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Chris Reeve Company Owner and CEO Gascoynes

Driving practice growth, the transition from number-cruncher to adviser

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With inflation continuing to rise, businesses are faced with both skyrocketing costs and decreased consumer spending. The challenges that come with this, such as tight cashflow and supply chain issues, are not expected to let up in the coming months, meaning support from trusted professionals will become increasingly vital.

16th Jan 2023
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Accountants are one such example. Best placed to streamline finances and improve back-office processes, a good accountant enables business owners to focus on objectives, growth and client service rather than on financial admin and operations. And, with increased automation, accountants now have more time to offer advisory support beyond traditional bookkeeping and compliance – and the demand for this is growing with the introduction of new and changing legislation for businesses.

The role of accountants should not be underestimated. Many small business owners rely on their accountants not only to help them save time and money but also to help ease growing financial pressures. Recent research from Intuit QuickBooks found that eight in ten UK small businesses say their accountant helped alleviate the impact of inflation on their business, while nine in ten actually credit their accountant with their business’ success.

The future role of accounting

To increase growth, or indeed stay afloat in the current challenging economic environment, accounting firms need to adopt a change in mindset. This could involve increasing employee benefit packages, offering new services to clients, and empowering younger generations by redefining perceptions of the accounting profession to attract and retain young talent.

Attracting and retaining talent is a top business issue across industries as staff continue to re-evaluate their priorities following the pandemic and look for the most competitive packages given the cost-of-living crisis. Younger employees are increasingly selective, expecting competitive packages that include baseline perks such as flexible working and attractive wellbeing benefits, as well as competitive salaries aligned with inflation. While these demands can seem daunting, small changes will make a disproportionately positive difference to employee satisfaction and, in the longer term, retention.

Younger generations are also increasingly aspiring to become business advisers rather than purely “number crunchers”. Accounting firms need to invest in the right technologies and find innovative ways of working that allow younger generations to feel fulfilled. By adopting technology, firms can remove excessive spreadsheet overload, allowing younger talent to focus energy on becoming trusted consultants and advisers. As a baseline, younger accountants expect accounting firms to be digitally astute and for their clients to be using the most up-to-date software – once these are adopted, time can be spent learning the ins and outs of business and management, increasing job satisfaction and their skillset.  

Regardless of generational expectations, accountants are set to play a much larger role in advising businesses in general. The reality of technology adoption and automation means accountants can dedicate more time to other advisory disciplines. With constantly changing business regulations, we’ve seen an increased demand for businesses seeking operational advice extending far beyond bookkeeping.

The benefits of prioritising a tech-forward accounting approach

By prioritising new technologies, offering increased capabilities, and boosting employee experience, accountants and their small business clients alike will undoubtedly reap the rewards. Making Tax Digital (MTD) and Making Tax Digital for Income Tax Assessment Self Assessment (MTD ITSA) are now top business priorities for small businesses, meaning digitalisation is no longer a choice – it’s non-negotiable. The mandatory deadline for complying with MTD ITSA has been moved from April 2024 to April 2026, but despite this delay, accountants should still work with their clients to prioritise getting ready in good time to allow them to reap the full benefits of saving time and money.

Accountants will see improved efficiency and time savings by embracing cloud accounting technology, which enables client records to be processed much more quickly, as well as seamless MTD compliance. As compliance becomes more automated, accounting professionals can save time chasing information from clients and focus energy on other capabilities. By having the most up-to-date information via bank feeds as well as the most accurate data using other digital tools, accountants can support their small business clients with consultancy beyond the numbers with initiatives such as business model transformations and strategic growth advice.

With greater automation, accounting firms can take on additional clients and advisory work, which is charged at a higher rate – meaning they’re set to see increased profitability. The demand for digitally astute accountants is ever-increasing, in no small part due to ever-changing MTD government legislation. Accountants can also reduce their compliance fees per client substantially when fully digital thanks to time saving and automation, which should help with customer acquisition and retention. Fee reductions could have the positive effect of freeing up capital for small business clients, allowing them to focus more on driving growth.

As digitalisation is now a baseline for small businesses, if your practice doesn’t offer it they’ll naturally choose an accountant who offers the digital services they expect. By taking advantage of the right technologies, client loss will be massively reduced – and client success, retention, and satisfaction greatly increased.

How to make the transition to digital

Transitioning from a number-crunching firm to one that offers all-round advisory doesn’t need to be daunting. Adopting a tech-forward approach will streamline the process, increasing profitability and efficiency quickly.

Seeking help to find the best cloud accounting software for your firm should be standard practice. It’s worth investing time in research – there are multiple trial versions for software available online, for example. By booking an appointment with the software rep, your firm can ensure its needs are met and any questions answered, meaning your firm is more likely to quickly adopt new processes.

As well as researching online, firms should use their network. The benefit of recommendations and tried and tested opinions is invaluable and can be easily gained from fellow accountancy professionals. Larger events such as roadshows like QuickBooks Connect and AccountingWEB Live Expo are a couple of valuable opportunities to learn how to best approach digitalising your firm.

Accounting firms that invest time following through on their commitment to a tech-forward approach will undoubtedly gain a competitive advantage sooner rather than later.

 

Replies (2)

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By Hugo Fair
16th Jan 2023 09:36

"Recent research from Intuit QuickBooks found that 8 in 10 UK small businesses say their accountant helped alleviate the impact of inflation on their business, while 9 in 10 actually credit their accountant with their business’ success" ... and there, ladies & gentlemen, we have *a* truth.

Not one that many will recognise, but one that serves the message being pushed here.

And everything else, above, follows on from the predication that "digitalisation is now a baseline for small businesses".
Really? These would be the same businesses who are apparently keen to acquire (more profitable) advisory services from your inexperienced, younger staff?

Maybe GBS should update his aphorism 'Those who can, do; those who can't, teach' - so as to replace the last word with 'advise'?

Thanks (1)
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By ABC12
16th Jan 2023 15:58

" Making Tax Digital (MTD) and Making Tax Digital for Income Tax Assessment Self Assessment (MTD ITSA) are now top business priorities for small businesses, meaning digitalisation is no longer a choice – it’s non-negotiable. "

Yep, I talk to my clients and the most important thing they all mention is MTD above everything else. Oh...wait......

Thanks (3)