Trends Shaping the Accounting Business
What trends will have the biggest impact on the way accounting businesses are run over the next decade? Here are five trends to keep a close eye on.
Advances in technology have helped accountants become more efficient. Gone are the days when the only way to find an old document was by digging in the file room! Today, key documents can be securely stored on a Cloud platform and easily accessed by collaborators anywhere, any time.
Beyond improved file storage, technology integrations offer an opportunity to connect your software programs for data-sharing, business intelligence, and optimal workflows.
Takeaway: Begin with strategy first. Despite the “new and shiny” factor inherent in any cutting-edge solution, technology is simply one of your tools. Consider how it will accelerate and support your firm’s growth, deliver superior value to your clients, and position you for smoother integration with emerging solutions in the future. Identify the functionality that’s mission-critical for your practice, as that will eliminate distractions and structure your decision-making process. Remember that you don’t have to do this alone – do your research, then connect with the experts who can help.
- Mobile workforce
By incorporating mobile solutions, accounting firms can boost employee productivity and responsiveness. As Millennials demand flexible work schedules, offering location-independent work arrangements can be a significant factor in attracting and retaining younger professionals. The growing popularity of telecommuting and co-working spaces supports that trend.
Takeaway: Flexibility in when and how work gets done can be a valuable bargaining chip, especially with Millennials. This trend may require you to shift your focus towards creating new accountability standards and expectations, but it will reward you with a loyal and creative workforce.
- Focus on holistic client service
Accountants are uniquely positioned at the cross-roads of major decisions. As such, they are natural trusted business advisors. Although traditional accounting and tax preparation services are quickly becoming commoditized, new and unique services will help accountants stay relevant.
The new approach requires that accountants learn more about the full range of client needs and align resources to address them. This, in turn, demands a skill-set that goes beyond simply “doing the numbers”. You and your staff must become proficient at demonstrating the value proposition and creating deep trusting connections with clients.
Takeaway: Train and mentor your team to recognize and nurture business and relationship opportunities. As you make hiring decisions, think strategically about collective team expertise. Look for talent that will serve your client-base in various specialty areas that will make your firm’s service offering difficult to duplicate.
As the cost of experienced professionals increases, accounting firms are looking to outsource specialized functions that are needed infrequently or that don’t require extensive accounting knowledge.
Takeaway: Consider the best and highest use of time for yourself and your staff. If you identify tasks or processes that don’t add significant client value, consider outsourcing them.
- Shift to value-based pricing models
It may not be common in the accounting industry yet, but a shift away from the traditional hourly billing is disrupting the marketplace. Historically, the traditional billing model that charges by the hour has left accountants with only two ways to grow revenues. They could increase the number of hours they worked, or they could increase hourly billing rates. Today, there is an emerging option that approaches the problem differently.
Some firms are beginning to look at pricing in terms of value delivered. They position their pricing structure as a key differentiator. The new value-based pricing allows them to promise no surprises on the bill. This approach also encourages increased access to the professionals on the team, which can improve long-term outcomes for the client because they impose no financial penalty for asking an extra question.
Takeaway: Consider offering your clients various pricing options based on the service level and complexity of the project. Take a hard look at the value you deliver and consider how that value can be communicated to current and prospective clients. This approach may enable you to stop watching the clock and focus on delivering great results, which serves your client and boosts your revenues at the same time.