Most small business owners rely on their accountant or retained accounting firm for more than simple accounting services. In fact, more and more, small business owners are turning to their accountants for more comprehensive financial advice and consultation. According to a 2014 Sleeter Group survey, small businesses are increasingly looking for strategic advice and help more generally with broad financial strategies, and yet, accountants and accounting firms are still primarily offering the usual sample of auditing, tax services, bookkeeping, and other similar services to their small business clients.
How can you or your accounting firm offer more comprehensive, strategic financial services to your small business clients? We’ve compiled a short list of five simple steps you can take to begin offering broader financial advising services.
Identifying Your Metrics
In order to be successful in this industry, you must identify your goals and set specific benchmarks that will help you hold yourself and your firm accountable. Start by selecting 3-5 key performance indicators as a beginning point for your clients. Your clients are asking you for more comprehensive financial advice, so help them begin by providing them with the known performance indicators, or KPIs. Supplying this strategic and essential information as early as possible will help relieve some of the natural tensions and anxiety that comes with planning financially. Having a roadmap of goals and benchmarks will make it easier to prepare for sudden changes, shifts, or setbacks in your plan. You want to make sure your clients are involved in this process.
Provide your clients with regular visual reports that are easy to understand. Help them understand their finances by presenting this complicated information in simple visual charts and graphs. Similarly, to what has just been described above, it is critical to give your clients updated information that will make it easy to stay prepared and ahead of any unexpected curve balls that might come their way.
3. Familiarize Yourself with Industry Benchmarks
Keep track of known industry metrics to track the KPIs that your client is trying to monitor. With both of these sets of information, you can simply compare to see the financial health and projected stability of your client. Comparisons are helpful in that they provide a clear idea of where your client is financially holding relative to others in his or her field. Keeping track of trends, both general and more specific, is an essential part of growing your business and your clients’ wealth. Trends are generally a good indicator of where the financial market is headed and can also give you important information about how to protect your investments and other financial commitments.
4. Budget and Forecast
Help your clients develop a budget and financial forecast for themselves. This is an important exercise as it will help your clients identify goals for the next one to two years and will essentially encourage them to communicate certain assumptions they may be holding about their company or their financial projections. Once again, this is a question of communication. While budgeting, you should expect your clients to be honest about their finances across the board. If they are not being open, you should feel empowered as their financial advisor, to push them on this question. With a clear budget and financial forecast, your clients will be in good shape to make smart decisions with their money.
5. SaaS Tools
Make sure to take advantage of various SaaS tools that will collect accounting information automatically into a small business dashboard for your client. This is done effectively, and more importantly, securely. These tools will securely pull financial data from various sources and will help your clients visualize their money, goals, and larger financial needs. With these tools, you can quickly and efficiently organize financial data and projections, another great way to keep your clients organized, motivated, and on top of their money.
As an accountant, it is important to clearly articulate what it is you are able to offer your client, but, with these simple five steps, you’ll be on your way to providing your clients with comprehensive financial advice and growth. For more, visit the Succession Link website today.