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    Lee Court

September 5, 2016

Guide to Outsourcing Accounting Work (Part 1 of 4)


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Guide to Outsourcing Accounting Work (Part 1 of 4)

Most people’s first impression of outsourcing is that it’s all about reduction – reduction in office space, equipment, on-site personnel, hiring costs, and so on. While outsourcing can indeed save you a fantastic amount of overhead, its core value isn’t in reduction, it’s in expansion. Outsourcing is a powerful tool to help your firm grow.

How your firm grows is a result of the type of outsourcing provider you choose to work with. Let’s take a look at some of the core considerations you should make when choosing a provider and how they can affect your firm’s growth.

The Three basic models of Outsourcing Accounting Work

There are three basic ways different providers allow you to work with your overseas team.

Staff leasing

In this model the provider is helping you recruit offshore staff and provides the staff with an office to work in and all basic IT. Some providers using this model will also give your virtual team some basic induction training for core Australian or New Zealand issues with a few training sessions. Some providers will also include basic HR support and staff management.

Beyond that, it will be up to you to do the majority of the compliance and software training. Your overseas workers will be completely reliant on you providing them with procedures and working papers.

All of the training can drain many hours from your workweek, especially if you have to go overseas to get your staff up and running to the level of quality expected by your clients. Training an offshore team is no mean feat. It is worth noting some large Australian practices have run their own offshore team for years only to come to the conclusion that there is actually no cost-benefit when they factor in all the lost time senior Australian staff have had to spend on training, fixing up errors etc., and subsequently those firms have switched to using a premium full-service provider.

Training an offshore team

Full-service permanent dedicated staff

In this model your outsourced accountants essentially work just like they were another member of your permanent staff, they just happen to be overseas.

You’re able to decide if you want a full-time or part-time accountant or bookkeeper. You can choose if they work for you anywhere from 1 to 5 days per week. They can do your compliance work utilising the exact same methods as your in-house staff. They can use your accounting software, your preferred document management system, and they become familiar with your clients and their particular needs.

With a premium full-service provider you should only have to manage workflow. You can use your in-house procedures or have the provider use their own.

Most full-service providers’ staff will be trained thoroughly on the necessary tax laws but this is one of the key things you should put under the microscope to determine the level of support you are getting from your provider.

This method provides the opportunity to reduce review times, increase efficiency, and increase your menu of services. Your overseas team can even attend staff meetings via services like Skype, and are able to take on more complex work above and beyond your basic compliance needs.

A high-end full-service provider should leave you with a great deal more time so you can focus on growing your firm and face-time with clients.

Permanent dedicated OR Casual staff for ad-hoc jobs

Full-service casual staff for ad-hoc jobs

You might not have enough have work to keep even a part-time accountant busy in which case a casual option may suit you.

With this model you’ll again only have to manage your workflow, the staff will already be trained and experienced in the kind of work you want to have done.

The benefit of this kind of staffing option is that you can send ad-hoc jobs at any time e.g. when you are overloaded. You may also have only a few SMSF jobs and don’t want to put the resources into keeping a staff member abreast of all the compliance regulations so would rather outsource that accounting work to a specialist. Using a provider for SMSFs can be particularly good if you are concerned about staff turnover and losing all the knowledge invested in a staff member.

The down-side is that generally speaking providers will want to use their own procedures and papers because there won’t be time to get them up to speed on your firm’s in-house procedures.

Some will have different pricing structures ranging from fixed-fee hourly rates to value-based project pricing.

In our next email we’ll take a look at the benefits of proper outsourcing and the training that top tier providers provide your overseas workers.

BOSS (Back Office Shared Services Pty Ltd) is Australia’s premium outsourced accounting provider - helping you maintain quality and control while outsourcing accounting work. To discuss your needs and how we can help, Book a Consultation NOW!

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May 27, 2014

Easy Way to Inform Clients about Outsourcing Accounting Work


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Easy Way to Inform Clients about Outsourcing Accounting Work

Firstly, it is worth noting outsourcing accounting jobs benefits everyone. If you’re not sure how just visit our page The Ethics of Outsourcing Australian Compliance Work.

You may wish to allay any concerns a client has about outsourcing accounting work. Remember, banks and credit card companies have been outsourcing for over twenty years – without your direct permission and it is quite the norm now. How have you been affected? Was it a problem? I doubt it.

