One of the most common requests businesses have for their accountants is for more proactive advice. They want more than just the numbers. They want to know what those numbers mean for the future of their businesses.
That’s why forward-thinking accounting firms are focused on acquiring the talents and tools they need to become business advisors and strategists. After all, if clients aren’t asking for those kinds of service now, they will be in the near future. Looked at another way, accounting firms need to focus on being able to answer “what if” questions, such as, ”What will happen next if we do X, Y, or Z?” and “What are the risks and opportunities if we do A, B, or C?”
In order to become advisors and strategists, today’s most successful accounting firms focus on technology, added services, and growth. Concentrating on these key areas can lead to greater success for you, your firm, and your clients. Let’s consider each of these key priorities.
1. Embrace the move to cloud technology
Cloud-based services offer numerous benefits to clients and accounting firms alike, including speed and efficiency, reliability, and enhanced customer service. When data is stored in the cloud, multiple individuals can process and access it simultaneously, speeding up the rate of work.
The cloud also provides the mobility and flexibility that enables you to serve your clients better. Cloud computing makes the distance between you and your clients less of an issue, which lets you respond quickly when circumstances change. Plus, because cloud technology leads to mobile productivity, it frees up the quality time to spend with your clients and allows you to work from their offices when necessary.
2. Take advantage of mobile and anytime, anywhere capabilities
Why shouldn’t your clients be able to run their businesses from anywhere they like, from the palms of their hands? Mobile business apps, even ones that allow you to check the status of the stock market by tapping an icon on your smartphone, have given us in-the-moment, real-time access to data. If they’re not demanding it already, your customers will soon expect mobile capabilities from all of their professional services providers, including accountants and bookkeepers.
3. Focus on becoming a real-time advisor and partner to clients
According to Accounting Today, from 2010 through 2014, accounting firms experienced 91 percent growth in the advisory services offered. While growth in tax and audit revenue slowed, advisory services increased to nearly one-third of the revenue at top 100 firms. Forward-thinking firms help clients beyond core accounting; more importantly, it’s about forming “customers for life” by providing services 365 days a year, not just periodic transactions around tax time.
4. Measure what matters (and pricing accordingly)
Many of the measurements and processes used in today’s practice management systems are outdated and add little if any, value. Scheduling, project management, time tracking, billing, and cash collection are needed to run a firm, but those tasks can take up valuable time that could be otherwise spent working more closely with clients and growing a business. Through the implementation of cloud and web-based applications, many of these processes have become automated, freeing up valuable time. Moreover, firms should implement fixed price or access level agreements, replacing the old “billing by the hour” model.
Become a 365 accounting firm
Accountants are familiar with the ubiquitous disclaimer that, in some form or other, accompanies every investment opportunity: “Past performance is not necessarily indicative of future results.” Likewise, no matter how well your firm has performed in the past, client expectations (and the ability to meet those expectations) are changing. Now is the time to adapt and set the stage to thrive in the future.