By Kirk Conole and Bruce Raymond Wright
A trusted business advisor does more than “answer questions,” he/she takes the initiative to communicate the wisest questions to clients clearly and effectively. This helps stretch the imagination of the client so they easily recognize new ways to prosper and live a more balanced fulfilling life. This includes removing misperceptions and unrealistic expectations that hinder healthy growth.
CPAs, attorneys, M&A specialists, bankers, exit planners, financial planners, and insurance brokers who cherish the role of trusted business advisor should be aware of one unrealistic expectation their clients have that consistently hinders the clients’ profitability. It is the belief that each department head should possess, without any outside professional assistance, the ability to not just stay within budget, but run their department at 100% cost efficiency.
Key Insight: Most departments operate within budget. No department runs at 100% cost efficiency 100% of the time across all points of responsibility or accountability. This fact can open the door for YOU to identify and BRING value that none of your competitors offer!
Example: The owner/CEO of a company should expect his logistics department to get product to market on time and within budget. This is a healthy expectation. But what if an outside specialist finds that the freight costs are only at 70% cost efficiency and that getting freight rates to 100% cost efficiency will save the company substantial amounts of actual cash?” YOU could play the role of HERO that improves cash flow by $500,000 per year. Thus also increasing equity value by as much as $3,000,000 to $4,500,000! How many of your competitors can DO that?
There are two responses the owner/CEO can offer:
a. Unhealthy: “I pay the VP of Logistics to get the best rates, so it’s bad if an outside audit discovers that we’re in budget but not at 100% cost efficiency.”
b. Healthy: “If we can learn more and be more profitable with an audit that shows where we can be most cost efficient, that’s good for the VP of Logistics and me and the company.”
Set Expectations and Know When to Nudge
If you are a trusted advisor, you may agree with this thinking but how well and how consistently do you “Deliver Such Actionable Wisdom” to your clients? Do not assume that your clients automatically have a healthy mindset or 100% “cost effective” business. The advisors who teach this distinguish themselves from all the others who just assume the owner/CEO already thinks and behaves this way.
For trusted business advisors who want to rise above all others, consider this script:
STEP ONE: Summarize the concept in 1-2 sentences: “Joe, there’s a consulting firm I want you to meet that audits cost efficiencies in a company to find rebates and refunds, including tax refunds and specialized tax credits. This is not redundant to work that your staff* already does, it’s specialized audits and the savings can be large and it’s worth the attention of any owner who wants to grow cash flow, net profit, and equity value.”
STEP TWO: Anticipate misperceptions. “Yes, Joe, I know you run lean and you pay staff to keep an eye on costs but this is the kind of audit work that really requires specialization. That’s why the savings can be so large and needs to be entertained by you, the person who is the unbiased and direct beneficiary of the savings.”
STEP THREE: Nudge (gently). The best advisors know that a gentle but persuasive nudge is needed to overcome the number one enemy of growth: the current inertia of the status quo. Those who dare to look beyond the status quo can gain more results and more trust than those who are “stuck” in the status quo. That same nudging skill is going to be needed every time misperceptions threaten to cloud the owner’s judgment.
When the CEO misperceives (over estimates) his staff’s capabilities, it’s the job of the best advisors, to restate reality.
Owner: “Saving money on utilities is the job of my VP of Facilities.”
Advisor: “The primary mission of facilities is to ensure the operating costs of your facility are within budget. His specialty isn’t going to be utility tariff analysis, is it? There is zero cost or risk to find out if savings can be gained.”
Owner: “Reducing cost of health insurance is the job of my HR Director/VP.”
Advisor: “The primary mission of HR is to keep company staffed with quality employees within the budget assigned. It’s not realistic to think you’ve got everything perfectly covered already. There is zero risk or cost to find out if you can gain something here.”
Setting the Follow-up Expectation
Once money shows up, there is a tendency to fall back to “Why didn’t we think of this ourselves?!” This is a destructive question that induces fear and makes executive staff apprehensive about further cost savings. For this reason, the wisest, most effective advisors continue to help the owner stay in a positive, realistic mindset that welcomes progress rather than questioning, or even impugning efforts prior to the audit.
There is a No-Cost, No-Risk Way to Optimize Your Client’s Results and for You to Gain and Retain the Heroic Advisor Position
Here is what you can say to your clients to get results
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