One of the main things for you and your clients need to be clear about is that you are ultimately responsible for the supervision and control of the work and therefore are compliant because that is required by law. (Naturally for you that does mean checking out your outsourcing provider’s credentials and security protocols and also their compliance with  APESB and TPB guidelines about supervision).

The easiest way is to inform your client is providing the information in your engagement letter.  Explain how you may use a third party contractor (like BOSS) to do your work.

The Engagement Letter

Many of our clients fulfil their obligation of disclosure, and keep it low key.  One remarked,

“I actually think that most of our clients are blissfully unaware that some of their work is done in India.”

An example engagement letter:

Like you, we are operating a business and experience the same pressures and frustrations as many of you.  We have difficulty finding professional staff, and trying to keep our costs under control is a constant battle.  We are now employing a number of strategies which we hope will keep our costs down, thereby allowing us to remain competitive with the fees we charge.

One of those strategies is to outsource compliance work.  We currently have a relationship with a company operating from Sydney which provides qualified accounting professionals, working from offices in India. The firm holds a Practicing Certificate from the CAANZ and operates to extremely high ethical, privacy and security standards. These accountants have limited access to our database, and are able to cost effectively undertake accounting and tax functions.  This frees up the time of our highly qualified team and allows us to add value to you and your business, rather than attending to compliance obligations.

So if you were considering outsourcing accounting but were a bit stuck on how to handle your clients – you now have a way forward. Embrace the opportunity!  Our next blog post will be on the topic of how to get staff on-board and manage the change process. Look out for our email alert!

BOSS (Back Office Shared Services Pty Ltd) is Australia’s premium outsourced accounting provider - helping you maintain quality and control while outsourcing accounting work. To discuss your needs and how we can help, Book a Consultation NOW!

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January 28, 2014

DIY Outsourcing Accounting Risks You Can’t Afford to Ignore


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DIY Outsourcing Accounting Risks You Can’t Afford to Ignore

It would seem simple to just engage some cheap staff offshore to make more profit. After all it’s just the same as hiring staff in-house isn’t it?

Let’s run through the main things you need to consider in a comparison between a Do-It-Yourself arrangement and a specialist accounting outsourcing provider like BOSS.

Non-Compliance

You risk non-compliance with the ATO, APESB, CAANZ, CPA, and IPA – all have similar ideas around quality and security (as an example see https://www.apesb.org.au/attachments/3-APES_GN_30_Exposure%20Draft.pdf)

The Tax Practitioners Board states “providing adequate supervisory arrangements is critical in the offshoring tax service business model”. The TPB is also keen to see “internal procedures used to satisfy supervisory and control requirements, which may include activities such as: training for offshore staff in Australian tax, registered agents onsite overseas, rotation for overseas staff to gain experience and solid quality assurance systems”

BOSS is a Practicing Entity Member of the CAANZ and the Director in India is a Registered Australian Tax Agent. We operate in line with the recommendations of the TPB, CAANZ, IPA and APESB.

Recruitment and Training

It is extremely unlikely you can recruit an accountant with Australian Tax and Law experience (so what would they know about Div 7a etc?). This means you will need to train them either by flying to their country, bringing them to Australia or trying to do it all over the phone.

Consider how hard it can be to train any junior accountant even when they are in your office. Now imagine how hard that would be over the first six months to a year, to get an offshore accountant up to speed that has flown back to their country.

What amount of time would you need to invest to assist the accountant and what loss in billable time at $2-300 would you lose out on? This is where the hidden costs of getting a cheap accountant can come back to bite you.

Our training is rigorous and ongoing and the accountants have access to the ATO portal, CCH Tax Library and updates. In the first year our new staff (who already have about five years accounting experience) spend over 428 hours being trained in the classroom on Aus Tax and Law and in addition have six months on the job training with one-on-one mentoring.

What happens if your accountant doesn’t work out or leaves? What happens if you need to expand rapidly?

We have staff ready to be assigned to clients on a permanent or casual basis – available on demand at a moment’s notice. If an accountant decided to leave we can replace them immediately.

Security and Confidentiality Risks

What reassurance is there that your client’s data is secure? Who else in the office might gain access to the computer your accountant works on?

BOSS staff only have access to the office when a Manager is present. The internet usage is limited with our IT team policing traffic. We disable USB ports and all staff are vetted thoroughly before being hired.

Professional Indemnity

You will have to check your professional indemnity insurance covers you. It might not unless the individual (or company you use) has professional indemnity insurance themselves. BOSS has PII so this is taken care of.

