In this insightful episode of the “Growing Your Firm” podcast, brought to you by Jetpack Workflow, host David Cristello is joined by special guest Adam Lean, CEO and co-founder of The CFO Project

Adam shares his expertise on how accountants can go beyond traditional number-crunching by engaging with clients through meaningful conversations that resemble therapeutic sessions. By asking open-ended questions about clients’ businesses and aspirations, accountants can foster a deeper connection and provide greater value.

Adam also delves into the importance of CFO advisory services as a scalable way for accountants, CPAs, bookkeepers, and enrolled agents to grow their firms and increase their earnings. The episode discusses the rise of advisory services in the accounting industry, from integration in mid-market firms to adoption by smaller practices as a lucrative service offering. 

What you’ll learn

Listeners will learn about the importance of asking clients questions to get them talking, the benefits of adding CFO advisory services to accounting firms, and the current state of advisory services in the industry.

Guest Bio

Adam Lean is a renowned figure in the world of accounting and financial advisory services. As the CEO and Co-founder of The CFO Project, Adam has dedicated his career to helping accountants, CPAs, bookkeepers, and enrollment agents start or add CFO advisory services to their offerings. 

With a focus on escaping the accountant’s trap and providing a scalable way for firms to grow and earn what they’re worth, Adam’s expertise and insights have transformed the way financial professionals approach their businesses.

Throughout his career, Adam has worked with a diverse range of clients, from small businesses to mid-market firms, helping them navigate the complexities of financial management and strategic planning. His training and certification program have empowered countless professionals to expand their services and provide high-value advisory solutions to their clients.

Adam’s philosophy revolves around the idea of building trust and relationships with clients by understanding their needs and aspirations. He emphasizes the importance of appealing to clients’ emotions and guiding them towards achieving their business goals. By focusing on the human aspect of financial advisory services, Adam has been able to establish himself as a trusted advisor and mentor in the industry.

With a deep understanding of the challenges faced by business owners, Adam approaches each client interaction as a unique opportunity to make a meaningful impact. By asking insightful questions and listening attentively, he uncovers the underlying issues and opportunities for growth within a business. This personalized approach has earned him a reputation for delivering tailored solutions that drive success and profitability for his clients.

Adam’s credentials and achievements speak volumes about his expertise in the field of financial advisory services. His program at the CFO Project has equipped numerous professionals with the tools and knowledge needed to excel in the competitive landscape of accounting and finance. 

By focusing on building long-term relationships and delivering value-driven services, Adam continues to inspire and empower financial professionals to reach new heights of success in their careers.

Detailed Synopsis

To effectively market CFO advisory services to small business owners, establishing an emotional connection is crucial. 

Adam Lean from the CFO Project highlights in a podcast episode that many business owners, while experts in their respective fields like culinary arts, dentistry, or HVAC services, may not have a keen interest or deep understanding of financial intricacies. Consequently, when promoting CFO advisory services, it’s vital to engage business owners by inquiring about their business passions and objectives.

For example, an accountant might initiate a conversation by asking the business owner about the inspiration behind starting their business or their vision for the business in five years, assuming all goes well. This approach fosters a sense of trust and understanding, allowing the business owner to feel supported. It also provides the accountant with insights into the owner’s ambitions and challenges, which can be addressed through the advisory services.

Adam points out that business owners often make decisions based on emotion, later rationalizing them with logic. By tapping into emotional drivers—such as the aspiration for a thriving business that supports their family, garners peer respect, or fulfills personal ambitions—an accountant can present CFO advisory services as a solution that resonates with the owner’s emotional motivations.

The podcast also underscores the importance of simplifying service offerings. Presenting a single, well-defined package helps avoid overwhelming prospects with choices and makes it easier for them to grasp the value offered. The services should be portrayed as a straightforward solution to help the business owner realize their dreams, rather than a complex financial mechanism.

In essence, conversations about CFO advisory services with small business owners are more impactful when they revolve around the owners’ emotional needs and aspirations. By demonstrating an understanding of what is truly important to the business owner and how CFO services can facilitate the achievement of those goals, accountants can effectively advocate for their advisory services.

