Why You Should Focus on an Industry Vertical

Feb 9th 2016
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These days, as an accountant, it’s not about trying to be “all things to everyone,” as an increasing number of clients now expect accountants to be more of a specialist. In fact, many firms are making the switch and reaping the benefits that vertical specialization offers.

As an accountant, being freed from the need to be “all things to all clients” means you’re able to find a niche to specialize in, and structure your practice around:

  • The services you offer
  • Your vertical expertise
  • A specific business life-stage, like startup

With specialization, you can deliver more consistent client service and create a higher perception of value. While your role as an accountant will always be monetarily focused, clients want business advice, not just financial and tax expertise.

They want to be confident that you are knowledgeable of their industry, have an understanding of the legislative complexities and business issues they face, and trust that you have your eye on the future vision and emerging trends. If you’re proactive about specialization, you can position yourself a trusted advisor or consultant in their vertical.

No Longer Just the Finance Guy

Clients are increasingly expecting their accountant to know the ins and outs of their industry and provide a holistic view of operations, not just the financial view. With the continued march of cloud computing, technology adoption is a key area where accountants can provide real value.

There are a variety of industry-specific, best-of-breed cloud applications on the market today that integrate beautifully with each other to provide a low-cost, seamless set of tools that enrich business performance. This is the direction that all new businesses are going in today, no longer looking to have their own on-site infrastructure which is “on-site” and expensive.

As a trusted advisor, these applications are products that you need to be aware of, whilst deep knowledge is not necessary, a good overarching understanding will place you in a good position to suggest tools that will bring benefits to your client.

For instance, if you have retail or hospitality clients, you’ll need to be across key trends and know what tools they can use to make their businesses more efficient or boost productivity. You need to know about the best point-of-sale or inventory software that integrates with their online accounting platform and advise accordingly.

So, too, with other productivity and efficiency tools. Things like time and attendance, and workforce scheduling is typically performed on Excel spreadsheets in many businesses. By recommending online tools that integrate with their accounting platform, you’ll be able to provide big wins for your clients by entirely replacing these time-consuming manual systems. 

Practice What You Preach

In your own business as you transition to providing cloud accounting services, you’ll also practice what you preach. Shifting to the cloud allows you to:

  • Remove low-value data-entry functions from your internal processes.
  • Improve your staff’s productivity and efficiency by eliminating or automating lower-value processes. 
  • Ensure your staff to focus on high-value advisory services and thus increase the average hourly rate of your professional staff.

As a trusted business advisor, you’ll be expected to provide that unbiased, big-picture, holistic view of the online tools available to your clients and how they will benefit from them. Only with specialization can you hope to gain this level of expertise and competitive advantage to set your accountancy practice apart. Do you agree? Chime in on your thoughts.

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