by Brenton Ward

I read an article on Accountants Daily today – Low action’ from accountants on big business opportunity. It raised some really good points in relation to Accountants delivering value added services including business planning to their SME clients. Nothing that accountants haven’t heard already but it was supported by some interesting statistics collected by BStar, which got me thinking.

The stats outlined in the article were that of the SME’s surveyed in BStar’s recent 2016-17 SME Research Report:

  • 72 per cent of small businesses don’t have a formal business plan
  • 34 per cent of SMEs spend time on strategic planning
  • 95 per cent of SMEs believe opportunities exist to grow their business, however only 22 per cent have a plan in place to grow their business’ value.
  • Almost half of SMEs also have an “urgent” succession planning need, with 90 per cent lacking a formal succession plan.
  • Also, 70 per cent of SMEs believe their business has key person risk, with only 30 per cent believing their business can operate without them.

The interesting thing is, these statistics in my opinion are very much a reflection of the position many practitioners in the Accounting profession find themselves in. It is somewhat of a misconception that Accounting firms have all of the above statistics sorted out in their own businesses, this just isn’t the case. Although fully qualified to complete and achieve the objectives these statistics highlight, it is often a case of the “plumber with the leaking tap”. Typically, practitioners are so focussed on servicing the immediate compliance needs of their clients that they forgo any available opportunities to hone in on these areas for themselves. This also means that the time spent on creating the intellectual property, systems and delivery mechanisms to offer such value to their clients just doesn’t come to fruition although the desire and intention is most often there.

So it is all well and good to say that Accountants are in the perfect position to be the “trusted adviser” to their clients and offer more value added services. But the solution will not be realised unless firms address the problems that are so commonly known to rob them of the opportunities to provide such services. To quote Einstein “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result”.

To help clarify the situation, here is what I believe to be the DNA of a firm that will get the runs on the board providing business advisory services and real value to their clients. They will:

  • Have their own clearly defined, living, breathing business plan on one page and re-visited on a regular basis
  • Be very clear on the core competencies the firm holds and where to they can provide the most value to their defined IDEAL client
  • Not be a generalist and will specialise in a particular suite of services or niche market
  • Have a fine tuned factory that is dedicated to improving productivity and efficiency of all client work completed
  • Have partners that see the value in stepping away from the tools to spend more time with their clients helping grow the business
  • Have a team that feels valued and valuable and has brought into working towards something bigger and greater than themselves.

Then and only then will the firm be able to truly step away from being just the traditional tax/compliance agent and take advantage of the business advisory opportunities that their clients are clearly calling out for.

If you’d like to know how the DNA of your firm stacks up against others in Australia, you may want to complete our Business Performance Review – click here.