There is so much buzz in the accounting community around CAS. Does anyone have a proper definition? It has been used to abbreviate Client Accounting Services, Client Advisory Services, Cloud Accounting Services, etc. For purposes of this article, we will define it as Client Advisory Services. Now we have also heard a push towards advisory in our profession for a long time, yet, that concept seems so nebulous it can be hard to figure out where to start.
Advisory starts with culture. Hear me out – if we perpetuate a culture of consistently subordinating the opinions of accounting staff, they will learn not to voice their thoughts. They will learn to do things the way it has always been done and not the way that lends itself to creativity. While a certain type of creative accountant is a bad thing, critical thinking skills are imperative to great advisory. To build a firm around advisory, we need to encourage our team members to think for themselves, to solve problems, and to learn how to bring value to their clients.
Encouraging team members to think bigger can be difficult to balance with making sure the work gets done. A good way to start is with monthly closes. Ask your team members to identify five trends, or five things that the client could do to improve their business. It will become clear quickly which of your team members have a knack for advisory. To be clear, not everyone on the team has to be good at advisory. There are absolutely people that are phenomenal at technical bookkeeping that will never have the desire to advise clients. There are roles for each of them in a firm.
I find that focusing on my team members’ strengths and their passions is where we are able to bring the most value to our clients. I have a few members of my team that are excellent at cashflow forecasting, an advisory service that most small businesses need. These team members provide amazing advice to our clients, helping them ensure payroll is made and money is allocated to the right places. We have other team members with an aptitude for technology. These people focus on implementing efficient technology stacks, helping solve workflow and process problems, and advising clients on how to utilize technology in their businesses to accomplish their goals.
Many firms are already doing some type of advisory services, we just have disparate definitions buzzing through our industry. Any service that is beyond entering data into a general ledger could be considered advisory. Building a team ready to handle additional advisory starts with culture and grows directly with the energy put into building your team’s strengths based skillsets.