TFYW#094: Making Your Advisory Services Scalable

Jul 5, 2024

Business Coaches

My biggest turn point in running my firm was when my clients started hiring business coaches.

One client, an interior designer, purchased a course called Profit Planning.

She was coached in a group once a month on achieving more profits. 

Her coach wasn’t advising on her financials, just with general tactics and approaches.

My other client, a construction company, started using a coach for contractors.

He shared the templates his coach asked him to fill out each month. 

It was a basic P&L with more detail about marketing and direct costs. 

His coach compared his current results to his desired results and gave him pre-prepared step-by-step instructions on bridging the gap.

This was a turning point for two reasons:

1. I was confused and probably a little embarrassed that my clients were getting financial guidance from someone else; 

2. My clients were paying 2 – 4X my monthly fees just for templates and advice.    

I knew I needed to do something different.

I still follow that coach for contractors (probably out of spite), and I received this email last week: 

The very things we’re trained to do are what this coach is telling contractors we can’t do.

What these coaches were/are doing was not outside of my skill set. It was just out of my mindset.

With the proper framework, offering and scaling advisory services is more realistic than you think.

 

Advising All Types

First, offering and scaling advisory services are very different things. 

I have been an FCFO for four companies. 

I had/have ownership in three of them.

Two of them were tech cos. One was in the Augmented Reality space, and the other was in Corporate Giving. 

The third was in property management, and the last was in web design + development.

The way I offered CFO/advisory services was nearly impossible to scale. 

Too much of it depended on me. 

What I did for one client was non-transferrable to the others. 

Systemizing was limited, given their unique needs and diverse business acumen. 

 

If you don’t remember anything else from this newsletter, remember this:

 

Advisory services as a small firm are widely more profitable when you don’t pretend you can advise every client effectively.

 

Picking a niche significantly impacts your profitability.

Focus on the problems of the few, rather than the inconveniences of the masses.  

 

Advisory Hack

After committing to a niche, you can start with the advisory hacks.

Jokes.

There are no hacks when it comes to offering advisory services.

However, there is a framework. 

To be clear, most of us can prepare a decent cash flow projection or budget to actual reports.

But those aren’t advisory services. 

Those are tools to support the delivery of advisory services. 

To me, advisory is helping a client identify and plot the course to their next milestone or goal.

An example would be if a mom-and-pop restaurant wanted to grow.

Given that real growth has a ceiling for traditional dining-in restaurants, the options are:

  • Expand the seating capacity in the current location;
  • Expand to a second location
  • Ramp up via food delivery apps, or 
  • Open a food truck or mobile offering either part-time or seasonally   

Advising would include playing out investment scenarios, capacity planning, team structure review and ROI calculations. 

These are the assumptions. 

Then, a cash flow projection uses these assumptions to prove the overall viability and timeline of the decision. 

The model and projections are only as good as the assumptions.

Having expertise about the assumptions, not the mechanics of the model, is what makes a good advisor.

 

Advisory Framework

Distilled advisory is the advice, guidance and accountability to help your client reach their next goal. 

To broaden their advisory offer, I use a Context + Outcomes model with my coaching clients.

It is a matrix that has revenue levels on one side and business functions on the top.

You’ll want to fill out what each business function requires based on the revenue level. 

  • $0 to $300K
  • $300K to $500K
  • $500K to $1M
  • $1M to $2M 
  • $2M to $5M

The business functions include finance, systems, marketing etc.

As an advisor, you can’t focus solely on the finance side of the business. 

You will need to delve into the operations, systems, and client team.   

For the finance column, fill out what your niche business will need at $0 to $300K in revenue (dependent on your niche):

  • How to receive customer payments
  • General transaction tracking 
  • Bank accounts + Credit Cards  

Then continue on from $300K to $500K

  • Monthly bookkeeping/ month end close process
  • Gross margin analysis 
  • Owner disbursement reporting

The idea is to highlight the differences between revenue levels for each biz function.

You can’t level up a business by just focusing on finance + accounting.  

When you go through this process with various clients, you will know what your next client will need before they do in each function.  

And that’s where the mechanics of scaling comes into play. 

So, when you know your contractor client at $250K in revenue needs a standardized estimating process (so they don’t have to do every estimate) you provide them a template that gets them 90% there.

Or when your property management client is cresting $1.5M and needs to upgrade their trust accounting process, you have a list of online tools and processes exactly for that.

Scalable advisory leverages pre-prepared assets and solutions as templates, checklists, roadmaps and processes. 

These assets are how you codify, organize and augment the advice you give clients.   

This is how you scale your advisory services.

Build the firm you want.

Mark

P.S. Email Mark@FirmNexus.com with something that you want me to talk about. I’ll add it to the list. 

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