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Are accountants really “Trusted Business Advisers?”

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

Are you an accountant who asks good questions? (3 of 3)

Lets recap.

In the last 2 posts we have discussed the two hallmarks of effective communication – being simplicity and the ability to listen. We now explore the third hallmark – asking good questions.

The third hallmark of effective communication is the ability to ask good questions.

You would have heard me bang many times over the last year about one of my favorite maxims – “If you want a better answer … ask a better question … then listen”

Clients are impressed by accountants and advisors that ask questions they weren’t expecting or that they haven’t been asked before. It shows a preparedness on the part of the questioner that he/she invested time and effort in understanding the clients business and circumstances.

One of the best questions one can ask is “why?” If asked in the right way, the question of why can uncover a treasure trove of insights. There is a body of work that claims that asking “why” at least 3 times in the one meeting or conversation can uncover the root cause or motivation behind any aspect of business activity undertaken by people both internal and external to an organisation.

For example, a business owner may be asked the question, “Why are you in business?” The first response would most likely be “to make money” Further in the conversation, the business owner may then be asked “Why is it important to make money?” The next reply could be something along the lines, “so I can invest in my business” At a later point in the same meeting, the owner can then be asked, “why is investment important to you?” The answer may well be, “my core market is declining and I need to develop offering to new markets.”

By asking “why?” just 3 times the questioner has moved from making money to the business surviving. How interesting. The quality of advice that can be given based on the 3rd response rather than the initial 1st answer is chalk and cheese!

The above of course is an obtuse example but you get the idea!

Keep well,

James E.