Accounting firms looking to increase revenue and profitability are increasingly focusing on FP&A (financial planning and analysis) services.
The reason is obvious. Clients are looking for this guidance, and it’s a much more fulfilling deliverable than stopping with compliance.
However, firms can sometimes hesitate to make the leap into advisory.
“I don’t have FP&A experience.”
“I’m not sure what to say to advise clients.”
“FP&A will take too much time.”
Let’s stop there. It might seem complicated or overwhelming to transition to FP&A, but the reality is, in most cases, you already have everything you need.
In this post, we’ll share some key tips on how you can confidently shift to FP&A to provide excellent advisory services and increase your revenue.
Remember, you’re the expert
It’s important to keep in mind the value you bring to the table with accounting expertise. In some ways, you know your clients’ businesses better than they do.
That’s because 1. You have the data and understand it, and 2. You are able to detach and see the big picture.
FP&A is, in many ways taking these two components and translating them to your clients.
Keep in mind that your clients are hungry for direction. They have specific goals, and what they desire more than anything is to see the reality of how they are progressing toward those goals.
Listening is a superpower
When you think of advisory services, it’s common that the first thing to come to mind is what you’re going to say to clients.
But more important than what you have to say is what your clients say to you. Listening is a superpower, because the more information you can draw out of your clients, the better you’ll be able to relate to them.
Your goal in communication is to draw out information from clients.
What are their goals?
Why do they do what they do?
Why are certain expenses the way they are?
As you learn where they are, and where they're going, you’ll be much better suited to provide value. You can give them a financial map of where they are now and where they are going. Then in your advisory conversations, you can always relate the information to what motivates your clients.
One mistake accounting firms can make is to think that “advisory” just means providing visual reports or a dashboard. Mature advisory services are much more than that. FP&A is contextualizing the data, while providing a visual of where the firm is going.
This can only start with listening.
Give the gift of focus
If you’re intimidated about launching FP&A services, it’s possible you’re overcomplicating things.
Remember to always start with your clients and what they want. Your clients more than anything, desire simplicity. They have targets, and they want to know if those targets are on track or off track.
The single greatest service you can provide to those clients is clarity. The best way to do this is through driver-based planning.
Driver-based planning is when you take a view of where the client is going, and then break down 5-7 key drivers that are going to have the biggest impact on success.
These drivers are leading indicators that you can track relentlessly to predict the actual results for a business.
Business owners are drowning in information. They are dealing with competitors, expectations, and countless numbers. The more you can help them simplify and focus on what really matters, the more valuable you will be.
Again, remember that your clients want a vision for where they are going.
Start with a simple forecast with budget to actual comparisons, and monthly meetings to review the leading indicators/drivers toward their goals. This is enough in the beginning to deliver the clarity your clients desperately need.
One of the great deliverables you can provide is focus in a distracted world.
You’re not on an island
As you transition into FP&A, it’s important to take advantage of all the resources available to support you.
A big part of this is technology. With the right software, you can automate many of the day-to-day tasks, which frees you up to engage with clients.
You can also put technology to work in building out forecasts, models, and scenario planning. While software won’t do FP&A for you, the tools are available to give you and your clients a shared 10,000-foot view of where the company is going.
In addition to technology, you also have an ecosystem of content available to continue improving your services.
Whether it's attending conferences, attending webinars, or participating in social media, the accounting space is filled with information to help your firm excel with advisory services.
Start small, then expand
You have the expertise, and the technology is available to start with FP&A services. If you’re lacking confidence in your ability, the best thing to do is start small.
Find a few clients who you have a good existing relationship with, and roll it out slowly. As you gain experience, your confidence will grow, and you’ll be on your way to happier clients and increasing revenue.