A CPA as a Business Advisor

When CPAs meet with their clients, the one question they typically ask is: “How’s business?”

When the client replies, for example, “It’s tough, Walmart is undercutting me and my customers are leaving”, the average CPA replies, “I know it’s tough out there and unfortunately I see it in your financial numbers.”  The CPA then begins to discuss the client’s tax returns and audit.

But suppose that instead the CPA responds with: “We have helped others with similar issues. Maybe we can help create a new business reality for you as well. Let me tell you about various things you can and should do. The strength of Walmart is their pricing ability. You may never be able to compete on price alone. However not everyone buys for price. Some of us want convenience, some want service, some need help with their selection, some want delivery, some want extra credit, extra opening hours. There are many reasons why customers chose a provider. Walmart cannot satisfy everyone’s needs. What are your strengths and where can you beat Walmart? What are your customers looking for? Let’s have a conversation.”

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

Below are examples of approaches and tools that a CPA business advisor could use to assist clients.In general, owners of small medium enterprises (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.

Issue as Described by Client

Possible Approach

Tools

Poor Profitability
  1. Diagnostic review of operations
  2. Marketing and sales Sessions
  • Business Diagnostic Review
  • Organization Diagnostic Review
  • Effective Financial Management Checklist
  • Profit Improvement Potential  Analysis
  • How To Grow Sales Session
  • Devising and Implementing a Business Plan
Business has low sales value
  1. Diagnostic review of operations
  2. Increasing the value of your business Session
  • Profit Improvement Potential Session
  • How To Grow Sales Session

 

Poor Cash Position
  1. Diagnostic review of operations
  2. Review of financing methods

 

  • Effective Financial Management Checklist
  • Cash Flow Checklist
  • Approaching the Bank for Financing Checklist
Long hours ,little rest
  1. Organization diagnostic review
  • Working ON not IN Your Business Session
The Family Business Issues
  1. Design shareholders agreement
  2. Determine the value of the business
  3. Create an exit plan
  • Professionalizing the Family Business
  • Personal Goals Session

 

 

CPA business advisors can be a powerful help to a business owner. Their focus on the underlying issues, as well their ability to be a thought leader combined with their financial acumen can often provide that edge that every business needs to move ahead in their industry.