As a pioneer of integrated financial management, The Sharp Financial Group offers clients both traditional accounting and tax services as well as business advisory, wealth management, and capital services all in a unified, coordinated approach.
But what is integrated financial management? And how does this unique offering benefit clients? Sharp’s Founder and Executive Chairman, Mike Sharp, answered these questions and more when he joined host David Bookbinder for “Behind the Numbers.”
When Mike founded the firm in 1993 to offer standard accounting and tax services, he knew from his own business and family experience that he wanted to expand beyond a conventional set of services.
“My dad had a retail shop and had his accountant, but he had questions beyond a trial balance or year-end taxes. He would often be advised to go to different places which generally cost more because they're one-offs (siloed advice). Plus, these services needed to be coordinated to be effective. Unfortunately, a lot of times, professionals are not in the mindset to talk to each other. From the beginning, we knew we wanted to offer a holistic set of services to our clients,” said Mike.
Offering clients a holistic approach to managing their finances has infused the culture of the Sharp organization. Now 35 employees strong, the Sharp team is keen on collaborating regularly to ensure that there is constant communication both among internal team members and with clients. One of the key outcomes of constant collaboration and communication is that Sharp helps business owners identify the blind spots they didn’t even know to look for. David asked Mike to share an example about what those blind spots may look like.
“A client may approach Sharp looking for accounting services, for tax planning, or to have their money managed. We go an extra step to help them develop a tax strategy so it’s not just a tax return that we’re offering, it’s tax planning and a mindset of mitigating taxes. We help clients see that it’s not just wealth management. It’s also financial planning. There are many items beyond the services offered by traditional accounting firms that are essential, but clients don’t know they need them until it’s often too late,” said Mike.
As David observed, this approach enables the Sharp team to help clients think and plan for the long term – instead of looking just one quarter ahead or worse not being proactive or forward-planning at all. Additionally, instead of solely looking back at taxes, Sharp helps clients consider their business in the context of broader, data-driven trends. One way that Mike and the Sharp team do this is by encouraging clients to avoid “shiny object syndrome” and to adhere to a disciplined financial plan.
“We represent professional athletes, business owners and entrepreneurs, a number of ultra-high net-worth family offices, and everyday investors. One common theme with everyone is preparing the right way. Long-term financial well-being isn’t about saying ‘what’s the newest thing I can invest in?’ or ‘what sounds great that nobody else has?’ It’s really about taking a disciplined approach to financial planning, budgeting and mitigating taxes,” said Mike.
Mike was also quick to reiterate that being disciplined doesn’t mean adhering to a rigid plan that never changes. “It's all about the preparation and communication. And it's a joint effort to help our clients achieve their financial goals, but it's also their responsibility to understand and be disciplined. It doesn't mean that things don't change, but rather that we're always aware of what the goals are and our responsibilities to meeting them,” he explained. It is important to provide our clients with the data and the advice to understand how that impacts our clients’ financial future.
Part of helping clients avoid reactionary behaviors is a communication-heavy approach. Mike explained that Sharp meets with clients at minimum once a quarter or even monthly or weekly in some cases. Unlike traditional firms, which may only meet with clients once a year, Sharp clients have constant, regular interface with experts to help them avoid being tempted by the latest shiny object.
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