Advisory Services: You Need Innovation and a Plan

Advisor Meeting

Many, or most, practitioners and firms talk about increasing revenues generated through an advisory services practice. But so, few are actually making progress. There are a host of real and perceived “roadblocks”. If a firm of any size wants to make meaningful progress in developing a strong advisory practice, it is time to develop a strong plan. You can call it the “Advisory Services Strategic Plan”. You can do it yourself or get some help from the outside. This will take some time, which probably feels like the one thing you don’t have, but if you want to transform your practice this investment of time must be made.

As you begin the plan, you must commit to THREE things.

First … define what you (or you and your associates) identify as advisory services. Advisory is all too often an abstract word and process. If that is the case in your practice, you will never know if you achieve success. Consulting services pretty much resolve an existing client problem. A problem “discovered” by you. Advisory focuses on clients wants and needs that have surfaced because of meaningful discussions with the client.

Second … you must promise yourself that you will be both honest and realistic in the planning process. Any associates and/or outside facilitator must commit to the same. Without honesty and realism, your final plan will be of little value. With honesty and realism, you (and your associates) will need to make some difficult choices. Over my career I have seen many plans that are of little value, so make sure that your plan doesn’t just end up on the shelf.

Third … you must commit to implementation. Implementation will require that you begin a behavior change process. You will be looking at clients and client value in a different way. You may have difficulty in a new approach to client billing (value billing). When providing advisory services, your language may change because you will be talking with clients about different issues. The result is that you will be using language that the client isn’t used to hearing from you. You won’t get it right the first time. Successful change requires an incremental process.

As you begin to take real action in transforming your practice, some analysis (honest analysis) will be required. Review your entire client base. Where are your current revenues coming from? Accounting, Auditing, Corporate Tax, Personal Tax, Advisory Services, Other? What are those revenues? What is the percent to total revenues? When you reflect on Advisory Service and “Other” revenues, take some time to honestly define both the advisory services and ”other”. All too often those revenues are the result of or an extension of accounting or tax services. Those services aren’t really “strategic” advisory services.

Next, insert 5 columns to the right of that (I assume that you used a spreadsheet) and label those columns as Year 1, Year 2, Year 3, Year 4 and Year 5 (or insert the actual years – 2022, etc.). Insert your desired future revenue for each of those practice areas. Again, you must be both honest and realistic in your projections.

Now, another list. Make a list of 10% of your client base that most likely needs, wants, and will benefit from, strategic advisory services. Set a meeting with those clients to talk. Take the important opportunity to learn more about the wants and needs of those clients. What are their goals for the business and their personal life? (The business does support their personal life). You will probably spend about 30-45 minutes with each client. This is non-billable time. But future advisory services – a result of these preliminary meetings – will generate significant revenue if you use the right process and leverage the best tools. This is going to take some time. It’s a learning process.

It will become apparent as you develop your advisory services practice, but you need to know that there are three levels (or components) of your advisory practice.

1st level advisory services:
• focus on the client’s vision and goals
• creates, updates and reviews client’s plans
• supports and coach’s implementation

2nd level advisory services:
• services you provide, often technical or compliance related, to help a client implement their plans

3rd level advisory services:
• services that clients may need that you have decided not to provide yourself and that can be outsourced

When do you begin this process? When do you begin the journey of practice innovation transformation? There are always multiple excuses to delay the start of any transformation. But if you want to move away from a book of business that is focused on compliance work with very little value-added advisory service, the time is now. You won’t be “all in” on day 1. Successful transformation will take time. Transformation and innovation require patience. But if you remain committed to your plan success will be your reward.

Click the link below to download a free copy of our book, Delivering Advisory Services: The Essential Guide.

Delivering Advisory Services: The Essential Guide

The essential guide

Schedule a demonstration of The Complete Advisory Solution and receive a free copy of our’ new book, Delivering Advisory Services: The Essential Guide by Richard Walters, with forward by Ed Souers, CPA.
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