CPAs as Small Business Therapists

Note: This post is part I of our short series on the value of CPAs as Small Business Therapists. As we complete each associated post we will link them here.
The Coronavirus pandemic and associated economic crisis is bringing the value of accountants to the forefront for small business entrepreneurs everywhere. If clients did not fully appreciate how valuable you are to their business before—in a world of shutdowns, PPP, ERC, and all other COVID-19 related programs—your value is at an all time high. Congratulations for this, and thank you for the work you are doing for these small businesses!
This situation made me revisit a realization I have had over my career as an accounting professional.
When as a young man I chose “Accountancy” as my major, took the internship in public accounting, studied hard, and earned the CPA designation, I had no idea the most valuable thing I would end up doing for clients was not going to be related to earning per share, fraud detection, or tax optimization. Instead of these things by far the highest value I provide to clients is being their small business therapist.
For the past decade I fought that. I wanted to provide value to small businesses consistent with my training: good books, thoughtful analysis, and nuanced explanation of the tax code. I wanted to be an advisor providing financial insight, not emotional support. In part, I felt best equipped to provide good books; it seemed less practical to spend time talking to each client individually. Clinging to that belief, I built a company, scaled teams of specialists, standardized, proceduralized, raised capital, and automated what could be automated. Ceterus now delivers books to a range of businesses that are more accurate and timely. We provide endless metrics, analytics, and reports. While clients love these things and get a lot of value from them, what COVID-19 has taught me is that none of the analytics match the value provided when a skilled accountant is available to listen and share advice based on specific knowledge and experience.
Why am I writing this? Well, after learning the hard way that there is no good replacement for the role of small business therapist I want to encourage—no, implore you—to embrace this role, and make it your top priority. Do not look at that time as a distraction from doing the accounting, look at the time with your clients as the most important thing you do in your craft and as a long term investment in your business. Focus on doing it well. Learn to do it better. Clear space in your calendar to make it a habit. Your clients will benefit, as will your business.
Over the next few weeks, I will share more specifics on why this matters and how to move your business in this direction.
For today, I simply wanted to remind you that your small business clients want you to be available. Keep this in mind as you work through the current Coronavirus crisis and the inevitable challenges that your clients will face rebuilding afterward. Embrace the role of small business therapist and maximize your value to them in this time.
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