For most accountants, the first-ever client meeting offers the ideal good opportunity to perform an audit on their current and future needs as part of a broader getting-to-know-you exercise. While the client may well have hired the accountant for a specific task – completing a tax return or advising on tax liability, for instance – this immediate point of focus should naturally segue into a discussion of longer-term priorities, including the possibility, no matter how distant, of selling their business.
Be a Critical Friend
Business clients expect their accountants not only to act on current instructions but also to offer proactive advice in the role of a ‘critical friend’. While handling day-to-day accounting tasks is part and parcel of the service, helping clients to focus on business strategy and ways in which to add value over the long term can reap rewards for all parties. Conversely, failing to provide this kind of input can lead clients to believe they’re not benefitting from your professional perspective. By considering how the client envisages exiting from the business – even if this is decades in the future – it will help inform decisions in the short term, too.
Spread the Load
Naturally, accountants experience very compressed workloads at certain times of the year, with lighter duties in other months. By offering clients a more in-depth and collaborative approach, accountants get to smooth out some of the seasonal bumps, at the same time putting in the spadework to forge an enduring relationship that will return more opportunities to engage in the future. Even if there’s too much work during tax season to offer advice and guidance on a business valuation, for example, dialogue can at least be started and the path towards diversification brought a step or two closer.
Strike While the Iron Is Hot
Using a routine meeting with your business client to talk about valuing or selling a business may well fall at a time when the owner is already beginning to consider a sale. Even in challenging conditions, businesses that show strong earnings and growth potential are always in demand – especially if they can also demonstrate solid accounts and a healthy cash flow. Even if the client is only beginning to mull over the possibility of selling, a market valuation may help them to decide. The demand for valuations is also on the rise where there are shareholder or partner disputes or perhaps where family law cases are proceeding.
A forward-thinking business owner will always have an eye on the future, as well as pondering about the present. Because they’re often tasked with reconciling the previous year’s financial records, accountants can miss an opportunity when it comes to looking ahead – and yet no one is better qualified to offer advice on long-term planning. Your client may not understand how much you can help them to not only maintain good accounting and management records and mitigate tax liabilities but also to boost the value of their biggest asset. Going the extra mile is a win-win: clients receive the advice and support they need, while you get the chance to add value.
Considering how and when they may wish to plan an exit strategy will help inform a sound business approach for the coming months and years – and the earlier this happens, the better. This is why an early approach can reap rewards for both parties. Make sure routine meetings are used as a platform for discussing issues you feel may be relevant.