Advisory Accounting: Bridging the Gap Between the Business Client and the CPA
Business owners do not come from a financial background. Therefore, this makes it difficult for them to communicate with their financial advisors such as the CPA, banker, and CFO. However, left to their own devices, this often results in poor financial strategies or alarming trends that are not identified and corrected on a timely basis. How can we use Advisory Accounting for bridging the gap between the business client and the CPA?
Defining the Communication Gap
In most circumstances, the CPA believes that if the business client does not raise any questions or issues when they receive their CPA-prepared financial statement, the client thinks that everything is OK. In other words, the business owner typically believes that everything is OK if the CPA does not raise any financial statement issues.
Bridging this communication gap is surprisingly easy. For instance, the CPA should provide interpretation along with the financial statement – not just what the numbers are, but what the numbers mean.
The difficulty is that the parties speak different languages. However, if the business owner doesn’t understand some of the terms that the CPA uses, they may not ask questions. Therefore, both parties are preserving the original communication gap.
Bridging the Gap Between the Business Client and the CPA
Advisory Accounting uses a language common to both parties. For instance, the CPA uses terms that resonate with the business owner. This mutual understanding creates a positive environment and brings tremendous value to your relationship – creating a client for life! Above all, Advisory Accounting is the best tool for bridging the gap between the business client and the CPA!
The growth in high-value client advisory services, ranging from wealth management, valuation, and succession planning, is an emerging high-value opportunity for CPA firms. In addition, those moving from Traditional Accounting (CPA-centered) to Advisory Accounting (client-centered) are the big winners in this trend.
The Alarming Facts
There are approximately thirty million small businesses in the US. Unfortunately 600 thousand go out of business every year. In addition, over 80% of all small businesses that start fail. This alarming failure rate reflects both a significant problem and a profitable opportunity. As the most trusted business advisor, the CPA is perfectly positioned to provide timely advice to prevent these failures and ensure a growing and thriving client base. Above all, it is a win/win situation.
The business client manages their company utilizing internally prepared financial statements. However, outside parties like a bank usually require a CPA-prepared financial statement at least once a year. The client asks for and receives this financial statement, and dutifully passes it along to the requesting party. The client still manages the company based upon internally prepared financial statements. In this scenario, the CPA has lost a valuable opportunity to provide a value-added service to the client in the form of much-needed financial education and advice.
Advisory Accounting – Solving the Communication Challenge
Advisory Accounting takes Traditional Accounting one step further by adding the financial statement’s interpretation coupled with action steps and regular follow up during the year. The result is that there no longer exists a “groundhog’s day scenario.” You prevent situations where your clients do not address important issues, and their financial condition gradually deteriorates. In other words, the result is a happy and successful client for life.
Advisory Accounting changes the role of the CPA from a trusted financial reporter to a trusted financial advisor. It is a small change, but one that will significantly impact the client. Similarly, it prevents costly mistakes and maybe even outright failure. The challenge is how to explain business finance. Finance is a subject perceived to be complicated and mysterious. In addition, the client does not have a background or education in this area.
Tools Available for Advisory Accounting
In the last few years, tools have been developed to assist the CPA in communicating basic financial principles to their clients. These include:
- The text 60 Minute CFO: Bridging the Gap Between the Business Owner, Banker, and CPA.
This five-star Amazon Bestseller explains business finance clearly and in simple terms that anyone can understand with a non-financial background. Reading just the first four chapters will explain everything the client needs to know about analyzing financial statements, and it will take less than 60 minutes. This understanding puts the CPA and the client finally on the same page
- Advisory Accounting – Bridging The Gap Between The Business Owner And The CPA 12-hour CPE Course. This 12 Session series on Advisory Accounting covers all business finance areas, from financial statement analysis to capital budgeting and financial forecasting and concludes with two sessions on the key leadership principles that are essential for long-term success.
- Business Mastery This Excel-based workbook performs all the calculations of financial ratios and forecasting of financial statements, cash flow, and financial ratios.
- 60 Minute CFO Academy. An online financial course in the basics of finance, specially designed for the business owner client.
These tools and additional complementary software programs are available for review at www.60minutecfo.com
The Process of Moving to Advisory Accounting
Moving to Advisory Accounting involves a few easy steps. They include:
- Begin this process with four or five carefully selected clients.
- Fill in the Business Mastery workbook for them with three years of financial data.
- Share the 60 Minute CFO text and Business Mastery workbook with your client.
- Make an appointment with your client to go over the financial results, including strengths and areas that might need improvement, and your initial financial forecast for the coming year.
- Refine your procedures as you learn what works best.
- Educate your staff on this process and implement Advisory Accounting firm-wide.
- Make sure that there is a Business Mastery and Client Advisory Meeting box to be checked with every compliance assignment.
The Benefits of Moving to Advisory Accounting
- For the first time, the business owner understands what their financial statements are really telling them, not just the numbers, but what the numbers mean.
- The CPA and the client are communicating on a level of mutual understanding.
- The client has received something of real value to them rather than something obtained just to meet the bank requirement.
- The CPA has a happy, successful, and growing client.
- The CPA firm has a competitive advantage that favorably distinguishes it from the competition.
A Journey, Not a Destination
Moving to Advisory Accounting starts your clients on a lifelong learning journey. They and your staff will always be able to learn something new. This is the joy of it! In conclusion remember that Advisory Accounting is the best tool for bridging the gap between the business client and the CPA.
For instance, hear the words of a satisfied client for life:
“I am so excited to feel, for the first time, that I can understand my financial data, and I appreciate how you break down concepts and use words that mere mortals can understand!” C. Leung, Business Owner.
Consider the K2 course Advisory Accounting – Bridging The Gap Between The Business Owner And The CPA 12-hour CPE Course. For a shorter CPE course, consider K2’s Profiting from Advisory Services. Learn more about tools to support your CPA firm at our CPA Firm Technology website. Consider my article published by the CPA Practice Advisor: Does Your Firm Have a Clear Vision on Advisory Services?