The term Advisory has been bounced around a lot in the last few years, and at FD Works this has been no different. We have strived to move into this area and offer advisory services to all of our clients as a new revenue stream, but more importantly so we can have strong long lasting relationships with our clients and watch them succeed.
It is well known that Accountants are the first port of call for many businesses when it comes to seeking professional advice, but what does providing Advisory services even mean, and how can we get to this utopian world where clients value the advice you give them and are willing to pay for that advice?
FD Works started on a journey with Xavier Analytics in 2018, with a mission to give exciting small businesses the insight and advice they needed to succeed. After much deliberation, coffee and tea breaks (with biscuits, naturally) we decided we needed to address the following in order to offer good advisory services:
How often have you gone into someone’s Xero data to find that you can’t rely on the information in there? How are we meant to be able to offer advice if we can’t trust the data?
As we move into the world of Ubers, Deliveroo & Amazon Prime, every aspect of our life is becoming more timely. Why should financial data be any different? How can we offer truly valuable advice if we are relying on data that is many months old?
We need to be proactive with our timely data by giving advice when it’s needed, so our clients can take meaningful action there and then. With this in mind, we put our heads together with the Xavier team to discuss how we can tackle these issues. First on the list:
As the old computing phrase goes, “garbage in, garbage out”. We know our accounts need to be accurate before we can get anything useful out of them. Particularly if you don’t have control over the bookkeeping responsibilities, you’ll be familiar with combing through Xero on a regular basis to check for all the usual mistakes.
At FD Works, we realised that a lot of the checks that we were doing were repetitive and at a high level. We therefore designed a number of tools with the Xavier team that could review all the data for you, and show you what was needed to make it clean and accurate.
This included our favourite ‘Multi-Coded Contacts’ feature, which tells you where you have coded a transaction with a contact to a different account code or tax rate so you can find things that might have been mis-coded really easily.
With these cleanup checks we solved our first problem; we could now rely on the Xero data (or knew that we could not rely on the data!) to provide accurate advisory services.
The second obstacle to tackle was to ensure any financial information was timely. The fundamentals of this come from the accounting system – connecting up bank feeds to Xero and ensuring sales information gets pulled through regularly. Once we had this set up, we then wanted to be able to see some key metrics:
- Net Assets
- Cash Balance
With regular oversight, these three key stats would give us enough information about the business to flag any warning signs (i.e. their cash balance is nearing negative) – or any explosion in growth (their revenue is going through the roof!). This is why we designed the practice dashboard with Xavier.
This pivot table style report in Xavier pulls all this information about business performance into one place and updates it at least once a day. We review this report as a team on a weekly basis to highlight which clients we need to speak to, and the kind of advice we need to give them.
So now we have the data we need at our fingertips, we need to ensure we have those proactive conversations. However, we then thought how are we going to start having these conversations? Isn’t it going to be weird the accountant just calling out of the blue?
To tackle this we worked with Xavier and their accounting community to develop the ‘Health Check’, which goes through a number of checks in the Xero data with a traffic light alert system. The list acts as a script to talk a client through some of the problems we have with the data, and also highlight any issues they might have with their business performance. We decided we would at a minimum have these conversations quarterly with ALL our clients.
This Health Check gave all members of our team the confidence to speak to our clients. With a regular check-in set up, it didn’t seem as weird to pick up the phone out of the blue to have those conversations, and helped us become an advisor in our clients’ eyes.
By working with Xavier and ensuring we were accurate, timely and proactive, we now had a new revenue stream and better client relationships. We were now confident that we could genuinely be a trusted business advisor.