Last week, we explored some of the many challenges with licensing. However, all indications are that licensing is here to stay if you want to operate in the advisory space. So we asked our clients to share their tips to make licensing work. Here are their top 5.
1. Don’t treat licensing in isolation
This was a stand out from those that are making it work. Taking the first year of set up (and associated steep learning curve) aside, practices that are really starting to have success with licensing are those that are embracing advisory work and incorporating licensing into all aspects of that work. This has been more successful than those treating it as a separate stand-alone component.
Whether it’s marketing, training, or even the preparation of advice documents, the key is to focus on what makes good sense for your clients, and then overlaying the licensing requirements. It sounds simple, but makes an enormous difference to the end products, which will which will not only be a more seamless offer, but have more of a customer/advisory focus, rather than just compliance.
2. Invest in your staff with different skills
Accountants who are kicking goals in the advisory space spend the majority of client meetings on understanding the client and their goals, rather than imparting their technical knowledge. Instead of a typical client/accountant meeting were 80% of the time spent on technical and 20% on strategy/objectives, it’s the other way round.
Every practice I have met who is serious about moving into the advisory space is undertaking, or has already done additional training with their staff on the new and different skill of client engagement. Some are developing in-house programs by leveraging the senior partners who do it well. Others are engaging external consultants like Mindshop.
3. Educate your clients
If you’re like most accountants, licensing will change the way you interact with clients. This may sit uncomfortably with clients, particularly those that have been with you for a long time and are used to dealing with you in a certain way.
Many practices have sent out an email to their clients about the change, thinking this addresses the issue. However, those firms that are doing it well have implemented a structured communications plan over a number of months, involving many different mediums.
4. Don’t re-invent the wheel on the tools of the trade
This is another great tip, yet it’s surprising how many accountants are trying to manage this new world of licensing on their own. You need to be spending more time in front of clients, and less time on building tools that you potentially only have limited knowledge and expertise in.
Use an outsourced provider for all your basic licensing support including advice templates, training, compliance manuals etc. If something isn’t going to result in a key point of difference for your clients, don’t spend time creating something bespoke for your firm.
5. Make a commitment to advisory
You don’t need to make a commitment to licensing, so much as a commitment to offering advisory services. Licensing will then just become a necessary element in delivering those services.
Advisory services are such a fantastic way to grow practice revenue and in many instances, you don’t even need to seek new clients. Just expand the offering to existing clients.
It’s no coincidence that the businesses that have specific plans to grow their advisory services are finding more licensing opportunities than those waiting for the opportunities to knock on the door. As my husband often says, the harder you work, the luckier you get.