Is Your Accountant More than Your Trusted Advisor?
Managing partner Maria Rollins was a guest on the Accounting Success podcast, speaking on the topic, “How Successful Accountants Serve Their Clients.” In this session excerpt, host Ian Welham and Maria discuss what it means as a CPA to be more than a trusted advisor.
IAN: It’s sometimes said that owning a business can be a lonely world and even that clients can go into their own shell or into their own world. Do you ﬁnd that once you’ve got a relationship with a client that they tend to reach out to you to help them understand their business, help them avoid that feeling of loneliness…?
MARIA: Sometimes we refer to ourselves as more than just the trusted advisors. Sometimes we’re the psychologist that steps in and listens to what our clients’ issues are even if it goes beyond their business or accounting. I think it’s the fact that our clients know that we really do care about the success of their business, so we can listen to their troubles and their stresses and provide that third-party advice, that independent advice, to help them succeed.
IAN: I think that’s very important. I think you used the word “help them succeed.” Do you ﬁnd that some clients aren’t actually clear about where they want to go? They got into business. They’ve grown, perhaps, over 10 or 15 years, but they don’t have an end game.
MARIA: We do talk a lot about succession planning for their business. We do talk about buy/sell agreements… We do try to sit down and understand what the goals are. We talk a lot about a three-year plan and a ﬁve-year plan so we can help them, guide them. Their business is their biggest asset most times. You want to add value within that asset.
IAN: You have clients not just from New Jersey, but across the U.S. and from around the world. They’re quite diverse in terms of size, ranging from multinational corporations to small, independent businesses. What do you actually look for in a client? What are the things that attract you to the client?
MARIA: The biggest attraction is what we can do to help that client. Where can we actually see some success with what that client needs and how we can match up our talent to get them to that next level and to help them achieve their goals. We do talk a lot about what the client needs are, our understanding of those needs, and how we can help them achieve those goals.
IAN: I think it helps, of course, whether the client’s large or small, that they welcome outside expertise and understand this value.
MARIA: There’s clients that could be a little bit larger that have very different needs. Maybe those clients are more in the need of the traditional accounting services where we’re providing audit assistance or a ﬁnancial statement assistance. We’ve found very small businesses, and we don’t want to pigeonhole any business based on size, but very small businesses that are very entrepreneurial, they have a very high need and use of technology, and it’s exciting to be part of that growth.
IAN: I noted another expression on your website that caught my attention. I think it was echoed in some of your clients’ testimonials as well. The phrase is: “We’ve got your back.” Can you explain what you mean by that? How does that phrase embody how you serve your clients?
MARIA: The culture here is that we care about our clients’ businesses, sometimes even more than our clients seem to care about their businesses. That’s really where that comes from. You’re focused on your business. You’re in it day-to-day. Sometimes it’s very hard to step back and look at the big picture. We’re there. We’ve got you. We have that big picture in mind. You can count on us for that.