This is the second in a series about the five realities in successfully transitioning to a standout Professional Services Firm and shifting the mindset of your partners to impactful business Advisors from compliance focused Accountants. In Perspective #94, we talked about why this transition is not optional. In this perspective, we will talk about the second reality – not all partners can make this transition successfully and what is the roadmap to successfully transition.
Managing partner delivers the message about the importance to start thinking and behaving like Advisors and not just Accountants. “Each of us needs to become that true trusted advisor for our clients which goes way beyond numbers, audits and taxes. The goal of becoming a standout professional services firm starts with this critical mindset shift”. After the meeting, a partner (Sam) comes to the MP’s office and expresses a concern about making the transition.
“I have spent my career in this profession, and I am a really great accountant. I can comfortably talk to my clients about numbers and taxes but not sure I can get good at being an impactful business Advisor”
In crafting a thoughtful response, the MP sits back and starts to realize that the transition might be difficult for some, maybe many partners.
The MP thinks back to his/her career and the obstacles he/she had to face becoming a successful, impactful business Advisor. The trip down memory lane begins to crystalize the thinking about the response.
“Sam, thanks for coming to discuss your concern about becoming a really great Advisor. As I think back over my career and my path to become a critical Advisor to clients, I thought it might help to share some of the obstacles I had to overcome in that journey”.
The MP continues:
“I was fortunate to have a mentor early in my career who was a true Advisor to his clients long before that was expected. He shared with me the key principles that formed his roadmap. Here is what I learned on my journey.
Desire – if you don’t have the strong desire and motivation to become a successful Advisor to your clients, it will never happen.
Belief – If you don’t believe in yourself and your talent, you will never have the strong focus required to change and grow into a successful Advisor and to do the hard work, take the risks, make the transition and get clients to believe in you
Commitment – It’s a long road from desire and belief to success and it requires the commitment to learn, practice, re-learn, practice and making the personal commitment to spend the time and energy to do what is needed to become a successful Advisor.
Education – Transitioning from our Accounting mindset to the Advisor mindset requires a belief in the first three principles. Then, the longest road is education – learning all that it takes to be a successful Advisor. There needs to be a balance between technical training and more broad business training focused on skills needed to help each client’s business become more successful. You need to be comfortable in discussing and advising on areas such as strategy, teamwork, technology, organizational issues, driving change to drive growth and profit, to name a few. You don’t need to be an expert, but you do need to be able to recognize challenges your client is facing, comfortable in discussing the challenges and some possible solutions and finally helping your client get the help they need, hopefully utilizing other services the firm provides.
Confidence – My client experience taught me a most valuable lesson – even if I had the upmost desire, belief, commitment and education, I could never be successful and trusted as that overall business advisor to my clients if I did not have 100% confidence in myself. If I didn’t have absolute confidence in myself and my talent, how could a client ever have that confidence in me. Confidence is both a mindset as well as the result of actual experience which goes to the last principle
Talk to Results™ – Advice given has to achieve results and that takes all of the above plus an understanding that success as an Advisor becomes better and better with each client experience – learning and staying the course with every recommendation you make to a client to see it through to results. Results build confidence in yourself, client confidence in you and the final affirmation of your transformation from Accountant to Advisor.
Sam, think about what I shared with you and I guarantee you can become an awesome Advisor if you follow the above principles.”
In Our Opinion, becoming a successful Advisor is not an easy road given all the years most of us have spent in compliance and in the numbers. However, it is an absolute that in all of small and midsized CPA firms, we need to make the commitment to changing the mindset of partners from Compliance to Advisors if our firms will continue to grow and remain relevant in such a dramatically changing market and level of client expectation.
MPs of every firm need to champion this transformation, lead the way and make the commitment to provide the training, coaching and support to every partner who has the desire to become that true trusted Advisor.
Every MP needs to understand that to be a truly stand out professional services firm, the partners need to be stand out partners, with the Advisor mindset as well as strong technical skills supported by a strong firm at all levels. What makes a standout firm is reflected in the client loyalty that comes from helping them become more successful – the firm’s success is clearly linked to that. Reliance on being great accountants alone will no longer drive the financial performance of our firms.
Tony Zecca (CPA and retired CohnReznick partner and National Director of the Advisory Group) is a ESPOSITO CEO2CEO consultant who is brought into client assignments when needed. ESPOSITO CEO2CEO, LLC — a boutique advisory firm consulting to leading CPA and other professional services firms on strategy, succession planning and mergers, acquisitions and integration is actively led by Dom Esposito, CPA. Dom, voted as one of the most influential people in the profession for two consecutive years by Accounting Today and most recently recognized in the Platt Group IPA Best Consultants, authored a book, published by www.CPATrendlines.com., entitled “8 Steps to Great” which is a primer for CEOs, managing partners and other senior partners. In Our Opinion, is a continuing series of perspectives for leading CPA firms where Dom and his colleagues share insights, experiences and wisdom with firm leaders who want to “run with the big dogs” and develop their firms into sustainable brands. Dom welcomes questions and can be contacted at either firstname.lastname@example.org or 203.292.3277.