A New era in accounting
As a business owner, I’ve been reflecting on this new era in accounting in which globally there are essentially 2 distinct camps (I know this is a generalisation and there will be differences and exceptions):
A) Those who are younger, tech savvy and future focused
You’re part of the new accountancy order. You will have grown up with mobile, tablets, smartphones and Apps. For you, compliance work is highly automated with data feeds and artificial intelligence. You know that compliance is increasingly a loss leader or a starting point to a broader client relationship.
Your services are probably standardised as ‘products’ and will focus on both the past and the future, the next month, quarter or year. Talking to clients on Skype, Google Hangouts or via web conferencing will not be unusual. And while you readily and easily embrace technology, you’re probably still making some of the key mistakes outlined in this new blog series ’16 mistakes made by accountants & how to avoid them’.
B) Those who are older, wiser and trying to keep up
If, like me, you grew up without computers then all of this ‘technology stuff ’ takes a fair amount of thinking through and re-adjustment. As labour-intensive compliance work disappears, even those of us who are reluctant to change are being forced to. What was once the core of the client relationship has become extremely price competitive, eroding the foundation that used to underpin client loyalty and long-term retention.
That may seem rather serious stuff, as back in our day the customer/client had little power. Everything was done through person-to-person referrals. Not now! Our customers are highly empowered thanks to online and social media searches. It’s this seismic shift in communication that we all must get to grips with that has motivated the my team to draft this series of blogs (also available in one free ebook here).
Failing to realise that the market has changed – forever!
Perhaps the single greatest mistake made by accountancy firms is failing to respond to the changes that have already taken place.
It’s already changed!
Things are not just changing; they have already changed, forever. In 1992 a 22 year old test engineer sent the world’s first text message; in 2011 6 trillion emails were sent and our smart phones have more power than it took to put the first man on the moon. With 250 billion emails sent every day these changes affect the relationship between accountants and their clients.
Accountants are affected the most
Despite what some might think, accountants are actually fantastic at handling change. What’s more, change affects accountancy firms the most. Just take a look at what the average practice has to manage every year – it’s staggering.
Despite this remarkable ability to cope and manage change, unless it is deliberately turned to your advantage it can be a costly distraction. Coping with change does not bring in additional fee income and it can swallow days of valuable chargeable time.
Are you off-balance?
When change sends you off-balance it can leave you feeling like you’re running as fast as possible but not getting anywhere. You go from job to job, dealing with urgent client demands and still the practice does not grow meaningfully. It can create frustration & discouragement as partners and staff have the stuffing knocked out of them. Some we meet are tired, discouraged and blinded by the rate of change.
The hallmark of a successful firm will be its agility. Flexible, open-minded partners who are ready to embrace technological, commercial and economic changes and turn them to their advantage, will lead agile firms. They will attract clients who want more than just ‘a traditional accountant’ and will be prepared to pay for it. Agile firms will be early adopters, embracing new routes to market such as mobile websites and Apps. In an uncertain world, if your firm can offer a response founded on leadership, clarity and conviction then your clients and potential clients will welcome it. Your response won’t be perfect, but it should demonstrate you have mastered your fears and uncertainties and have a plan to
Historically, agility meant adapting and responding in months. It meant you had the time and luxury to think and decide. It’s not like that anymore! Having technology at your fingertips 24-7 in real time, anywhere, agility means responding fast, primarily online, using Apps, mobile websites, social media and blogs.
Some will do nothing!
Some firms will put their collective heads in the sand and do nothing at all. They are simply holding out for a better day, when things will ‘return to normal’. But what is ‘normality’? Facebook and LinkedIn die a death; supermarkets stop considering doing compliance work; internal threats from the likes of Xero fade away; attrition rates return to normal and competition starts to decrease! Of course, those things will never happen. What will happen is that change will occur at a faster rate than ever.
Don’t make the mistake of doing nothing! Firms need to face up to the fact that the game has changed: how accountancy firms market themselves, maintain relationships with existing clients and communicate with prospects has changed forever.
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