The Australian digital economy has experienced rapid growth over recent years. The contribution of digital technologies to the Australian economy was $79 billion in 2013–14 compared with $50 billion in 2011, and is expected to continue growing in a globally-connected digital world. Digital disruption is dramatically changing industries and occupations across the economy.
– “Australia’s Digital Pulse” Deloitte Access Economics
Accounting is no exception when it comes to digital disruptions. Most of you reading this will probably have experienced this already – clients are going it alone with DIY software packages or they’re expecting more from their relationship with you.
So what is “more”? What can you give your clients in order not only to retain them, but in fact increase their numbers?
Embrace the change
It’s time to make the upgrade. More millennials will be coming into your potential client pool and they’re going to be suspicious, if not outright dismissive, of firms that aren’t working in the cloud.
Clients that grew up in the digital age don’t just want transparency and trust – they expect it. With the cloud clients are able to access their files at any time to see how work has progressed and what has been done on their behalf. The days of “You’ll see it when it’s done” are over.
Increase your prices by becoming a Financial Advisor (a.k.a. a CFO) with fixed price packages
Charging by the hour is going to become a much trickier proposition. There’s no way you can win when you’re up against the idea of clients doing it themselves for free with some DIY software.
Instead, offer a menu of fixed-price services. Each tier comes with an old-school accounting service (compliance, bookkeeping, etc.) mixed with consultant services (e.g. so many one-on-one consultations per month). The higher the tier, the greater the number of services plus consultations.
Now you’re not selling a single accounting service, instead what you’re selling is a clear financial picture for your clients to base their decisions off of.
This proactive approach is an important selling point. As of 2014 72% of small business owners made a switch in their accounting process “at least in part because the firm only gave them reactive, rather than proactive service.”
Up your face game
If you’re not good at convincing potential clientele that your financial advisor expertise will improve their situation then it might be time to either A) take some classes on marketing or B) make finding people with marketing experience part of your hiring goals, even if you’re still strictly hiring accountants.
This need to hire accountants with a wider range of skills is being seen as an industry-wide trend. Last year the average starting hire salary was up by 4.7% on average, and in 2017 it’s sitting at around 3.7%. because of the extra demands placed on those new hires.
And if you want to keep your current in-house gang happy you might want to look into training and development opportunities so that they keep their ambitions focused on your firm, rather than they cast a wandering eye to your competition.
Offer a greater menu
The problem – you’ve always been a tax compliance kind of accountant and you haven’t had much to do with payroll since school. How can you tag this service onto your menu without fumbling the ball?
That’s where outsourcing comes into play. You’ll be able to offer a much greater list of services and have the actual number-crunching done in quality style by your overseas team members. You collect the necessary info, pass it off to your virtual accountant(s), get back the results, and give them a quality assurance review.
By no means does this mean you should not learn the ins-and-outs of bookkeeping or payroll, but it does mean that you have some breathing room while you re-familiarise yourself with the necessary rules and regulations.
If you can’t figure out what value you’re adding, then neither can your clients
The cloud age is an opportunity for your firm to blossom. You can do less actual number-crunching, leaving you more time to move your client beyond compliance into progressive business-expanding moves.