Five top takeaways from Accountex USA 2018

Published · 3 min read

What did you learn at Accountex USA 2018 in Boston? More importantly, what actions will you take that position your accounting firm for future growth and profitability?

Whenever I’m asked to attend events I try to come up with several ideas that I can implement to help my clients from the event. This year I started reaching out before the event was even over.

Accountex 2018 provided me several actionable ideas to share with clients in accounting and advisory firms. Today I’ll share what I learned from the Boston event. Over the coming months, I’ll provide you with easily implementable tips and strategies to help build a more successful accounting and advisory practice.

I asked my smaller and midsized clients about what I heard from accounting professionals and their firms. Sadly, many agreed with the overall assessment of accounting organizations and professionals today.

See if you agree with the following statistics provided at the event:

  1. 92% of CPA firms are not future ready. This is a startling statistic when you look at the critical role CPAs and their firms have on advising SME organizations. If you’re not moving toward a brighter future, the best days for your firm may be behind you.
  2. 80% of accounting firms need to better understand emerging technology trends. Many SME clients are looking to decrease cost and risks in their businesses. Finance and accounting software is only as good as the information in their applications and how it is applied. If your clients are growing into new markets or just keeping up with new regulations, an accounting firm should be able to provide them with ideas that not only decrease costs and risks. It should also help them identify opportunities and profits in their clients.
  3. 76% of small business owners say their accountants are not proactive. For many years, accountants have been the most trusted advisor to many entrepreneurs and business leaders. Today, clients expect more or go looking for an organization that is helping them grow and succeed. They want not only competence but insights that help them run their business better.
  4. 75% of clients who changed accounting firms did so because their CPAs were reactive. Accounting data is becoming more and more transferable and transparent. To thrive in the digital economy, CPAs need to proactively interact with their clients. They need to help clients better understand their numbers and how to improve results.
  5. 6% of CFOs, controllers, and management accountants are future ready. An increasing number of your client contacts are moving towards retirement. Every six seconds a boomer retires. In many cases, the senior level executives that are retiring in your clients are being replaced by more technology-savvy individuals. What are you doing to make sure you know their replacements and your business is not at risk?

These numbers were shared during Jennifer Warawa’s keynote. Jennifer is Executive Vice President of Partners, Accountants & Alliances at Sage. These facts got significant attention during her keynote!

But, enough with the numbers…

Now that you see the challenges, how do you respond?

I believe that these numbers are going to provide an incredible opportunity for the next generation of CPA and advisory firms. The challenge for many smaller and midsize accounting organizations is – ‘how do we get started?’ It can be overwhelming.

Jennifer Warara shared Sage’s vision at Accountex 2018 on how accounting firms move toward the brighter future.  She shared the critical elements needed to build and succeed in client advisory services. I believe this blueprint alone made it worth attending the event. When you add in the many other presentations and partner organizations you could have met there and you can see why this is becoming such a popular event for forward-leaning accounting organizations.

Jennifer’s keynote focused on the “pillars” to develop a successful client advisory business. I plan to interview Jennifer in depth on the different pillars on future blogs.

Here are the eight pillars:

  1. Business Planning
  2. Verticals and Market Segmentation
  3. The Client Engagement Process
  4. Key Performance Indicators
  5. Packaging and Pricing
  6. Talent recruitment and Development
  7. Engagement Letters and Service Agreements
  8. Business Development and Marketing

Sage is offering a comprehensive program as part of the Sage Accountants Network (SAN). All SAN members will gain access to the SAN Client Advisory Services Toolkit, which provides members with the tools to develop a roadmap to deliver higher-value services to their clients. The Toolkit consists of eight learning tracks or “pillars” shown above.

When I reached out to several of my smaller and mid-market clients after the conference to share what I had seen, I was pleasantly surprised by their responses. The executives and entrepreneurs were very excited about their work with their accounting firms, they were getting tremendous value from their accounting relationships.

All of them saw their accounting firms as critical members of their clients’ leadership teams. They were trusted advisors.  I know that as advisors or consultants they are charging significantly higher fees for their advisory services. How would you like to have these kinds of relationships for your practice?

I look forward to sharing these ideas in more fuller details over the coming weeks and months.

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