Andrew Geddes, Joint Founder of Financial Management Research Centre (FMRC) at University of New England and Chair for ten years of GreenCross Ltd, a top 200 ASX company, discussed issues affecting Accountants with Peter Towers, Managing Director of ESS BIZTOOLS.
Andrew Geddes’ recommendation is that you decide on one or two clients. Go and visit them with a SME Needs Analysis (included within ESS BIZTOOLS Business Advisory Services Starter Package). This is a questionnaire that facilitates a conversation with your client about what concerns has them walking the floor at 3.00am?
Personalise the SME Needs Analysis and ask questions, listen, take notes and try to identify what help the client needs.
Our experience is that business clients are very receptive to this initiative especially as it shows them that you are not just focusing on compliance and tax work – it is about asking questions and listening to the answers.
You don’t have to have all of the answers for your client’s questions. Some accountants are reluctant to move into Business Advisory Services because they feel they have to be experts. You’ll be amazed at how much expertise you do have. You need to ask questions to help your client identify areas that need to be improved and then plan how to implement those improvements. You may have to suggest to the client that they engage marketing specialists or specialists in stock management, procurement, sales, social media or web design. It doesn’t have to be you as the accountant offering a Business Advisory Service that supplies all the answers. Your role is to identify these issues and then help the client identify people with the skills and knowledge to assist them in a particular area.
This is what happens in a public company. Whilst the CFO might be the focal person for a lot of these general matters, the CFO’s role is to assist if he/she can, but if not, to find someone with the expertise who can solve a particular problem. The key result is that the problem has been identified and that someone has been hired or appointed to fix that problem.
In public companies the CFO will produce Budget versus Actual Financial Information which the Board reviews and then asks the CEO or the Managing Director – “are there areas that need to be improved?” What the CEO does is puts together a Business Case identifying what needs to be done and the Board of Directors then discusses the Business Case and makes a decision.
The same process that can be implemented for SMEs – it is a simple version with less people involved, but it is the same concept.
Virtual CFO Service Offering – USA Experience
Why are progressive SME clients embracing the idea of using virtual CFO services?
There is a firm in the USA called Summit CPA which over the last 10 years has developed an online business for the supply of accounting services. It’s taken them a decade to become successful so you shouldn’t expect to be able to do it yourself overnight. However, their experience has knocked down many of the roadblocks, so learning from their mistakes should speed up the process. Most of their businesses have $5,000,000 revenue and above (the range is US $1,000,000 – US $25,000,000) with an annual fee of US $80,000 average (ranging from US $40,000 – US $200,000).
Summit CPA offer 3 levels of service:
- Predictive Accounting – Budgeting – Cash Flow Forecast – Projected Balance Sheet – Key Performance Indicators
- Back office services including payroll, payment of creditors, debtors ledger, general ledger
- Tax return preparation
They start with the Predictive Accounting. This is a forward-looking financial planning process and the compliance component falls out at the bottom end.
There have 60 team members who are located all over the USA – they don’t have an office.
The process starts with a two-hour initial interview. The SME business comes online to Summit CPA’s web site. They go through an interview process and agree on the scope of the work to be undertaken which is basically built round developing a five year strategy and financial goals. The Predictive Accounting process is mandatory for all clients. Summit’s team of accountants monitor the actuals and meet with the clients (via Zoom) quite often – sometimes weekly, but at least monthly.
The Key Performance Indicators are analysed, including submitted orders and forward-looking type revenue-based activity KPIs.
It is a very interesting model. I am sure you agree.
SMEs are sent an engagement proposal within 24 hours of the Zoom meeting. This specifies the annual fee for the negotiated services. The proposal stipulates that the fees are to be divided by 52 and paid on a weekly basis by direct processing. There is an on-boarding fee calculated at double the weekly fee for eight weeks.
Summit CPA basically does not have WIP or debtors.
Because of their success, the firm has recently been acquired by one of the larger accountancy groups in America at a very high valuation multiplier.
PlanGuru, another US based corporation, has developed three-way financial forecasting software that is now required by banks all over the world. PlanGuru’s Managing Director has described Adam Hale, the Managing Partner of Summit CPA, as the “rock star of the American accounting industry” for his leadership in the development of virtual Chief Financial Officer services (vCFO ).
Paul Barnaby FCA, the PlanGuru representative in Australia, indicated that PlanGuru was extremely busy in America servicing the accounting industry. We wanted to know – why?
The answer was that “accountants are finding that they have got less work to do as their tax return market becomes automated and they don’t want to lose any of their skilled accountants.” We all know the story. Failing to provide plenty of interesting challenges on the work front will have your best staff looking for work elsewhere very quickly.
This ultimately led to the creation of virtual Chief Financial Officer services being offered by American accounting firms to SMEs
Want To Know More?
Do you want to know more about this challenging work that will assist firms to attract and retain talent and will please SMEs clients who finally have someone guiding them in their future operations rather than being a historian of past events primarily for the Tax Office.
Contact our Managing Director, Peter Towers, on 1800 232 088 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also visit our website – www.essbiztools.com.au.
Peter Towers – Managing Director
ESS BIZTOOLS Pty Ltd
Telephone: 1800 232 088