In addition, what happens if something goes wrong – do you have any legal comeback? With BOSS your contract is with an Australian entity. How would you fare with an individual remote staff worker?

The above are the main risks but clearly there are many more logistical and organisational issues to contend with. Getting the above sorted out is just the beginning. BOSS has spent 10 years improving its service and we know how much is involved to get it working well.

The Choice

The value in in using a reputable outsourcing provider like BOSS is that you have a ready-to-run service. A low-maintenance, low risk, reliable resource that can supply casual staff for busy times or permanent staff for consistent support.

The alternative would be the Do-It-Yourself scenario. But is the pain, aggro and risk worth it? Or would you be better off focusing your energy on developing your value-add services and marketing them?

One of our clients, David Perrott said: “The BOSS model and the way it works is fantastic. I would highly recommend people looking into it; it does provide a great solution.” – Have a look at our video testimonials.

Remember no other outsourcing providers offer all of the advantages that we can provide. If you need staff, are considering outsourcing or are disappointed by your existing outsourcing company – you need to talk to us.

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Liability Limited By a Scheme Approved
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January 16, 2014

Tips for Accounting in The Cloud


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Tips for Accounting in The Cloud

Cloud computing is one of the fastest growing areas of IT across the globe: it was the main investment area for IT departments in 2013 and 2014 and is forecast to continue as a priority in 2015. Accounting is one profession that is taking the move to the Cloud seriously. There is lots of scope for accounting firms to move their operations to the Cloud, and many practices, both large and small are taking this option.

Let’s start looking at the benefits of the cloud….

Benefits of the Cloud

Accessibility

Cloud computing in any form offers unprecedented accessibility. With operations hosted online, work can be done in any location, from multiple devices. This is a massive boost for companies with multiple work sites, but also means that if you are with a client and need some of their information, you won’t have to schedule another meeting, as you can access it on your mobile or tablet right then and there. The other plus is that if you are having trouble finding employees in your area, having your operations in the Cloud means that if you find someone suitable in another city, or even another country, they can very easily work remotely. Particularly, offshoring compliance work can be accommodated easily.

Reduced cost

One of the most talked-about positives of migrating to the Cloud is the reduced cost companies incur. This is because the cost of server maintenance, software updates, and the software itself all roll into the subscription of your Cloud service. Moreover with operations running in the Cloud, infrastructure and hardware costs are minimal, server failures almost a thing of the past, and system admin and other overheads are also absorbed into your Cloud subscription.

Scalable

The Cloud is scalable, which means as your business grows, or a large influx of work comes in (hello tax time) Cloud applications are built to cope with these changes, whereas many traditional applications may become sluggish, require updates, hardware upgrades etc., to cope with increases in demand.

Reduced Data Entry

Data entry can take a long, long time as most accounting firms know all too well. Cloud applications drastically slash the amount of data entry required, because Cloud accounting software providers typically link up with banks and provide live feeds of client transactions, automating all that time-consuming manual entry and upload of bank and credit card transactions, and eliminating the possibility of human error in the data entry process at the same time.

Real Time Data

Cloud accounting software give up-to-the-minute data, because changes, transactions etc are updated in real time. This means you no longer have to worry about which files are the most up-to-date, waiting for clerks or assistants to enter the latest data, or upload a clumsy CSV file. Client services also benefit, as information will be up to date, so when a client calls with a question, you will have all the right information to answer in full.

Concerns of Accounting in the Cloud

Data Security

The number one concern most people have with Cloud computing is security. Will my sensitive data remain secure? Who has access to it? Where is it stored? What measures are taken to secure it? These kinds of questions are often enough to make people hesitate about migrating to the Cloud, but in reality security is less of a threat than imagined.

It behoves anyone considering the Cloud as an option to investigate thoroughly the security policy of the company they choose, just as you would explore the security measure for data stored in traditional on-site servers. Check out our article for more on security in the Cloud.

Connectivity

Most Australian accounting firms will be in areas served well enough by ADSL to function OK. But beware of serviced offices with lots of other companies. The internet may be in heavy demand by other users and you should thus check your upload and download speed. We recommend checking mid-morning and mid-afternoon on two separate days using a tool such as www.speedtest.net. Make sure you pay attention to the slowest speed recorded with that tool.

