Welcome to another episode of Building Your Multi-Million Dollar Practice. This episode is coming to you from São Paulo, Brazil where we are working with our partners at Omie, an amazing Brazilian ERP system. This year we have launched an incredible partnership to enable Brazilian accountants to provide their business clients the services they want and need.
In this episode we discuss how you can find your path to full potential by embracing changes in the accounting world, redefining what “CFO Level Services” are, and scrapping the assumption that you are inherently trusted by your clients. This information is based on what I learned while attending the Accounting Business Expo in Sydney, Australia and the Omie Summit in São Roque, Brazil.
One of the biggest takeaways from both events is that the global accounting community is incredibly connected, and accountants around the world are facing similar challenges. During these events I had the opportunity to speak with accountants not only in Australia and Brazil, but also from around the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. In the span of a few weeks I had the opportunity to experience the business and accounting industries in each country. And what I found incredibly interesting was not the differences, but rather the similarities.
Accountants around the world are all going through very similar changes. Globally, technology is advancing, and while some see this disruption as a problem, others see it as an opportunity to push forward along with it. The companies and firms that are embracing these changes are shaping the world of accounting.
At the Omie Summit, Roberto Dias Duarte, an author, professor, and accounting mentor in Brazil, said, “disruption comes in a cycle. Innovation is only new for a while before it becomes what everyone is doing. And then there is a new innovation that disrupts that new normal.” Currently, we are in the early stages of a new disruption cycle; one that is disrupting the traditional accounting roles and pushing accounting professionals to grow. This is important because, according to Duarte, “in the world we live in, if you’re not growing quickly, you are dying slowly.”
A major theme of the Omie Summit was “Live your full potential,” or "Viva todo seu potencial.” And this applied not only to the accountants, but also as the mission for the accountants to help their clients live their full potential, too. This theme is important, and as I mentioned before, the accounting world is very closely connected, so it’s not surprising that similar themes could also be found throughout the presentations at the Accounting Business Expo.
Accountants and bookkeepers that are moving forward with technology and are embracing these industry changes are finding themselves faced with the opportunity to provide advisory services to their clients. Business owners understand, now more than ever, that the traditional, reactive information they were operating from is not enough. Each year numerous small businesses close, and the main reason is cash flow, or lack thereof. Business owners understand that there is an opportunity to gain from the knowledge of financial professionals, and since most businesses already work with an accountant or bookkeeper, that is a logical resource for them to turn to.
Business owners say they want CFO level services, but what are CFO level services? At the deepest level, they are focused on Creating Future Opportunities for the businesses. Services like budget monitoring, strategic planning, cash flow forecasting, and real-time alerts, and more all help the business plan for future opportunities, growth, and manage against risk.
A common definition understands a CFO to be a “Chief Financial Officer,” and while that is correct, it does not explain how accountants can start operating in this way. Most large corporations have internal employees that operate as Controllers and CFOs. A Controller is in charge of managing cost control, monitoring operational efficiency, and providing historical financial information; these services use historical data and are largely reactive to what has happened. A CFO manages cash flow, understands the strengths and weaknesses in the company, monitors financial affairs, and creates business strategies to correct problems; a CFO is truly the key to long-term success in the corporation.
The good news is that most accountants are already operating as a Controller for their small and mid-sized business clients. But these SMEs can benefit from the same levels of proactive monitoring and strategic skills that they would get from a CFO.
As Wagner Xavier, the Director of Strategic Accounts at Omie, said, “the role of the modern accountant is to plan for their clients’ futures and protect them from going bankrupt.”
While at the Accounting Business Expo, I sat in on a presentation given by Andrew Van De Beek, the founder of Illumin8 Accounting. One of his main points was challenging the assumption that accountants have the right to be called a “trusted business advisor.” And he is absolutely correct. There is a trend of classifying accountants and bookkeepers as “trusted business advisors” without giving much thought as to how they become trusted.
To start with, there is an inherent level of trust in a relationship between the accountants and their clients since money is an important, but private, topic. We expect that clients work with accountants they trust, but after reading through many studies on this subject, it’s clear that there is more that needs to be done to earn this trust.
In Australia, Roy Morgan ran a poll to understand how the public views different professions operate with honesty and ethical integrity. And while it shows that accountants are the most trusted financial professional, only 50% of the public believe that accountants operate with high levels of honesty and ethical integrity1. This number, from Van De Beek’s presentation, is shocking! Only half of the people in Australia believed that their accountant was trustworthy and honest!
And it’s not limited to Australia. In fact, it’s even worse in the United States. Gallup Polls conducted a similar study; this study has been published annually since 1976 and measures the public’s views of the honesty and ethical standards in a variety of occupations. In the United States only 42% believe that accountants operate with high levels of honesty and ethical standards2.
So how do we overcome this? What can you do to earn the title of Trusted Advisor? We have to ask questions. Be curious and learn more about what drives the business owner to be a business owner? What are their goals, what is their passion? A small business is much more than just a company. Every business owner has a different experience, a different motivation for starting their business, and different desires.
The technology and tools enable you to offer future driven services, but the entire point of being an advisor is to have conversations with your clients. As we said before, it is important to live to your full potential as an advisor, but also to help your clients achieve their full potential, too.
Helping a small business prepare for their future financially is more than just the numbers. When you help a small business succeed, you are impacting the owner’s entire life. James Tobin, ProfitSee’s Director of Australian Operations explains it best when he said:
Advisory is about helping clients get an outcome for their business. It is easy to become caught up in giving them a report, a dashboard, or number, but that isn’t necessarily going to help the business in the end. The tangible piece is what enables the conversations. And the conversations are what make the biggest impact at the end of the day. As an advisor, the metrics you monitor culminate into a big picture goal, they go beyond the numbers on the paper.
When you understand what your clients want, you can better define what help they need. Whether they want to be able to pick their kids up from school every day and know their business is being monitored and in good hands, or if they are saving for a big vacation, you will be able to build your professional relationship and become an integral part of their company and a part of achieving their goals.
So, finding your path to your full potential involves
- Embracing the changes happening in the accounting world
- Understanding that CFO level and advisory services are the things you can do to help your clients Create Future Opportunities for their business
- Not assuming that you are trusted by your clients
- Asking questions and creating a plan to help clients achieve their goals
This was a lot of information today, and you might have questions.
If you’re interested in digging into this further, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or check my sources below.
1 “Roy Morgan Image of Professions Survey 2017: Health Professionals Continue Domination with Nurses Most Highly Regarded Again; Followed by Doctors and Pharmacists.” Roy Morgan, 7 June 2017, www.roymorgan.com/findings/7244-roy-morgan-image-of-professions-may-2017-201706051543.
2 Brenan, Megan. “Nurses Again Outpace Other Professions for Honesty, Ethics.” Gallup.com, Gallup, Inc, 20 Dec. 2018, news.gallup.com/poll/245597/nurses-again-outpace-professions-honesty-ethics.aspx.