A common misconception accountants hold is that they are to be out-of-sight record keepers, working in the background to keep everything in check.
While this is what clients have wanted in the past, more business owners are starting to see the deeper value an accountant can provide beyond keeping the books balanced and taxes up-to-date.
To make your clients lifelong customers, you need to become an accounting partner; someone who turns financial data into something more. Here are the five things clients are looking for you to deliver.
1. Financial expertise
A BlueVine survey of small business owners revealed that only 40% consider themselves to be financially literate. 66% of respondents wish they knew more about their finances, and 35% don’t even use financial statements in their business.
There is a high probability that your clients don’t have the financial know-how to keep their business afloat. They need the guidance of someone with more experience and financial education to help them identify what they don’t know.
Essentially, small business owners want their accountants to take their financial history and turn it into a narrative they can understand. They need someone who can connect the dots or translate complicated financial statements into simple language.
By using financial models with strong visual cues, you can start to empower them to find this information on their own. This turns your touchpoints from explanations to conversations where they’ll start bringing more in-depth questions to the table.
2. Improved decision-making
Building off financial expertise, a client without a strong understanding of their finances will likely make damaging decisions. It’s not because they don’t know what they’re doing. Rather, they’re operating off of the wrong information.
A key part of offering advisory services and becoming an accounting partner is using FP&A reporting and modeling to test assumptions. In the early stages of your engagement, you should get as much information on how your client understands their business. Then, once you’re working with actual financial reporting, you can show where these understandings may have sent them down the wrong path.
Remember that you aren’t making decisions for your client. Instead, give them the information that they need to make a fully informed decision. Your client likely has the answers to their own questions but lacks the financial insights to confirm them.
3. An impartial opinion
The beauty of FP&A is that it’s rooted in data, and data doesn’t lie. Equipped with this information, you can deliver the impartial opinion your client wants to hear.
So much of our decision-making is informed by biases we can’t even see. In a business setting, this bias can lead to cash flow issues that are crippling and possibly result in shutting down operations.
As an impartial observer, they will turn to you for advice that you can answer using data. Use scenario simulation and forecasts to show where they’re headed and how their decision-making can shape the future.
By providing a high-level view, you’re remaining impartial by relying on financial information. Remember, it’s not about bringing your own beliefs to the table but rather letting your insights and prior experiences inform your clients in their own decision-making process.
4. Saving time on understanding
The infinite monkey theorem suggests that if you give a monkey a typewriter and infinite time, it might eventually write a Shakespeare story. Similarly, give a business owner infinite time with their financial information, and they would understand every nuance of their business. But the biggest thing a business owner lacks is time.
You play an invaluable role by highlighting the key information a business owner needs to know and guiding them to the necessary conclusion. Consider incorporating a deliverable like a monthly executive summary that breaks down the trends and findings from the latest financial activity.
Think about who your clients are. Business owners are hard-working, balancing many things, and their minds are often engaged in countless things.
Therefore, one of the best gifts you can provide for these clients is focus. To increase clarity, help them simplify their business and show them the data points that matter most.
5. Assistance establishing a plan
The highest value analysis you can provide is prescriptive analysis.
Prescriptive analysis is taking one of your client’s goals and mapping forward to determine how they can achieve it. You’re prescribing a strategy that helps them get the result similar to how a doctor prescribes a medication.
A good way to think of the process is by establishing three points: where the business has been, where it is, and where it’s going. Where it has been will be the historical data, and where it is will be the current state of the business. Where it’s going is where you come in.
Your goal should be trying to draw the line between the three points while relying on data to inform the strategy. A useful tool to achieve this is scenario planning and simulations.
Scenario planning lets you test assumptions and measure the impact of a decision. For example, let’s say your client recently came into some money and is looking to spend it. You can simulate what that investment can result in by testing the assumptions of what it will achieve. A good example of this is how much an investment in a new sales tool impacts the bottom line if it increases conversions by 10%.
Empower your clients by incorporating FP&A
When you become more of an advisor to your clients, you are delivering the highest value. By hitting on these five points, you are saving your clients time and stress while helping them better prepare for the future.
To deliver on these points, you can rely on high-quality FP&A tools. With Jirav, you can go above and beyond simple financial statements with tools for budgeting, forecasting, variance analysis, scenario planning, and more. With customizable and templated dashboards and report packages, the client’s experience is easily tailored to meet their needs. Get started today with a free demo.