If you have a need to upload large amounts of data in the cloud you will need close to 1Mb/s upload speed. You can run the cloud software on much less than that but uploading files will take time, so consider upgrading your plan with your (or the serviced offices’) ISP (Internet Service Provider). If in doubt about you internet speed, check with the cloud provider about your particular business demands.

What to Look for in a Provider?

For accounting firms, Software as a Service (SaaS) is where the Cloud has the most benefit. Platform and Server hosting are also available on the Cloud, but most find that the software services more than cover their needs as an accounting firm. Leveraging the benefit of the Cloud depends on choosing the right service provider to match your needs. You can find everything from the basic accounting needs to stream-lined accounting with links to clients’ banks, automated transaction updating, batching etc.

Some of the more well-known accounting SaaS providers include Xero, Saasu and Quickbooks Online. MYOB also has a Cloud offering known as MYOB LiveAccounts, and Reckon’s online versions is known as Reckon Accounts Hosted. There are many lesser-known providers as well, all with their own pros and cons.

You want to be able to fully replace your standard accounting software with the software provided by your Cloud host, so ensure it has all the basics, like the possibility of both accrual and cash-based accounting, efficient reconciliation, and a feature-rich chart of accounts. In addition, to really get the most out of the Cloud experience, ensure your provider has if not all, then some of the following integrated into their software packages: automated bank feeds, invoice emailing, payroll functions, automated tax lodgment, cheque deposit slips and in-depth, customizable reporting capabilities. Your individual needs as a firm will reflect your clients’ needs, so if applicable, check for multi-currency capability, sales tax integration, split transactions and client portals.

You also might consider looking into the add-ons compatible with the provider you are considering and how their mobile applications differ in functionality, if at all.

Other Considerations of the Cloud

Data security policy

It is imperative that you check the company’s data security policy before moving your data to their servers. You need to know who has access, how that access is granted, how many security levels are in place, what happens in the instance of a breach, where the data is physically stored and who has access onsite etc.

Multiple data warehouses in different locales

Check whether the vendor you choose has their services hosted across multiple zones, with multiple data warehouses. This ensures that your software services will not go offline should one host-zone or data center experience a problem.

Customer support

Customer support is a crucial element of a happy Cloud experience. As any problems will have to go through customer support, you want to make sure there is an efficient and qualified support team ready to help you out. This can easily be assessed before making any decisions, as most companies have user reviews online that give good assessments on customer support experience.

Intuitive and user friendly interface

Lastly, you want their user interface to be intuitive in design, and to be easily understood and navigable. Most accounting software on the Cloud is designed in the ‘dashboard’ style, with overviews, controls etc. easily viewable from the dashboard, and further functions a click away. You should be able to have a trial of the software and the backend setup before migration, to ensure that the design and functions are a good fit for your needs, and are easily negotiated.

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October 14, 2013

What You Need to Know About the Power of Google Adwords Express


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What You Need to Know About the Power of Google Adwords Express

In today’s technology-driven world, having a presence online is essential for any business to grow and succeed. Most people now use the net to search for vendors from their personal computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone so if your business is not accessible via these devices, chances are you are missing out on a large segment of potential customers.

Gone are the days when a regular ad in the local paper or the yellow pages was enough to get the word out about your business, so how do you get into the world of advertising online? Luckily the internet ‘giants’ like Yahoo, Microsoft and Google are working very hard to make it easy for you to just that.

Google is arguably the world’s most popular search engine, and its online advertising platform Google Adwords is set up to enable businesses to cultivate an online presence and drive keyword-specific, niche-market advertising campaigns on a ‘Pay-per-click’ (PPC) basis.

Google Adwords is a very complex, but highly rewarding advertising and lead-generating mechanism – if you can work it. If not, it can be a nightmare of confusion. That is why in 2011 Google introduced Google Adwords Express.

Google Adwords Express (previously called Boost) is a lighter version of Adwords that works on the same basic PPC premise, but sets up automatic management so that a lot of the confusion that Adwords was criticised for is taken out of the equation.

Let’s take a closer look at the difference between the two.

Google Adwords and Google Adwords Express – What’s the Difference?

