Trusted Business Advisor – slogan or reality?


Over the years, I have come across many slogans and catchphrases designed to either to motivate, express culture, promote a feelgood factor or warn of impending doom if ignored.

In technology services one company espoused FNAO (failure not an option) as a means of expressing to clients that they will do everything to ensure uninterrupted service. Naturally this didn’t happen, but the mindset of all operators, developers, designers was geared towards this goal, which in turn made their clients feel more secure.

In recent times the slogan that has caught my eye is the one about accountants evolving towards becoming a trusted business advisor.  Unless you are a member of Deep Purple, I think that most of us do “trust” our accountant, like the way we “trust” our bank.  In other words, we take you for granted, pay your bills (hopefully) and don’t necessarily think about you as a key component towards the success of our business.

However, due to technology and an increasing culture of “self-service” the time of passing my accountant an envelope stuffed with receipts and a rather inexpertly completed excel spreadsheet has been, or should be, consigned to history.

As I now use an online accounting tool, which is simplicity itself, I find myself wondering

What does my accountant do?

Most will have their own interpretation of what a “trusted business advisor” slogan translates into.  For my 10 cents worth, it is someone who will take the time to understand my business and my market and offer me a more sophisticated engagement than a quarterly review of figures.  This could, as espoused in Accountancy Age, be real-time consultancy of all aspects of cash flow and inventory or someone who will understand “best practice” within a certain industry or market segment and ensure that my business is as operationally tight as possible.

Turnover is Vanity, Profit is Sanity, Cash Flow is Reality

is a saying which I believe rings true for many companies, as research indicates that one of the most pressing challenges faced by many of us is cash-flow optimisation.  For this, I am fortunate that my accountant has a can-do attitude and wants to be an integral part of the business.  He is not a miracle worker, despite his claims to the contrary, but he and his firms actively look at multiple ways of solving a business issue, such as short-term cash flow, and doesn’t resort to the opt out approach of saying “I know Charles down the road and he may be able to help”.

Regarding cash flow, he will look at the various offerings from banks to alternative finance and will discuss and advise what makes the most sense for the business and the immediate need.  For me, this firm is a “trusted business advisor” but I suspect that many are not.

Lip service and buzzwords don’t make a “trusted business advisor” actions do – the choice is yours.