Practice Management

Transitioning from Accountant to Consultant – What Accountants Need to Know

Transitioning Accountant Consultant

If you’re being asked if transitioning your career from an accountant to consultant is something you would like to do, you’re already a consultant and a strong one at that.  The experiences you’ve gained through numerous busy seasons, interactions with clients, and working with senior and junior colleagues provided you with a strong base that you’ll pull from as you begin your consulting career.

In fact, I believe, that only those accountants who are ‘behind-the-scenes’, simply involved with the technical aspects of our profession, will have an extremely difficult time transitioning from accountant to consultant.

Think about it. One of your partners or senior managers who are successful in obtaining and retaining clients, don’t just produce or manipulate figures for their clients. They listen and fulfill the clients’ express and implied needs. Consultants do this on a daily basis.

Every firm I know, says they are their clients’ “Trusted Advisers”. Well what is an advisor?  They are someone who advises and is consulted with for advice on their expertise. A consultant in other words.

Challenges Transitioning from Accountant to Consultant

The challenges you will face are those that arise from within accounting firms. The perception of the accountant by those you will consult with may come with the preconceived notion that your experience is only in completing client work, forms, and documents. Although they will consult with accountants for their various projects, they aren’t necessarily perceived as consultants.

So, how should we address this challenge?

I cannot offer a simple answer. If I could I’d be quite wealthy I suspect. However, here are my suggestions to you:

  • Listen: When offering “advice”, regardless if on Tax, Audit or anything else, emphasize the listening aspect of the advice;
  • Explain: Discuss or write, that the partner/accountant will need to meet with and/or talk to the client in depth before they are able to advise on anything;
  • Speak the Same Language: Think of a local doctor. You go to their “Consultation Room”, you don’t go to their “Advice Room”. So even referring internally to meeting rooms for client as “consultation rooms” can help change thought processes;
  • Aim to Help: When marketing, always know that the client will need help, but you’ll have to listen to them first. As a result, provide collateral accordingly;

If it helps, just remember what my old Grandma used to tell me: “You have two eyes, two ears and only one mouth. Use them in that proportion.” When proposing services to a prospective client, if you can show them that you’re really listening by providing them with a solution to their issue, you’ll win the proposal more often than not.

Change the Language

I have been fairly successful in reducing “problems” in my organization by having colleagues re-name them as “issues”. While they are the same, by changing the name it makes the colleague more likely to think of possible solutions. I believe the same is true with accountant and consultant, different terms for the same thing. Start using the term; start thinking the ‘consultant’ way; and you may be very pleasantly surprised as to the change that occurs.

Transitioning from accountant to consultant won’t be instantaneous. It’s more evolution than revolution. Through this, you will change minds and thus methods.


By: Graeme Gordon

About Graeme Gordon

Welcome to CPA Growth Trends — your source for information, insights, tools and best practices to drive growth within an accounting firm.

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