Estimated reading time: 4 minutes, 44 seconds

Scenario 1: A clients asks for help with a business problem that doesn’t quite fit with our ordinary tax and A&A service offerings and you say, "of course, we can help you with that." Then you head back to the office to figure out your next steps. Scenario 2: Your firm has a couple of really good consultative type CPAs who seem to have a gift for taking on unusual projects. I call these Consulting Savants – they have the ability to create unique deliverables on the fly when a client presents the need. But when they are not around what happens to the firm's ability to provide similar services?

In both of these scenarios you end up with Random Acts of Consulting; a service that is typically a one-off deliverable. There are reasons firms have well documented processes and procedures and are investing millions to automate core service offerings. Without a well defined, repeatable process you will never achieve the efficiencies and leverage that are the hallmark of a well-run firm.

Can you imagine a firm based on Random Acts of Tax preparation or Random Acts of Auditing? When Frank Sinatra sings, "I did it my way" we embrace his rebellious message. When you hear a member of your firm say, "I did it my way" you should cringe with fear. Yet, when it comes to consulting and advisory services, the logic of efficiency seems to go right out the window and we enable those who would "Do it their way." Why? Because we operate under the misconception that advisory services, by their very nature are unique.

There is a fine, but critical, line between a "unique" and "customized" advisory service offerings.

Even though my doctor sees dozens of patients each day, she does not practice random acts of medicine. She has a standard diagnostic process she follows before reaching any conclusions. If, after listening to my heart, lungs, checking my eyes, ears, nose and reflexes. and a diagnosis is not readily apparent, she orders more tests. Although she may have a hunch, she is looking for independent confirmation. Based on the outcome of the tests, she then designs a treatment protocol that is customized to my particular situation. Advisory services should be approached in the same manner. Each firm needs a standardized diagnostic intake, as well as standardized (with room to be customized) treatment protocols.

On those rare occasions when client needs fall outside of the normal scope of services, then it's time to call in the Consulting Savants just like you would call in Dr. House to solve the unique medical mystery. For the most part, client’s needs are well served by the General Practitioner Accountant who has the right Mindset, Skillset, and Toolset to address the typical business ailments such as cash flow, succession, team building or financial fluency.

Every client deserves an annual check-up to ascertain the overall wellbeing of their business. The SCOPE Analysis Worksheet (see below) provides a standard framework for identifying areas of lost opportunity and potential for improvement.

Scope chart

Give a blank copy of the $COPE Analysis Worksheet to your clients, have one for yourself and start the discussion. Each time the client addresses a box, be sure to capture their responses on your worksheet. It's amazing how many clients have never looked at their businesses this way; holistically. Try using this format at your year-end meetings and you’ll start to see your clients differently, just as they will see you in a whole new light. Even if you never go beyond the discussion using this worksheet, your clients will appreciate that you took the time to understand more than just the financial aspects of their business.

The worksheet is the first step toward developing standardized (customizable) advisory services. It is an approach that everyone in your firm should be using with (at a minimum) your best clients. It should be kept in the client's permanent file to be referred to on a regular basis to gauge how the client is progressing toward their ideal outcome. Instead of looking at the year-end meeting as a way to finish the current year, look at it as a way of indentifying areas to improve in the coming year.
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For a blank template send an e-mail to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. You will receive the blank template as well as the Advisor's "cheat sheet" a.k.a Business Development Matrix to help you ask the most pertinent questions.

Edi Osborne, CEO of Mentor Plus, has been a leader in training and consulting to the accounting profession for nearly 20 years. Recently named as one of the TOP 25 Thought Leaders in Public Accounting, Ms. Osborne is dedicated to helping firms make the transition from a "service centric" traditional accounting focus to a "client centric" advisory services culture. For more info go to: http://www.mentorplus.com/.

Last modified on Sunday, 02 June 2013
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