The sky is falling, the sky is falling! So says Chicken Little. For public practitioners the mantra has been for years - compliance will cease to exist, compliance will cease to exist. There's no money in compliance. There's no money in compliance. The Chicken Littles of the accounting industry have been everywhere. But, as anyone in practice knows, that's a lot of hogwash. There's still good money to be made in compliance.

Chicken Little is Wrong

When I started in the the professional (albeit a few too many decades ago now) the tax legislation was only a few centimetres thick. Now it's a towering edifice of complexity. While I'm a big proponent of machine automation, it will be a while before any machine gets its head around that. A machine meltdown is more likely. That said, inroads are being made into compliance processing driven by smart datafeeds, smarter software and cloud tools enabling efficient and effective client collaboration. Some challenging times are ahead perhaps but unless some courageous government takes a sword to the legislation there'll still be the need of a human brain for at least a while to make sense of it all.

So I can understand those accountants who are happy with their business, happy with their profits that they are generating from compliance work.

But - what a missed opportunity! Accountants have such a wonderful business. Clients have to come back every year even when they don't particularly want to. Nobody wants a visit from the taxman so compliance helps clients sleep at night. The missed opportunity, however, is the capacity to leverage the relationship - to help clients with their business, with their personal wealth management, with their succession and estate planning.

Now many accountants do these things for their clients. Few, however, have a structured process that they apply to each and every client relationship to ensure all of the client needs are explored, the value of services to meet those needs are communicated and services are effectively delivered. In every firm we work with, there is acknowledgement that opportunities are lost to provide additional services to clients. What is more worrying to me is that clients have needs that are unsatisfied and therefore end up not managing their businesses as well as they could, end up with less wealth or get entangled in the emotional issues surrounding succession.

Surely, now is the time to leverage the strength of the compliance relationship to move to the next level as your client's most valuable weapon. There's some skills to learn, some new processes to implement in your firm, some new partnerships to develop to enable you to assist your clients no matter the issue. It can be done. It has been done.

At our Business Advisory Conference in February, a number of practitioners that have built highly successful business advisory practices will be speaking. They will provide practical advice as to how they have built their advisory practices.

Having assisted many practices build successful business advisory practices we will also be highlighting at the conference, the 10 proven ways that we've found work in building a successful business advisory practice in an accounting firm.

So while it's all OK. The world's not about to end. Compliance will be alive and kicking for quite some time yet courtesy of the penchant for complex legislation, what about considering the opportunities lost. There's opportunities to build strong client relations, opportunities to deliver more value to clients, opportunities to be involved in interesting advisory work, opportunities to generate additional profits, opportunities to attract and retain star performers, opportunities to see clients achieve greater success in their businesses and their lives.

It's too good to ignore. Perhaps you should worry that Chicken Little is right so it spurs you on to grab this opportunity with both hands. Come to our Business Advisory Conference in February to find out how.

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David Smith