When you talk to your clients about their business what quickly becomes very clear is that most have a good idea as to what what they need to do to move their business forward. The problem is not the idea, it's the implementation. Most business owners are time poor, buried in their businesses churning out their products and services - locked into the day to day. Being the owner, they are also only accountable to themselves so if they are slow to implement their ideas or make the changes they know are necessary to their business, they can justify these failures by arguing the day to day demands are just too great.

The Service Every Small Business Needs

What is needed is someone to help sift through the alternatives, agree a plan, determine the tasks needed to execute the plan, agree responsibilities and set realistic timelines. It's very hard for owners to do this on their own. They lack the objectivity. The here and now blocks their ability to create an effective plan. 

If you talk to your clients about this I'm sure you'll find that many will agree that their struggle is not with the ideas but with the implementation. In the August, 2014 MYOB Business Monitor survey of small businesses around 20% said that they planned to increase their spend on "Working with business advisors". There is clearly a demand for at least 1/5th of your clients. What an opportunity!

Why don't you create a service where you offer to chair a monthly management meeting for your clients. You will create the agenda and chair the meeting. Agreed actions are documented and followed up each month. You will create some accountability by being that annoying squeaky wheel that reminds them of the importance of the agreed actions. You will force them to make commitments to get things done. 

How well do you need to know your client's business to perform this role? A good understanding is a help but in the end what you're really providing is a monthly discipline to keep the client on track. What the business person needs is the discipline and the objectivity. The discipline piece is easy. The meeting happens every month. Agreed actions are recorded and follow-up. Where important actions are not done your role is to reinforce the importance of the particular item and get the client to commit the necessary time to get it done. Breaking it down into smaller tasks may be the way to go if it's too daunting. 

Objectivity is different. Firstly, you are not emotionally involved in the business. That means you can see things in a different and often clearer light. Secondly, you can exhibit your objectivity by asking the client questions about their ideas.

  • Why is it a good idea?
  • What could go wrong?
  • What is required to implement the idea? 
  • What's stopping you from implementing the idea now? How can you address that barrier?

Asking these questions gets your client thinking and helps them reach their own conclusions. They will then have a greater commitment to implement the change. That's not to say that you shouldn't contribute your own ideas. You should. The third arm of objectivity is the experience you bring in working with a variety of other businesses. You've seen what works and what doesn't work. What the client is often looking for is confidence that their plan is the right plan. As an advisor you need to confidently express your view even when at times it may be a message the client doesn't want to hear.

Interestingly, we perform this role for many accounting and other professional service firms. These firms are also small businesses. The partners or directors have the same challenges of being time poor and being buried in their businesses. We bring the objectivity that comes from years of working as practitioners and from work in a consulting capacity with a large number of accounting and other professional service firms. We've seen what works and what doesn't work. We bring the same management discipline and accountability that is so often holding firms back from even greater success. 

So, why don't you put together a service offering for your clients. Regular monthly meetings to agree plans, monitor progress, manage accountability and address barriers. You'll be surprised how many clients will be interested in how you can help. There's probably no easier way to develop your business advisory practice.

And if you're interested in how we may be able to bring the same objectivity, discipline and accountability to your firm combined with our knowledge of what works and doesn't work from working with so many firms over the years, send us a note and we'd be pleased to discuss with you. We help firms across the whole spectrum of strategy, management and governance issues. We don't have a methodology that we force upon you. We work with you to uncover the issues that need addressing and tailor solutions to meet your specific circumstances.

If you're trying to address any issues in your firm send me a note to [email protected]. I'd be happy to discuss with you.

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David Smith Smithink