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How to improve the trusted advisor relationship and create partner opportunities

With all the disruption in the accounting world due to technology, there is a push for bookkeepers and accountants to adapt their business and find the best way to continue providing value to their clients. For some, this provides a much-needed reprieve from the regular compliance work of tax and financial statements; for others, it’s seen as imperative in order to ensure the survival of their business.

Even though we are still fairly new in the trend of moving more to the idea of being an advisor instead of merely a recorder of transactions or filer of taxes, there is already discontent brewing with some who don’t like the title “Trusted Advisor.” In my role as a Registered Professional Counsellor, I am well aware of how important the definition of words is in the success of our daily lives and in reaching our goals. Having any kind of negative connotation toward a word, or belief that we are not capable of being or achieving that role, can stop us from success.

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What do you think about when you hear the words “Trusted Advisor?” Are you excited to be one? Do you feel some imposter syndrome? Does the term make you roll your eyes?

In my conversations with peers in the profession, I’ve heard varying degrees of all of these questions. We can change our beliefs through the use of affirmations, talking ourselves into believing we are a trusted advisor, as long as the underpinning beliefs are not too complex or deeply rooted. But, I’m a firm believer in that whenever possible, while you are working on changing those beliefs – because they will come up again in another situation) – you can also just go around them by using a different word.

There was much discussion a few months ago about what to call the people who pay us to do their accounting and bookkeeping work. Do we call them clients? Do we call them customers? What do we call our employees? Do we call them team members? All of these words make a difference. When you say a word, those words generate automatic feelings within you. That’s because you have subconscious beliefs about them running automatically. Every time you hear something, in an instant, your brain processes the information and you make a decision about how to respond to the words you heard.

I feel that my clients are the most educated about their businesses and have more answers than I do. What they really need, more than an advisor, is someone to help them ask the right questions and pull together their thoughts, like a sounding board or silent partner. In fact, I believe that all the people I work with are my partners. Whether it’s someone I hire to help me in my business, or someone I pay for services. I am only interested in working with people who are as invested in their success and my success as I am. This criteria, of course, is subjective and everyone will decide what that means to them, but life is too short to do any differently, isn’t it?

When I talk to a prospective partner, I tell them it’s a relationship – and all relationships are made from a 50/50 effort. We have to outline what their responsibility is and what mine is, as well. We talk about communication. Even then, all those words are subjective and some people’s meanings are different from mine, but that becomes clear quickly. When you are clear about what works and what doesn’t, and hold to it without getting upset when someone doesn’t comply, life becomes pretty simple.

Try it on! Life is simpler with partnerships. You are no longer 100 percent responsible for everything, just 50 percent. You also empower your clients, customers and employees, and we all know, or should know, how great that feels. Of course, that does mean giving up some control … but that’s for another post.

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