A person in a construction site working on a laptop.

Construction accounting: How accountants can position themselves as trusted advisors

As an accountant with construction clients, you know that developing a successful practice requires more than doing the books and filing taxes. Clients expect their accountants to act as trusted advisors who can offer strategic guidance and general business advice.

To grow into this role, you need to develop certain skills. In this article, we’ll share some areas to focus on as you develop your professional toolbox, with topics in building expertise, client relationship management, value-added services, and technology.

Develop industry expertise

It might seem obvious, but developing domain expertise is one of the best ways to gain client trust. At a basic level, that means staying up to date with the latest trends, regulations, and best practices in construction accounting and financial management.

You’ll also want to learn more about how construction projects work and where financial insight can unlock more value for your client. For example, learning more about project bidding can allow you to help your client improve the competitiveness of their bids.

Similarly, commercial and residential construction projects differ greatly in execution and accounting needs. Understanding the nuances of each demonstrates your versatility to your clients.

If you are a CPA, that’s great, but also consider other business certifications.

Provide value-added services

To be seen as a trusted advisor, you need to offer more than basic accounting services. For a construction accountant, consider budgeting and forecasting, cash flow management, risk management consulting, dispute resolution with subcontractors or suppliers, and software implementation for job costing and project tracking.

You can also provide advice on best practices within the industry, such as contract review, labor law compliance, or impending regulatory changes.


Offer personalized solutions

Offering value-added services is one effective way to differentiate yourself from other accounting practices, but personalizing those services distances you even further.

Sit down with your client and work together to map out their particular financial situation and business goals. Then put together a package of advisory services that’ll help them get there.

For example, if your client is looking to improve the profitability of their business, you could offer a consulting package that covers:

●       Evaluating project financials to find areas of improvement.

●       Mapping out defined processes, such as job costing, to correct issues.

●       Recommending a construction accounting tech stack—multiple integrated pieces of software—to support new processes.

●       Supporting the implementation of the tech stack through value-added services.

●       Analyzing financial performance as projects close out.

By taking the time to understand a client’s particular situation and offering personalized solutions, construction accountants can provide valued input that helps their clients solve pressing business problems.

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Be a problem solver

Solving problems is one of the best ways to bring value to a business relationship. It’s not always easy. You need to be prepared to take on the challenge of resolving issues and finding solutions, proactively anticipating your clients’ needs, and employing creative approaches to solving problems and overcoming obstacles.

It’s worth building your talents in this area. The ability to solve problems is a key skill for any successful accountant. Clients rely on you for practical advice on a wide range of topics that affect their business operations. From developing strategies for increasing profits to navigating complex tax regulations, it's important for construction accountants to be well versed in a variety of subjects so they can provide solutions tailored specifically to their clients’ needs.

To be successful problem solvers, strive to understand each client’s individual situation so you can anticipate potential issues before they arise. With this proactive approach, you’re better equipped to not only identify problems, but also develop strategies that minimize potential risks while maximizing opportunities.

Accounting professionals should also bring creativity to problem solving. As businesses face new challenges due to rapidly changing technologies, legislative shifts, or economic downturns, there's often no one-size-fits-all solution available. Construction accountants who are capable of thinking outside the box may be able to offer new ideas or solutions that other professionals have yet to consider‌—and that’s where real value lies.

Build a professional network

We’ve spent most of this article focused on how you can improve your professional skills and offer services that go beyond traditional accounting. This is a tried-and-true approach for building trust and growing your practice beyond the confines of accounting. However, it’s highly likely your construction clients will need services that you simply can’t offer.

Instead of leaving your clients to their own devices, work to curate a network of service providers that you can connect your clients with. Think legal counsel, human resources, marketing services, and information technology services, to name a few.

Referring your construction clients to reputable business partners is a great way to position yourself as a trusted business advisor. It’ll also build relationships with your partners, opening the doors for new referrals from their books of business. Be sure to structure your agreements properly and you could receive a commission or referral fee, opening up another revenue stream for your practice.

Embrace technology

Modern accounting and financial management is all but impossible without the right technology in place. This is even more true in construction, where accounting is based on individual projects that can differ greatly from one another.

To simplify your working relationship with clients and enhance the level of service you provide to them, lean on technology. The first step is identifying pain points and then finding a tool that can solve them, whether that’s modern accounting software such as QuickBooks Online and job costing software such as Knowify.

In fact, QuickBooks Online offers a range of integrated software solutions that can support your construction clients, including QuickBooks Online Payroll and QuickBooks Time. These solutions are fully integrated with Knowify.

The key is connecting your clients with tools that simplify managing the financial side of their business, streamline their day-to-day workflows, and offer insights they just can’t easily get through manual processes. Once your clients begin experiencing the benefits that modern software can bring, their trust in you will only grow.

There you have it: a few straightforward ways to position yourself as a trusted advisor to your construction clients. In doing so, you should see your practice begin to grow as word of mouth spreads the positive impact your services can have on a business’ financial performance.

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