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Are you a 'NextGen' Accountant?

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Categories: For the SME, Accounting, Business Strategy, Selling Services

Recent studies show that over 93% of small business owners now value accountants as their trusted source of business advice. This represents a huge opportunity for accounting firms and CPAs who are transitioning from traditional tax and compliance work to providing value-added services.

Evidenced by the study, many small and midsize business owners are turning to their accountant for fiscal and asset management advice. You may be thinking to yourself,”If 93% are receiving this type of advice from accountants already, where is the opportunity for me?”

The opportunity lies in being an expert in certain industries, finding a niche service(s), and providing an exceptional customer experience. No longer can firms claim to be an expert in everything; it is those who are highly skilled and qualified in select areas that bring the value SMEs need. Understanding how to leverage current technology and staying informed as to what’s emerging next can help separate you from other business advisors. The ongoing transformation of the cloud’s role in the accounting industry today is remarkable and is likely to continue evolving.

While your firm may be happy with current profits and/or revenue, that is no reason to resort to complacency when it comes to efficiency in your firm. Avoiding a “Keeping Up with the Jones” mentality is a good idea for the most part, especially in our personal lives. But when it comes to business, there are grave consequences for those who fall behind the competition.

It is imperative that firms who want to be successful going forward need to utilize time saving functions that allow them more time for those ever-important touches and the ability to service their clients in a better, more complete, and holistic way. If you were worried about the financial health of your company, wouldn’t it be nice to know that someone was looking at it everyday? Tools like ProfitSee would not be nearly as effective without the access to real-time data that saves time and gives your client the comfort of knowing your advice is based on the most up-to-date information available.

This is possible by spending this newfound time on advisory services to deliver proactive insights that increase revenue and mitigate risk for your SME clients, in addition to performing traditional tax and compliance work. There are a bounty of applications out there now that can automate mundane and repetitive tasks with greater accuracy and efficiency than we can ourselves.

It can be daunting or even downright scary to hand over control of a very important aspect of your business to a program or online cloud application. When these doubts creep in, it is crucial that you remember why you are choosing to upgrade and adopt new technology.  It is because the alternative is much scarier, as the old saying goes,”A business that is not growing, is dying”.

Moving to the cloud and adopting other new technologies lets existing and potential new clients know that you are staying at the forefront of efficiency. It is all about embracing the cloud and being flexible so that you are there when your clients need you most. With access to data in real-time from remote devices for all the members of your team, the ability to service your clients effectively is unparalleled.

While it may feel like an invasion of privacy, letting your customers know they can reach out to you with anything about their business will develop trust and instill confidence that you have their best interests in mind. Also, it is highly unlikely that they will actually call you enough that your ‘promise’ becomes an inconvenience. The benefits far outweigh the trouble of being accessible by phone or email and they will always remember that you are willing to go the extra mile.

As you become more experienced as a trusted business advisor, you will notice that some need more ‘hand-holding’ than others. Approaching tense subjects lightly and making the process enjoyable for the client is probably one of the more difficult steps to master. Treading the waters of pointing out weaknesses or revealing inefficiencies in someone’s business can be extremely tricky. That is why communication is key, and there is no bigger part of communication than listening.

By making a concentrated effort to listen closely to what your client has to say about themselves you can better assess the current situation and make suggestions for improvement. Ask questions that will let you know what, if any, plans they have for the future. Find out if there are any projects that they are considering. See if they have any interest in determining the value of the business, have they been approached about the possibility of a merger/acquisition, or if they are currently tracking KPIs and forecasting useful metrics like cash flow.

Allow the client to be in control of the process. Once again, allow the client to be in control of the process. If you come across as a know-it-all and lecture your client about all the terrible decisions they have made it will not be received very well. Instead of portraying a bleak outlook, try to remain positive and encourage them that things can be turned around by implementing changes.

Your job as a trusted business advisor put in simple terms is to provide a SWOT analysis, provide potential solutions for said problems, and then nudge them in the right direction towards financial stability and increased prosperity. Just remember, it is better to let clients think the solution was their idea than to take credit for an idea.

Hold on a second, isn’t the value of my advice what they are paying me for? Actually no, and the reason for this is quite obvious. If you take credit for the ideas you present to clients, who do you think they will blame if and when something goes wrong?

SME business owners are looking for an expert in their industry that they can trust has the knowledge and systems in place to deliver high level financial services that are typically done by a CFO. One without the other will do you no good.

If you have the  knowledge of how to provide value-added services and fail to adopt new technology, naturally your advice will be reactive rather than proactive since your information does not reflect the most recent data and you will not have the time to prioritize client touches.

Likewise, if you adopt emerging technology and have no idea how to provide value-added services, you could come across as condescending and unenjoyable to work with. Sticking to these guidelines as you gain the confidence of clients as a trusted business advisor will increase the chances your insights are well-received, leading to a long and prosperous future for both your client, and yourself.

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