I last changed Accountants in 2007. Back then I was a typical small business client of a sole Practitioner Accountant. My annual compliance fee was around $6,000 and my revenue back then was around $2M. I didn’t know what services I needed to buy so I just bought what I ‘had’ to buy – the basic compliance services.
However, I knew I needed more. I just didn’t know what I needed.
The very first meeting set the scene for (so far) the next 11 years. As a result of this meeting I learned a valuable lesson as to what it means to be the trusted adviser and what it means to look after your clients properly.
Here’s what happened. My wife and I were asked to be both at the initial meeting. I had already sent in my previous 3 years financials. My wife’s name is Natalie – Nat.
Charles (new Accountant) asked me to draw what we had on the white board. Out it came. Entity names, kids names and ages, properties, debt, revenue, expenses, wills, insurances etc etc.
The whiteboard was full and I turned to Nat and said ‘what a (beep) mess that is’. There was debt in the wrong place. There was 2 shares in the main company and 3 kids on the ground. Entities didn’t integrate, wills out of date etc etc. You see with the previous Accountant I was driving the agenda and I had no idea what I was doing!
Charles the new Accountant ignored the mess on the whiteboard and he got up and turned to a flip chart near the other wall.
He drew a giant T on the entire page and on the left side wrote “Rob” and the right hand side he wrote “Nat”.
Then he said “it doesn’t matter what your financial affairs look like today – what’s important is where you want to go. So I’d like to know what are your goals over the next 3-5 years”? He had Nat go first.
Then Charles said the following. “That’s a good list of goals however, let me assure you, you’ll never achieve them while ever (pointing at other whiteboard – the mess) you’re financially disorganized. Here at (Coker Financial Advisory) we help all of our clients to become financially well organized so that they can achieve their goals”.
The first project was to get us financially well organized was $10K. We went on to spend $35K that first year and I am happy to say that we have been financially well organized for the last 11 years.
The story doesn’t end there. Charles took a photo of the goals list and every couple of years he pulls it out and says ‘how are you going guys with your goals’?
We’ve since gone on to have many goal setting sessions with Charles and we have happily paid around $500K (total) with Charles and his firm over the past 11 years for a wide range of services.
Around 2 years ago I got thinking what it means to be “a trusted adviser”. I think the term is used very loosely in the Accounting profession. Just because you are an Accountant it doesn’t mean you are being a trusted adviser.
To be a trusted adviser I think the behavior (actions) is exactly what Charles does. Here it is. Etch it in stone and live by it….
“All clients are buying every service they need that helps them achieve their goals”.
That’s it. You’re in the goal achievement business. You’re making sure the clients have the right products and services from you. I believe this is your duty of care to your clients.
It means having a systematic meeting with your clients to determine their goals. It means providing services (or referrals to other professionals) that help them achieve their goals.
It might be time to seize the opportunity.
Charles Coker, CPA
5100 Leesburg Pike, Suite 100 Alexandria, VA 22302
Phone: (703) 931-3290 Fax: (703) 931-3690
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org web: www.cpa-coker.com