The accounting landscape is changing
Traditionally, accountants have provided a functional service, doing tax returns. Most clients came to an accountant because they had to, after all, business compliance is too complicated for most business owners. As a result, accountants had a captive market and, therefore, have never really had to worry about their customer’s experience. They had businesses that made money despite themselves.
Accountants became known as trusted advisors because they knew numbers, how to report them and make sure a business was financially compliant. For business or money questions, you went to an accountant. What accountants are now realising is that they vastly underestimated the value of this position and have failed dismally in leveraging it.
The world has changed – and our industry is evolving. Big organisations are muscling their way into the trusted advisor market, bookkeepers are not staying in their lane, advances in technology have allowed the offshoring of work and supposed efficiency gains in data processing are putting consistent downward pressure on pricing, eroding profit margins. In addition, the regulators are accessing information directly from the source, bypassing the middleman - accountants.
What does this mean for accountants?
Where accountants are competing based on price, their once-robust profit margins are diminishing, their growth is flatlining, they’re working longer and harder delivering services they don’t enjoy and their teams are less and less engaged. Some accountants are financially strained, most are highly stressed and emotionally drained, and others are completely burnt out.
It’s critical we look at this problem now, because our best and most qualified resource for business advice and support is slipping away from us.
The valuable collective resource of business information and advice that is the accounting industry and the people in it cannot be allowed to be diminished further, to the point where business is so hard for them, they just don’t want to do it anymore. The business world needs these knowledgeable and talented people, and our communities and economies need them too - they are vital.
What are the options for accountants?
Accountants must adapt their strategy from being functional to becoming vital.
The first step in this process is to ignite your passion for being in business again. With passion and motivation, you can do and create anything. With a positive approach to your business, you can facilitate small changes that can make a big difference in the long term.
Next, we must highlight how much our profession can offer to the business world. As accountants, we are the best-placed and most qualified professionals to support business owners.
In this age of the entrepreneur, it has never been easier to set up and start a business, but 50 per cent of those businesses will fail before they’re even five years old. This situation presents a golden opportunity for accountants - to play a significant role in significantly improving this statistic. By guiding our clients to business success, we will be restored as the most prominent provider of advice to the business community and a play a key role in the growth and success of every enterprise.
Business should be profitable, rewarding and fun – otherwise, why do it? There is significant risk involved, both financially and emotionally, so there must be a positive payoff.
The choice is yours
This new financial year presents an opportunity for you to plan out your future. You could choose to remain on the same path and risk losing everything, or you can change and adapt to set your business up to not only survive, but to thrive, in the years to come.
Lynda Steffens, director, Intuitive Practice