The added value of consulting services
30 January 2017
Big accountancy firms recognise the value of offering value-add consulting services to major clients. But by focusing on funding advice, business strategy and mentoring, small accounting businesses and individuals can also significantly increase their consultancy revenues while deepening relationships with customers.
Here are three ways in which accountants can go about capitalising on this increased appetite for consulting services.
Accountants should be talking to clients about the availability of government/local grants, R&D tax credits and tax schemes that provide investors with reliefs for investing in the business – such as the Enterprise Investment Scheme (EIS).
As Michael Jayson, managing partner of the Manchester office of Crowe Clark Whitehill explains, there are many sources of funding available – such as borrowing from family, bank funding, crowd finance, business angels and venture capital. “Being able to draw on their accountant’s expertise will help the business decide on the most appropriate option,” he says.
This is particularly important in relation to crowdfunding, suggests Andrew Mosby, a partner at Menzies. “You need to bring something credible to that market, with the research and work put in to support the idea. Too many businesses come with a half-developed idea and think the market will be fighting to give them seed capital.”
Another area where accountants can help a start-up business is in drafting the business plan, pulling together short-term and medium-term plans and determining whether the initial ideas are commercially viable.
Jon Sutcliffe, a partner at Kingston Smith sees the role of the accountant evolving from that of auditor, bookkeeper or tax advisor to full business consultant. “We are seeing increasing demand for IT consultancy and corporate finance advice as well as strategic business advice. Acting as trusted advisers to clients and gaining knowledge through audit and accounting work enables us to understand our clients’ business goals and objectives.”
When setting up in business, an entrepreneur may assume that they don’t need to involve an accountant until it is time to file a tax return. This underestimates the added value of having a knowledgeable professional on board from the start. Accountants can act as a sounding board for ideas and be the ‘critical friend’ that clients need on what can be a lonely journey as a founding entrepreneur.
Simon La Fosse, founder of La Fosse Associates – ranked as one of the top 15 best small companies to work for in the UK for the last four years – says advice received from his accountant (ABG partner Paul Berlyn) has proved invaluable.
“He was incredibly helpful when I was launching my business, going far beyond the simple process of setting up the accounts in the right way,” he recalls. “Perhaps most importantly, he advised me against doing a deal which would have sent me down another, much less rewarding path.”
According to Michael Jayson, many entrepreneurs prefer working with accountants who can provide them with realistic advice and are able to understand the journey they are on.
The Source Information Services research indicated that SMEs were particularly enthusiastic about the potential of consulting services. As such, there has never been a better time to tap into this enthusiasm and get closer to your clients.