While accountants and bookkeepers have always been go-to partners for SMBs for accounting and taxes as well as audit preparation and compliance, today’s competitive market is transforming the role financial professionals play in their clients’ business growth. Today, accountants and bookkeepers are becoming trusted business advisors.
According to the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC): “accountants mostly likely hold the role of most trusted advisor and, therefore, to be the most common source of advice.” Similarly, a recent Sleeter Group survey indicated that small- and medium-sized businesses are looking for more strategic advice to complement the financial strategies accountants and bookkeepers already offer.
In other words, many entrepreneurs are looking for accountants and bookkeepers to go further than crunching and watching their numbers—and help them grow their businesses. The same Sleeter Group study showed that SMBs often switch accounting or bookkeeping firms because company management is looking for more proactive business advice.
Many forward-thinking firms are extending their services beyond “simple” accounting and compliance to appeal to the challenges of their top-tier, profitable clients, who are grappling with: increased competition, price-sensitive markets, HR issues, economic slowdowns, lack of marketing and sales management, and poor sales forecasting.
This paradigm shift is currently creating the perfect storm, whereby clients are turning to accountants and bookkeepers for their business acumen—and accounting practioners transitioning to become the firms of the future.
In order for accountants and bookkeepers to become trusted business advisors, they must begin by listening to the issues and warnings signs gleaned over multiple discussions with their clients. They need to ask the cold, hard questions regarding peaks and troughs in sales, what segments of the business are becoming less (or more) profitable), upcoming deals and projects that may impact long-term cashflow, etc.
Furthermore, they can help clients set WoW, MoM and YoY key performance indicators (KPIs), using both accounting software and a customer relationship management solution (CRM), to help clients easily keep track of results and give them the reports they need to make informed business decisions. In a nutshell, as accountants and bookkeepers create a closer link between a company’s financial health and sales management, the more likely they will be able to position themselves as long-term business partner.
Accountants and bookkeepers are also sprucing up their technology know-how to recommend cloud-based technology solutions, such as CRMs, enterprise resource planning software and project management software, to their clients. Their goal here again is to take their roles as a trusted advisor a step further to empower clients in streamlining their internal processes for improved productivity.
It is crucial for accountants and bookkeepers to assert their relevance more than only during end of fiscal periods. Undoubtedly, financial professionals will need to up their game as many industry pundits predict that “94% of what accountants and bookkeepers are performing as tasks right now will be replaced by machine learning and artificial intelligence by 2030.” A staggering statistic indeed. The only way to circumvent this inevitable change is for accounting professionals to reposition thee value they bring to the table.
To make the shift, accountants and bookkeepers need to invest the time and resources to become trusted business advisors and help clients solve their most pressing problems. This means stepping out of their comfort zones: as opposed to only explaining accounting to SMB clients, accounting professionals need to focus on developing specific strategies to ensure their customers’ long-term viability.