Hundreds of industry professionals attend 2020 Innovation Conference
Hundreds of attendees including accounting and technology firms, exhibitors, industry leaders and keynote speakers participated at this year’s 2020 Innovation Annual Conference at the Vox Centre, Birmingham.
With so many firms now embracing new technologies and adopting new approaches to win clients, the high calibre keynote speeches detailed key discussion and research designed to help manage the changing face of accountancy.
The rate of change is getting faster and faster
Gordon Gilchrist and Ian Fletcher presented the 2-day event, as they introduced an array of international thought leaders and speakers to the conference suite. A jam-packed audience listened and asked questions as the speakers informed, debated and dissected industry discussion points and hot topics.
International speaker Itzik Amiel had the crowd engaged and channelling his boundless enthusiasm and confidence from the off. He exerted energy, a cornerstone of his presenting technique, as he discussed mastering attention skills and adopting the right mindset to become a trusted advisor.
“Success is the speed of implementation. Trust is about connection. It’s a feeling. It’s all about connecting with people,” said Itzik.
“Attract clients who believe what you believe. You can be confident; you can experience and explore more. “
Itzik’s forward approach certainly transcended confidence and belief as he promoted the art of successful networking and tips to connect and nurture your network effectively.
Are you “connecting” your clients?
ICAEW’s Kevin Salter discussed the technology firms should adopt to maximise their efficiency. He explained how firms can educate themselves on emerging tools and technology to identify platforms or solutions – potentially solving clients’ needs.
Kevin covered key areas of document management, forecasting and automation for you clients’ businesses and your practice.
Focussing on value – fixed pricing
Mark Wickersham, leading thinker on pricing for the accountancy profession, detailed the 3-price system plan hatched from the experts themselves – Apple.
He explained how they have three options for a product online, and highlight a certain feature to show the attractiveness of the middle option, knowing that people won’t take the risk of the most expensive, so will go for the middle one -spending more than if they had one choice.
“Customers hate uncertainty. We have to focus on value, and that’s fixed prices. Value pricing is the maximum amount a customer is willing to pay.”
Mark also highlighted the importance of charging different customers different prices: “Add more value; understand what a client wants and help them get a better result.
“Communicate the value and educate the customer about the benefit to them. Turn features into benefits,“ continued Mark.
Mark’s other strategies included using a very precise number – don’t round up as customers are more likely to negotiate down – and the benefit of implementing monthly installations instead of one big up front fee to maximise conversions.
“When a customer sees transparency, it creates trust. The customer likes control. Give the client control – they will spend more money.
Making Tax Digital
Ian Fletcher rounded off the day’s events with one of the key topics within the industry – making tax digital.
Ian’s emphasis was placed on innovative marketing strategies to best place your firm and clients for digital tax. Ian’s actions were designed to educate with focus on the 2-year timeframe to move clients from desktop to the cloud.
“Think about clients who might have trouble to comply with digital tax,” Ian said. “Help in converting clients to the cloud; run them a webinar, gain their trust. They will ask – what is the best way to do this?”
Pull marketing and push marketing
Ian focused in on two key aspects of marketing MTD to clients:
Social media and websites
Post a case study when you convert a business from desktop to the cloud and share on social media. Post an online brochure, weekly updates, and create video content and slideshows.
Emails and newsletters
Send direct email campaigns, letters and a monthly tax newsletter, with a follow up call and live demo. Ian emphasised the importance of always following up with clients to help with the transition; start the process and finish with a targeted, systemised approach.
Former England International and Director of Football Development at the FA, Sir Trevor Brooking, was the after-dinner speaker, discussing his career and taking questions from the audience.
Brexit – threat or opportunity?
Justin Urqhart Stewart discussed the British and world economy post-Brexit and why accountants are needed more than ever before.
UK – Brexit nerves
“It’s going to be fascinating. How do you position all of this? We don’t educate people on money. We have to try and rebuild investment confidence. If you are investing well – it should be quite dull,” said Justin.
