Unless you're still doing manual ledgers, you've heard that business advisory is the future for the Accounting industry. Technology makes processes more efficient so capacity is available to expand business advisory services. It's an obvious solution for Accountants who want to differentiate themselves as more than compliance experts. What most Accountants underestimate is how essential their 'soft skills' are for success with business advisory.
An eye-opening in-depth study conducted by Deloitte Access Economics predicts that two-thirds of all jobs in Australia will rely on soft skills by 2030.
Hard skills like technical expertise are as important as ever, but they are expected and every accounting degree graduate will quickly pick up software processes, much faster than most seasoned professionals. Hard skills are easy to quantify which is why we value them so highly. While the human traits or attributes that make up our interpersonal 'soft skills' are difficult to quantify, at least in the immediate short term.
Modern business clients are more interested in strategic business alliances and the benefits of business advisory services, which require a higher degree of applying soft skills in client relationships. Therefore, being able to differentiate yourself with strong interpersonal skills to effectively engage, collaborate and communicate with clients is essential.
You may not have considered this, but you already have the soft skills to work more closely with clients. Though they may be underdeveloped because you've devoted your career to being a technician. The good news is when you develop soft skills you are more effective in your client relationships, and your ability to successfully deliver business advisory services increases exponentially.
Soft skills cover the range of interpersonal skills that we all have, but there are 5 essential skills that I think Accountants underestimate the value of developing.
When these soft skills, in particular, are utilised you turn yourself into a powerhouse of value when you deliver business advisory to clients.
Clients don't understand accounting jargon. Clearly communicate purposeful insights from behind the numbers in simple, plain English with both written and verbal communication.
Appreciate you don't always have to have the answers right then. How comfortable are you exploring with thorough questioning and listening for answers? Do you jump in with answers before you've dug deeper into understanding what your client wants?
Success with business advisory services is underpinned by how well you understand your client's circumstances, connect with them and confidently structure the information they share with you.
Problem Solving and Critical Thinking
Clients want you to take a proactive and adaptable approach to solve complex problems to deliver future-focused plans, rather than always reporting on past activities.
Translating valuable insights from data trends into financially sound strategic plans that clients can implement, within a structured business advisory process for clients, all rely on critical thinking.
Every great Accountant has a knack for critical thinking and solving complex problems. I call this one of your superpowers, I have an Accountant Superpowers ebook you can download here.
Client Engagement and Relationships
When business advisory services are delivered ad-hoc or as needed, it fails to interest clients if there is no process in place for client engagement.
Clients want more value in their strategic relationships to give them an advantage in their business. Without a systematic client engagement process that takes them on a journey of building a trusted, strategic partnership with you, they just won't understand how much value you offer beyond compliance.
Your relationship with your client is more collaborative within business advisory services and strengthening client relationships requires applying an effective range of soft skills.
Would you say you're creative? You may not think you're creative, but when you problem solve you're creating connections between the stories the data tells. When you construct and present scenarios for your client, you are accessing your creativity.
Technology may make processes faster and more efficient to complete, but it will never replace your expert knowledge and ability to extract creative insights and translate them into actionable strategies for your client.
Accountants far underestimate the importance of leadership with business advisory. Your client relationship requires leadership from you. They trust you to guide them and keep them accountable to the agreed strategy.
Leadership in business advisory is an umbrella for soft skills like negotiation, persuasion and influencing to positively build relationships with trust and confidence. It can be as simple as being proactive in communication and responsiveness before issues arise. If you have a team it means ensuring you have the right people in the right roles, and effectively communicating across stakeholders.
Developing and applying interpersonal soft skills in your role will significantly elevate your value to your clients immediately. Changes in technology and client demands are happening rapidly and differentiating yourself is vital for success with business advisory.
It does take time to develop these skills, but with practice and applied focus, you will have a more significant impact on your client's success, as well as your own.
Lynda Steffens is the founder of the Small Business Project, author of Accounting Revolution, an Accounting industry advocate, self-confessed introvert, quintessential speaker and Accountant coach. With 25+ years experience in the accounting industry as an Accountant, Practice Manager and business owner, Lynda coaches Accountants to have the confidence and know-how to successfully transition their business into a future-focused client-centric business advisory services model.
Lynda created The Small Business Project advanced workshops to help Accountants gain the skills and knowledge to deliver profitable, rewarding business advisory services the right way with a trusted client advisory engagement model. After just one workshop you have a repeatable, proven system and processes to implement for creating client interest and ongoing commitment to your advisory services. Complete The Small Business Project certification and you transform your business completely from a functional service into a vital business advisory resource that clients value.