Disruption in accounting; building advisory services

There is no doubt accounting firms are under pressure for both fees and service delivery. This can be considered disruption. There are a few reasons for this pressure and it will only intensify. Here are some reasons:

* Businesses are questioning the amount of fees they pay annually for compliance services against the perceived value they receive from these services.
* Accounting firms are facing a technology tidal wave that will shift much of the compliance work to ‘bots’ that deliver higher accuracy and cost a fraction of a qualified accountant.
* The complex operating environment facing companies is encouraging them to seek outside expertise to remain competitive and sustainable; unfortunately they rarely look at their accountants to provide such services.

These disruptive changes are compelling proactive firms to focus on developing other capabilities to maintain and grow revenue. The most common focus is on building revenue from advisory services. One would normally think accounting firms are well positioned to delivery advisory services. They may be well positioned, but many lack the competencies needed to uncover opportunities, scope advisory projects and execute the delivery phase for a successful result.

We were engaged to help a firm build an advisory capability without increasing the headcount. Our project including a number of phases that included strategic planning, business model development, behavioural competency assessment, training and coaching. Our process included a small digital transformation with the inclusion of work to improve use of the incumbent information management system, CRM and the introduction of a learning management system, (LMS).

We implemented a learning management system to support our transition strategy as well as sustain competency development across the firm. Below are some of the key outcomes we have achieved thus far with the LMS.

* Communities of practice to foster sharing of ideas, best practices and content.
* Learning linked to performance reviews and career planning.
* Tracking learning and participation in communities of practice.
* Self-publishing content using standard tools like PowerPoint, Sway, audio and video.
* Team publishing by practice teams to share with teams in other locations and colleagues.

Our ongoing strategic focus for the LMS includes:

* Eliminate knowledge drain.
* Replicate the learning across the organisation at lower cost.
* Develop individual learning pathways for advisors based on subject matter expertise and market sector focus.

The 3 Biggest Headaches for Australian RTOs

Based on a quick survey including some of our clients and other RTOs, the biggest issues facing these businesses are:

  • Attracting and retaining high value clients.
  • Managing AVETMISS and other compliance requirements.
  • Managing staff and contractors.

These businesses use enormous resources to support administrative functions to manage and execute key business processes.  Many are also facing enormous competitive pressures due to commoditisation of their products and services.  Commoditisation is making it harder for many RTOs to differentiate themselves to prospective clients and increase their sales revenue.

Here is a short list of some solutions that we have implemented for clients and were found to be effective.

  • Get very clear on your target market[s] and your ideal client profiles.
  • Adjust your ‘messaging’ and communications to fit your market and ideal clients.  One size does not fit all.
  • Get some help with your internet marketing. Unless you have some spare time or a resource available to do this critical work.  Internet marketing includes your website, social media, search engine and content marketing.
  • Automate as many processes as possible.  Our clients use DOTS LMS as a multi-faceted business management tool for compliance, client and staff management.  You may already have the tools to do this effectively but have not leveraged them effectively.
  • Use technology to personalise the client and learner experience.  Our clients have the option of creating unique learning management environments for their corporate and government clients.  You may not have the resources for a comprehensive LMS but you can still set up online resources for your clients that cost little or nothing depending upon your objectives.
  • Start having regular meetings with staff and contractors on a team and individual level.  Create an agenda and use these meetings to make sure you are touch with every element of your business.  Regular one on one meetings with staff that review goals, performance and roadblock issues are much easier than one big performance appraisal every 6 – 12 months.
  • Use technology to support your sales process from prospect to client stages.  If you have a system use it well and if you do not have a system look for one that is easy to use and includes reports.  This type of software does not need to be super expensive.

If you have any questions about these points or you are interested in exploring some ways to make your RTO more successful in 2014, you are welcome to get in touch using the contact details on this website.

Sometimes Speed Trumps Quality

You have developed a new set of marketing and sales collateral for your sales team.  You load it into your CRM to enable the sales team to access it easily for email and face to face presentations.  You are unsure that each member of the team will know how to access and use the new collateral.  It is too risky to simply send an email to each member of the team and hope.  This new collateral is part of a new product launch and the company needs consistency to maintain and develop its brand.  What next?


