From XU Magazine, 
Issue 19

The new definition of CFO: Creating Future Opportunities

The term “CFO level services” is frequently thrown around but it is often left as a vague idea. At the deepest level, CFO level services are meant to help Create Future Opportunities for your clients. We dive into the three steps you can take in order to successfully grow your services and focus on your clients’ futures…
This article originated from the Xero blog. The XU Hub is an independent news and media platform - for Xero users, by Xero users. Any content, imagery and associated links below are directly from Xero and not produced by the XU Hub.
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The way accountants work with businesses is changing; it is changing rapidly across the globe. Improvements in technology and in information sharing mean that there is no way for your firm to avoid these changes and remain successful. Each year numerous small businesses close, and the main reason is cash flow, or lack thereof. Business owners are starting to understand that there is an opportunity to gain from the knowledge of finance professionals. And since most businesses already work with an accountant, their accountant is a logical resource for them to turn to.

Business owners say they want CFO level services because they understand that reactive, traditional services do not cut it in today’s business world. But what are CFO level services? CFO level services, at the deepest level, are focused on Creating Future Opportunities for the business. Accountants are now in the perfect position to start taking on a larger role in their SME clients’ future success.

A common definition understands a CFO to be a “Chief Financial Officer,” and while that is correct, it does not explain how accountants can start operating in this way. Most large corporations have internal employees that operate as Controllers and CFOs. A Controller is in charge of managing cost control, monitoring operational efficiency, and providing historical financial information; these services use historical data and are largely reactive to what has happened. A CFO manages cash flow, understands the strengths and weaknesses in the company, monitors financial affairs, and creates business strategies to correct problems; a CFO is truly the key to long-term success in the corporation.

The good news is that most accountants are already operating as a Controller for their small and mid-sized business clients. But these SMEs can benefit from the same levels of proactive monitoring and strategic skills that they would get from a CFO.

Accountants are able to leverage real-time data, which enables them to be flexible, dynamic, and most importantly, proactive. When they act as advisors, they are able to truly make a difference to their clients and Create Future Opportunities.

Now, when an accountant says they will be providing CFO level services, we know that they mean they will act as an advisor for small and mid-sized businesses, focusing on ensuring the company’s future opportunities are profitable while mitigating risk. But how can you start offering these things to your clients? There are three steps to making this successful in your firm. Start with improving efficiency in what you are already doing, then implement future driven services, and, most importantly, have proactive conversations with your clients.

Improving Efficiency in Controller Level Services

Leveraging cloud technology and software tools will allow you to create efficiency in the Controller level services you may already be providing. Things like monitoring operational procedures, establishing budgets, and providing financial reports can be expedited and streamlined!

So where do you start? Xero has an amazing ecosystem of apps and tools that are designed to help you get your clients’ data faster. Integrating your clients’ bank feeds into their Xero account is one example of how these technologies can work together to do some of the heavy lifting for you.

And while creating efficiency in what you are already doing in your firm doesn’t sound like a big challenge, it is, in fact, a major step towards revolutionizing your firm and becoming more future-oriented. Evaluate the things you currently do and provide for your clients, and see which areas can be streamlined to save time.

Implementing Future Driven Services

Once you’re saving time in the things you currently do, you are able to expand your services and start diving in deeper into helping your clients and focusing on their future.

The things that all business owners want are financial stability, increased profitability, future growth, and succession planning. These all remain true no matter what size the business is, the difference is that larger businesses have CFOs that are specifically there to help them achieve those goals. This kind of security and peace of mind is what accountants are able to offer their small and mid-sized business clients.

Accountants, now more than ever, are in the position to establish budgets, monitor budgets against real-time actuals, project cash flow, and create business strategies to overcome limitations and strengthen the position of their clients’ companies. These future-focused services are easy to implement when you have the right tools and the right support helping you.

Having Proactive Conversations with Clients

The technology and tools enable you to offer future driven services, but the entire point of being an advisor is to have conversations with your clients. One of the most important, and yet often overlooked, aspects of advisory is asking your clients what they want and helping them understand how to get there.

Helping a small business owner is not just about the numbers; when you help a small business succeed you are impacting the owner’s entire life. James Tobin, ProfitSee’s Director of Australian Operations, explains it best.

“Advisory is about helping clients get an outcome for their business. It is easy to become caught up in giving them a report, a dashboard, or number, but that isn’t necessarily going to help the business in the end. The tangible piece is what enables the conversations. And the conversations are what make the biggest impact at the end of the day. As an advisor, the metrics you monitor culminate into a big picture goal, they go beyond the numbers on the paper.”

When you ask your clients what they want, you can better serve their needs. The accounting world is changing at a rapid-fire pace. The way that technology has been improving and is evolving all aspects of business. The term “CFO level services” is frequently thrown around, but until now it’s been a very vague idea. Using these three steps and smart tools that come with amazing support, like ProfitSee, you will be able to successfully implement services that Create Future Opportunities for your clients.

Why leave it there?

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