Be a trusted advisor: Simple ways to start tracking your clients’ KPIs

Be a trusted advisor: Simple ways to start tracking your clients’ KPIs

Tracking your clients’ numbers and sending monthly reports isn’t enough. Yes, the numbers are an important tool for their business. But without any financial literacy, that data remains unopened.

As business owners, your clients want to make a profit. Unfortunately, a percentage of your clients possess financial shame. How the numbers work remains a mystery to them.

Some symptoms of financial shame include the following:

  • Fear and anxiety about their cash flow.
  • Fail to grasp the meaning behind basic reports.
  • Decisions influenced by emotions rather than data.

That’s why a growing number of accounting and bookkeeping professionals regularly meet with their clients. These consultative meetings are a dedicated time to translate the reports. Then, discuss how the data applies to their business.

Be the hero

With advisory services, you get to be the hero. That’s because you’re uniquely qualified to interpret the story behind the numbers.

This creates an opportunity to use your natural affinity for numbers to:

  • Determine which metrics to track and reports to run.
  • Interpret the meaning behind the data.
  • Consult with your clients about the information you gathered.
  • Emphasize strategic growth, not random growth.

Julie Barnfather, CPA, co-owner of Manfredini and Barnfather, pairs her accounting services with customized strategic plans. Tracking Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) helps her clients measure their company’s success.

For example, because she was tracking numbers for a print shop, this client learned which types of printing yielded the greatest profits, and over time, the company diversified its services to even out cash flow. During a consultative meeting with Julie, the owners realized they could comfortably make a large investment in equipment.

Julie says, “If you can find a way to measure it, you can make it happen.”

Communicate the value

I frequently speak with accounting professionals about adding consultative services and tracking their clients’ KPIs. Several claim their clients don’t have any interest or they’re too busy. It’s likely the numbers overwhelm certain clients, especially if they experience financial shame.

Be a champion for your clients. Teach them about KPIs, explain what they are, and why they matter. Share an example of how tracking data – even non-financial data – makes decision making easier.

Michele Schina, CPA, co-owner of Beyond Strategy Partners, Inc., and TMS II, LLC, prefers to keep things simple and revenue focused. Her advisory clients seek strategic growth rather than random growth. During quarterly advisory sessions, she reviews the KPIs with her clients and makes recommendations to hit their targets.

Finances, as you know, drives your clients’ business forward. How do you educate your already busy clients about that? Consider sharing a client example that illustrates how KPIs paired with advisory meetings works.

5 benefits of advisory meetings

  1. Pinpoint. Clarify the goals for the next 12 months or calendar year. This timeframe is ideal because it’s future based, but not too far off in the distant future.
  2. Essentials. Determine the metrics that matter for the business, then track those numbers. Focus on the essential few, rather than the many.
  3. Interpret. Meet with clients to give them company insights and how to apply the data. How is your client doing each quarter? Are they moving closer or further away from their target numbers?
  4. Presentation. Graphs let clients visualize real-time data. It’s easier for clients to quickly grasp the big picture.
  5. Strategic growth. The financials offer insights into a company’s strengths, weaknesses, and bottlenecks. The facts guide decision-making.

Knowing what matters to your clients adds value. Applying KPIs to their business strategy is an advanced move. Now it’s possible to measure her company’s success.

Questions to ask your clients

There’s no need to lecture clients, create pages of data to prove your point, or go too deep into the details they don’t fully understand. These tactics will backfire—pushing them away.

So, what draws them in to know more?

Ask better questions. Get curious about your clients’ future aspirations, current concerns, and why these things matter. Check out this article to see how to lead with great questions.

Start by asking your clients these 5 questions:

  1. Where do you want your business to be in 12 months?
  2. If you could solve one problem, what would that be?
  3. Where are you right now?
  4. What do you tolerate, where do you feel stuck, and what causes overwhelm and frustration?
  5. How would you know if our work together was successful? What would be different?

The answers tell you what’s top of mind for your clients. Combining advisory sessions with KPIs positions you as a partner in your client’s success. As they say, what you pay attention to expands.

Fine tune your tracking

If you can define it, then you can measure it. Anything’s possible. The range goes from basic essentials to industry specific.

Robert Chandler, founder of Path by Simplex Financials, views KPIs as a measuring stick. “It gives insights into what’s most important and what’s changed.”

Rob suggests you monitor two types of KPIs:

  1. Short-term metrics that are specific to the current month.
  2. Insights related to long-term goals.

Some metrics apply to all businesses. The general KPIs include:

  • Cost of goods sold. This monitors the percentage between cost and profit.
  • Insights about productivity, payroll, and performance.
  • Advertising, sales and marketing. Inform clients about cost per lead, return on investment, and sales revenue.
  • Operating expenses. Discover the efficiencies and the bottlenecks.
  • EBITDA. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization. A company wants to aim for 20%.

Different industries, as you know, care about different metrics. A builder needs job costing and worker productivity, while billable hours and collections are top of mind for law firms. While all businesses benefit from tracking KPIs, determine which industry-specific metrics deeply matter to your clients.

Because your role shifts from technician to CFO or controller, it’s possible to charge more. Chandler says, “Accounting professionals who track KPIs for their clients earn 20-25% more.”

Recommended KPI tracking tools

It’s time to dive into the various tracking tools. Fortunately, several integrate seamlessly with QuickBooks®.

Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. How do you plan to use the data?
  2. What is your client’s company revenues?
  3. Simple or complex? Which approach will get the job done correctly?

Now let’s review the available options:

  • Tracking worksheet. It’s a simple way to track specific metrics on your own. The primary cost is time. You’ll need to grab the required data from your client’s QuickBooks. Then, transfer into your spreadsheet since the data isn’t automated or real time.
  • Made for small businesses. Predict is their tool for forecasting and scenario modeling, and is easy to read for clients who like visual information. Futrli Predict for accountants starts at $15 per data connection.
  • Path by Simplex Financials. This tool features industry specific metrics and milestone tracking for small businesses. The Health Check unlocks future business opportunities with your client’s business snapshot and industry comparison. The Pro plan starts at $29 per month.
  • Qvinci. Their KPI scorecard offers comparative insights, forecasting and predictive analysis. Complex reports, such as multiple entity consolidation reports, are possible with this tool. Prices start at $21.95 per file.
  • Spotlight Reporting. A user-friendly tool which offers the ability to add non-financial KPIs and removes the guesswork from variances. Business plan starts at $25 per month.
  • Syft Analytics. This product is ideal for small to medium-sized businesses, offering branded, customized reports. Management reports and valuations are recommended features. Get started with a free basic plan.

Got questions? All of these products will happily schedule a demo meeting to walk you through and answer your questions.

Next steps

Adding KPI tracking and advisory services benefits your clients. The data offers insights about profit margins, productivity, and costs. Your clients go from financial shame to financial savvy.

First, identify three benefits of tracking specific metrics. Then, during your client meeting, ask great questions to discover the priorities. Next, advise on which metrics to track. Afterward, plug it into your tool for real-time insights. Finally, set up the next meeting to review the previous quarter KPIs and any necessary adjustments.

With this process, you shift from technician to consultant. It’s a win-win for you and your clients.

Editor’s note: For more free educational resources for accounting professionals from this author, visit BusinessSuccessSolution.com.