Trusted Business Adviser

The term “trusted business adviser” is often used to describe the pinnacle of the accountant–client relationship. Everyone seems to want to be a trusted business adviser. The key element of this exalted title is trust.

However, like most pedestals or sort after titles, through their overuse the term quickly becomes cheapened. It seems these days that anyone with a business card, website and is wearing a suit becomes a trusted business adviser. This, fortunately, is not the case. Becoming a real trusted business adviser takes commitment, passion, patience and lots of hard work.

One definition of trust is the strong belief or confidence in the honesty, integrity and reliability of another person. Such a belief cannot be fostered in a quick coffee meeting or drinks at the cricket. Trust is built through a series of interactions that show you are honest and consistent, and have the best interests of the client in mind. Trust is something that is easy to lose but difficult to earn. Here are some characteristics of a trusted business adviser:

  • They invest time and effort in initiating and building a relationship
  • Often they give out to the client before receiving anything in return.
  • The focus of their activity is not fees.
  • They consistently look for ways to help the client.
  • They are patient and long-term in their thinking.
  • They are flexible in the ways they do business to suit the client, not simply themselves.

If you were to were to use the above six points as a gauge for your professional activities with your clients how would you rate? Are YOU a trusted business adviser?

Keep smiling and bye for now,

James E

Why do accountants exist? (3 of 3)

By way of recap, in the last couple of posts, I’ve been writing about what I think are the reasons why accountants exist (leaving to one side the compliance,legal & regulatory requirements) . Reason 1 = make money, reason 2 = save money. To my mind reason 3 is to SAVE TIME.

We are all familiar with the cliche time is money. As I’m sure I’ve said before in earlier posts, cliches are often cliches because they are true. So it follows that if you can save your client time you in effect help them make money or save money. For the most part, if your client can spend less time on a business process that you identified can be streamlined then you give your client “more” time to focus on other areas that can help the business grow.

As one of the key advisors to your client’s business, you are in a wonderful position to identify ways and methods on how you can save your client time.

To wrap up this 3 post series … if you can’t either make money, save money and/or save time for your client you are little more than a commodity provider of compliance services. Unfortunately when a service becomes a commodity you are locked into a cycle of high volume/low margin service provision – since there are literally thousands of providers in Australia and offshore that can produce tax returns, accounts and the like for rock bottom prices. I wouldn’t have thought this is the path to growing your practice into a team of trusted advisors making a difference for your clients.

Until next time,

James E

A better definition thanks to Sandra

Last week I published a post talking about a better definition for professional services (see a better definition – 21 Jan 2011)

I spoke to a good friend of mine about this particular post and asked her what she thought of it and the topic. She replied it was ok but I should have gone further than simply providing a dictionary definition of the words professional and service and joining them together. Any banana can do that! What I should have done was to extend upon the core idea with some stories from my own experience about what true professional service is.

So … as an indication that I not only hear critical feedback but act on it here goes!

Using the previous post’s definition:

A professional service involves a person or group of persons who are experts in their field who aim to benefit the people and/or organisations  that seek their help.

One of the best examples I have ever come across which captures the true essense of what it means to benefit people who seek the help from a professional is that of Sandra (not her real name).

Sandra and her husband Jerry (again not a real name) ran a successful and growing metal fabrication employing over sixty people. One day, out of the blue, Jerry died of a massive heart attack at the age of 33.

Here was poor Sandra, at 30 years of age with two small children and the responsibility of running and financing a multi-million dollar business with all the associated opportunities, challenges, problems and risks. Although, Sandra had worked part-time in the business and had a good idea of most of its moving parts, it was Jerry who was the no.1 sales guy, strategist and visionary. With Jerry gone an important  part of the business had also died.

Sandra needed help and support. The business had used a local accountant named Phil. After an appropriate time of mourning Phil met with Sandra and said the following:

Sandra. I’m very sorry about Jerry. He was a wonderful guy. I will do everything in my power to help you personally and the business in any way I can. You can call on me for anything – I will support you all the way.

Phil was true to his word and worked closely with Sandra over the ensuing few years to make the business more marketable and exit at the right point in the business cycle.

15 years later Phil remains Sandra’s personal and business accountant. As Sandra said to me the other week. “James … I could never leave Phil – he is my most trusted advisor”

Need I say more?

Bye for now,

James E