Becoming an Accounting Consultant or Financial Advisor
There’s a central paradox to the past year or so. While many things have slowed down this year (the economy, travel, medium term plans), another common theme of 2020 is acceleration. Rising trends like remote working, using the cloud and video meetings have gone into overdrive.
Similarly, more and more accountants are moving into advisory positions, as automation and AI are replacing some of accounting’s manual tasks. And clients often need help beyond balancing books: a whopping 82% of businesses fail due to cashflow mismanagement (according to a survey by Insights West).
But how do you transition from a strictly accounting position to an advisory one? Here’s how to get started.
(This post will primarily focus on how accountants provide financial advice for businesses, not individuals.)
What Consultants and Financial Advisors do
If you’re moving from an accounting position to an advisory one, you can expect to carry out the following duties:
- Make educated estimates on where the company is going, based on existing accounts and data
- Analyze the books to see where companies could be doing better in productivity, profit, choosing the right vendors and so on
- Audit ongoing results based on market demands and the client’s practice
- Perform one-off or occasional procedures such as bank audits, credit analysis, help with grant applications
As an accountant, you’ll already have a clear understanding of your client’s finances. In fact, you might know a company’s health better than anyone (including the owners). But you may need to do a little additional training and research, specifically on:
- Advising on investments: depending on your existing knowledge, you might need to read up on market trends and investment opportunities
- Communications and presentation: how to hold a useful webinar, making the most out of webinars and communicating complicated processes clearly
Questions to Ask (and why)
Conversations with business owners can be delicate, but frankness and clarity are essential. Here are some pointers on getting the ball rolling...
- Have you worked with an advisor before?
A financial advisor can provide knowledge, guidance and insight, but is not a panacea for a company’s woes. Also, the more candid a client is, the more fruitful the relationship can be. A client’s expectations can be shaped by previous meetings (or lack of meetings) with a financial advisor. You might need to address preconceptions and habits instilled by a predecessor too.
- How do you make financial and business decisions?
This will give an insight into the client’s processes, whether they are thorough in choosing a vendor, what due diligence they carry out (if any) when renting premises, whether they carry out market research or go by their gut, and so on.
You’ll also get valuable insights into whether a client is honest with themselves; do they do things well in advance, or work on the fly? Do they open bills immediately or put it off?
- What’s your company’s history?
How did the company end up here (for better or worse) and what are its habits, practices and principles? A look at the company’s history might show you how they react to crises, money surpluses or shortages, and how open they are to change.
- Apart from business success, what do you value?
“Values” might seem nebulous and unrelated to finances, but they do have an effect on how businesses are run. For instance, would they scale back on salaries to avoid redundancies? Do they believe in work/life balance for them and their staff? Is there an industry or company that they would not do business with? Are they interested in maintaining their position or in expanding?
- Why do you think you need help?
Is it an urgent issue that needs addressing? A tune-up for the company’s finances or habits? Or is the client aware of gaps in their knowledge?
Networking and Marketing
Many accounting consultants and financial advisors get started via word of mouth. If you’d like to broaden your reach digitally, there are a few routes you can take…
The world’s most prominent B2B platform, LinkedIn is a handy marketing and sales tool. Once you connect, it’s acceptable to send an introductory email and build from there. You should also post regularly. Use posts to showcase your expertise and avoid the hard sell. Useful, relevant posts are more likely to receive engagement.
If you’ve not used Google Ads before, don’t be intimidated. The site has a user-friendly guide to walk you through. Google ads are affordable, targeted and trackable.
Twitter and Facebook
Social media feeds on Twitter and Facebook, along with advertising (budget permitting) are also a good idea. Again, try to provide useful, soft-sell content. You can also grow your visibility by sharing relevant content from third parties (appropriate business news, useful articles and so on).
Automation and the move to consulting
Automation has played a big part in changing accountants’ roles. While manual data entry has previously been a big part of accountants’ lives; now, much of it can be automated, freeing accountants to spend more time discussing substantial issues with clients.
It also makes everyday finances and communications easier. A perfect example of this is receipt capture, which enables clients to snap and upload their receipts to their accountant - instead of handing them a classic shoebox filled with paperwork.
AutoEntry - changing the conversation
Several accountants have changed the conversation with their clients, and moved into a more advisory role in the process. If you’d like to spend more time talking to clients and less time manually entering data, why not go for an AutoEntry free trial?