Sharing the wealth: from accounting to consulting

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Often the information on the offer of consulting services is aimed at CPAs, but bookkeepers should not underestimate themselves: they have an extremely important function and, therefore, many opportunities to develop in consulting. . At the QB Connect virtual event on November 4, 2021, Beth Melcher, Jacob Schroeder and Amy Walker, three finance professionals with expertise in working with small businesses, explained how.

Start with two of the main areas that accountants focus on: Accounts Payable (AP) and Accounts Receivable (AR). These are areas you work on all the time, said Jacob Schroeder, CEO of Ascend Consulting. In fact, these can be a good place to start if you haven’t started offering counseling services and are nervous about doing so.

“Your clients may not know the difference between a balance sheet and an income statement… but they all want to know how much money they have to run their business,” said Walker agency founder Amy Walker. .

While clients often believe that the amount of money they have in the bank is what is available to them, accountants know that is not true. In addition to what you already do each week, generate a simple report that covers the book balance and explain to your client what they can actually spend, Walker suggested. By helping them plan their spending, you’ll keep their finances in the dark, help them control their spending, and educate customers about your true worth.

If you’re already doing this and looking for a way to take it to the next level, Beth Melcher, owner and founder of MoneyFit, suggested running a monthly cash flow report. It should include categories such as the amount of operating cash that the customer starts with at the start of the month, anticipated changes in recurring expenses, and how much they estimate is going into their business in terms of money. It should also cover other cash demands, like seasonal savings plans.

After you start delivering this report to your clients, you are ready to go beyond just helping them plan. Start reporting and suggesting solutions to problems. Schroeder recommended starting with cash conversion cycles. Does your customer act like a bank for their customers and constantly pay vendors before they get their money? Or are they in a better situation? While every small business has its limitations, take a look at different aspects of your customer’s cash conversion cycle with them and help them look for ways to improve it. Then you can help them find additional liquidity, for example through lines of credit or venture capital debt.

“Start developing relationships with partners who can provide these services to your clients,” Schroeder suggested. By doing this, you will be prepared in advance to come up with solutions when your small business owners run into problems.

Schroeder also stressed the importance of making a list of red flags to look for and designating the right advisor to deal with them. This is important whether you are working in a team or not, because an accountant is not always the right person to deal with certain client situations. It’s best to have someone you or the small business owner can speak to if, for example, the problem is best addressed by a CPA or investment advisor.

Bookkeepers may be surprised to learn that the three experts on the panel agreed that the best way to gather and provide this information and start with advice is actually quite simple: to perform regular checks with each client. How often you meet with them will depend on the extent of the engagement and what works best for each person, but standing meetings should be a part of how you work with the owners of your small business. These discussions will not only benefit you – you will also get the story behind the numbers, helping you do your job better.

“Don’t wait for your numbers to be perfect,” Schroeder said. Instead, it’s more important to have regular discussions and be timely with the information you offer.

Offering consulting services will also help you overcome barriers with clients who might be reluctant to stand up meetings or who don’t see why they are important.

“You really have to provide advice that makes them want to engage, and that’s the transition to consulting services,” Schroeder said.

Not everyone will be looking for more than someone who can just balance the books for tax time, but you’ll probably be surprised at how many of your current clients would be happy to get more from you (and be willing to pay for it. adding value).

The recording also ensures that you are in front of your customer and that they don’t lose your mind, Walker said. This is especially crucial in an age when seeing people in person is just not the norm. Meetings are also great opportunities to get to know your client as a person and vice versa, and relationship building is crucial for success as an accountant. All three panelists agreed that mixing a little personal and professional will increase the value of conversations and your value to your customers.

All three also agree on the importance of taking notes during these meetings (or immediately after). Since consulting services offer more than just a picture of the numbers, take notes on the topics discussed, your client’s goals, issues they’ve raised, etc. will help you develop your work.

“The company is dying to be heard, and … it is speaking in the language of finance, and the more we can incorporate what the company is saying into the dashboard report that I am going to share.” here, plus you can help the business owner understand what the business is saying, ”Melcher said.

Overall, being an accountant who provides advisory services means working with your clients in a way that shows that you are the authority on financial matters and that you can present information in a way that helps the client to understand. manage his small business. It also means recognizing the extent of your own skills and realizing that you won’t be able to help them with everything, just like you wouldn’t expect your GP to perform eye surgery as well. Instead, continue to grow your network of accounting and finance professionals; that way when you can’t help your client with something, you can present it to the person who can. This is the secret to offering consulting services: it can be done with the skills you already have; you don’t have to be an expert in everything.


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