Your firm’s client advisory services offering starts with people

Your firm’s client advisory services offering starts with people

Delivering client advisory services (CAS) centers on the “people” part of the people, processes, and technology approach to CAS services. Your service offerings, at least at first, will probably center on your team’s skills and experience, and your current clients’ needs.

Thinking about implementing client advisory services may be exhilarating for some, but more likely it’s overwhelming if you are new to the idea. It’s easy to get bogged down in analysis paralysis when thinking about the types of services to offer. Fear not! We’re going to lay out a process that will help you take the first steps on your journey.

1. Review your existing client base

Let’s start by looking at your current client base. For some firms, this is easier said than done.

You may have a wide variety of clients segmented by firm partner, services provided (tax, accounting, attestation), or even by technology platform (desktop vs. online). Putting together a complete list of your current clients is extremely important.

Build the list in your favorite spreadsheet application, then add this information about each client:

  • Name of individual or business.
  • Services you provide to them.
  • Personal vs business clients.
  • Ownership structure for business clients or marital status for individual clients.
  • Industry and business stage.
  • Annual revenue for each client.
  • Any other relevant and accessible information.

2. Sort and filter to find client patterns and trends

As you look at the list, begin sorting and filtering the data in different ways. Pivot tables can help tremendously! Let that analytical part of your brain go wild and dig into your client base. Examine these four areas:

  1. What services do you offer most frequently?
  2. Where do the majority of your clients fall in the business lifecycle stage?
  3. What industries are represented?
  4. Which clients bring in the most revenue? Later, you can figure out which clients are generating the most profit.

By drilling down into this information, you will be much more informed about your own firm. If nothing else, you’ll have a good “before picture” to measure the impact your advisory services have on your clients’ growth over time. But ideally, you’ll be gaining insights about your current clients and very likely already seeing trends in your data.

A person and person sitting next to each other.

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3. Analyze your team’s strengths

While you are learning about your clients, take time to do the same analysis of your own team.

  • Does your firm have an expert in a certain industry?
  • Are there in-house specialists who excel in a specific area, such as tax preparation, financial analysis, or report generation and data visualization? There are many more areas of expertise; these are just a few of them.

Ask your team what they want to focus on; for example, every team member doesn’t have to dive deeply into the data jungle—instead, they may enjoy the presentation aspect of the data. Conversely, a manager or firm partner may enjoy the details more and not be the best choice as the in-person facilitator during advisory meetings with clients, but should be present for more technical aspects of the conversation.

Understanding your team’s strengths will position you to succeed in tailoring your advisory services with your team’s talents in mind.

Building your CAS offering is a process that will morph and develop even as you begin to deliver these services to your clients.

4. Use your data to identify opportunities for CAS offerings

Armed with this information, you will begin to recognize opportunities. Look for patterns in your services, clients, team members, and revenue. Write those patterns down!

Here are several examples:

  • You may find that many personal tax clients need to plan for their kids’ college years or their own retirement.
  • Those same personal tax clients could be solopreneurs or have a side hustle or hobby that is turning into a business.
  • Business clients could benefit from additional tax planning for their growing businesses.
  • Early-stage business clients will likely benefit from advisory related to growing their teams and verifying their business structure. Other clients might need valuation services to prepare for a sale, acquisition, or some other business transition.

Remember that you are in the ideation phase here! This may be the first time you have ever done something like this—it may feel a little clunky or awkward. That’s normal.

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Don’t worry about diving headlong into delivering CAS right now. This exercise is meant to give you space to dream a little. Consider the possibilities!

Advisory enables firm growth

Embrace the reality that building your firm’s CAS offering is a process that will morph and develop, even as you begin to deliver these services to your clients.

As an accounting professional, you will experience incredible growth by embracing new ideas and responding to the market’s demand for advisory services. This could reignite the passion when you started in the accounting profession and dreamt of helping business owners understand their numbers, make better business decisions, and know that you get to share in a piece of their success.

Once you’ve identified your current clients’ needs and your team’s aptitudes, it’s time to start working on zeroing in on your ideal clients and understanding their business goals.

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