Advisory Services: Real Commitment or Just Talk?

Overhead view of two businessmen meeting in lobbyHow your answer affects growth.

By Sarah Dobek
The Rosenberg MAP Survey

The unfolding events of 2020 will continue to be the tailwind of change for the profession.

The most significant and obvious change is the forced adoption of remote/flexible work. So many firms were convinced that remote work just wasn’t feasible. The pandemic has proven otherwise.

MORE: 2021: You’ll Never See ‘Normal’ Again | SURVEY: We Adapted to Remote Work … Now What? | SURVEY: 2020’s Disruptions Are Only the Beginning | COVID Brought Us More and Better Client Communication
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Yes, for some firms, it’s not working well. But on closer inspection, these challenges are actually bringing to light systemic management and operational issues. From today’s vantage point, long- term operational change is inevitable as firms evaluate more permanent work-from-home scenarios in both the long and short term.

The second trend we are seeing is a complete mindset shift around growth. Many firms have been talking a good game about adding more advisory services, and through COVID, that commitment is being tested. Beyond SBA support, serious firms are using PPP legislation as a springboard to advance their commitment to advisory. Firms that successfully translate the business development opportunities around this will see big impacts on their growth of advisory services for the next few years and potentially longer.

The last clear change is the impact on growth overall. As with all economic downturns, this environment tests the resiliency of practice management, revenue generation and client service. Some firms are trying to wait and see – but really, they’re afraid to grow or don’t really know how. Firms with an authentic growth culture are adapting and renewing their commitment to evolve with the times. The firms and rainmakers that chase after adaptation, whether through service diversification or an investment in technology and new business development skills, will grow. Those who wait and see will see much sharper declines in their growth in the years following this pandemic.

The last trend we will see coming out of COVID-19 is a deeper commitment to internal communication. The forced work from home is bringing to light the always important internal communications that are needed and are forcing firms to look at new and different ways of communicating with their staff. I believe this will be a permanent shift and positive outcome from the pandemic for many firms.

In hindsight, 2019 will be the year we took for granted. Pre-COVID-19, many firms made consistent progress on multiple fronts. There was a clear trend in 2019 of firms continuing the slow and steady path to diversify services with the addition and commitment of adding or deepening consulting into their practices. As is typical in the profession, this was still somewhat conservative in the smaller firms, but the larger firms were increasing momentum on this front.

Last year, we also saw firms make bigger commitments to technology. The trend was mostly toward cloud-based solutions designed to help leaders better run their practices. As far as the issues, we continued to see firms struggle across the board with business development. Firms either didn’t have rainmakers or had rainmakers with weak skillsets. Those who made new commitments to business development focused on translating skills across the practice and at earlier points in people’s careers. On reflection, I don’t feel like 2019 was a pivotal year or game changer on any one front. However, it will be the context for what we should have done or wished we had done sooner.

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