Ask any business owner who their top three most trusted sources of information are for their business and nine out of ten will have their accountant in that list. In fact, in most cases the accountant rates as number one.
Well, if your business were to be likened to Aussie Rules football, strategic accounting would fill the role of the defensive midfielder whose work can go wholly unnoticed by the casual observer but, he gets listed in the best three players by the coach.
The streets to financial success are littered with failed businesses that ignored the importance of strategic accounting, only to find that even an excellent product or service doesn’t compensate for inadequate focus on the numbers. A key strategy for any small to medium business is to invest in strategic accounting and, hence an accountant that is forward focused.
But, if this is true why are so many business owners dissatisfied with the level of service they are receiving from their accountant? Why are they not having their expectation’s met?
Having worked in partnership with accountants for 20+ years, I’ve witnessed the industry evolve significantly. Yet it still seems there is some way to go in meeting the needs of many business owners.
Business Owners often bring this up with me. Some, like Bill Long of Ag Consulting Co. are crystal clear about what he needs. “I want my accountant to not only show me the numbers but, also provide guidance and advice on what those numbers actually mean for me and how I can use it in my business to increase its growth and value.”
“Forecasting when is the best time to grow or the best time to consolidate are 2 questions I would love my accountant to help me answer”
Both these seem reasonable requests.
Despite some accountants being an excellent strategic resource, there still remains a gap in the market for progressive accountants to take action on listening to and helping clients achieve their financial and life goals.
With business becoming more competitive than ever, and the speed at which business is now conducted, entrepreneurs are turning to their accountants for more than just their tax returns.
CPA Australia believes: “Improved software is now available for everyone and this provides an opportunity for all practitioners to offer clients a more contemporary, digitised and personalised experience.”
“Clients are demanding more value, transparency, real-time data, forward-looking advice and accountants with business nous. Accountants must be the strategic advisor and help clients to meet their personal and business goals. They must know what they will need before they ask for it.”
Ian Judson, head of JudsonKoman Accounting in Brisbane believes: “Business owners are now expecting more from their accountant. They want someone who understands their business, and is able to provide strategic value and work with them as partners. If accounting firms don’t evolve with the industry, they will be left behind and clients will soon visit competitors who offer a more holistic approach to their accounting needs.”
Having spoken with hundreds of business owners about this, there are 5 five qualities that clients tell me the new breed of accountant needs to possess to stay relevant:
1) Connected – They want their accountant to refer them to other trusted advisers and key services they require. Accountants of the future have a network of services in-house or outsourced that are trusted providers that they can refer their entrepreneurial clients to.
2) Responsive – When they want answers, they need them now, not tomorrow or, next week. The days of waiting weeks for an appointment in a physical office are slowly becoming extinct. In a world wired, accountants need to communicate with their clients in real time using mediums that didn’t even exist five years ago.
3) Future Focused – Last year was last year. What are we going to do next month or, next year? Accountants need to be the curators of key strategies and programs that help an entrepreneur work on their business, not in it. They need to focus on how to grow their business towards a timely exit.
4) Simplicity – They don’t want to drown in number counting and analysing. They want to know the key figures to track and, the insights to improve them. They need simple cash flow, plus profit and loss statements that can be tracked in real time.
5) Invested – They want a new method of engagement that is less about clock watching and more about partnering for the future. Accountants need to take a customer lifetime value approach and invest in making their clients successful. As they grow, the needs become larger and, so the billings can follow.
The great news is that this new breed of accountant is developing or has already developed these skills. We always seem to be able to deliver better value for our clients when we partner with such future oriented accountants - bring it on!!!