Think outside the books

With self-service and automated solutions changing the accounting landscape, accountants need to look beyond traditional services — and find new ways to engage their clients.

It’s no secret that technological advances are having disruptive impacts across the professional services sector. The good news is that many Australian accounting firms are rising to the challenge and finding innovative ways to ‘think outside the books’.

In a recent Count Member survey, we asked accountants what this phrase means to them and their clients. One message was abundantly clear — according to 75% of respondents, their clients highly value add-on services that go beyond traditional accounting, bookkeeping and tax advice.

So with EOFY just around the corner, we’d like to share some of the ways your firm can think outside the books — and set yourself up for a successful new financial year.

7 ways to build value for your clients

1. Offer more. Build your internal capabilities so you can expand your service offering to your clients. From personal financial planning to business advice in areas like marketing, process improvement or succession management, there are plenty of ways you can make a difference in your clients’ lives. Don’t be afraid to ask your clients what they want from you; surveys are a good place to start.

2. See the whole picture. It pays to look at each client’s financial situation holistically — even for clients who only come to you for routine bookkeeping or tax work. This means understanding not only their business needs but also their personal circumstances and lifestyle goals — and how these all fit together. Once you know what your clients want to achieve financially, you’ll be able to make yourself indispensable to them.

3. Befriend technology. Cloud accounting software doesn’t have to disrupt your business — think of it as an enabler. For instance, today’s software packages can collect live data to give your clients an accurate picture of their financial position in real time — which is something every business client will value. And once you’re on the cloud, you can serve clients no matter where they are in the world, which means your firm can literally go global.

4. Streamline your SMSF admin. Using off-the-shelf SMSF administration products can save you money, and you may be even be able to pass on the savings to your clients. By incorporating this technology into your offering, you’ll also be able to spend less time on SMSF administration, so you can instead focus on developing financial strategies for your clients.

5. Stay in touch. Don’t restrict your engagement with clients to their annual appointments. Keep yourself front of mind for your clients by sending regular newsletters with useful financial tips and legislative updates that might them. Let clients know about any changes in your business, especially when you add new services to your offering.

6. Build your network. Develop two-way referral relationships with other professionals like solicitors, lenders, IT experts or any other service providers your clients may want to access. As well as making life easier for your clients, you might also tap into entirely new revenue streams.

7. Talk to your peers. Other accountants aren’t the enemy, and you can learn a lot from firms with a similar client base and service offering to yours. As you connect with like-minded firms and share knowledge and insights, you’ll soon find how mutually beneficial these relationships can be.

By exploring the possibilities and finding new ways to build value for your clients, they’ll come to see you as more than their accountant — but instead, as a trusted adviser who takes care of all their financial needs.