THE SMOKE DETECTOR: What is a Trusted Business Advisor?

By Dennis Hickle posted 11-24-2015 16:38


For the past several years the Indiana CPA Society has been promoting CPAs as trusted business advisors.  In our strategic planning document INCPAS 2025 we have articulated a vision of the Indiana CPA Society as “Home of the most trusted professionals.” In addition, we have identified four bold challenges facing the Society and the profession over the next 10 years. One of those bold challenges is to establish INCPAS and its members as the most trusted business resource in Indiana. All of this leads me to pose the question, what does it take to be a trusted business advisor?

CPAs are undoubtedly the best resource concerning questions related to tax and audit issues. We are comfortable with that role and feel equipped to provide that advice. However, many critical business decisions do not revolve around traditional areas of accounting expertise. If we want to be the trusted business advisor that our clients turn to first, we need to be comfortable providing advice on a wider range of topics. In today’s rapidly changing business environment, business leaders need a trusted resource to help them find information and solve problems. When clients or employers turn to us for advice, they may not expect us to have all of the answers, but they do expect us to know where and how to find the answers.

To be effective in this expanded role of trusted business advisor, we will need to develop a very board based knowledge of the key issues and challenges facing our clients. This knowledge will enable us to provide advice and counsel to our clients in areas outside of accounting like logistics, technology, and digital marketing. If we expect to be the advisor they think of first, we need to be able to tell them what other businesses are doing and what issues we see in these areas. We then can refer them to the individuals that have the expertise to answer their specific questions. 

INCPAS 2025 identified a number of areas that CPAs must focus on to embrace their expanded role in business. Those include: multidisciplinary skill set and knowledge, providing real time information, complex business transactions, data analytics and interpretation, continuous reporting and auditing, integrated reporting, corporate decision making, defining new markets, developing new business models, being a strategist, and being a leading business advocate.

We will of course, continue to have very deep and comprehensive knowledge in our core area of expertise (i.e. tax, audit, business valuation…). In these areas we will continue to provide detailed advice and recommendations to our clients. As our clients consult with us about a broader range of topics, our relationship with them will deepen. As that happens we will undoubtedly find more opportunities to add value and enhance the image of the CPA as trusted business advisor.

What are your thoughts on what it means to be a trusted business advisor? Do you believe you are at the point today, or will it take some time? How has your role as a CPA changed over the last five to 10 years? And how do you anticipate your role changing over the next five to 10 years? A current survey through AccountingWEB is asking CPAs to share their experiences, preconceptions and expectations about business advisory roles. I encourage you to take it if you haven’t already.

#knowledge #Trustedbusinessadvisor #CPA #expandedrole