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The lost art of listening in accounting

“Advisory” has been the buzz word in accounting for the last few years. Accountants are clamouring to productise and package their advisory offering for both new and old clients.

But with all of this focus on "giving" advice, have accountants lost or abandoned the skill of just sitting with and actively listening to clients?

Many would say that listening to clients and understanding their business, personal life and goals are part of delivering advice – and I totally agree with this organic form of advisory. The problem is that many advisers aren’t doing it.

With the rise of tech products that facilitate advisory (amazing tools if used correctly) it seems to me that the cookie cutter approach to providing advice is winning out with many. This approach focuses only on traditional goals one would expect business owners to have – increased revenues, profit, saving tax. All very important metrics but only part of the picture.

If we sit down and really listen to our clients maybe the traditional financials goals aren’t what we need to be focusing on. In fact maybe this focus is counter productive right now. Often the important goals are more specific to that individual or family group: time with kids and family, managing financial stress, juggling health concerns while running the business, resolving partnership issues, redefining the business offering, preparing the business for a child to takeover. And these are the things that can only ever be discovered by listening.

When I work with clients, I make it my number one priority to listen. Listening comes first – advice comes second.


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