Being proactive in your practice yields numerous advantages when it comes to enhancing your advisory role, making the most out of market opportunities, and deepening client relationships. Often, however, it’s hard to know where to start.
Events like QuickBooks Connect are an opportunity for all those across the accounting sector looking to step up their long-term planning and control by gaining real insights into how they can best position their firm for the future.
Bringing together small business owners, accountants, bookkeepers and developers, events like QuickBooks Connect allow forward-thinkers to share business insights and the steps they can take to install real and effective strategies to take their business to the next level.
The latest QuickBooks Connect event in Sydney saw Clayton Oates, Founder of QA Business, as one of the key speakers. Clayton has been working in the accounting, bookkeeping and software consulting industries in Australia for more than 25 years, and worked as an accountant before starting his own business.
Emphasising that forward-thinking accountants often remain the most competitive, here are five key accounting tips Clayton took away from the latest QuickBooks Connect event, to help you in becoming “future-proof” and grow your practice.
Find a point of difference
Taking the time to establish and develop an area of strength is a key element of defining your work for the future, and helps your accounting practice to align with and take advantage of marketplace developments.
“Look forward, and consider what is going to enable you to differentiate yourself in the market place,” Clayton advises.
“Is there a particular area that you’d like to enhance in your accounting firm? What will enable you to do that? Maybe you want to run events for a niche market of clients - such as real estate agents or pharmacies or trades people. This will give you, as an accountant, an opportunity to go deep in a particular vertical market.”
Build a toolkit
Once you’ve decided on your point of difference and how you are going to specialise, get on top of what software solutions you need and put together your toolkit for the market. But keep it specific. “You’re not trying to solve everything at once, and you don’t have to learn it all,” says Clayton.
“In some respects, the rapid expansion of technology solutions has created a sense of overwhelm that has led to inertia. Think about what you are trying to achieve and what you will need to implement that.” Consider what you are doing internally with software solutions to better run your own business, and what you could bring to the small business community you serve.
Good organisation and scheduling help helps eliminate surprises and set-backs in an accounting business, particularly around End of Financial Year. “Set common goals with your clients, and ensure you always communicate and manage their expectations,” says Clayton.
“Let your client know when you’d like their work in by and discuss what you can do together to achieve that date. Prepare a checklist to help clients send their work to you. Run through things you’ve discussed previously that you want to deal with and schedule your clients: they don’t all need to meet with you in the first week of July!”
De-mystify what we do
Proactively getting on the same page with your clients will also improve your relationships, and help to create a bond that will improve your advisory.
“In the past year generally, I’ve noticed accountants deepening their education of clients and de-mystifying what they do,” he says. “There’s more of a connection between accountant and client, and by breaking down barriers, we can work more closely together to achieve a client’s goals.”
Learn how to build relationships
More accountants are placing greater importance on taking the steps to build on client relationships which includes honing their people skills. This includes finding ways to create deeper empathy and understanding with clients and improving communication skills - often seen as ‘soft skills’.
“As technology does more of the grunt work, accountants will be more involved in communication with clients about what information means. They will become more of a strategic advisor,” says Clayton.
No one has a crystal ball that can remove uncertainty, but restless accountants who undertake small changes like these are more likely to find themselves well positioned to deal with a changing industry, and build a resilient accounting practice for the future.