Today’s CPA needs to be more than just someone who cranks out tax returns or financial statements. Clients in today’s economy want a consultant, an advisor, a coach.
In a conversation with Michael McLaughlin, author of Winning the Professional Services Sale, he mentioned that “CPAs are the ones who don’t have enough confidence that they have this knowledge.” Based on my personal experience interacting with CPAs, I had to agree.
A client looks upon his accountant as someone with expertise in matters that transcend the financial statement. He believes your insights into that financial statement are something valuable that he can apply to his business. “Any time you want to look at a problem with a business, most consultants go to financial statements to see what is happening,” Mike said. “They want to understand what’s happening with the income statement, with the balance sheet, and where the cash is going. So you (the CPA) already have this deep knowledge of what is happening with the (client’s) company. Most clients believe you can immediately transfer that to something more advisory in nature, in terms of what are the implications of what’s on the balance sheet.”
Sadly, most CPAs don’t think they have this capability – but actually, they do. It’s merely a crisis of confidence that stands between the practitioner and a wildly satisfied lifetime client.
In my firm, we make having a dialogue about the client’s financial statement a part of our service. Those numbers mean something, and we use the financial statement as a tool to discuss where the client’s business is, where he or she wants to take it, and then we help bridge that gap.
What CPAs need to realize is that most of the clients they work with (outside of maybe finance people) don’t have that level of expertise and would value it highly. They truly don’t know as much as you already do.
Even finance people can almost always benefit from a third-party review – the CFO, the treasurer.
Plus, if you have a good relationship with your client and you spend time in their organization, you have even more information you can apply to solving the client’s challenges.
Many of you out there reading this probably serve small clients, with annual revenues ranging from $500,000 to $15 million. These businesses may not even have finance departments. They may not even have a business coach or advisor. You, however, are in a trusted position. They’re opening the books for you. Take the opportunity to talk with them about their business, because nobody else is doing that for them. You could play a much more pivotal role.
Mike’s remark rang true when he said, “It is pretty easy for us to underestimate the power of our knowledge because we’re experts.” True. We forget that what’s part of the work we do daily is news to the people who hire us.
Do you have the confidence to be more to your clients?
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