5 Steps to Master the Art of Advisory Services: A Blueprint for CPAs

by John E. Graziano, CPA, PFS, CFP®, FFP Wealth Management | September 19, 2023

Today, more and more accounting firms are offering or are considering offering advisory services to meet client needs and expectations. In fact, a recent Thomson Reuters report found that 95% of tax professionals believe their clients want more advisory services.

Here are five steps to master the art of advisory services:

1. Establish the “Why”

Before choosing the services to offer and planning how to implement them, think about why you want to offer them in the first place. Is it to do the following:

  • Achieve higher revenue?
  • Meet client needs?
  • Enjoy more fulfilling work?
  • Obtain a combination of all three?

2. Define Your “Dream” Services

Accounting firms can offer a wide range of advisory services, but you don’t have to offer all of them. In fact, you should focus on offering only the services that:

  • Interest you and your team
  • Benefit your clients

Remember, you can offer profitable services, but they won't be fulfilling if they’re not interesting to you and your team. Without fulfillment, you risk burnout.

Common advisory services include the following:

  • Financial planning
  • Cash flow management
  • Financial strategy
  • Exit planning
  • Wealth management
  • Strategic management
  • Tax planning

Carefully consider each type of service, what it entails and whether the work will be fulfilling for your team and needed by clients. Once you have a list of advisory services that you want to offer, you can start taking steps to include them in your offerings.

3. Take Incremental Steps to Offer Advisory Services

Smaller firms need more resources to expand into a half-dozen new services. Even if you do, you risk not being able to accommodate your clients in the way that they deserve. Often, it’s best to take incremental steps to begin offering these services.

You can judge demand by:

  • Reviewing past conversations with clients. See if they’re asking for services that you can start offering and what services they are interested in.
  • Asking clients about their five-year goals. When asking clients about their goals, you’ll gain insight into what they desire and what it will take to get there. Perhaps a client wants to be able to buy a second home and take one nice vacation per year. You can offer financial planning as an advisory service to help them inch closer to this goal.

The last thing that you want to do is underperform for your current client base when you begin offering advisory services. Start with the steps above and then:

  • Offer one or two in-house advisory services.
  • Learn how the new services impact operations.
  • Revisit adding more services in the future.
  • Consider partnering with other firms (more below).

4. Test Cloud-based Tools

Advisory services can add a new layer of complexity to your firm. For example, let’s assume that you have the expertise to handle budgeting and forecasting in-house. You can use this specialization to your advantage by offering it to your clients. However, there are cloud-based solutions that will help crunch the numbers for you and allow for faster implementation.

You should test out cloud-based tools that can help you begin offering these services with as little friction as possible.

5. Partner with Other Firms

What if you want to begin offering other advisory services, such as financial planning, but it’s not something you prefer to provide in-house or have immense experience in? In these cases, you can partner with another firm. Partnering allows you to keep the services you love and offload the work you would rather have someone else do.

Securities Offered Through: TFS Securities Inc., Member FINRA/SIPC, a full service broker dealer located at 437 Newman Springs Road, Lincroft, NJ 07738 732-758-9300

Investment Advisory Services Offered through:TFS Advisory Services, a service of TFS Securities, Inc.

John E. Graziano

John E. Graziano

John Graziano, CPA, CFP, PFS, is president of FFP Wealth Management, a financial planning and management firm. He is a member of the NJCPA.

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