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The conversational accountant - it’s good to talk but will our clients pay us for it?

Asking a client ‘how it’s going’ doesn’t necessarily sound like the foundation for a longstanding and successful partnership. But for practitioners who take a conversational approach to providing trusted business advice, it’s often the first – and most insightful – question they’ll ask.

“This isn’t about trying to force your way into a client’s life,” explains Derek Blair, founding partner at Pinkham Blair. “It’s about trying to be useful; perhaps acting as a facilitator for the realisation of their long term business, financial and personal plans.”

Holding a conversation sounds simple enough, and it is, but it also needs thought and planning. Blair – who has developed the conversational style with clients over many years – recommends starting with a typed sheet outlining a structured agenda. He tweaks this very slightly depending on each meeting, but the first question is always: ‘How’s it going?’ “That’s effectively the introduction,” he explains, “and often I don’t have to say very much more. The client then downloads what life’s like.”