Cloud accounting and fixed-fee packages are no longer a differentiator for new firms. The firms shortlisted in the new firm category of the 2017 Practice Excellence Awards go beyond these claims and have been able to differentiate themselves by targeting distinctive niche markets.
The use of cloud accounting no longer qualifies enough to stand out: “The question is, how are you using this tech in a unique way? What’s your spin?” said Karen Reyburn, owner and MD at The Profitable Firm and one of the judges of the new firms category.
“Cloud accounting is merely the price of entry for new firms these days,” commented Reyburn.
Showing an entrepreneurial mindset is another characteristic shared by the shortlisted firms, with some of them offering their clients support that goes beyond the traditional consultancy services. This is, for instance, the case with shortlisted firm Adrian Marley, or fellow nominee Hive’s holistic approach to the dental market - offering pricing guidance and marketing support alongside more conventional financial advice services.
Other firms such as Cone Accounting are thinking about building out an international presence.
Additional trends followed by the shortlisted firms centre on putting technology first and diversifying their communication channels, like Soaring Falcon Accountancy, which has created an international community, or Accountancy Cloud with its Slack community channel.
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Here are the five new firms that made it through to this year’s shortlist:
Cone Accounting is based in Southampton, although it has recently decided to switch to a more remote working environment. It pitches itself as an accounting firm for creative entrepreneurs, including bloggers, influencers, life coaches and boutique retail stores.
The firm offers free training in Xero and Receipt Bank to its clients when they sign on, in line with its conviction that the use of technology should be the main driver for its clients’ growth.
Its aim is not only to help its clients be more profitable, but also to save them time by reducing time-consuming admin tasks and look at ways to replace these with apps, software and smarter processes. Thanks to this approach, the firm expects to more than double their turnover by December 2017 while looking at expanding internationally.
The Accountancy Cloud
Based in London, The Accountancy Cloud offers accounting solutions for tech startups, as well as guidance in areas such as tax and finance, SEIS, EIS and EMI.
The firm has achieved high client retention and up to four referrals a week from its existing customers, which it attributes to its strategic focus on real-time accounting and tax services. Technology plays an important role within the firm, and the use of cloud-based applications has reduced its administration time by 40%.
Customers benefit from collaboration tools like Slack, where they can find real-time advice, share knowledge, ideas and resources, and the firm’s own helpdesk, which currently offers more than 350 articles on a variety of subjects.
Soaring Falcon Accountancy
Bedford’s Soaring Falcon Accountancy focuses on helping its clients move to the cloud and going digital with Xero and Receipt Bank, along with providing add-ons such as Spotlight Reporting, Practice Ignition, YouCanBook.Me and MyDocSafe.
With a focus on helping clients implemented the right technology, the firm is continually looking at new ways to save time by automation, as well as new areas of reporting and offering insight to its clients with the use of technology and big data.
Its revenue has doubled in a year and it expects to repeat the pattern in 2018. In order to support its tech clients, Soaring Falcon has worked to create a network of like-minded firms around the world, which currently includes accountants from nine countries that use it to support each other, provide best practice and offer valuable insights and information on tax and business.
Hive Business works in the niche market of dental businesses. The firm has a practice development programme to help dental practices get to the “£1m sweet spot” with a three-to-five-year plan. This development programme has been shared in blogs and lectures, resulting in referrals and reduced client attrition.
Its range of accounting services includes a standard compliance package for core services, financial management and bolt-on and bespoke services.
Its “diagnostic day” is a collaborative business development service to identify potential economies of scale and pinch points, and build and implement a plan to put it into place. Hive Business expects to further develop this service in the future and complement it with seminar programmes.
Northern Irish firm Adrian Markey has found a niche in the catering industry and has taken on a number of local cafes operating both locally and in London, increased its client base thanks to referrals and the very active social media presence on Facebook.
Besides accounting, Adrian Markey has put in place additional consultancy based revenue streams, offering expertise and advice in areas such as marketing, IT systems and software, HR as well as tax, finance and compliance.
The focus on cloud solutions has been essential to save time from administrative and bookkeeping tasks that the accountant has been able to spend on creating growth strategies for clients, leading to an enviable 100% client retention rate.
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