It’s A New Era of Expectations
The SMB and accounting tech ecosystems are booming, to say the least. Even experts in the field struggle to keep up at times, so it’s not surprising that small business owners lack the time to take into account all of the solutions out there, much less to put them into place.
Given that you’re a trusted advisor entrenched in the financial well-being of your clients, it’s a logical conclusion that this responsibility would fall into your hands.
There’s a long-held perception (or stereotype, perhaps) about the accounting industry – one which involves massive physical ledgers, stacks and stacks of paper, calculators, filing cabinets, a heckuva lot of manual data entry, and constant questions about how to code charges on a company credit card.
While some of these are still in play, the profession as a whole finds itself in a unique position.
It’s evolving, and in a big way. The days of stoic bean counting alone are on the way out, and have been replaced with heightened expectations and more opportunity within engagements.
Enter the age of the tech-enabled accountant. An advisor of cutting edge solutions. A strategic partner for business-building initiatives.
That’s cool. That’s sexy. But for some, it may be a challenge to connect the dots between tech solutions and practice growth, but the relationship is very real and quite direct. If you fall into that camp, step back and ask yourself if you can find internal and external opportunities to:
- Integrate software solutions
- Streamline and centralize processes, like bill payments
- Decrease turnaround times
- Better use internal resources
- Increase data accuracy
- Migrate to cloud solutions
- Enhance data security and integrity
- Train your staff or clients on the tools they already use
- Improve client satisfaction and retention
- Shift away from billable hour pricing models
- Migrate to high-value services
Chances are you answered “yes” to at least one of these, but how does technology come into play? And is this something that your clients actually want?
You’re an accountant. You do accounting. You keep books clean and file client tax returns, right? Not so fast.
SMBs are becoming increasingly reliant on technology to manage and grow their own businesses, and their expectations of you follow suit.
In fact, 60% of small businesses attribute increased revenue to technology, and another 60% feel that technology allows them to compete with larger companies(Source: Office.com).
Sure, you’ll still find yourself doing the accounting essentials for your clients. Tax returns, audits, payroll, etc. But businesses are increasingly looking for their accountant to extend their services into the realm of tech.
Not only does it benefit you to take advantage of this opportunity, but it also may not be a choice in the future. Young accountants and current accounting students are pushing the industry in this direction, and will bring with them the skills of digital natives. What this means is that your firm will need to up its game to remain competitive and relevant.
University curricula are adopting technology as a core educational competency, and with the arrival of credentials such as the CITP, not only do current practitioners need to be mindful of the upcoming professionals, but also shift focus to attracting such talent to their firms.
If you’re still skeptical, you may be surprised to learn that according to anAccounting.org study, Information Technology Accountant has the 3rd highest median salary in the accounting industry, behind only corporate controllers and Accounting professors. So you can bet that those studying accounting and have a knack for technology will flock to such lucrative sub-disciplines.
In fact, According to AccounTemps, CFOs rank information technology as the 2nd most desirable attribute for potential accounting and finance hires, so it’s a safe assumption that ambitious graduates will bring spades of this to the interview table when they enter the workforce.
The Business Reality
Small businesses are experiencing firsthand the benefits of technology, with 60 attributing increased revenue to technology. And another 60 percent feel technology allows them to compete with similar size and/or larger companies.
They see the opportunities for streamlining operations and extending their reach, but they also see technology as an equalizer. Large companies used to have the advantage of technology and tools unavailable to the SMB market, but with the advent and proliferation of affordable SaaS solutions, these benefits are increasingly slipping away.
Combine that with the capabilities of the cloud and API development, and both data and product/service reach has fundamentally broken though all geographical barriers, opening up enormous opportunities for small businesses.
Within this new reality, what are companies actually looking for in an accountant?
According to the Sleeter Group, of clients already utilizing accounting services:
- 70% Believe their accountant is current or behind the technology curve
- 45% Require or prefer an accountant who is proactive in helping them plan and implement technology changes.
- 76% Said their accountant isn’t proactive in helping them plan and implement technology changes.
- 55% Want technology recommendations from their accountant.
Those numbers are compelling – enough to hopefully make you take note. But for the untapped resources, the businesses not yet utilizing accounting services, the expectation is even higher:
- 85% require or prefer an accountant who is proactive in helping them plan and implement technology changes.
- 80% want technology recommendations from their accountant.
SMBs are taking note of the capabilities of technology, and for those lacking in tech savvy, you’re the ideal person to help bring their business into this century. For those already ahead of the curve on adoption, their expectation would be that you meet or exceed their expertise in order to guide them into the new ecosystem of emerging technologies and business models.
In our recent e-book, The Value-Added Practice we dig deeper into the tools and going beyond Excel and QuickBooks. Download it here!