Despite the uncertainty and lack of focus, he highlighted the current key facts for the UK:
- Now the 6th largest economy
- 8th largest manufacturer
China – A change of Life
“China is changing, really rather dramatically indeed,” said Justin. “They have huge levels of debt. Re-shoring is happening. They’re losing manufacturing and they don’t want to be a low-cost manufacturer.
“But Chinese power is expanding, China has joined in the global economy. It is the now inside the tent. Better for global economy and better for global trade.”
USA – Debt, deficit and demand
“They have the knowledge and expertise to take decisions and do things quickly. They fixed the banking systems and wrote off the debts. You have to front off those issues. Americans were building houses and the economy picked up.”
“Equity is looking more positive in America. We need America to be functioning.”
Award winners share their story
Cloud technology is the place to be
Paul Dunno, Director of 1 Accounts Online shared the story of their built success, of how he managed to get every single client on the cloud, and scrapped timesheets. Client numbers and income grew for the company through cloud technology and value pricing, allowing them to spend more time on clients. “Cloud technology is the place to be.”
Prepared to go the extra mile and beyond
Arram Berlyn Gardner, clients of MyFirmsApp, took away the Most Innovative Large Firm 2016 award, and explained how that they had invested heavily in outsourcing the finance and accounts department along the way on their journey. Group Marketing Manager Kay Merryman explained: “We’ve never shouted about our performances. We concentrate our efforts on doing the best job we can, with the best people we can, in the most professional way.”
“We use cutting edge technology and provide clients with a client centric service.”
ABG’s innovative on-screen animation, prepared by Kay on a beach just recently, put across the firm’s key philosophy points, including ‘preparing to go the extra mile and beyond’, ‘recruiting and retaining clients’, ‘communicating by all channels’ and ‘centralising all data’.
Nigel Adams and Nikki Adams of Ad Valorem put across the importance of trusting what your clients do, while pointing out the key pitfalls of a sole practitioner:
- Share the load
- Blue-sky thinking – the importance of taking time out and coming up with fresh ideas.
- Bite size chunks – KPI
Trevor Jones, founder of ASE Global, discussed the incredible journey from setting up a small office in Cheshire in 1975, to a global HQ in Manchester, operating 14 offices around the world, including China, India, USA, Russia and European bases, covering 50 international markets.
“I’m very proud of the journey we’ve had,” said Trevor. “Specialism and focus is very important – being number one in your sector.
“Thanks to cloud accounting, the power to make a difference is getting greater and greater by the day.”
Steve Pipe directed the conference into the second half of the day, focusing on how to transform your practice and results.
“I believe that accountants can make a profound difference,” Steve explained with real desire and compelling evidence; particularly in the mechanism for this theory:
- Better data
- Better analysis
- Better decisions
- Better results
- Better businesses
- Better lives
- Better world
Steve looked at his work, particularly his book ‘The world’s most inspiring accountants,’ and the impact of best practice on others.
It includes 62 case stories – 1 way in which each firm helped a client, including new businesses, jobs created, sales increases and transforming cash flow.
“Thanks to cloud accounting, the power to make a difference is getting greater and greater by the day. “ We can use our skills and numbers to change people’s lives – the difference we can make to our clients.”
Marketing Director Gordon Gilchrist ended the 2-day conference with a presentation on factors that affect profitability and growth. Amongst Gordon’s speech were the admissions that ’92 per cent of firms outsource or offshore and are not willing to admit to clients,’ as well as the fact that IT expenditure has reduced as firms move to the cloud.
Gordon also touched upon effective pricing strategies, as detailed by Mark Wickersham on Day one, and reiterated the key phrase of the conference for firms– ‘value pricing is so important.’
Gordon thanked everyone for attending, participating and networking with fellow peers over the action-packed 2-day conference. The event was again a roaring success, with plenty of stories and accounting food-for-thought to take away and help to evaluate and improve practices around the UK.