently told me that clients don’t complain about paying for advice – they complain about paying for compliance.
I’m using that theory to craft a new plan for handling those tax season client catch-ups. My goal is that your clients walk out of your practice singing your praises instead of cursing your bills.
It appears there’s not much changing compliance-wise in FY 2016/17, so why not dip your toe in the vast waters of business advice? You don’t need to realign your business philosophies. It’s not like you suddenly have to shift focus from compliance to advisory. Try testing out a couple of strategies to see how they feel.
For example, how well are your clients managing cash flow through the year? Our research suggests that around 40 percent of manufacturers and wholesalers feel extreme cash flow pressure. Why not create a cash flow spreadsheet template that you can fill out together. (Or, better yet, provide them as homework so you have a reason to catch up later.)
Remember, a toe dip is not a belly flop. Don’t go the big splash. Just choose a couple of topics you’re comfortable talking about.
I’m assuming your clients are using cloud accounting solutions here. If they’re still using old-school solutions, skip this piece – it’s not practical.
If you’re not doing this already, let your clients know that you’ll be periodically popping into their accounts for a health-check.
I’m astonished that there are still accountants in this day who are not doing this. For the sake of providing value in your face-to-face meetings, I think it’s imperative that you do periodic housekeeping on the accounts. It’s what the cloud is all about – enabling risk-free access to your client’s numbers.
So what do you say to them?
“Hey Joe**, now that you’re using online accounting software, I’ll be keeping an eye on your accounts every now and then. In fact, I’ll be reviewing your books monthly to ensure they’re on track. That way when you come into the office, we can talk about value-add stuff, not about this or that invoice. Sound good?”
Of course it sounds good! Joe’s gone from thinking: “Here comes the grudge payment” to “Oh my goodness, take my money – you’re providing real value to my business!”
A note on this. Many of your clients have moved to cloud accounting because they are expecting a different engagement model from you. If you’re not providing extra value by accessing their books online, they’ll go to someone who will. That’s the truth of it.
Here’s a left-field consideration. I don’t expect you to add ‘web developer’ to your resume, but I do think you’re the person who can objectively review a client’s website and suggest changes. I’m a big fan of website audits. Why? Because web styles change so quickly that what’s popular today will be old-hat next year.
You simply cannot set and forget your website. Not only must it be dynamically updated to keep it relevant in search algorithms, it needs to look modern. Otherwise potential clients will balk at the olden days look. It’s a shopfront – it’s gotta look the goods.
Services such as Online Result’s website grader can help confirm whether a refresh is required.
I’m sure there are plenty of other great ideas for taking your client catch-ups to the next level. Let’s hear them in the comments below.
* That pearl of wisdom came from Caren Hendrie of Melbourne’s The Hendrie Group.
** Showing my age with the Jimi Hendrix reference, although I’m claiming it’s inspired by Caren’s last name. Sort of.