As technology becomes a more ubiquitous part of the accounting and bookkeeping industries, many professionals are finding themselves mired in uncertainty, wondering just where their world is heading.
This is the topic addressed at the 2018 QuickBooks Connect Conference by Clayton Oates, a respected and self-described “ex-accountant” from Australia. In his talk on “Diversifying Revenue Streams,” he discussed a multitude of issues many industry professionals find themselves dealing with on a daily basis, such as burnout, feeling trapped by a lack of freedom they thought having their own business would provide, and how to continue to be profitable without investing all of their time.
As for clients, Oates recommends thinking of them this way: “You’ve already got that relationship. What else can you bring to them? It’s cheaper to keep an existing client. Can technology be the enabler?”
In fact, it can. Modern, tech-savvy accountants can take just a few simple steps to get back the freedom they intended to have when they initially opened their firm and continue to run a successful business.
First, figure out if you’ve stepped into this all-too-common small business trap: As many accountants try to be available to their clients, they often find themselves answering questions that take perhaps 10 minutes to solve but don’t add up to significantly billable hours.
Oates recommends a two-fold solution to this issue that starts with sharing more information with your clients. They come to you because they don’t know a lot about accounting and you do, so make your knowledge available to them and continue engaging in your own training to enhance your expertise.
The beauty of this, he says, is that while many accountants avoid doing this because they are afraid their clients won’t need them anymore, this isn’t actually something they need to worry about. “Clients are people like the rest of us. They appreciate honesty and authenticity.” In other words, by taking that leap and being open, you’ll create long-term relationships with your customers that will be profitable for both of you.
The second part of the solution involves taking a more proactive approach to the use of software. Oates recommends getting comfortable with three vendors’ products you utilize on a regular basis and making setting these programs up for your clients part of your service. Introducing technology will also open up a new structure for your business to obtain profits, he says.
“The billable hour is busted,” he announces. “What are clients after? Certainty. You can help provide this by being open with them and helping them use technology to take charge of their finances.”
There’s an additional bonus to taking these steps: You’ll likely achieve the goal you were after all along in building your business, which is having the freedom to make your own choices and spend time doing what you love.
“People often ask me, ‘Clayton, what are you selling?’ I’m not really selling anything. I’m selling hope. This is possible.”