• Diagnostax

Are you one of the 1% of accountants asking, “what’s next?”

Updated: Feb 16

Despite the length of time it’s been around, like forever snooze, the transition to cloud accounting is still very much in progress for most accountants, with the vast majority still using desktop-based accounting software. Surprising isn’t it?

And according to the “Accountant of Tomorrow Report” from Thomson Reuters, 89% of accountants cited digital/cloud technology as the most critical area of understanding for accountants looking ten years into the future.

10 years?! For those of you who have tackled and conquered the cloud accounting domain (and more!) this timeline must sound crazy, especially when it’s something your clients and your business fundamentally need.

In fact, when speaking on a digital transition panel at Xerocon this year, my main man Mark Telford of Telfords Chartered Accountants cited, “There is so much more that needs to be done for small businesses aside from compliance, this is the minimum level of service you should provide for clients.”

And he wasn’t the only one to raise this as a potential issue.

When listening to Anna Curzon, Chief Partner Officer speak at Xerocon this year said something, that as an advisor, it would really make me stop and listen:

“27% of small businesses are looking for a new advisor”

That’s significant. You’ve got to wonder why, over ¼ of small businesses are assumingly dissatisfied with their current advisor?

Is it poor customer service? Very unlikely, considering the importance accountants place on trust, loyalty and building long lasting relationships with their clients.

Or, is it actually that they are they looking for something more? As a client myself, I certainly think so.

Through his own research and discussion with many accountants, Will Farnell – author and founder of Farnell Clarke – estimates that approximately 20% of accountants are practising cloud accountancy, with just 1% of all accountants running a truly digitalised accountancy business.

So, for that 1% of pacesetter accountants that are fully digitalised, what is next for them? How are they ensuring they deliver to the small business owner?

Well, through our work with some of the most forward-thinking firms in the UK, I can share with you what is at the top of their agenda: enhancing their digital practice to enable themselves to deliver a more complex and valuable “deep dive” service to their clients.

These firms are adopting new software to do just that – tools in consultancy, business development and coaching software such as The GAP 2014, forecasting and reporting software, pricing software such as Go Proposal, as well as our own complete tax advisory solution Diagnostax.

I caught up with one of our customers Nick Kay, Founder of Pavilion Accountancy, who helps owner managed businesses with accountancy, financial compliance, financial management, business coaching & advisory service and support.

Here’s what Nick had to say:

“There’s a lot of noise in our profession at the moment, some helpful, some not so helpful. I think there is too much focus on the what we do, by that I mean the arguments around compliance v advisory and which cloud software and add-ons are best.

The key is how we operate as service providers in three areas, how quickly can we complete the compliance work, how many quality conversations we can have with clients, and how many of the problems/issues stopping them achieving their goals we can help with (directly or indirectly).

We have a duty of care, and a professional obligation to help these people who are risking it all by running their own businesses, but we can only help if those 3 key things happen – regardless of the tools or system we use. If the back of beer mat works and is appropriate, use that!”

I love this. Upfront. No-nonsense. Thanks Nick.

I think Nick sums it up perfectly though really. Yes, he is adopting the latest tools to assist his business but fundamentally he just gets it. It’s not about compliance v advisory and never should be, it’s about the obligation you take on as a professional to help your client succeed.

Phil Sayers of the GAP 2014 offers a slightly different angle:

“Interestingly, many of the accountants I talk to like the idea of providing analytical reports and forecasts to their clients.

But the problem is, they struggle to monetise the service because a) they don’t understand how to communicate the value, and, b) without any associated explanation of what the reports are saying, the client just sees the reports as information they don’t understand at an additional cost, which may explain why accountants subsequently drop the reporting tool.”

What Phil says here is spot on. It’s one of those, ‘all the gear no idea’ situations. There’s no point producing lots of wonderful reports for your clients if the information isn’t resonating or helping them achieve their goals. The truth is, being a fully digitalised accountancy firm isn’t about on-boarding every single app going. it’s actually much more simple….it’s understanding your clients and building a business that enables you to deliver what your clients’ need to thrive.

If you haven’t seen it already, check out my open and honest account of my experience as a client searching for a new accountant. Read: “A Beauty Parade of Accountants”.

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