Google Adwords has advantages and disadvantages, as does Express – it depends on what you want from your online advertising, and how much time and money you are willing to invest as to which one will suit your business best. In order to properly understand the difference, of course it’s essential to have a basic understanding of how Adwords as a whole works:

Google Adwords is complex; there are no bones about it. It’s one of the most popular platforms for pay-per-click marketing, enabling users to buy advertising space from Google. It’s not quite the same as traditional advertising, where you buy space in a newspaper or on a website. With Adwords, you are buying an ad in response to somebody’s search query. So if you want to advertise for your accounting firm, then you can tell Adwords to show your ad when someone types in ‘accountant’ or ‘accounting’ and you can give a list of such terms that your ad will show for. You can be more specific than this even, and designate an area of specialty or place, so you can add ‘Sydney accountant’ or ‘tax accountant’ to the searches your ad will be displayed on.

Example:

You can also designate negative search terms – or terms you do not want to show up for. For example, if you offer premium accounting services, you would not want to show up for a search of ‘cheap accountant’ because you know that those searches will not match your service, but you will pay for any clicks received through that search, so designating this as a negative keyword will hone your target audience and give you clicks that will be more likely to generate leads or hard business and not waste your money.

This is just the basics of what you can do with Google Adwords. At the back end you have to bid on keywords, and prices vary according to the popularity of your keywords and the quality of your site and once you get into how to bid on keywords, manage your account and ensure your PPC campaign is generating leads; you really need an expert onsite to understand it all. If you want a closer look at how bidding on keywords works with Adwords, this infographic simplifies it well.

If you zoned out at ‘bid on keywords’ you’re not alone. The complexity of managing an Adwords account is why Google has introduced Adwords Express. Express offers users much the same services – ads displayed with search queries that match keywords, with a few main differences. Express is automatically managed – which means you don’t have to worry about any of the back end stuff, you just specify your keywords and your monthly budget and the rest takes care of itself. This convenience comes at a bit of a cost to the fine-tune-ability of the service. For instance you cannot designate negative keywords and instead of being able to designate place-associated keywords, Express utilises a locality radius of 15 to 40 miles. This makes it ideal for local searches and for customers wanting the service without the fuss.

The other plus of Adwords Express is that you don’t even have to have a website to use the service. Google Adwords requires you to have a website if you want to set up marketing campaign, but Express allows those businesses without websites to still utilise online advertising with a PPC campaign.

For an accounting firm wanting a no-fuss solution to its online marketing strategy, it’s pretty hard to go past Adwords Express. You can bypass even setting up a website and still have a powerful presence online, meaning no complex SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), no complex Adwords, just a very simple solution.

Express may not be the fit for every business, but for an accounting practice wanting to target local clients, its ideal. Express will give you the ability to specify your monthly budget, so you never spend more than you have budgeted for, and you can pretty much leave it to do its work without worrying.

The difference at a glance:

Adwords

Adwords Express

Pay Per Click

Ads on Google Search

Mobile Advertisements

Automatic Management

x

Use Without Website

x

Advanced Ad Format

X

Ads on related websites

Limited

Geographical targeting

Anywhere

Local

But Isn’t SEO the Way to Go?

Many will tell you that the best way to bring customers to your website is to use SEO. SEO is important to become that enjoys a high natural search ranking, and it’s very important if you have a content-driven website that doesn’t sell a product, but is monetized via advertising spaces. However, for sites that sell a product or service, SEO, while still important, is not the ‘golden ticket’ many would have you believe for bringing you customers.

There are several drawbacks for using SEO only to bring customers to your website. Firstly, SEO is very work-intensive, and takes a number of months to be effective. If you have a site in a competitive niche, then it is even harder to crawl up the rankings to end up on the first page of results, let alone the first result particularly with all the recent changes to search algorithms and the sheer volume of competition for rankings.

With SEO targeting keywords is all part of the game. But the most targeted and therefore harder to rank keywords are those that have the most volume and are keywords where the searcher is in “buy” mode. Hence, a lot of SEO is done on less competitive keywords but these can tend to be more “research” based phrases – good to attract people and convert them into long-term prospects to nurture, but not great if you can’t wait 6-12months to convert some of those leads!

SEO can also bring you “local” traffic but it needs special work done to be very effective.

SEO will take time to get you high on rankings, and if you don’t have the skills or time to optimise the website yourself, this means employing an SEO expert to do the work for you. This takes away the number one reason people give for using SEO versus PPC: it’s seen as free. SEO is a big undertaking if you plan on using it as your primary means of driving traffic, and you need a big budget if you want to employ someone to do the work for you. By big budget we mean typically $1 – 2,000 every month for 12 months minimum then you can probably get away with reducing the budget by half….but you’ll need to pay out for it continuously to keep ranked no matter what. SEO therefore is not really free at all!

