Sending out an SOS to CPAs
Most business owners have a traditional understanding of what an accountant does. File taxes. Prepare financial statements. But are your clients asking you for more?
In the latest episode of Pulse of the Practice, “A Small Business Owner’s Cry for Advisory Help”, Paul Miller, Owner of Business by Design, and Will Hill, MBA sat down with Majaliwa Bass, founder and owner of Pooters Diapers, to discuss how her call for advisory help went unnoticed—and her quest to find a trusted advisor dedicated to helping her business grow.
A cry for advisory help unanswered
When Majaliwa started Pooters Diapers, she was the mother of two with a passion that turned profitable. She hired an accountant and eventually went back to work full-time and had two more kids. As a working mom of four with a successful business, she was initially content with the traditional accountant relationship.
But after speaking with an acquaintance in the accounting profession, she learned that a true accountant should be focused not only on taxes and bookkeeping but on helping clients make good business decisions and meeting strategic goals.
“That’s the help I needed,” said Majaliwa. “I didn’t realize that an accountant could do it.”
When she asked her accountant at the time for advisory help, she was turned down. Instead, she hired a marketing agency to boost business. They started in May. In November, she got a notice from her bank stating insufficient funds for a charge.
“I had not gotten a statement like that since I was in college,” she said. “I was like, wait a second. What’s happening?”
Majaliwa realized that while the marketing agency had tripled her monthly revenue, it wasn’t enough to cover their costs. She had been losing money every month while her accountant, who was managing her bookkeeping, sat idly by.
Thirteen years after starting Pooters Diapers, she was on the verge of losing it.
“I was in tears because I was about to lose it all,” she said. “And that’s unfortunate because I had someone who was supposed to be my business partner in helping me look at these numbers.”
Turning a standard client relationship into an investment
It was then that Majaliwa began her search for an accountant who could answer her call for a trusted advisory relationship—and she found one in Jessica Smith, CPA.
“She whipped my books into shape,” said Majaliwa. “She gave me some very smart advice that I just would’ve never thought about. She advised me on the types of loans that I needed to take out for my business, and the type of loans I did not need to take out for my business and got me back in the black in about two months. I knew I was sitting down at the table with the business partner and not just a functional service, if you will.”
“I pay her monthly now for consultative services,” she continued. “And if there are any red flags, she thinks a month or two in advance and she’ll ping me and be like, hey, are you thinking about this? Did you see this notice that came in from so and so? You want to start thinking about these types of loans and don’t forget to invest in this.”
“There’s so much confidence I have in knowing that she’s on top of it,” said Majaliwa. “It’s been tremendously valuable and took me from thinking about an accountant as a person that did a job and an expense on my balance sheet to an investment.”
Don’t let an opportunity for advisory services pass you by
Historically, the revenue model for accounting firms has been a function of transactions completed. But that line of thinking can stifle your relationships with clients and result in missed opportunities. Shifting to an advisory services model strengthens your client relationships and opens up revenue streams dependent upon your knowledge and experience.
So, how do you know if your clients are unknowingly asking you for advisory-based services? Consider these questions. Are they coming to you for more than just tax return preparation? Are they asking for counsel on tax-related legislation, business decisions, or strategic planning? If so, it’s time to capitalize on these opportunities and move your firm to an advisory-based model. By doing so, you can not only make the most of these opportunities, but learn how to build a brand around them, price your services competitively, and reallocate your resources appropriately.
So, if your client asks you a question they’ve never asked before, put your radar up. There’s an unmet need—a cry for help. And it’s an opening into a new relationship you can’t afford to overlook.