A CPA as a Business Advisor
When meeting with other CPA’s, the one question they typically ask each other is “How’s business?”. Often the conversation goes as follows:
“It’s getting tougher to bring in new business” or
“Clients are always looking to get more from me and are pushing back on my fees” or
“It’s hard to keep up with all the tax and regulatory changes as well as managing a practice” or
“The technology changes are never ending. It’s hard to know what to recommend”
The second CPA could shrug, reply that this is how it is and then move on to other matters.
But suppose that instead the response is: “Have you considered some sort of interprofessional collaboration with other service providers catering to the same target market? Here’s what I mean:
Over the past few years I have focused on providing advisory services for clients. This has allowed me to fill a need in the SME sector as well as help other CPA’s deliver additional value to their clients. Additional value in your case means a new revenue stream as well as higher client retention. For my part I provide a service to your clients without competing for that client. The client wins, you win and I win”.
I have provided advisory services for several businesses. Here are some of their stories.
Client H: Renovations
The client was a renovator with a staff of 5. The presenting issues were low profitability, weak cash position and no growth. The underlying issue was that the business was commoditized and all providers competed on price.
The strategy selected was to create a differentiation from other providers. When submitting a bid, attached to the bid was marketing collateral that showed prospects the benefits and value of working with my client. An additional tactic involved revising the selling presentations to improve rapport with buyers.
Client R: Dry Cleaners
The client owned a dry cleaning business with 5 locations and a staff of 15. Sales had taken a sharp downward turn and the business was facing bankruptcy. The underlying issue was that the industry as a whole was deteriorating.
The strategy required quickly reaching a break even situation. Following a diagnostic of operations and industry and a review of financial practices, it was decided to close unprofitable stores. This stabilized the business, and allowed room for the subsequent development of a business recovery plan.
Client C: Jewellery Manufacturer
The client was a manufacturer of jewellery with declining sales. The owners were at a loss as to the next steps, as they had published an impressive advertising brochure that had minimal impact on their sales.
The underlying issue was the owners’ lack of vision for their business, as for the last two years they had met the needs of a rising fad in the jewellery business that now no longer existed . The strategy called for revitalizing growth, using tactics that focused on identifying key elements for growing sales, and the development of the action plans necessary to implement the chosen solutions.
Below are additional examples of business issues I have dealt with, and the advisory services that were provided.
|Client||Issue||Nature of Advisory Work|
|Videographer||Wants to scale the business to other cities||Design a Business Plan|
|Photographer||Looking to grow sales||Design a Business plan|
|Mortgage Broker||Weak closing ratio||Review of Industry ANDClassifying Your Clients Session|
|Spa||Needs financing to switch locations||Create Business Plan to Obtain Financing|
|Holistic Centre||Low profitability||Business Diagnostics|
|Massage Therapy Centre||Weak contributions from staff||Rewards and Recognition Assessment|
|Importer||Working capital tied up in inventory||Review of financing possibilities|
|Lawyer||Doing too much and concerned about generating work to keep staff fully employed||Lead generation review ANDWorking ON not IN Session|
|Convenience store chain||No one to consult with about various business issues||Create Menu of Services Available|
In general, owners of SMEs have similar recurring challenges. They work too hard with little to show for it. Cash is always tight, and they have no exit plan. Their business is often worth less than it should be after years of personal and financial investment.
A CPA business advisor could use the tools listed in the following table to assist clients.
|Issue as Described by Client||Possible Approach||Tools|
|Business has low sales value||
|Poor Cash Position||
|Long hours ,little rest||
|The Family Business Issues||
CPA business advisors can be a powerful help to a CPA firm that does not provide advisory services. The synergy of advisory and compliance services combined with their mutual financial acumen can often provide that edge that every client needs to move ahead in their industry. That edge can translate into higher retention, higher fees and increased client satisfaction.