Panelists on a Karbon webinar from the US, UK and Australia recently shared what they view as the big trends and opportunities for accounting firms in the coming years, with a particular focus on what can be learned from different regions around the world.
As you’d expect with a panel of this caliber, the takeaways and opinions shared were fascinating and invaluable for practices of all shapes and sizes. Here is a summary of the top takeaways that were shared—categorized into themes of efficiency, strategy, management and growth.
“The Cloud is really beginning to deliver on the promise of what it's able to achieve.” — Adrian Simmons, Elements CPA
Efficiency was a widely discussed topic—focusing predominantly on the gains that can be generated by technology and the cloud and the other new opportunities this is opening up for accounting practices. The panel noted that Australia and New Zealand are leading the United Kingdom and USA in terms of technology adoption, and a lot can be learned from progressive firms in this region who are well advanced in their journey to the cloud.
According to Steph Hinds from Growthwise, “Australia is focusing on increasing efficiency within the accounting practice. Firms are taking everything they preach to clients and using that to improve their business internally.”
These internal improvements were discussed in detail, with Joe Carufe from Two Roads mentioning the other doors that this can open up for practices in ways that can completely transform an accounting firm.
“We've got to get the bookkeeping side so efficient that we can come back with value-added services like CFO services, payroll, wealth management.” — Joe Carufe, Two Roads
“Understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing centers the entire firm and gives them a purpose for where they need to go.” — Carla Caldwell, Caldwell Training & Consulting
As Bruce Philips from HPC CPA put it, any firm’s strategy must now factor in verticalization, globalization and mobilization. This carries over from the technology that we have at our disposal in this new age of accounting, but any practice must now must be thinking globally, have the systems in place that allow their staff to work from anywhere, and work hard to differentiate themselves from their competitors.
The first step in all of this should be thinking about your firm’s why. Carla Caldwell said firm owners must understand why they're doing what they're doing, and who they're doing it for. This is what will let a practice stand out and will also give them guidance on what tools they should be using, what clients they work with, and how they're doing it.
“For your staff, it's not about the money. It is about the empowerment. It is about the type of work you get to do. It is about enjoying your days, delivering value.” — Sharon McClafferty, Slipstream Coaching
The biggest barrier we’re seeing across the globe right now is talent, and the panel agreed that it is extremely hard to find great talent to fit their firms. I see this as both a threat and an opportunity.
There is an opportunity for practices to innovate and change how they run their firm and change how they work with employees. Accounting is no longer about the time clock, or about utilization or realization. The most successful firms who attract the best talent are the ones who empower them, give them responsibility, and help them grow.
Globalization was touched on here as well, with Steph Hinds and myself discussing the potential threats of firms taking the best talent away from your firm.
“We now have to deal with remote workers, so we have to understand that our talent pool is worldwide and that every single firm has the potential to come and look through our talent pool at the same time.” — Steph Hinds, Growthwise
“The easiest sell is a sell to an existing client.” — Wayne Schmidt, Karbon
Our practice growth experts all mentioned the opportunities for growth within a firm’s existing client base. Sharon McClafferty suggested everyone should be thinking outside the box about the services their clients need that they’re not currently offering. Every accountant has an opportunity grow their firm in ways that really can actually change lives.
James Ashford shared how his UK firm, My Accountancy Place grew by 20% in the first quarter of 2017. His recommended strategies included quarterly fee reviews for each client to ensure they are being charged for every bit of value the firm is delivering to them. He also advised that firm owners should stop seeing themselves as accountants instead of the business owners that they are.
Finally, Karbon’s Wayne Schmidt touched on the importance of a firm standing out from the crowd if they want to succeed. Using the example of websites, he said that so many practices still look exactly the same. If a firm is going to spend money on a website refresh, they should avoid the cookie cutter approach—instead all firms should try something different that will set them apart.
These are just a selection of the insights and takeaways from Karbon's mid-year global accounting check-in that are can accounting firms everywhere can benefit from. You can watch a recording of the full session here.