CPAs have opportunities in financial planning and forecasting

BY KEN TYSIAC

Many accountants may have opportunities to expand their service offerings to small business clients by providing financial planning and forecasting, according to a new survey.

Just one in three accountants offers financial planning or forecast services as part of clients’ business planning process, according to a survey of 150 accountants by business software company Exact.

“Small businesses that see the bigger picture are likely to capitalize on an opportunity before their competition does, but too many are focused on the day to day,” Steve Leavitt, general manager of U.S. cloud solutions for Exact, said in a news release. “Accountants would be wise to position their offerings as much more than bookkeeping and tax preparation. The same data that’s used to run day-to-day operations can also help accountants drive active planning and performance management, enabling them to provide added value to their clients.”

Practitioners and firms can deepen their relationships with clients by going beyond traditional core services such as tax preparation to embrace roles as “trusted business advisers.” Promoting CPAs as trusted advisers was one of the 10 main objectives of the future-focused CPA Horizons 2025 report released in 2011.

Another area of opportunity: reviewing clients’ performance against their business plan; 33% of respondents in the Exact survey said they never conduct such reviews for their clients.

The ability to advise on strategy is weighed carefully by businesses when they choose a CPA, according to another survey whose results were released this year. Proactive strategic advice was ranked as the third-highest factor small and medium-size business owners consider when selecting a CPA, according to a survey of 188 business owners by small business consulting firm The Sleeter Group. Expertise and responsiveness were the only factors that ranked higher than the ability to provide strategic advice.

Ken Tysiac ( ktysiac@aicpa.org ) is a JofA editorial director.

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