In the face of the DIY accounting software accounting firms will have to shift their purpose in order to stay relevant to their clients’ needs. We’ve talked before about how you should evolve your firm from being just a number-crunching outfit into a financial consultant for your clients’ businesses. Outsourcing accounting work gives you the extra capital and time to make this change.
One of the big questions you’ll encounter while making this change is why should your clients trust you? A business certainly needs a steady hand working on its books, but it also involves marketing, trusted quality in their product or service, HR, and so on. Sure, clients may trust you with their finances, but why should they think that you have the chops to help out their business as a whole?
Digits are your domain
If you have any sort of time put in with your client then they trust you to be their numbers guy/gal. The fact that you’re a certified accountant gave you some rope to begin with, and hopefully you’ve earned more as you extended your relationship.
But now you’ve used the time freed up by outsourcing accounting work to come up with this pitch where you state that you want to be an integral part of your client’s business, which incorporates some very non-accountant-esque aspects. How do you get them to believe that you can contribute to their overall business?
Here’s the answer – you tell them that you’re actually not changing anything. You’re still going to be their numbers nerd… you’ll just be looking at more sets of numbers, that’s all.
Any improvements that you pitch must sound like they’re coming out of the mouth of an accountant. The ideas should revolve around numbers. No matter how far afield from accounting your suggestions may roam include numbers as part of the suggestion’s impact.
So you spend some of that big chunk of time freed up by outsourcing accounting work and you find that Client A’s business isn’t charging enough per transaction. But they argue that price is a marketing and PR matter, whereas you’re supposed to be filing returns and outsourcing accounting work and doing the bookkeeping… anything but marketing and PR.
Step 1: Help the client set a goal. Most clients aren’t going to say no to the idea of setting an increased monthly intake of revenue. You use the time freed up by your outsourcing accounting work to come up with a new monthly revenue goal.
Step 2: You show how that a price increase will more than make up for the estimated loss of customers. In fact, the price increase is the main driving factor in getting you to that new monthly goal.
You’ve now taken the project out of the realm of PR and marketing and into the area that your client already trusts you have a firm handle on things – numbers.
Sometimes you have to be the stick, not the carrot
You might encounter situations where you’re forced to defend your lofty number nerd position. Don’t let your clients shift blame to you for failing projects. If your client says they’re not going to make a goal and asks why you set it do high, come back (in a pointed but professional manner, obviously you don’t want to be rude) with questions about what they think needs to be done to make their milestone.
When you’re outsourcing accounting work you know that you have to have all the pertinent data collated before it’s shipped off. If the data isn’t collected in a timely manner then you know that you have to question your information collection workflow system and make improvements.
Similarly, don’t let your client off the hook. Establish yourself as the most accountable one in the relationship. This boosts your credibility as a source of business consultancy wisdom, which in turn will allow you to make more suggestions for improvements.