Working the Cloud: The Next Steps
You're ready. You've taken the time to research your options, consulted you mentors and have unequivocally found that the cloud is where you want to take your accounting practice. Now, there are more decisions to be made as you get your practice off the ground and into the cloud. There is a world of cloud software possibilities at your fingertips to get you started. However, while it's always good to be flexible when getting started, there are some critical things you should decide in order to maximize your potential and delight your ideal clients.
First, ask yourself what type of client you want? What industries are you passionate about? Where do you have the most expertise? In order to start off strong, it's important to gear your practice to a niche, such as technology start-ups, banking, nonprofits and so forth. Once you make that decision, then you can start gathering the cloud tools you'll need to be successful. Everything you put together from this moment forward will be for the benefit of your target clients.
For example, if you work with nonprofits, you may need cloud software to accommodate the needs of that industry such as donor management software or a reporting application that can work with 501(c)(3) entities. If you want to work with the retail sector, you may need software solutions for point-of-sale, payroll and bill payments. By automating your client delivery process with these add-ons to your cloud accounting system, you'll take advantage of that power by reducing administrative time and manual data entry tasks. This will create the value-added time needed to be your client's advisor on business issues rather than spending time entering data that is valued less.
Creating an industry solution also puts you in a stronger position when proposing your services to prospects. Demonstrating the expertise and the cloud platform you'll utilize to deliver your services will help your prospects better understand the operational and financial reporting they will see when you work with them. This is a much stronger approach during a sales meeting than telling them "I can do your accounting." You'll be armed with the solution to relieve their pain points and can demonstrate a "day in the life" when working with them. With the right cloud platform in place, it will empower you to educate them on what the numbers are telling them and demonstrate that working with you is a collaborative effort that benefits their business.
Intimate knowledge of a specific industry does not come overnight. It's important to assess your current client base or prospective clients to select the first market to enter. The great thing about this approach is that you will be able to hone your cloud solution to a specific client base and their pain points, as well as to your sales and marketing approach. The first market you decide on is the hardest to put together. However, after that, each new market you decide to enter will have a successful model to duplicate that speeds up the time to get up and running. A great way to test your solution is to work in partnership with an existing or potential client (perhaps at a discount) so you can collectively find the best applications and solutions together that you will eventually offer.
You've already made the most important decision to start your practice in the cloud, now decide on the cloud tools to make your business soar!
About the author:
Amy Vetter, CPA, CITP, CGMA, is the Global Vice President of Education and Enablement for Xero. In this role, she is responsible for developing and executing Xero's worldwide education strategy with a focus on Xero University (XeroU) and Xero TV. You can find other blog posts by Amy on business topics and yoga at: http://thedrishtiqcpa.blogspot.com/.