How accounting and bookkeeping firms serve clients is going to become more challenging more quickly than most of us want to admit.
Clients, vendors and team members are more mobile than ever before and communication channels are evolving. It’s a major shift in our profession. We’ll soon need to choose one of three paths professionally and as accounting and bookkeeping firms.
This is where most of us started and is still what brings in clients. Small businesses are required to file taxes and get financing.
If they don’t have their financial records in order, they need the help of an accountant or bookkeeper. It’s a necessary evil in their eyes, and certainly not something they want to pay top dollar for, if they don’t have to.
Accountants and bookkeepers whose bread-and-butter services are tax return prep and monthly bookkeeping should realize that current changes are putting them at risk. Generation X and younger business owners are embracing the low-cost automation and nearly-here artificial intelligence that is being introduced to eliminate the labor-intensive services we have historically offered.
If you embrace the technology, you’ll need to shift your pricing model and find some other reason why clients shouldn’t use software to replace you. If you don’t embrace it, in due time you’ll be seen as grossly overpriced for providing commodity services. In short, unless you plan to retire soon and close your practice, the future for a local, traditional firm is limited.
Scalable Tech Services
While the technology wave is quickly reducing how much time it takes to provide compliance services, some firms are standardizing and streamlining processes, specializing in specific industries and gearing up to serve many more clients on a virtual basis using flat-fee packages.
This model embraces technology and productization of services to attract clients who want done-for-you compliance-only services. These clients simply want accessible and timely financial recordkeeping and taxes. That’s all.
This business model can become a win-win scenario, since it allows the accounting firm to serve many more clients in a wider geographical area (working exclusively via the cloud) with fewer staff members. It’s a way to scale accounting and bookkeeping services and maintain a healthy bottom line.
With this lean firm direction, aggressive marketing becomes an indispensable priority to drive growth, and convenience is the singular selling proposition to attract new clients.
Advisory With a Purpose
Shifting from compliance to a more advisory-based service is the drum most leaders in the profession have been beating for some time now. And with good reason. While technology has been automating compliance level services, it does not provide what many small business owners have been thirsting for most from their accountants… for years.
Proactive, Personalized Business Support and Guidance
Time and again we’ve heard about the surveys that show consistently that clients want their accounting professionals to understand their business, offer timely professional advice, and proactively help them reach their business goals more effectively.
By embracing technology to streamline our compliance services, without necessarily growing our client base, we are now freed to grow our practice revenue by stepping up to fill these important needs.
- Take a deeper interest in the clients that we have
- Offer premium level services focused on the clients’ growth and prosperity
- Provide the genuine human relationships that technology will never be able to replicate
The accounting and bookkeeping firms who embrace this model will also find over time that they can more easily specialize and serve only high-quality clients. An upward spiral of mutual growth and abundance will become unavoidable.
Which Path Will It Be?
We will all need to make our choice as technology continues to change how our clients and our own practices operate. Choosing now and making the needed changes is the path of the wise. So, will it be...
- Compliance Services – Sticking with what we know
- Scalable Tech – More clients to build a money machine
- Advisory with a Purpose – Results that make a difference
If you’d like to tap into how top accounting firms around the world are successfully navigating these changes, join Gabrielle in attending Martin Bissett’s one-day program “The Secrets of Superior Accounting Firms” in September. Learn more here.
About Gabrielle Fontaine, PB, ASBC
Gabrielle is a bookkeeper, trainer, consultant and Advanced Certified QuickBooks Online ProAdvisor who works with independent consultants and attorneys to minimize taxes and maximize profit & cash flow. She is also the author of The Freelance Bookkeeper blog.