What is an accountant's role in business mentoring?

Business Mentoring

What is an accountant's role in business mentoring?

Many of ATB’s successful clients consider their accountant to be their business mentor.

Jim Vass explains what it means to be a mentor, and how the right advice can help clients take control of their business and achieve their goals.

Business Mentoring

Jim, many of ATB's clients talk about you being a business mentor, what does that actually involve?

“Many business owners assume that an accountant’s role is to provide them with answers, but it’s more important to ask the right questions.

Often you find that the client knows the answer.

If you steer the conversation in the right way you will be able to draw out the solution that will help the client take control, and meet their business goals 

Part of mentoring is to challenge the client – asking why they are doing things in a certain way, which then raises other questions and brings their attention to where things can be improved or where shortcomings may lie. It’s simply asking ‘Why?’”

Business Mentoring

How does mentoring fit in with providing typical accounting services?

“Typically, traditional accounting services look at what happened historically and report on it … what we did then and what the profit was … and providing you with a tax bill. But this doesn’t look at business performance or efficiency … it doesn’t delve into detail.

At ATB we’re not just meeting with clients after the fact, but throughout the course of the year to constantly and consistently monitor their business and look at it as a whole. 

We will have sat down together with our clients to set their goals for revenue and profit. In our meetings we can see when things aren’t happening, ask questions and look at what can be done to get back on track. Or alternatively if a client is shooting beyond estimations, we will question that too and see what we can learn from it. Maybe it’s something useful for other clients, too.”

Business Mentoring

So part of business mentoring is being proactive as well...

“Yes it is, but it’s important to know we don’t have all the answers.”

“The most important thing is to keep asking questions and encourage the client to think and consider the different aspects of their business.”

Business Mentoring

What puts you in a good position to mentor your clients?

“Most importantly, we know the client well. We’ve built up a level of trust. We’ve been through the exercise at the outset to look at what their business goals are, and we continue to ask questions and drive the conversation to achieve these.

We don’t come in cold telling clients how to do things … we know the client and maintain a relationship with them. We see their accounts on an ongoing basis. And we endeavour to keep providing challenging questions for them to come up with the right solution.

We also benefit from knowing what happened in the past. We can advise on the up and down sides to a suggestion and can advise on the pitfalls before it costs the client money. They trust our experience and know that we are working with them to move ahead.”

Business Mentoring

How does a business just starting out benefit from this kind of expertise?

“A business just starting out often gets the most benefit from mentoring – they may not be familiar with the environment they’re going in to, they might be lost about obligations and pitfalls. We’re there with them from the start, advising on what might be a costly route and steering them towards a more efficient way to achieve the best outcome.

We’re passionate about small business success … and helping owners enjoy the kind of success they deserve.  It’s the dream.  Unfortunately, sometimes the reality of running a small business is sometimes vastly different to the dream … and they’re often spending every waking hour working in the business. Our job is to help owners take control of their business, their cash flow and debt, and of course, help them get back some precious time to spend with their families.”

Business Mentoring

So it's a partnership from the beginning...

“That’s right. With start ups, they’re excited to get going, but typically their funding and resources can be light. We make sure they have enough capital to make their business work and also help them to determine the value of partnering with us.

They might think they’re not be able to afford a business mentoring service, but if they don’t receive the right guidance, they’ll spend more heading down the wrong path.

It’s about deciding on where you need to allocate your resources – with the chartered accountants and business mentors at ATB you’re not getting support just once a year, its on a quarterly basis at the very least! We meet to look at what’s happening in the business, what your plans are … what worked and what didn’t work. Through this process we work in partnership with you to guide you down a path that will be more beneficial and cost you less in the long term.”

Would your clients achieve the same results without mentoring?

“No, the right advice is essential to getting ahead and taking control. You don’t know what you don’t know. By mentoring our clients we encourage them to question what they are doing and strive for ways to improve. A trusted expert who is invested in the success of your business will give you the clarity you need to get you on the path to success.”

Business Mentoring

Is mentoring part of the package at ATB?

“Yes it is,and it really comes as a by-product of our ongoing meetings. It’s part of our regular engagement with clients, working through their accounts and looking at what their business is doing and working through their goals. That’s where the questions are asked and where discussions happen around how to move forward.

Business Mentoring

What's the biggest benefit of business mentoring to your clients?

“The biggest overall benefit is that they’re dealing with someone who knows their entire circumstance; their business and its goals and their individual goals and situation.

We have a complete picture of their life story which gives us the opportunity to see ahead if something is not going to gel. We don’t just look at your business processes; how a sales process should work or how to manage your record keeping. We put your business into the context of real life and look at the big picture. We look at your business holistically.

Our mentoring approach is to use a softer touch. We don’t fit clients into our processes, but rather look at how we can improve their processes and help them to realise their goals.

At ATB, we are committed to helping businesses grow, thrive and prosper.

Talk to ATB Chartered Accountants and Business Mentors about taking control of your business. Contact ATB today.


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