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Do CPAs Know What Clients Want?

CPA firm offerings can be as simple as tax return and financial statement preparation (Quick Books) to a comprehensive “suite” of services including audits, tax planning strategies, litigation support services, entity planning, estate and succession planning, and a host of additional business advisory services depending on the expertise of the firm. The focus however should not be on what you know and the services you could or do provide but rather understanding your client; his business, his needs, and what advice he would like from you. Look at your firm through the eyes of your client. Clients grudgingly pay for compliance services but do not mind paying for (and seeing the value in) advice that helps their business become more successful. This takes the discussion of fees from “cost” to investment and ROI.

The CPA should pose this question to his business owner client – what advisory role should we be assuming for your business?

Client responses will vary depending on the size of the firm and the financial/accounting management professionals on board. A larger firm may respond “we want little or no advisory from your firm, just validation that our internal financial management group is performing at a high level, protecting the assets of the business, and maximizing shareholder value”. In this situation the CPA could ask to review the strategic business plan, business retirement plans, and business exit strategies. Position the firm in a true leadership and advisory position. You don’t want to be the “last to know” when you client is considering a buy-out offer.

At the other end of the spectrum, a smaller client with little no internal financial management may look to your firm to get heavily involved in an advisory role to help them understand financial ratios, trends, performance indicators, and whatever information is vital to understanding the health of the business.

Another client may take a middle position – “ we are looking to you for a leadership role in advising us on financial matters; we look to your firm as our primary business advisor, our ‘quarterback’, and the focal point of any collaborative effort to solve a problem we encounter”. Clients love a team approach with the “trusted advisor” CPA as team leader.

The responsibility for initiating the conversation of the advisory role rests with the CPA. The potential benefits to your firm (client retention, additional service revenue, client referrals) and to your client’s business are enormous. Determine what your client wants as well as what he needs.

Published with permission from Bill Tsotsos, BD Consultants. Click Here to contact Bill.

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