From XU Magazine, 
Issue 36

Advisor Insights: The successes and failures of advisory innovators

Futrli Director catches up with advisory leaders to learn lessons about the industry.

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In an ever-evolving industry landscape, leading accounting and advisory firms are revolutionising their strategies to stay ahead of the game. No longer bound to traditional compliance services, these trailblazers are embracing advisory services. With a distinct approach and a refreshing outlook, they are redefining the rules of the game and setting the pace for a new era of accounting excellence.

At Futrli, we have been catching up with these leaders in the field to find out how they are breaking new ground, the lessons they learned, and the mistakes they made along the way.

Nurture client relationships to build advisory opportunities

Will Farnell, Chairman,Farnell Clarke

We caught up with Will Farnell, Chairman of Farnell Clarke to find out how he has increased advisory opportunities at his firm. His answer was simple, by increasing touchpoints…  

But… How do you ensure that you have more touchpoints? Offer daily bookkeeping. (Well,  maybe not daily, but regular bookkeeping… Let’s say once a week.) With cloud accounting, the process doesn’t need to be laborious. Check over those ledgers, make sure everything makes sense, touch base with the client, and ask the client when things don’t add up.

This is great for you and your clients for two reasons.

  • You’re immediately creating more touchpoints with your client.
  • You gain the data that enables you to have meaningful conversations about your clients’ business.

So… In short, you increase touchpoints, and you control the quality of the data available. The rest will fall into place.

“I’m passionate about bookkeeping on a regular basis. Without quality data, we can’t deliver all the things we want to. It is one of the simplest ways to create more touchpoints. By “daily” bookkeeping, I really mean “weekly” because we don’t call the client every day to say, “can I have that missing receipt?” But we can do that once a week.
“We’re creating at least 52 touchpoints with every client. And it will be more than that, of course, because there will be the extra one around the VAT return, an extra one around the end-of-year accounts. But as a starting point, we’re creating that opportunity to build those relationships.” Will Farnell, Chairman, Farnell Clarke

Create meaningful colleague environments

Skills shortages are a serious concern for all businesses currently. Many businesses are competing with one another for the finest talent out there and other businesses find themselves losing staff as they look for different opportunities. The accountancy profession is no different, and firms must think creatively about how to establish and maintain an environment that attracts and retains exceptional colleagues. Nurturing junior talent and creating a dynamic work environment is a clear way to mitigate these challenges.  

“Giving trainees tasks and little projects helps junior colleagues feel valued. Taking someone early in their career and developing these habits is important. Behaviour breeds behaviour.” Tom Jamison, Managing Director, Abbeygate Accountancy

Skills shortage and colleague retention are critical issues for any accounting firm. When you have skilled and talented employees, it’s essential to come up with innovative ways to keep them engaged. One effective method is to provide opportunities for your junior staff to interact with clients. Encourage them to take on tasks such as calling clients and performing project-based assignments.

Don’t fall into pricing traps

One of the biggest mistakes Will Farnell says he learned while developing his firm was around fixed pricing.

In 2008, when Will set his firm up, he thought he had made a smart call by introducing fixed fees. With that, he closed the door to being able to upsell anything.

He thought this model would cover 95% of his clients’ needs. Unfortunately, this resulted in keeping prices the same for several years.

“I use the example of a client that I took on in 2008 and they were just setting up a partnership and they were about to go into a limited company structure. I sold them management accounts and VAT returns and a bit of software and payroll.
I think I charged him £150.00 a month… and eight years later, we got to reviewing our fees. This client were doing £1.6 million in revenue. They had 34 people on the payroll, and we were still charging £150.00 a month.”

And during that time… Do you think Will was providing pricing advice for his clients? Of course, he was!

Will and the team at Farnell Clarke realised they needed to move away from a fixed pricing model and to review the ways that they priced their offerings in the same ways that they would their clients.

Use tech-driven solutions  

Firms shouldn’t look to have one “Advisor”. Everyone in the team should be able to perform some sort of level of advisory work with clients. This unlocks bottlenecks in your practice and gets your colleagues in front of some exciting client-based situations.

Stuart Hurst, Managing Director, Accounts and Legal

“When I speak to other firms, there is sometimes a bottleneck as you’ve got one person that is the advisor. This slows things down. Futrli has enabled us to have 30 of our 50 staff who can deliver some form of advice. Not top-level with all the bells and whistles, but at least can look at the figures in a bit more detail. It’s really important to ensure that this work isn’t just stuck with us but opened to the team.” Stuart Hurst, Managing Director, Accounts and Legal

At Futrli by Sage, we are proud to be the ultimate advisory solution for accountants. There’s no need to spend hours plugging financials into static forecasting spreadsheets… we generate precise 3-year rolling cash flow forecasts, intuitive budgets, and scenario plans. You and your colleagues get to spend less time in a spreadsheet and more time discussing what data means for your clients.

With in-platform drag and drop reporting you can easily visualise the forecasts, budgets, and predictions you generate for your clients. Walk clients through data that is meaningful for them.

Anyone can grow their firm. Take intuitive steps to scale your practice. Use more interactions to create advisory opportunities that make the most of affordable tech solutions.

Mark Simic, Partner, Simpkins Edwards

“Futrli has redefined our internal expectations of what management accounts and real time forecasting should be. We are able to provide a better level consistently. It comes out in the right way, every time.”  Mark Simic, Parnter, Simpkins Edwards

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