It is also difficult to measure the efficacy of your SEO campaign, whereas in contrast PPC campaigns are simple to measure and simple to budget on. In fact the whole purpose of a PPC campaign is to generate conversions from clicks.

Of course, there is nothing wrong with having an optimized website, in fact a good-quality website will also help you in your Adwords account, but for an accounting firm, the ROI benefits of SEO may well be much less when compared to PPC. You are selling a service, not providing content on accounting as your primary revenue generator from the website. This means that visitors to your website if you use only SEO will not necessarily be looking for your service.

On the other hand, the benefits of using Adwords as your primary means of driving traffic are twofold. Firstly, you are bringing traffic instantly as your ads are displayed as soon as your account is up and running and you’ve created your campaign. Secondly, those who click-through from your ads are more likely to convert to a customer because they are targeted by your campaign as those looking for your service. SEO can’t give you that.

There are many ways to strategise your online marketing and advertising campaign. Some will take a lot of time and effort to pay dividends, like SEO, some will require complex knowledge and concerted effort to understand, like traditional Adwords. For those looking for a viable solution that produces results and doesn’t need an IT expert to understand, Google Adwords Express is ideal.

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Liability Limited By a Scheme Approved
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October 14, 2013

Top 10 Lead Generation Methods


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Top 10 Lead Generation Methods

Getting and insiders view on what works can save you a lot of blood, sweat, tears and money! The Welleslley Hills Group is a specialist marketing agency for professional services firms. They surveyed 700 firms and broke down the different lead generation methods to 33 in all – so in fact I am going to give you a list of all 33.

Please note: they are lead generation methods and arguably Welleslley Hills excluded referrals as a lead gen activity – presumably because lead gen is a more pro-active task than receiving referrals. However, some of their other research clearly shows that referrals are still the main way that your prospects will know about you. For more information on a good referral system visit Increase Referrals With This System

So without further ado the 33 methods ranked by the percentage of firms that found them effective are:

Now the BIG caveat here is that what works for some may not always be so successful for others and effective implementation means the difference between great results and a lack lustre response.

Interestingly “warm” calls are voted as the most effective method. How do you get those “warm” calls? You have to do other activities first such as emailing, snail mailing, networking and “cold” calling. In fact “cold” calling is only rated as effective by 10% of all the firms and is 25th on the list. This shows that in reality sometimes you have to do a combination of things together and they have to be in a system.

Another example is running your own in house events. Forty five per cent of firms think this is successful. But how did they get the attendees there in the first place? A whole barrage of techniques can be used and often need to be used. Again some techniques that seemingly give low returns can be necessary to enable other methods to work.

So now you know what seems to work – what next? I’d recommend picking methods that suit your time, budget and expertise. If you’re happy to talk in front of 20+ people you could arrange your own in-person event. But that will involve promotional activities, maybe building a list of contacts etc. So the whole process will take time to execute.

Whatever you choose you need to measure it’s effectiveness for yourself. It is vital you know how many new leads you get, how many leads eventually turn into clients and what revenue you get from each of those. You also need to track expenditure for each component of the marketing campaign. Over time you can put the pieces together and when you want to get $100,000 in more revenue next year, you will know how much you’ll need to spend, what you’ll need to do and how long it will take before you get your return on your investment. In marketing, measurement is everything.

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Under Professional Standards Legislation

October 14, 2013

Tips on Minimizing Write-Offs


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Tips on Minimizing Write-Offs

Eliminate Net Write-offs: 5 Steps Towards Success

Is your firm struggling with write-offs? Benchmark reports show many firms are now achieving zero net write offs or even write-ons. What are some of the practical actions you can take to address this?

There is still great variation in the way firms deal with write-offs. Some firms still believe  net write-offs are inevitable. Other firms effectively BAN write-offs and charge the WIP balance when the job is completed.

No matter what your approach, the key to success is to set expectations up front. This applies both to the accountant(s) doing the job and to the client. Use the following 5 steps to guarantee success in eliminating your net write offs.

