I have spoken to so many firms over the years - listening to what works well, and what doesn’t. With that in mind, I thought I'd put down some notes about some of the common misconceptions I’ve observed over the years.
"Everything must be perfect before I can start using Spotlight"
This is such a common obstacle. Client meetings are fluid, they rely on listening and a two way discussion, not a one-way presentation of perfect data. A Spotlight Partner once said in an interview:
“Most clients aren't aware of what you don’t know, so take that fear away. What they want is to have a conversation with you. And if you’re there, and you can give some tidbits that spark curiosity and show them some results from things you’ve talked about at previous meetings, then that trust will come automatically.”
All you have to do is get started with 2 clients. Take time to ask questions, listen for the answers, and don’t be afraid to agree to amend the report or suggest bringing in some new data, KPIs or metrics for the next meeting. Thinking you have to have a perfect and complete report on your first meeting will mean you’ll delay getting stuck in and running these meetings with clients. Just start, relax, and see where the meeting takes you.
"Advisory is for senior staff only"
Firms who democratise the process of management reporting and advisory work are getting more staff in front of clients discussing financial performance which leads to more good outcomes for everyone involved. In fact, a common complaint of younger accountants is that partners don’t let go of client relationships, where in fact they could be raising the profiles of their key staff members and getting them to do higher value client facing work (I spoke to a recruiter here who has some great insights on this topic)
"My clients won’t pay for my advisory services"
This is a big assumption that is often made. Sometimes they might be correct, but often they’re not. Spotlight firms are often very surprised at how easy it was to gain additional advisory revenue from their business clients. Second, once your first advisory meetings are firing along, the number of referrals that start coming through the front door is usually just a matter of time. If clients are getting great reporting and value from their accountant, they talk. Here’s a great example of Shannon Smit talking about these very points.
"Technology can handle it all"
I might sometimes hear: “I’m too busy for advisory, so I want some hands off and automated tech to handle all of this.”
It won’t. Humans do advisory, and humans buy from humans. That’s still the case. Choose an automated AI/ML driven piece of tech for this and you’re opening up the door to be commodotised and comparison shopped. Think of Spotlight as 15-20% of your advisory service. It weaves a financial narrative, gets conversations going and points out what you want to get across. It’s the infrastructure and backbone of your advisory service that makes a core part of it, the generation of reports, that gives you scale.
You still need to insert yourself between your client and the management report to demonstrate your value, and determine which data is relevant. Here John Knight from Business Depot talks about these points right here.