In my client’s case this is what the Marketing Manager did.  Firstly, she used a screen capture tool to show visually how a sales person accesses the new collateral in the CRM.  In her case she used Camtasia and there are plenty of other tools out there including the much acclaimed Storyline.   Once she captured the navigation to the files, she demonstrated how to attach them to emails and use them for both online and face to face presentations.  Total time to create and edit the screen captures?  About 2 hours.  Next she did a voice over, it was not ‘talent quality’; it was short and to the point.  Time to do the voice overs?  About another 1.5 hours including editing.


Next step was converting the screen captures to SCORM, importing into DOTS LMS and configuring the course settings.  She made herself the trainer so she could track the learning and interact with the sales team.  She enrolled each member of the team in the course and each member of the team was alerted by email of their enrollment with a message to complete asap.  Overall we are up to about 4 hours of time spent creating and deploying the course.  This particular individual is familiar with Camtasia so she was productive from the start.


The course was effective and to the point.  It was not intended to be a showcase of e-learning content mastery or be linked to a compliance competency.  The Marketing Manager had automated what could have been a logistical headache of assembling the sales team together at the office for a presentation.  She would have had to prepare the presentation anyway so she used her time wisely creating content that can be re-used both as a refresher and for new hires as part of their induction.

Don’t blame your CRM…..yet.

Just in case you are not sure, CRM is the acronym for Customer Relationship Management.  There are heaps of CRM systems out there and there are plenty of opinions  about which ones are good and which ones to avoid.  There is also a wide range of pricing options to consider as well.  Back to the story.


It is easy to blame software for all sorts of issues.  This blame may be warranted but very often it is simply a lack of knowledge that frustrates our ability to use the software effectively.  The issue we run into most frequently is the lack of diligence in the use and administration of the CRM.  Our consultants usually hear things like; “we don’t have time to use it” or “it is too hard to use” from frustrated business managers and owners.  These statements are usually spoken when we start asking some questions that require their looking at the data in the CRM.  I usually ask to have a look at their CRM very early in the consulting project so I know what I am facing as we move to automate processes and get more productive.


Most CRM software is now pretty mature. This genre of software has been used in business for many years now and most vendors have evolved their systems to a point where they include many features and tools to make sales and marketing EASIER.  Here are some of the key complaints and a bit of diagnosis.  If you have one or more of these issues in your business then please get in touch.


  • Your sales people are not using the CRM.
    • They may not know how to use it or the reasons why it is important that it is used. I like to include competencies in the position description to ensure this is documented as an essential part of the performance appraisal process.  You must train your people in how to use the CRM and you need to ensure you regularly communicate its essential status in your business.
  • The CRM is too hard to use.
    • I have yet to find a CRM that is really hard to use.  There were a couple I used more than a decade ago that were a bit difficult but not recently.  People need training and this training is best done regularly and not just once.  Your new hires need to be trained and I really like to include peer to peer training and best practice sharing.
  • We can’t get meaningful information out of our CRM.
    • Garbage in – garbage out; remember that?  If your CRM was poorly implemented with a generic configuration or one that is not aligned with your business processes then you will never leverage a high ROI.  The whole purpose of a CRM is to provide your business with data that is essential to grow your sales and market share.
  • We have to pay for this software every year and we don’t get any support or training.
    • Welcome to the club.  Some CRM vendors have terrific online help and training resources.  These are all self-serve and can be re-purposed to create some internal training programs.  Training and support can be very expensive and so we work to create this training to ensure that you have these training resources ready to go.
  • I know we need a CRM but there are too many options and I don’t want to waste money.
    • If you are looking at implementing a CRM and doing research you will already be aware of all the options.  It is a jungle out there.  There are so many features and options that may be named differently and behave differently for the user and this makes comparison even more difficult.  Get some help.



All of these issues can be fixed.  Our company ‘eats its own dog food’ and so we are a bit passionate about the power that a well implemented and managed CRM delivers to growing businesses.