I was a bit concerned when the bank called to cancel my client’s finance application meeting.
What did we do wrong? What did we forget?
Turns out – nothing.
In fact, our reports and financials were so thorough that the bank cancelled the meeting because it had more information than it needed to grant my client the loan.
And it did.
Technology makes it easy for accountants to add more value with less effort. This is a good thing because Sage’s Practice of Now 2020 research found that customers want more from their accountants, like advice on business strategy and technology. They need more guidance from their accountants than ever before, and they need a different kind of service that augments traditional accounting offerings. The catch? They don’t want to pay more for this advice.
Finding your value proposition
Before the outbreak of COVID-19 in South Africa, we found that clients were reluctant to adopt Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies, even though 69% of accountants were ready for the next wave of digital technologies.
But the pandemic ushered in a new era of economic disruption and a much-needed acceleration of the accounting profession. Firms had to leap into the digital era or face redundancy.
Just one year later and most businesses have upgraded their digital infrastructure and adopted new ways of working as they grasp the importance and value of information to help them stay competitive. And as they move into 2021 and beyond with formal digital transformation strategies, businesses expect their accountants to do the same.
But if technology makes it so easy to generate reports, draw up a trial balance, and gather data insights, what value can accountants bring to the table?
To identify your value proposition, start by answering these questions:
- What problem am I trying to solve?
- How can I use the time that tech frees up to differentiate my services?
- How do I give back to communities?
The fact that technology has automated much of the accounting process requires accountants to go beyond the required scope, to truly understand their clients’ needs, and to develop solutions and processes that make it easier to run their businesses.
Here’s how we do it at Bright Path Business Consultants.
Era of opportunity
We believe that the post-COVID era is one of opportunity.
When I established Bright Path Business Consultants in 2014, I made the strategic decision to embrace technologies like artificial intelligence and cloud software. That decision continues to serve the business well today and it’s positioned us to jump onto opportunities as they arise.
Business management solutions like Sage Business Cloud have empowered us to achieve maximum productivity and efficiency with minimum wasted effort or expense.
We use the time that technology gifts back to us, to focus on two things: research and upskilling. We realised early on that, in order to retain a sustainable service structure in the digital age, we had to prioritise skills transfer, not just in new technologies, but also in how we serve our clients.
Technology not only provides tools to render the same services differently, but also creates opportunities to render different services that create more value. Understanding how to use technology to create a competitive advantage is the secret to success.
How to play the never-ending game
One thing that COVID crystallised for us, was that we’re playing a never-ending game, one where the rules always change, and the learning curve never shortens. Rather than tying ourselves to a standard service menu, we handed it over to our clients, asking for their feedback on what they would add, remove, or change. In giving them ownership of our service menu, it became clear where we could add value.
That’s because, when we know exactly what our clients need – and what problem we’re solving – it’s easier to figure out how to make it happen. That means seeking out new technologies, methods, and systems to be able to execute the client-owned service menu.
This immediately differentiates us and our value proposition. What’s more, it holds us to our promise that, no matter how unpredictable business is, we exist to make our clients’ lives easier.
By going through this process, you might identify areas where clients need your help the most. Think about turning that service into a specialisation, which is another great way to stand out and earn trust. But remember, when diversifying your services and deciding on a specialisation, don’t rush to a decision. Listen to your clients and allow your focus to emerge organically.
Above all else, your goal should be to retain a sustainable service structure and a happy client base.
Advice for the opportunity era
- Look on the bright side. The winners will be those who can identify opportunities and move fast.
- Stay open-minded. Listen to the young people on your team. These digital natives have fresh ideas, and they thrive when those ideas are supported.
- Develop your digital skills. Accountants who are crippled by digital phobia will not win in this game. Fully immerse yourself in the digital age – it’s the only choice you have.
- Understand your position in the professional community. If you’re here to serve SMEs, study their challenges and develop solutions.
- Solve problems, don’t just make a living. What problem are you solving? Let this guide everything you do.