Adding Wind to Your Sails: A Three-Legged Model for Advisory Services
Published December 21, 2018
“The pessimist complains about the wind.
The optimist expects it to change.
The leader adjusts the sails.”
– John Maxwell
Every once in a while, something catches us off-guard and knocks the wind out of our sails. It doesn’t feel nice, and while those not-so-fun experiences can set us back if we let them, they’re also an opportunity to come out stronger.
Clients can also face those challenges which encourage reevaluation of direction and a remapping of strategy.
When a client finds itself stuck – it’s not growing, it’s declining, or it’s just plain struggling, the strategy group at Swindoll Janzen Hawk & Loyd, LLC (SJHL) is there to puff air back into their sails with compassion, a listening ear, and a pulse on big data within the organization. True willingness and passion to help others is something that comes from within. Deeply embedded within the culture of SJHL, is a desire to help others.
A Three-Legged-Stool Model for Advisory Services: Data Analysis, Strategy, and Marketing
For the last two years the public accounting firm has been plugging away, building an internal advisory and strategy group to expand services to clients whose entities may either be struggling, or just looking for an added boost.
With the addition of two robust components within the strategy group (big data analytics and business strategy), SJHL has found itself able to look through a microscope to see what’s really going on within a client. Once SJHL uncovers this information through their big data analytics process, they help the organization identify trends and come up with strategies to make improvements previously hidden.
Enter: Squid Ink Creative, a marketing firm based in Wichita.
A division of a long-time SJHL client, Squid Ink Creative had a strong core business that stakeholders wanted to keep going and growing, but the future of the marketing firm was uncertain. After discussing and analyzing with entity leadership about the future direction of Squid Ink Creative, SJHL made the offer to acquire the marketing firm. Chet Buchman, CPA, CVA, CGMA, CNC, Managing Partner at Swindoll Janzen Hawk & Loyd, LLC saw a unique opportunity to provide a convenient and expanded service offering to current clients of SJHL.
Ten days later, the acquisition went through and SJHL added two impressive new marketing professionals to their team: Creative Manager Shelly Whitfield and Digital Marketing Strategist Michael Costello.
With the addition of the right-brained creative minds, SJHL has been able to expand its advisory and strategy group. Already having two legs of a three-legged-stool model approach (data analysis and strategy), the firm was thrilled to add the final element, marketing.
“We wanted to enhance our big data and advisory services, making it turn-key and as easy as possible for clients. Hurdles or obstacles come up within any organization and things can lie in wait and not get executed. If we truly want to help people in a timely manner – not just provide them with good ideas and good theory – then we need to drive results, that’s where the marketing strategy comes into play.” – Chet Buchman, CPA, CVA, CGMA, CNC, Managing Partner at Swindoll Janzen Hawk & Loyd, LLC
What’s next? Where is SJHL going from here, equipped with their three-legged-stool model advisory approach?
An exciting future lies ahead in advisory within SJHL. The firm encourages micro innovations – pieces of innovation throughout their firm. Micro innovations include implementing new models (like the three-legged advisory approach), adding new service lines, or providing in a different way that won’t shock the system. Those innovations often also send a buzz of excitement throughout the firm.
Formerly a believer in macro innovations, Chet jokingly recalls a flub that lead to a failure in one sense for the firm, but also lead to success in the strong belief of the power in micro innovations. By empowering his team to try several little things, the risk is far less.
“By doing 10 little things, you may only find that three or four are a hit and turn into bigger things. You build upon those, and then stop and pivot on the innovations that don’t pan out so you don’t jeopardize everything. You learn that from stubbing your toe… and I’ve definitely stubbed my toe before.”
Innovative Advisory through the Certified Numbers Coach™ Program
While the firm has a standalone advisory practice, for the last two years, one of the firm’s micro innovations is how they can incorporate basic advisory services across the firm. With 10% of the team in advanced advisory, the remaining 90% of the SJHL team are above all else – excellent with numbers. Recognizing that the team is bilingual, meaning they speak both English and numbers really well, Chet developed and recently piloted a new certification program coined the Certified Numbers Coach™ Program. Through the Certified Numbers Coach™ Program, the firm utilizes the strengths of their full team, not just the 10% in advanced advisory. Team members are taught to have a coaches’ mindset and how to practice basic level advisory to clients through their ability with numbers.
“Advisory is a big buzz word in our industry. We’ve been working to find a way to implement advisory in a safe way across the whole firm, because when you talk about advisory, it’s like this big daunting umbrella.”
The pilot program, training individuals to become a Certified Numbers Coach™ was held in November of this year. Roughly 50 individuals went through the three and half day seminar, learning how to bridge the gap between being a traditional accountant and practicing basic advisory.
“Accountants by nature are trustworthy, dependable, loyal, calming folks that have a lot of knowledge on a great deal of things. What we’re trying to figure out is… we have this great group of people, how we can get them to work a little bit differently with clients, because there is a huge need. A fair number of entities fail, but if the organization’s accountant was there to serve even in the most basic of advisory roles, doesn’t it increase their odds of success?”
With advisory services through the three-legged strategy of: big data, strategy and marketing, SJHL is looking forward to a bright future where their team can really help clients in multiple ways. When it comes to words of wisdom for leaders considering expanding their organization’s advisory services, Chet’s best piece of advice is to be open minded.
“There are many pathways into advisory services. Truly taking your firm to where you want it to be requires the thought process be more ‘how do I’ as opposed to ‘this won’t work’. There’s probably a way and by focusing on the ‘how to’ you are more likely to figure it out.”
Join the discussion!
How are you inspiring and empowering micro innovations within your organization?
In what ways are you ‘adding wind to sails’ through advisory services?
Special thanks to Chet Buchman, CPA, CVA, CGMA, CNC, Managing Partner and Tamie Prieb, Marketing and HR Manager at Swindoll Janzen Hawk & Loyd, LLC.
The Ignite blog is an official publication of the Kansas Society of CPAs.