Many CPAs think of themselves as trusted business advisors, but they spend most of their time on compliance-related services, which are rapidly being commoditised. When asked why they continue to focus on these services, most respond that they don’t have the time or don’t feel as comfortable providing advisory services that are performance- or strategic-based. Their experience and training have focused on accuracy and the data/facts.
The changes necessary to move to advisory services generally happen over the long term. Advisory services are important because clients are willing to pay higher fees for more valuable services. However, many CPA’s find it challenging to move from compliance to strategic-based services to the higher-valued services as they tend to focus on capabilities. To get to the next level, L. Gary Boomer, strategist at Boomer Consulting, suggests you must focus on the future, rather than the past, based on the Four Cs – capability, commitment, courage and confidence.
CPAs focus on capability. They don’t focus on packaging, pricing and delivering client experience. They often admit that they are including advisory services with compliance services and offering free or discounted advice because they don’t know how to charge other than by the hour. Clients, on the other hand, recognise that CPAs often give away the most valuable advice while overcharging for compliance work.
Perfection and accuracy are honorable compliance traits, but are not as sought after as vision, relevance and real-time information. Hindsight, insight and foresight create innovation, and that is what clients value.
In our profession, commitment is often confused with risk, boldness and even over-confidence. It is easier to wait for compliance work to come knocking on your door than to compete for advisory services, but waiting will not get you where you need to be. Firms are being forced to think differently. Mindset can be a challenge, but most CPAs direct their thinking toward the skill sets and tool sets.
Courage affects your ability to accept and manage risk. Many people are not capable of dealing with risk and demonstrating courage during difficult times. Leaders must show courage and confidence in challenging times. Leadership is imperative in advisory services, but there are ways to test and predict who these leaders will be early in their careers.
Confidence comes with success and offers the ability to learn and grow. Its importance cannot be overstated, and it should be part of your culture.
Focusing on the needs of clients will always create opportunities for firms. However, changes in services require firms to change their thinking, skill sets and processes to remain future-ready and successful. It will also require difficult management decisions regarding governance, talent, clients, technology and compensation. Technology and the cloud are creating great opportunities in a real-time digital world. Clients use social media; online bill payment, banking and accounting; mobile devices; cloud storage for documents; data analytics and more.