  • Establish a job budget up front for all client work. Many firms will develop job budgets for higher value work but will often ignore lower fee jobs where the percentage write-offs can be significantly higher.  Also, beware of setting a job budget that ignores the reality of previous year’s WIP and write-offs.
  • Inform the client of the scope of work and the fee range for completion of the work. Ideally, your clients should receive an engagement letter at the start of every financial year, outlining what you will do for what fee. The letter should also reinforce that you will charge an additional fee for work completed outside the agreed scope of work.
  • Train your staff to identify, as early as possible, changes in scope of work that could affect the fee. A simple example is in the quality of work received from the client. If this deteriorates, why should the firm bear the cost.
  • Inform the client of any significant change in scope of work as early as possible. A client informed as work proceeds is more likely to be receptive to an added fee than a client who receives an unexpected invoice amount.
  • Most critically, monitor WIP vs budget as you go. Set up a system to alert the client manager when the WIP gets to 50% of the agreed budget. If there is a problem, it needs to be identified early rather than at the end of the job.

By focusing on scope of work, budgets and WIP, you should be able to eliminate net write-offs. Of course, there will inevitably be some jobs where write-offs are unavoidable. However, make sure  that you focus on write-ups where the value of the job exceeds the WIP incurred in completing the job.

This article was published courtesy of Business Aptitude. If you like this article also of interest may be Business Aptitude’s comprehensive  time management program specifically designed for accounting firms, visit:

Take Control of Your Time – to create more time to listen to clients

Business Aptitude, one of Australia’s leading Practice Management consulting groups, provides accounting firms with hands-on support in the areas of strategic planning, systems, team development, client management and external communications.

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October 14, 2013

The Ethics of Outsourcing Australian Compliance Work


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The Ethics of Outsourcing Australian Compliance Work

If jobs are outsourced what future is there for the next generation?

Most accounting firms are actually in a position where there are simply not enough experienced staff.  I speak to firms regularly facing the continuing problem of staff moving to perceived greener grass (UK/US position, financial services, mining industry etc). So accounting firms can’t keep up with the work – hire juniors to do senior jobs and the accounting firm clients suffer from lack of attention; limited or no business advice and negligible/no value-add services. I am sure our economy would thrive better if many neglected SMEs had access to good business advisory services at the right time to help handle GFC, drought, flood or just the usual problems SMEs struggle with.

In a global playing field where the online phenomenon makes the world flat for many businesses (i.e. more competition), I would feel more comfortable knowing Australian businesses got all the help they could get.

Outsourcing value-add services, especially those requiring emotional intelligence and a lot of face-to-face consultation, probably won’t be outsourced in any volume (if at all?) for another generation. The culture difference is just too much. So there are plenty of opportunities for those willing to expand beyond compliance.

Having recruited for accounting firms for years and having heard from accountants why they leave their jobs, I know often it is because of a lack of progression. Bosses are too busy to give their staff enough time and corporate style training programs remain limited to 2nd tier and big 4 companies. Soft skills suffer and communication skills demonstrated by (probably technically good) immigrants improve little. Many are reduced to backroom workers hoping that something will change but never really knowing what’s going on. Hardly any firms promise juicy business consulting work – they need compliance people first.

So clients suffer, employees suffer and YOU suffer.

But outsourcing your compliance work changes this. Boring compliance work is efficiently handled by your outsourcing partner, you have time to meet more clients and really look after them. You can identify all those value-add opportunities your clients are silently crying out for. You have time to coach staff on business advisory work, schedule soft skills training and open up a career path that (be honest) you just couldn’t make happen without getting that nagging compliance work out of the way. Who would be the employer of choice in your area if you did all this? What businesses would benefit if you made this (easy) shift to outsourcing? What future would your clients and staff now have?

Looking at the wider picture, Australia has a very promising future and a myriad of accounting/finance jobs will likely continue for a long time. Growth is still predicted to be strong in accounting and finance (according to the Australian Bureau of statistics), Asia’s economy will continue to grow and become the dominant force and Australia can capitalize on all this. Jobs change and jobs shift. Web developers charging $400/hour in the 90’s have to face the fact that a novice can build an e-commerce site in a few hours! There’s no stopping the inevitable changes and the opportunities that open up in new directions.

So I think the issue really is: when do you integrate compliance outsourcing into YOUR firm to give YOUR current and future staff (and clients) a better future?

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October 14, 2013

Must Read Tips for Cloud and Server Security


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Must Read Tips for Cloud and Server Security

Everyone’s jumping on the cloud, outsourcing is becoming the norm for accounting firms and telecommuting (even if it’s just for some out of hours work) is becoming more common. But solid, robust security steps can be overlooked. So what can you do to protect your precious data?

