After two challenging years, accountants and bookkeepers should start planning now to hit the ground running when the new year dawns.
Get set for success in 2022
Set off on the right foot
A new year is a great opportunity for accountants, bookkeepers and business advisors to take a good look at their practice and refresh anything that needs tweaking so the firm is firing on all four cylinders for the year ahead. Let’s take a look at some of the elements you have the opportunity to rethink and review to make your business the best it can be for 2022.
David Boyar, CEO of tax advisory and accounting practice management software Change GPS, says at the start of the year, what’s critical is to ensure you’re properly supporting clients’ tax payment obligations. This includes preparing tax flow reports and tax repayment projections, taking into account arrears and instalments. Next year, this will be absolutely critical because the ATO is expected to significantly ramp up collection activity after two years during which it has taken a much more benign approach than they usually do, due the pandemic’s negative effect on many businesses.
“ATO planning is cash flow planning. The last couple of years, accountants and bookkeepers have advised clients to keep their lodgements up to date or be really upfront in their communication with the ATO, taking advantage of deferrals and payment plans where necessary. But eventually, liabilities need to be paid,” he says.
So Boyar says a focus for accountants in the new year should be preparing tax flow reports for their clients.
“This helps small business owners understand their cash flow planning over the next 12 months to two years taking into account any amounts that need to be repaid. A lot of accountants think tax planning is wrapped up with the other services they offer clients. But it’s out of scope, especially if they need to negotiate a deal with the ATO for their client, which takes considerable time. So be proactive about communicating with clients around this.”
Boyar suggests segmenting clients into three groups and developing different messaging for clients who are performing really well, breaking even or not performing. “For the clients in the third category, open communication with a statement about the market starting to recover post COVID and a likely response from the ATO towards their debts. Let them know managing ATO obligations is now really important, and a payment plan is the best way to do this is they are in arrears. This approach gives clients the financial security of knowing their accountant is here to help them work through their tax liability. This also puts the ball in the client's court.”
Aside from being proactive about tax planning, it’s essential to be on the front foot when it comes to practice management, especially if you are welcoming staff back to the office after working from home through COVID.
“You need to play a leadership role and redefine and reinvent your workplace culture, particularly around hybrid work. At our accounting firm, Change Accountants and Advisors, staff come in three days a week and work from home two days a week. So, we have deliberately kitted out our office with cutting edge tech so we can have hybrid meetings and everybody feels included no matter where they are.”
Boyar uses a performance analytics tool called Everperform to get a read on their employee sentiment about the business on a daily basis. “It gives us a feel for attitudes and allows us to discuss and act on feedback as things happen, so staff know they are being heard. Nothing beats one-on-one conversations, but that's time-consuming so Everperform helps us focus our efforts,” he explains.
At the start of the year, career development, especially for younger staff, should be a focus for accounting firms. For more senior staff, it’s about supporting them to get work life balance right.
Putting service into professionalism
Aside from starting the new year on the right track, a new year is an opportunity for accountants, bookkeepers and business advisors to review how they deliver their services.
“It’s really important for accountants to understand they need to price their work for the value they deliver. I’ll give you an example. Recently, I took out a home loan. Even though I've been a banker and I know the process, it was refreshing along the journey to receive a call from my mortgage broker, to say, ‘hi David, just letting you know there's been no change with your loan application, but I’ll let you know as soon as there is’. That was great service; he predicted what I wanted to hear. So, when it comes to providing professional service as an accountant, it’s essential to maintain very high communication levels and predict what your clients need to hear,” Boyar recommends.
Similarly, it’s essential for accountants to properly charge for their work. “Know your worth and bill appropriately for the advice you give. Too often, accountants give away their intellectual property. This is one of the main reasons they end up burnt out,” he says.
Finally, the start of the year is also the right time to review the client list and ensure everyone fits the firm’s template for what an ideal client looks like. Go so far as to resign accounts where the client has not shown due respect to the practice and its staff during the pandemic. That’s the best way to ensure there’s a great fit between the business and the people it services, supporting productivity and staff retention and underscoring success for the year ahead.
Intuit QuickBooks has a host of great tools to help accounting practices become more productive, improve practice management and streamline tax planning. Find out how we can help you today.