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Business advisory using a divisional approach By Mark Holton on Jan 10, 2020

Team meeting

As we enter a new decade, I have been thinking about the ongoing issue in the industry around getting a systematic and profitable business advisory service happening with accounting firms.

The two “C’s” arise again and again; being a lack of commitment to change and create a new practice model and capacity (time) to actually follow through and get it done. This leads to a failure to implement and eventual reduction and/or cessation of service delivery in this space.

I continually see firms create a successful divisional model with Financial Planning, Human Resources, Information Technology and the like without drawing on professional accounting and other compliance and administrative staff. This is often a well-resourced and profitable model that demonstrates significant growth on budget. Of course, it has separate budgets and key performance indicators to the compliance division and is managed accordingly by the Partners.

For no apparent reason, that model changes with business advisory when accounting firms choose to take good compliance accountants and make them business advisors. Sort of a “square peg, round hole” approach. Some can do it however for many it is well outside their comfort zone and they comfortably fall back into compliance whenever the opportunity arises.

In my opinion, business advisory is a separate division within an accounting firm with staff who really want to be an advisor – sort of a storyteller, and appropriate support to get the job done. It needs to have the right systems, processes and people resources to achieve and hopefully exceed budget and be managed to fair yet challenging KPI’s.

The first step is to get the right structure in the firm using a Trusted Advisor Model with you in the key project manager role. From there examine the firm’s infrastructure to complete advisory work including what you intend to offer, how will you package it, what will it cost, who will do it and how will you promote it to existing and potential clients.

Next is to create a client engagement model that really sells the benefits of advisory services and then, and only then, develop delivery models to take engaged clients and develop, enhance and protect their business and personal wealth and success measures.

I have been working recently with firms who have finally recognised this issue and have decided to create a business advisory division with the right staff that they have or will recruit (internally or externally) and onshore or offshore resources to assist in the back end processing of data and actions required thereby allowing the onshore team to concentrate on client engagement and delivery.

The model still takes time to correctly setup however it works.

Are you interested in creating a divisional business advisory for your firm? Is so please feel free to contact me for a complimentary business advisory assessment where we will discuss among other items how to:

  1. Provide a greater range of value-added services to existing and prospective clients.
  2. Create a divisional model with the right systems, processes and people resources.
  3. Assess your firm’s future income sources, goals, issues and objectives.


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