Offering a single, clear, and comprehensive package for CFO advisory services is a strategic move that benefits both the service provider and the client. As discussed in the podcast episode, this approach reduces confusion and clarifies the value proposition for the client.

Simplifying the Offering

Adam stresses the significance of simplicity in service offerings. A single package helps firms:

  • Avoid Overwhelming Clients : Multiple options can cause decision paralysis. One offering ensures clients are not bombarded with choices, which can lead to indecision or a focus on price over value.
  • Clarify the Value Proposition : A singular package allows firms to succinctly communicate the expected outcomes and value. This clarity is essential for clients who may be unfamiliar with CFO services.

The Single Package Approach

The recommended approach includes a productized CFO service with two primary deliverables:

  1. Scoreboard : A color-coded scoreboard that simplifies the business’s performance without complex financial statements. This visual aid uses green, yellow, and red indicators to show the health of various business aspects.
  2. Action Plan : A detailed plan outlining steps to address critical issues identified in the scoreboard. This plan offers clear directions on actions to take before the next meeting to keep the business progressing toward its goals.

Pricing Strategy

Lean advises firms to charge a flat monthly fee for their services, suggesting a range between $1,500 and $5,000 per month. This pricing aligns with the service’s value and ensures clients understand the cost upfront, reducing confusion and fostering trust.

Emotional Appeal

The podcast also emphasizes the importance of appealing to the client’s emotions rather than solely logical arguments. By aligning the single package with the client’s business goals and personal aspirations, the firm makes the service more attractive and relevant to the client’s needs.


In conclusion, offering a single, clear, and comprehensive package for CFO advisory services meets the needs of small to medium-sized business owners who may not fully understand the CFO’s role. This approach simplifies the client’s decision-making process, communicates the service’s value clearly, and focuses on the emotional aspects of business ownership, which are often key to securing the deal.

Understanding Business Goals and Challenges in Initial Conversations

When engaging with prospects, prioritizing a deep understanding of their business before discussing specific services is crucial. This approach builds trust and a relationship, proving more effective than immediately attempting to sell services or delve into financial details.

Ask About Their Business and Motivations

Start the conversation with open-ended questions that prompt the prospect to discuss their business and personal motivations, such as:

  • “Tell me about your business.”
  • “Why did you start your business?”

These questions allow the prospect to share their story and passions, offering valuable insights into their goals and challenges.

Focus on Their Future Vision

It’s also important to understand the business owner’s future vision. Consider asking:

  • “If we were to meet five years from today, and everything went perfectly with your business plan, what would your business look like?”

This question helps you understand their long-term vision and desired milestones, informing how you might tailor your services to support those objectives.

Listen More Than You Speak

Active listening is key in these initial conversations. As the podcast mentions, if you’re speaking more than 5% of the time, you’re likely talking too much. Letting the prospect do most of the talking ensures they feel heard and understood.

Build Emotional Connection

Focusing on the business owner’s emotions and priorities creates a connection beyond the transactional nature of business services. When a business owner feels like they’ve had a “therapy session,” it indicates a successful emotional connection.

Provide Context Before Solutions

Before presenting solutions, it’s essential to set the context. If you’ve identified growth opportunities or red flags, arrange a follow-up meeting to discuss these in detail. This ensures the business owner is receptive to your insights and sees the value in the services you offer.

By taking the time to understand the prospect’s business and personal goals, you establish yourself as a trusted advisor who can guide them to success, rather than just another service provider.


[00:01:09] CFO advisory services growth.

[00:06:11] Outsourced CFO package essentials.

[00:08:43] High ticket advisory service.

[00:13:55] Improving Conversion Rate.

[00:19:25] Inventory Cash Flow Problem.

[00:23:28] Context in Sales Strategy

[00:29:00] Emotional Business Strategy.

[00:30:35] Growth and red flags.

[00:34:34] Dating analogy in sales.

[00:37:05] Scaling small businesses.

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