Practice Editor AccountingWEB
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Small businesses waste time looking for right accountant

8th Aug 2019
Practice Editor AccountingWEB
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Where are all the good accountants hiding? It’s a question pondered by one in 10 small businesses struggling to find the right accountant and the reason why FreeAgent has plans to play matchmaker. 

Irrespective of accountants spending a great deal of time and marketing to stand out, research from FreeAgent has found that a small number of small businesses are still unable to couple up with their perfect accounting match.

Rather than having a follow your heart-style attitude, 9% of small business owners graft away for more than two months before finding the number-cruncher of their dreams.

It’s not the case that all small business owners are indecisive or extra pernickety, however. The vast majority of respondents (33%) actually make a decision within a few hours, while 24% contemplate their choice a little longer but still end up picking an accountant within a week.  

You had me at fixed fees

But then, the saving grace to what can be a prolonged search is that small businesses know when they’ve found ‘the one’. An accountant-smitten 42% of small businesses revealed that they have never changed an accountant and have no plans to do so. And even the 35% that have had their heads turned end up loyal to their new accountant.

Yet some small business owners still have a wandering eye. The poll found that 21% of those polled may have never changed an accountant but they’re keeping their options open and may do so in the future.

All good things don't last, though. The FreeAgent research cited many reasons why a relationship between an accountant and client might break down. Maybe the connection between the two wasn't there (26%), the accountant was too expensive (26%), or the client had just outgrown the accountant’s basic service (23%).

FreeAgent plays matchmaker

Seeing the time wasted by some small businesses in finding an accountant and the turmoil caused by a breakup has inspired FreeAgent to play matchmaker.

In the coming weeks, the software provider is set to launch CoPilot – a new service that will match small business clients with an accountant.

A reason for this service grew out of the burgeoning number of new FreeAgent customers coming through the link-up with the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, FreeAgent’s CEO Ed Molyneux told AccountingWEB.

“We have a lot of very small business customers who typically won't have an accountant. When you have that amount of scale things like matchmaking with accountants means you can deliver a meaningful number of clients to the practices and give them a way of growing beyond traditional marketing and referrals.

"We see it as a win-win for clients who can find a high-quality accountant through us and the accountant has this ready source of new clients at a meaningful volume." 

RBS acquired the Edinburgh-based accounting software developer last year and offers FreeAgent at no additional cost to its business banking customers.

CoPilot makes sense for Molyneux because as the research shows “people starting out in business don’t know where to look”.

He added: “If you've never done it before you don't know what to look for. You don't know what good looks like. It's hard to get information on what accountants are like, and on the other side of the coin, it can also be challenging and costly for accountancy practices to find the perfect clients.”

Happily ever after

CoPilot is the start of the FreeAgent strengthing the communication link between accountants and their clients. The next step is to enable accountants and clients to message within the software itself rather than communicating through emails and video calls.

It may be early days in these experiments but it demonstrates how the software vendor is evolving the product and even plans to streamline the engagement process. “There are all sorts of points of friction in the way accountants and clients interact we think we can help with,” noted Molyneux.  

“We’re still only at a very early stage, but our ultimate goal is to create a new partnership between business owners and accountants - where the whole lifespan of their relationship is entirely experienced and managed through FreeAgent."

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