Chaos has a tendency to reveal the strengths and weaknesses of systems already in place. This principle applies to accounting firms as much as it does to anything else, and now is the perfect time for analysis and recalibration. There are most likely aspects of your company that have helped you remain resilient, while other aspects need to be updated and strengthened.
In this context, our Australian based Senior Account Manager James Hoare hosted a webinar, with guest speakers Gareth Bryant, Managing Director of Interactive Accounting, and Lauren Crawford, Regional Partner Success Team Manager from Receipt Bank. Together, they discussed elements that have been working for accounting firms, and identified actionable areas of future-proofing, to help build firms transition into the new normal. Here are just a few of the points they touched upon:
Adopt a holistic advisory focus for the future
Interactive Accounting is unique in the fact that they don’t have a history of being compliance-only. Although Gareth Bryant is a self-described ‘tax-nerd’, the firm was built with advisory at its core. Compliance work is still important, but businesses right now need more than that. A more holistic approach, he says, helps businesses grow.
Like Kinder Pocock, Interactive Accounting spent the first few weeks of the crisis reaching out to all their clients, including the compliance-only clients, to talk to them about what they needed going forward. They used a traffic light system to rank their clients based on urgency and need, and took time to work through their list. Consistent check-ins were important, as the situation for clients could change rapidly and without warning as local lockdown regulations impacted different industries.
In this context, their rigid pricing structure has temporarily gone out the window. While Interactive Accounting has previously been very careful about offering services at a set price, both Gareth and Lauren agree that now is the time to go above and beyond. Interactive Accounting has been flexible with the services and packages they offer, so that all their clients are supported through this time, Receipt Bank is offering new customers a 30-day Streamline trial for free, and Spotlight Reporting has extended our trial from 28 days to 60 days for business owners, franchises, and NFPs.
Go digital and future-proof your firm
Going digital is the most important thing you can do right now to future-proof your firm. And it’s not just firms who are going down the digital path—various businesses across all industries have found technological offerings to supplement, and even temporarily replace their primary services during this time. Many gyms for example have begun streaming home workout videos, and will continue this beyond the pandemic. Restaurants have begun creating online menus for delivery services while their doors remain closed, and some have even temporarily moved to cloud kitchens to reduce costs and maximise profit.
A high level of cloud adoption meant that Spotlight Reporting were able to move all their workers home within 24 hours, as the various territories we operate in went into lockdown. Similarly, while Interactive Accounting prefer being office-based, they found that productivity did not decrease while working from home, and cloud technology meant that teams were as connected as ever. Going forward, they’re considering more flexible working arrangements for employees—a positive outcome for a difficult situation.
Invest in the right tools for you and your clients
Because more people are working from home than ever before, the importance of technology, and online tools that keep people connected, has skyrocketed. Lauren says that interest in Receipt Bank’s services has increased, simply because when “you can’t meet your advisor to drop your shoebox off, what do you do?”
A lot of businesses have a little more time on their hands right now, she says, so it’s a good time to implement new software. Investing in the tools you already have is a good way to prepare for the future, and people are doing just that. Spotlight Certification numbers have seen an increase of 165% over this time last year, as people use their time in lockdown learning how to maximise the value of our tools.
Communicate effectively to reduce workload
As various governments around the world released stimulus schemes to keep businesses afloat throughout the crisis, accountants have been bombarded with questions and requests from their clients. An easy way to lessen this load is to create educational resources for your client base. Blog articles, Loom videos, a support app—invest some time in getting queries out of your inbox, so you can focus on more demanding tasks.
Mass communication through eNews and social media pages will keep clients engaged, especially if the information you’re providing is interesting and relevant. Now is a good time to increase the frequency at which you communicate as well—not only will this lessen the amount of individual questions you have to respond to, but your clients will appreciate being kept in the loop.
As Gareth points out, this period will show you the true resilience of your business model. You’ll either come out of this time stronger, or identify shortcomings you can work on. But at the end of the day, what the future looks like in part is up to you. Embrace the fear of change, be proactive, and make those important decisions that will let your firm hit the ground running on the other side.
This article is a write-up of a recent webinar Spotlight Reporting hosted. For more information, and to watch the full recording, click here.