Advisory Practice
Advisory Practice

Growing your advisory practice through your people

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What comes to mind when you think of Client Advisory Services (CAS)? Maybe, it used to be the bookkeeping department producing paper-bound financials with lots of ticking and tying. Well, ready or not, the millennial workforce and young business owners refuse to accept the old ways. With our world run on digitalization and automation, the truth is that the tax and accounting landscape for professionals has changed.

However, even though the environment we work in may look a little different, our biggest asset remains our people. The age of technology has given our people the freedom to innovate and use critical thinking to paint a much more dynamic and proactive place of business. What does this mean for the future of CAS, and how we attract and retain talent to lead a passionate, excited, and self-motivated team?

I’m a millennial, too, and I work in a fast-growing CAS department where there is a lot of confusion as to what I do for a living. I’ve tried summarizing it as small business consulting, financial advisory services, and technology optimization, but nothing seems to capture this new role we, as tax and accounting firms, seek to recruit. To me, in order to succeed in advisory, your employees must be passionate about their work and their clients.

While I may not be the typical CPA who can recite tax codes on demand or answer questions on GAAP financial reporting, my role in our CAS department has led me to a new promotion almost every year. The value we, as advisors, provide to clients looks a little different and is achieved through proactively listening, tackling business goals, strategizing with leadership, and at its most basic level, solving problems.

From a firm perspective, it’s very hard to recruit talent using old traditional job descriptions such as tax preparer, bookkeeper, or staff auditor. But, it’s also just as difficult to use generic job descriptors, including problem-solving, eager to learn, self-confident, adaptable, analytical, and, at minimum, mastery of basic technical accounting skills. My firm’s approach to recruiting and retaining talent in the CAS department can be summarized into a three-prong style: harnessing passion of current employees, alignment of firm culture/strategy, and updated branding and marketing.

  1. Feed your passion. Supporting the passion of employees allows the firm to better retain them and leverage their skills to give them new purpose. We all must use technology as an asset to automate tasks and allow for innovation of an enthusiastic business advisor. We’ve coined this concept as “let them go and watch them grow.”
  2. Aligning firm culture and strategy. This is the second key to success of a motivated and happy workforce. Clients don’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling from accountants in starch suits telling them the laws they must comply to – and it isn’t a dream of a college student, either. Clients see value in an advisor who speaks to them in real talk vs. accounting technicalities, shows them new ways to make their processes more efficient, and helps them grow their business. They want an advisor to lead them to the brink of technological excellence and help them excel. They want their advisor to challenge them and help them think outside of the box. Those advisors must be cultivated and developed in a firm that promotes this kind of innovation, adaptation, and mentorship.
  3. Remember branding and marketing. One tool that exudes your firm culture is your marketing and branding to this new workforce. They need to know we have evolved from a traditional firm of auditors and compliance robots to passionate advisors who are eager to serve the clients we truly care about. We are specialists in our craft, whether that is a specific niche, technology consulting, process pioneering, or leadership guidance.

Advisory services has evolved into such a complex and modern hybrid of accounting and tax compliance, but it’s also a nurturing relationship based on the client trust and innovation from passionate employees. For us to grow, we must provide a satisfying career development and firm culture to produce advisors that we, and our clients, trust.

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