Timed Lockout

We recommend using a timed lockout for all access that means that if a user tries to login they have three attempts to do so and after three unsuccessful attempts the system will lock that user out for one hour. This is a powerful way to stop hackers. This may be part of a whole Intrusion Detection System.

Passwords

Always have passwords as a mix of numbers, letters and symbols.

You may be interested in hack times released by an anti-virus software company – note the speed at which passwords with words are hacked.

myThomas9876543 – 3.6 seconds
Martin8569 – 12.01 seconds
21Everest – 2 minutes
mammamia – 3 minutes
896rUU – 2 hours

Please note the above is WITHOUT the timed lockout feature we have mentioned which means hacking software would take months or even years to hack a system if the password is the last one.

In addition a username can be as complex as a password (i.e. not a name) to make it even harder.

A way of creating a password is to use a sentence and take the first letter of each word and substitute “$” for the letter “S” and any other substitutions you will easily remember.

E.g. My first house was at 11 Bunning Street
Would give a password: Mfhw@11B$

Do not use email or an instant messaging service to send a password. We recommend you give the password verbally or text the password.

Consider providing the user with an option to change the password during the first login (following our guidelines).

Consider scheduling a password expiry alert to change the password regularly.

Restrict Access

If you use a server you should set permissions and restrict access. This is easy to do and an IT contractor can do this for you.

Generally the only person with Admin rights such as being able to delete program files should be the IT Administrator. Depending on your company’s structure, files should only be able to be deleted by those who really must have this option. At the very least deny remote users the permission to delete files, folders and software from the server.

Permissions should be set for each folder on your hard drive to define who has access. Restrict access to systems or application root files.

If your accounting software has the feature, restrict access to individual client files to only those that need the access to that particular file.

Final Note

Always ensure you have a daily back-up done and remember to change passwords when staff change!

You will be pleased to know BOSS follows very stringent security protocols. In addition we have taken additional security and confidentiality steps ensuring we have taken every reasonable precaution to ensure our clients data is safe in our hands.

So now you know more about the calibre of outsourcing provider we are – why not take a FREE TRIAL?

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Liability Limited By a Scheme Approved
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October 14, 2013

Listen More To Your Clients to Grow Your Firm


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Listen More To Your Clients to Grow Your Firm

This article was kindly provided by Dale Crosby of Business Aptitude.

Recently, BRW published a detailed report on ‘how to find a good accountant.’ The report interviewed small business owners and highlighted increasing demands from clients. The recommendation to clients was ‘not to set and forget when it comes to your relationship with the agent structuring your books and tax affairs. Appraise whether they are doing the job you need them to do now – not the one you initially engaged them for. And appraise them regularly.’ The days of servicing compliance needs and expecting clients will stay with your firm are gone! If you are committed to growing your practice, you need to firstly understand what it is your clients want, and then help them to get it.

One of the greatest challenges we face when working with accounting firms is encouraging them to ask their clients about their needs, and relate them back to the services the firm is providing. Principals and partners of firms will often tell us they already know their clients very well. However,the chances are very high that you do not know your clients as well as you think. When was the last time you sat down with your top clients and really asked them about their business and personal financial goals?

Not only will it result in a better service to your clients, but a focus on listening to clients is the best marketing you can do. A report on marketing for professional firms by Nisus Consulting highlighted that “more listening, closer relationships and off-the-clock investment are better marketing (than promotion) and provide the real differentiation clients want to see.‘

Are you a good accountant or a great advisor? Do you provide added value to your business clients? When push comes to shove, many firms back away from providing added value because they are unsure of their abilities. However, from our experience, the process is not complicated. If you are committed to becoming a great advisor, the first step is to understand your clients’ needs – including their personal desires and goals. Put in place a program for listening to clients – on their terms – to offer them a more integrated accounting, financial and business advisory service. Develop internal capabilities by hiring the right people or use external partners such as BOSS to create capacity. Give yourself time to focus on specific activity and results to make it happen!

Business Aptitude, one of Australia’s leading Practice Management consulting groups, provides accounting firms with hands-on support in the areas of strategic planning, systems, team development, client management and external communications.

For more information visit www.bizaptitude.com.au or call Dale Crosby on 1300 883 789.

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BOSS,
BACK OFFICE SHARED SERVICES PTY LTD.
@2018 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
Liability Limited By a Scheme Approved
Under Professional Standards Legislation