Technology is changing what clients need from their accounting firm of choice. The older models of firm/client interaction are slowly being whittled away with advances in accounting software and cloud computing.
That isn’t to say that it’s all bad news. These changes present new opportunities for a firm flexible enough to embrace them. We’d like to present you with 6 methods you and your team can use to start reworking the way your firm uses technology to establish a more advantageous relationship with your clients.
Expand Your Menu of Services
The Problem – Overhead costs become a limiting factor in how many services you’re able to offer to your clients. You can’t take on more costs, so you can’t expand your talent roster, meaning you can’t offer more services.
Your potential and existing clients can reach out through the internet to firms that have deeper pools of talent and a wider range of services on their menu. Your client will find a one-stop shop for all of their accounting needs, and won’t need you for the one or two services you’re currently able to provide for them.
You are no longer competing with the firm down the block – you’re competing potentially with all of the accounting firms.
The Solution – Outsource your accounting services. For minimal work and outlay on your part you now have the potential to offer the maximum amount of services to your clients.
Now when you offer your base-level services (the services you built your business and reputation on) you can also offer a tiered menu of enhanced services such as strategic planning, budgeting, or cash-flow projections to your clients. They won’t have to look elsewhere when they’re looking to grow their own business.
Build Your Strengths
The Problem – You and your talent all have your strengths and weaknesses. Having everyone contribute to your practice with their strongest skill set will result in a stronger, better service for the client. But there’s limited time for people to play to their strengths if they are bogged down in compliance work.
The Solution – Outsource compliance work and free up your in-house team to work better together to minimise or eradicate weak spots and capitalise on strengths more through collaboration.
Find Your Technology Champion
The Problem – High tech gives you a headache. You don’t have the time or the inclination to keep up with the latest technology. But you can’t afford a dedicated IT person.
The Solution – The first solution is to find out who in your office is the type to keep up with the latest tech news.
Have them monitor what your competition is up to – how are they using social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc…) to draw in new clients? What new accounting software is making waves?
As your business grows it’s possible that you may eventually want to bring in a dedicated IT person. But until then this is another case of tapping your in-house talents’ strengths.
Make Your Processes Your Own
The Problem – You’re unsure how to handle or initiate growth because you don’t know how to fit new services and talent into your workflow.
The Solution – The first step is to define that workflow. Make sure that as each client’s file is worked on it passes through a set of clearly defined steps. Make those steps official.
This will allow you to:
- Find exact points where workflow gets bogged down.
- Examine your business to find where growth can offer the most return.
- Train new talent in a precise methodology.
By knowing your business in such a detailed manner you’re going to have a much better handle on where to buff up your talent and your service menu when new business comes in.
You’re not going to waste time scrambling to figure out what goes where – you’ll just expand and tweak your existing processes.
(A great starting point is here: Outsource Accounting: How to Make it Work for You )
Rethink Your Pricing Models
The Problem – The internet can provide a client with a great deal of knowledge about accounting practices. Charging by the hour for an entire file instead of for precise services can be seen as an act of obfuscation.
The Solution – Offer fixed prices for fixed services.
Offer tiered and enticing packages.
This is not as easy as it sounds. We go in-depth into healthy pricing practices in this post.
We mentioned earlier playing to your team’s strengths. Have your pricing whiz-kid sit down with ten of your top clients and work out their needs, and what value-added extras they might be willing to pay for if they were part of a package, but aren’t likely to pay for if they’re on their own.
The Problem – You’re moving too slow and your competition is leaving you behind or you’re spending far too much money and time testing out every bit of new tech in a scramble to stay ahead of the curve.
The Solution – Not all technology is going to be of benefit. It can be a costly endeavour figuring out which “advances” will actually advance your business, and which are just going to wear out your wallet with nothing to show in return.
If you personally are gung-ho about the latest toys, have someone in-house tagged to tug on your reins a bit and slow your tech-crazed spending down.
But if you’re a bit scared when it comes to technology-driven change, spend some time listening to your in-house tech cheerleader.