Offering Client Advisory Services across the business lifecycle

Offering Client Advisory Services across the business lifecycle

Advisory services are growing, they’re profitable, and they represent the future of the accounting profession. But, what exactly are client advisory services (CAS)? In the simplest terms, client advisory services are any form of advice regularly given to a client in relation to their business.

Turn one-off questions into a strategic service

Many accounting professionals offer this level of service without realizing it. For example, have you answered client questions about cash flow issues or offered advice on how to get a short-term loan at a decent rate?

When discussing the challenges with attracting and retaining talent, have you presented the advantages of offering an employee benefits package? During tax season, have you ever helped a client look for ways to save money?

Focusing on CAS at different stages of the business lifecycle

In this article, we will highlight different advisory services and explore how they correlate with the lifecycle of a typical business. My goal is to help you turn those one-off client questions into a strategic effort to provide these services to your clients on a consistent basis.

Business lifecycle models come in many shapes and formsusually anywhere from 4-7 stages. For our purposes, we’ll boil it down to three stages: startup, growth, and maturity. Your client’s business stage will determine the advisory services that make the most sense for them.

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Startups need support in people operations

Startups often need help finding, retaining, and training their team members. While people operations are not traditional advisory services, depending on your client, this could be an area of service at every stage of the business lifecycle.

For example, payroll became an emphasis during the pandemic with the rollout of the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Impact Disaster Loans. Conversations about layoffs, hiring, and benefit programs are common, as well as distinguishing between W-2s and 1099s.

Accountants don’t have to become human resource specialists, but some firms are embracing this type of advisory, in addition to their core accounting services.

In some instances, firms simply assist with technology selection. Others move into the analytics of costs and metrics related to their clients’ teams, combining financial and people data to provide a more comprehensive view of the organization. Who better to access both sides of that data than an accountant?

Growth stage companies need CAS support around raising capital

As startups move into the growth stage, raising capital becomes very important. Of course, good financial data must exist, but these clients need more analysis that emerges from your understanding of their business goals, ownership structure, and financial markets as a whole. 

As a business explores debt and equity financing options, you can offer guidance based on your knowledge of various financial agreements, as well as your past experience guiding other clients through the same process.

Not only is the initial conversation necessary, but ongoing advisory conversations are just as vital to help businesses grow, adapt, and expand. Consistent meetings to discuss cash flow, team expansion, and financial analysis are important aspects of advisory for growing businesses, and for which accounting professionals are perfectly suited.

Maturity stage companies need CAS for succession planning

Advisory services can grow as your clients progress into the maturity stage of the business lifecycle. Succession planning is front and center for 2.5 million businesses owned by the baby boomer generation. According to Forbes, most of these businesses are quite profitable.

Accountants have an important role to play in helping owners pass businesses along to the next generation. Those acquiring these businesses also need an objective advisor to guide them through a capital raise from a bank, venture capital, or employee ownership model.

Accounting professionals are uniquely positioned to clarify this information in plain language for their clients. They can alleviate the confusion and worry that accompanies these major financial decisions.

Client Advisory Services 101: What are they? Why should you offer them?

Trusted advisors provide insight and calm at critical junctures

Whether in the startup, growth, or maturity stage, clients are looking for a competent advisor to provide insight and a degree of calm during critical junctures along the entire business lifecycle. Business owners have come to value, and even expect, this type of advisory service from their accountants. 

This is the future of the industry: Expanding partnerships between accountants and business owners through advisory services, capitalizing on the trust gained through years of delivering quality accounting services.

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