LivePlan’s Bootcamp for Strategic Advising: How it Started, How it’s Going
Posted Kathy Gregory
The accounting profession is filled with amazing people! Accountants are smart (obviously), generous, hard-working (oh-so), and social (who knew?)! And last but not least, they really like to learn.
LivePlan’s 2021 Summer and Fall Bootcamps are in the books and it was a tremendous success. We want to share with you what attendees learned and have to say about it. As well as why we teach this very special content and what awaits in 2022 and beyond.
“This was absolutely amazing and exactly what I was looking for to provide greater value to our clients and scale our business.”
Why we started the LivePlan Bootcamp for Strategic Advising
For many years LivePlan has had the privilege of getting to know the accounting profession — you. We’ve attended conferences, written blogs, hosted webinars, connected with thought leaders, and met many, many customers. And during that time we’ve seen the advisory space go from just a notion about being a “trusted advisor,” to a profession grappling with how to monetize and deliver these services.
During this time, we’ve been inspired by the opportunity to contribute. Within our own staff we have experts on:
It can feel overwhelming! You went to school for accounting, not necessarily these things.
- Business process design
- Capacity planning and resource allocation
- Digital marketing
- Monetization and selling
- Lean Planning, financial forecasting, and advisory reporting
- Month-end review and management analysis
On top of this, our customers ask us for intensive LivePlan learning sessions. They want to learn LivePlan more deeply, and we know at the root of their need is learning how to monetize LivePlan as a service for their clients. In order to deliver any type of new service, there’s a fundamental process of monetization you must do.
If you’ve found yourself trying to launch advisory services recently, do any of these questions sound familiar to you?
- How do you ensure your new service offering is profitable, and scalable, and package it up for sale?
- How do you deliver it efficiently, stay within scope, remain profitable, and upsell when the time is right?
Then, 2020 became the year of the economic unknown. We saw our small business customers clamoring for forecasting help, and our accounting partners scrambling to provide the service. It became clear to all involved that strategic advising is not just good, it is fundamental to the survival of a business.
At our core, we are a company built on a foundation of educational content. It’s how we’ve operated for 30 years. We bring education and learning to our customers to help them succeed in business. So really, how could we not launch a LivePlan Bootcamp?!
“The LivePlan Bootcamp was jam-packed with great information to set us up to be successful. They thought of everything we would need, and more!”
~ D. Kinsman
“I learned so much from Bootcamp and was so excited to get started on the software. The materials we received give me the confidence to go out and sell and deliver this service. I can’t wait to start using it with clients!”
~ J. DeFeo
How it started
Our online training program was the precursor to Bootcamp. It brings our fundamental strategic advising learning together, in one program. That way anyone offering services using monthly accounting data can learn how to offer strategic advising in a scalable way. Monetize it, deliver it, and be profitable.
With the popularity of the online training, our customers requested a deeper, live event. So in October of 2019, we launched the inaugural LivePlan Bootcamp for Strategic Advising, capped at 20 attendees, for a true MVP (minimum viable product) test.
Over the course of three days, in a live setting, attendees learned:
- lean planning and forecasting
- business process and capacity planning
- strategic advising meeting structure
- marketing and sales
- engagement and leadership
They shared their experiences with us and with one another, had some great wine along the way, toured Palo Alto Software offices, and left with a host of resources, some cool swag, and 15 CPE.
Attendees left saying:
“The Bootcamp was outstanding. The sessions and information were detailed and thorough. I had a choice between this and QB Connect. I chose the Bootcamp. Best decision I could have made!” ~ A. Gilbo
“SO much amazing info and resources. I’m really excited to get started and help strengthen small businesses. I love the mixture of content and complete content to help us hit the ground running.” ~ S. Pitzel
Buoyed from that experience, we were excited for version 2.0! But little did we know what 2020 would have in store.
How it’s going
We spent the majority of 2020 and 2021 like most of you—mastering balance in the realm of remote work. This extended beyond becoming used to working from home and into how to plan a typically in-person training event into an equally effective virtual one.
So, we did our research on virtual learning platforms and launched Bootcamp 2.0, our first fully virtual event. Going online meant even more advisors could attend, and our attendance tripled. We focused on Lean Planning as a method for delivering strategic advising services.
After completing the first virtual Bootcamp, we had some time to consider what the Bootcamp experience could be like moving forward. This meant tackling more learning sessions and holistically exploring the evolving landscape for advisors. With our deep roots in selling directly to small businesses, we know that small business owners are more aware now than ever before of the need for lean planning and forecasting. And they’re looking for knowledgeable strategic advisors who understand these processes to help them do this work quickly and effectively.
While survival was once their focus, they are now asking for more. They understand that in order to thrive in uncertainty, they need to forecast for profit as well as cash. And that the best way to stay on top of their finances isn’t to wait until the end of the quarter or even every month to review. Instead, they’re looking for advisors and tools that can provide a live view of performance and make recommendations.
