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Times are changing. Meet the accountants of the future.

10th Dec 2021
Brought to you by
accountancymanager logo new 2022

Award winning CRM & practice management software

Share this content

We all know the old stereotype of accountants and bookkeepers. Austere, immovable, dare we say… dull? We must be looking in the wrong places. We’ve spent over 100 hours interviewing AM users (and over four years supporting them) and haven’t found these traits once. 

 

As much as the industry and technology are changing, I think the people are changing as well.”

- Caroline, Mona Accountancy

But many practice owners are going well beyond disproving a wildly inaccurate stereotype – to fundamentally challenge ‘what it means to be an accountant or bookkeeper’. We look at this very real and highly purposeful shift – and what’s behind it.

Client relationships: ‘It’s not ‘us’ and ‘them’ anymore’ 

Caroline Hocking is a motorbike-riding, tattoo-wearing accountant to the military. “I'm not the stereotypical accountant,” Caroline says. “But there isn't really much of a stereotypical accountant anymore.” 

When you're making that connection with your client, they're getting to know you as a person.”

- Caroline, Mona Accountancy

“Now, I don't think it's unheard of to see people with tattoos, piercings and just being different. Now, when you're making that connection with your client, they're getting to know you as a person. And it's different, it's not 'us and them' anymore. It's business owners working together for the outcome they want.”

Caroline hits the nail on the head. At the heart of this shift appears to be a change in client expectations of ‘their accountant’. They no longer consider only the services you provide, but the personal experience of working with you, as part of their business.

Getting to know clients at a deeper level 

Rachel, co-owner of Strivex, has come from a Top 100 firm and is committed to giving her clients a much more personal experience than she’s seen before. This starts right from conversation number one. 

[At the Top 100 firm] Clients felt like they needed the accountant, but the accountant didn't need them.”

- Rachel, StriveX

“On any onboarding or prospect call, my first question is ‘Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and the business?’ And everybody is quite taken aback by that. They say ‘Oh my God, no one's actually asked me about my business, they'll just say, ‘are you a limited company? What's your turnover? What's your profit? Are you registered?" 

It's so easy to forget that we have the best job in the world.”

- Rachel, StriveX

“Whereas straight away they're telling me their story and they feel your interest and that you care about them. It's so easy to forget that we have the best job in the world, we literally get to see inside everybody's businesses.”

“For us, it's always been about making a difference. And in an industry where there's a very strong stereotype and a lot of frustration, it's easy to make a difference.”

Empowering clients to work on the present and future, not the past

Anita Cocks, owner of Tax and Financial, couldn’t agree more. She attributes the shift to the visibility of data with technology like Xero. 

“The whole concept of ‘what an accountant is’, is changing. Old school accounting is gone. It's not about confusing them. Yes, some of them still want that full set of accounts, but they don't know what it means. And it's not what they need for the day-to-day running of their business.”

Businesses say they feel like we're part of their team, they see us as a team member.”

- Anita, Tax and Financial

“We give training for Xero for free, because if they can use it, it helps us. There's no point in finding out where their business is nine months down the line because that's too late. I'm really big on empowering clients to have that information. I just think it's so important. 

“I don't like it if they just sign their accounts, it always makes me feel uncomfortable, like they've not looked at it, they've not read it, they don't understand it.”

Constant learning and hiring enthusiastic candidates

At StriveX, it’s not just clients’ dreams and goals that are in the spotlight. Rachel and co-owner James have strong policies for supporting the growth of every employee. 

“Every single person that comes in is offered full study support. So we pay for their exams, their travel, every expense associated with studying. We don't tie them into really long contracts where if we pay for your exams you have to stay for three years. They can leave at any time.”

Everybody's pay goes up by £500 with every exam that they pass because they immediately become more valuable to us.”

- Rachel, StriveX

“In terms of hiring, I always say, I can teach someone to be an accountant, but I can't teach you to care, I can't teach you to be enthusiastic. I can't teach you to be able to connect with people and listen to their worries and listen to their problems and help them. So that's the stuff we look for when we're hiring.”

We've never spent a penny on recruitment and we have some of the best talent in the industry reaching out to us on a daily basis.”

- Rachel, StriveX

Suits and ties become hoodies and jeans

Many new practice owners are seizing the opportunity to use fashion to promote the kind of people – and accountants – they are. Both to prospective clients and employees.

I wanted to show that in our office, it doesn't matter what you wear, you can still be professional.”

- Francesca, Future Cloud

Francesca left a large firm to set up Future Cloud in 2018. “I listed in my head, exactly how I'd want our firm to be: Digital, forward thinking, proactive… But the first thing I wanted to do is get hoodies with our logos on them! Some people don't want to dress in a suit and I wanted to show that in our office, it doesn't matter what you wear, you can still be professional.”

.

At StriveX too, every new member of staff gets branded polo shirts and hoodies. “We're a serious industry and it's a serious profession.” Says Rachel. “But it doesn't mean that you have to take yourself too seriously. It’s smart casual - because that's what our clients wear to work.” 

Our clients didn't come to us because we're really corporate. They came to us because we are real people that speak to them like real people.”

- Rachel, StriveX

“It’s the same with our staff, we’ve really instilled that, yes, we all come to work to get paid, but you can still have a really, really good time.”

Formality is out. Being approachable is in.

Caroline Hocking agrees. She uses her laid-back approach to make clients feel comfortable. “It's a two-way thing that they feel like we're on the same level and it's not 'them and their accountant'. It's just ‘coming to see Caroline to have a quick chat and catch up and just see what's going on’.”

They don't have to put on a nice outfit. They don't have to brush their hair. They know that I'm down to earth and don't care!”

- Caroline, Mona Accountancy

“I think that really helps them. They're not being judged for not knowing all of the answers. That's why I'm there. I don't expect you to know. I don't want to ever be that faceless business.”

Building relationships on social media

The final big shift we’ve picked up from our users is accountants using social media. It’s ok if this makes you squirm – it’s not for everyone – but for many, including Rachel at StriveX, it’s become a huge part of their practice.

Sharing useful information on Instagram Live

“We've used social media in incredible ways over the last 12 months,” Rachel says. “During the pandemic, if Boris did an announcement, as soon as he stopped talking, we went live on Instagram. And our community of small business owners could ask us questions.”

Social media has been crazy for our business and it's something that I can't speak about passionately enough.”

- Rachel, StriveX

Attracting new clients on YouTube

“We've also started taking on a lot of YouTube clients, YouTubers or people that go to YouTube to find answers to their questions. They watch a video of me explaining what the difference between a sole trader and limited company is and think, ‘you've explained that better than I could have Googled it myself… and so I'd want to work with you.’”

They've heard me speak, they've watched content that I've created and so the first bit of trust is already there.”

- Rachel, StriveX

“With the traditional sales funnel, at the very top is awareness. And that's what social media does in different ways than anything else. Quite often I get on Zoom with people and they already feel they know me.”

Accountancy for social media influencers

We always knew the ‘digital revolution’ would create new kinds of business and jobs – and those people will need accountants. Social media influencers are a good example of this – and StriveX is a good example of their accountants.

We’ve strategically placed ourselves where our clients are – and our clients are small business owners on Instagram.”

"Through YouTube we took on a YouTube influencer and content creator who’s a medical student. Her entire channel is content for other medical students and how to get through medical school. 

“We had our training session and afterwards she went on to Instagram and said, ‘Oh my God, that was insane. I feel really confident. I know what I'm doing.’ ...And now we have six different clients who are all medical student YouTubers!"

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