Some accountants are transitioning from their existing role to business adviser. This enables them to provide a balance between the still-necessary compliance and tax advice and sharing a wealth of insight – and foresight - into client finances, business needs and processes, and their competitive landscape.
While it may seem daunting, making that transition is not as hard as you think…
1. Think like an entrepreneur, not an accountant
Let’s face it, the stereotype of accountants is that they lack innovation and rarely think outside the square. Increasingly this is a misnomer, with many in the profession grasping the need for change and fresh thinking.
Truly setting yourself apart from the competition requires more than tinkering with the old business model of accounting. Thinking like an entrepreneur means building a business around the customers you want to work for, offering the services you want to deliver and operating in the most efficient manner possible. It’s also about a fresh approach to people - and risk.
Successful entrepreneurs look for passion when hiring staff. This is a set of qualities, not just raw skills. They invest in marketing, they learn how to sell their own product, and they put their energy into working for those who see shared value and want to work with them. If you really want to change and improve your business, the biggest and first task should be taking a good look at your processes and services, who you hire and who you work for.
Don’t change things half-heartedly. Be prepared to invest money and time to really shake things up - including taking a few risks.
2. Build soft skills
Experience and technical skills are important, but it is ‘soft’ skills like communication, teamwork, adaptability, empathy and problem solving that ultimately build better team and customer relationships.
Developing your own and your team’s soft skills will become a key differentiator and enabler for your business. Consider a group course in things like written and verbal communication, teamwork or psychology, and use what you learn to set new standards or processes for communicating both internally and externally.
3. Choose an awesome tool set
New technology, such as cloud accounting and payment software, has arguably transformed the accounting profession more than all other factors combined. While most firms are already using these technologies to a certain extent, some are not optimising their deployment.
Technology is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Therefore, many accountants are missing an opportunity by not using new technologies to their full potential.
Don’t just sign up for best in breed software; consider partnering with these key suppliers as this can actually help you to optimise and make more money. A technology partner can provide ongoing technical and even strategic support and help you to stay ahead of the latest trends and game-changing functionality.
4. Target the missed advisory opportunities
Are there clients who you only deal with once a year to prepare accounts and file a tax return? If the answer is ‘yes’, you’re not alone. So many accountants are guilty of under-servicing existing clients. The end of the financial year is such a busy time that it’s easy to put many of them on ice until the following year, but this is a real missed opportunity.
Reaching out to these clients at other times during the year is a great starting point. Perhaps they really need some advice but have been too busy themselves to deal with it. Better still, consider establishing a client retention regime focused on the right clients – i.e. those wanting and needing advisory services, regular input and dedicated attention. Long term, this will help you to build a client base that will keep coming back.
5. Embed yourself in your client’s business
One key way accountants can make a big change to their business – and those of their clients – is by investing the extra time to truly understand who you work for. By understanding the clients and their industries better - and demonstrating this knowledge through delivery of ‘value add’ services - you can create a deeper and more mutually-beneficial relationship.
A business doesn’t just need to know where they are, but where they will be in the future. Arming your clients with easily digestible data and proactive advice will not only help to solidify your relationship but take both their and your business to the next level.
Richard Francis, chartered Accountant, chief executive and founder of Spotlight Reporting