What attendees learned at LivePlan’s Bootcamp 2021
With all of that in mind, we began outlining what the next iteration of virtual bootcamp would look like. A deeper exploration into how to leverage strategic advising services and processes to better anticipate and serve the needs of business owners. Here’s what that content looked like:
Day One — The Process
- The LivePlan Method for Strategic Advising: Our business process for scalable and profitable advisory.
- Lean Planning: How to do just the right amount of work to deliver the maximum result. And also, how to grow the service over time.
- Why forecasting matters: Our CEO, Sabrina Parsons, discussed why forecasts matter, what makes a great forecast, and why forecasting is the best advisory service.
- Leading client communication: Our panel of advisors discussed strategies and tips for improving client communication, sharing how to dig deep into a client’s business and better understand their problems, goals, opportunities, and limitations.
“I am blown away by the content and level of detail in the processes and checklists.”
~ AM. Kellaway
Day 2 — Forecasting and Advising
- Forecasting, forecasting, forecasting: We went DEEP on financial forecasting. We introduced our sample business, Sweat Equity, and its owner, Shauna—showcasing how they built a strategic 3-year forecast in LivePlan.
- Small group work: Our group leaders played the roles of small business owners, and groups were tasked with building a forecast based on the business’s needs, goals, and opportunities.
- Reporting and advising: A walkthrough of how LivePlan produces reporting packages, and how to use our advisory meeting agenda and resource guide to prepare for an advising conversation.
- More small group work: Additional break-out sessions focused on preparing a few points of information for an advisory meeting. By far our most creative exercise. Groups were tasked with addressing Sweat Equity’s problems via the Forecast, and developing a report and talking points to share with Shauna. We were blown away by all of the unique approaches groups came up with to improve cash flow and profitability.
- Engagement and leadership: A panel discussion on how to be a partner and leader for your small business clients.
“I’m taking away great ideas and inspiration not only in applying the LivePlan method but in marketing my firm, which wasn’t even on my radar before Bootcamp.” ~ J. Abella
Day 3 — Bundling, Marketing, and Selling
- Pricing and sales with Mark Wickersham: Industry leader Mark Wickersham shared why value-based pricing is a must for strategic advising, how to become more comfortable with the sales conversation, and how a well-crafted brochure can be your biggest sales tool.
- Bundles for LivePlan strategic advising: A tiered approach to bundled services. Think — platinum, gold, silver, bronze, except we call ours — Maintenance, Insights, Growth, and Performance.
- Digital marketing: Our amazing in-house marketing team shared best practices for search engine optimization, content marketing, paid advertising, and attracting and converting more leads. An entire semester of marketing content delivered in 2 hours!
“Such an amazing experience, unlike any education I’ve had before. This just became my new favorite software!” ~ J. Standley
How the LivePlan Bootcamp prepares you to be a successful strategic advisor
Bootcamp attendees came to us feeling somewhat overwhelmed by the work of advising clients. There are so many possibilities for advice and guidance, and too often meetings devolve into a series of unhelpful conversations.
After learning the LivePlan Method, and how to apply elements of the software, plus our resources and guidance, attendees saw how the work of forecasting and gap analysis exposed the metrics that were most important to discuss. And that strategic advising is more about presenting the facts and asking questions than it is about providing all the answers.
When we see advising in that way, it is no longer overwhelming. It’s also more balanced for the small business owner. It’s what they expect.
“This Bootcamp has allowed my firm to save so much time in creating a strategic advisor practice! So much guidance and so much information!” ~ S. Woodard
At the end of the day, the job of the strategic advisor is to help small business owners discover what it is in their business that needs to change in order to meet their goals. And without structure, that can be very overwhelming. But it’s really as straightforward as this:
- Goals are tracked and measured with forecasting and gap analysis.
- The gaps expose the places where change is needed.
- And the change is a choice between two things: a change to the goal, or a change to the business in order to meet the goal.
- Determining what that change should be, comes after a conversation with the small business owner, during an advisory meeting.
Much of the magic of strategic advising is simply in holding time and space for a structured conversation to occur.
We look forward to running future iterations of the LivePlan Bootcamp, so keep your eyes and ears peeled for announcements. We plan to continue with Bootcamp in Spring 2022 with potentially more sessions added throughout the year.
In addition, we’re exploring master classes: single-day learning events to help you master the skills you learn in Bootcamp. We’re planning topics such as lean planning, forecasting, reporting, and strategic advising. Our goal is to continue to provide accountants with in-depth training opportunities so you can learn, master, and implement the skills of Strategic Advising
Your small business clients need advising and you are the experts to deliver it!
“A fantastic and informative 3 days of high quality, on-point presentations. I was amazed by how well LivePlan Bootcamp was organized, the insights, and valuable resources provided. Will definitely attend again!” ~ M. Jain
In the meantime, if you want to get started with LivePlan training for strategic advising, consider our online training. It teaches many of the same resources we deliver in the live Bootcamp, but with a self-placed system that allows you to learn and leverage the LivePlan Method on your own time.