Advisory services for agribusiness practices.


18th April, 2019

How to equip your team for advisory services in agribusiness

As compliance work in agribusiness accounting begins to take a backseat to advisory services, practice managers must work hard to set up their teams for success.

Too often the pressure of meeting deadlines and ticking the compliance box distracts accountants from offering real value to their agribusiness clients.

The race to do the basics, which is something the clients simply expects to be done, often means taking your eye off additional high-value advisory services.

How do you get around this to develop a true advisory mindset and deliver real value to your farming clients?

1. Manage workflow

You need to build time into your workflow process to review your accounts for broader business issues, while leaving sufficient time to prepare reports, budgets, scenarios and other useful information that adds value to your relationship with clients.

By assessing your ability to claw back time in your workflow, you create the elbow room required for advisory services.

2. Don’t be afraid to dice with deadlines

The race to complete tax returns and annual accounts is of course justified, it’s better to file on time than late, but you could be costing your clients far more than a late fee by not taking the time to review their business properly and provide relevant advice.

Make the hard call. Is the cost of the late filing fee, or a grovelling conversation with the IRD more important than the advice you would offer in a perfect world if you had more time?

This might mean a deep breath, taking yourself out of the completion mindset and instead measuring results on the success created for clients generated by insightful advisory.

The fact is, no matter how good you are, it’s hard to do both. A methodical mindset of numbers in versus numbers out isn’t conducive to lateral thinking around business improvement.

3. Spread out the sign offs

If you’re signing off 300 sets of annual accounts, there’s no hope of you offering each client the advice they need.

It might be worth having someone sign off all your lower category or less complex clients, while higher level advisors focus on those with more complexity likely to need and be able to pay for advisory.

4. Catch up more than once per year

Your farming clients have a far different annual cycle to your accounting cycle. The grass doesn’t stop growing for the IRD, so work to their year.

Consider implementing advisory-only catch ups.

For example, you could look to discuss advisory during budgeting season (April to June). This will force you to look at last year’s accounts with a different lens, along with this year’s actuals if you have your clients on an online accounting software and discuss plans and budgets for the next season.

The accounts-centric conversation you hold later in the year can be more focused on compliance.

It’s often hard to do both well in an hour or so, it therefore makes sense to split the work over more than one meeting. This will also result in more timely advice.

5. Structure meetings better

Develop an agenda and stick to it.

Make sure the client has seen the draft accounts and sent you any questions, so you can address them prior to the meeting.

Cover off these questions and the core compliance quickly, and then park it.

Next, spend most of the meeting looking forward and working through the talking points in your agenda that are built around performance issues and opportunities you gleaned from the accounts.

6. Use the tools at your disposal to help

Go armed with material to help make your case, not just the set of accounts all bound up nicely ready to sign and pop in the filing cabinet for another year.

Prepare a budget for the next year based on the previous three years’ averages and build out some scenarios around business management actions you think they should undertake. The end result will be a far more engaging and ultimately successful meeting.


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