CeCe enters the kitchen as I am brewing a large fresh pot of coffee. “My, the coffee smells wonderful. Did you use your new coffee bean grinder for this pot?”
“No, this is coffee from North Carolina that someone gave me. I’ve finished the coffee from Puerto Rico already and I can’t wait to try the coffee from Vermont.”
“People must think you are a coffee drinker,” she replies.
“I am a coffee drinker.”
“You are not a real coffee drinker.”
“CeCe, I drink 2 to 4 cups of coffee every day. I think that makes me a coffee drinker.”
“Well, you are not one of those coffee drinkers that runs around with the tall cups.”
Where am I going with this blog? I wasn’t sure after CeCe put me in this tailspin. Luckily after finishing this second cup, it’s becoming clearer why this conversation resonated with me. CeCe’s perception of me as not being a real coffee drinker is similar to a perception problem in public accounting as being real business advisors.
Daily, we are serving cups of business advice brewed with distinctive analytical skills. We are serving cups of complex business strategy, data analytics, cloud migration, cyber risks, risk management, life cycle planning, exit planning and the menu goes on. We’re grinding out new flavors like project management skills, strategic planning, process optimization and vendor management every day.
Too often, the market excludes us as a first option when searching for advisory services, ignores our capabilities and fails to loop us into opportunities because of a stagnant perception that we aren’t really business advisors — we do taxes, accounting and audits. They keep us in the “accountant’s box.” How often do you hear a client or prospect say, “I had no idea your firm provided those services.”
Let’s take ownership of the fact that this perception has settled on us primarily due to our historical success. In fact, at times in our history, we struggled to keep pace with the growth as the phone was ringing with requests for our core of compliance services.
Yet we have also allowed this perception to persist as too often we find our partners and leaders continuing to cling to a business model built around compliance and billing time. Our comfort zone of technical competence and abundant success has slowed our intentional evolution to become business advisory firms. Are we having enough conversations with clients on our capabilities to provide more advisory services? Are we effectively messaging these capabilities to a broader market?
We know to remain relevant and have sustained growth, we must serve more cups of our business advisory services. How do we change our messaging, content and social media to generate more opportunities? How do we encourage our partners and team members to think and collaborate more around business advisory? How do we have more client conversations on advisory services over coffee?
The first step is realizing that our clients, our ideal prospects and even team members may not see us as real coffee drinkers! CeCe, I am a coffee drinker!