Posts

What is the most important thing?

Sorry guys. I missed out posting on Wednesday this last week.

I’ve been putting in lots of hours with my day job recently in preparation for a trip to the US next month with my 18 year old son. My son finished high school last year and is taking a gap year this year before going to university next year. Wow that last sentence certainly had a lot of years in it!

Anyway my son is REALLY into music and he has been saving up to attend Coachella – a music festival being held in Palm Springs, California. He wanted to go with his friends but none had saved up enough cash to go. so being the cool and wonderful dad I offered to go with him. My son has never been overseas before and I’ve never been to the US.

So the above is a long way of saying that I needed to make sure that the wheels are turning while I’m away for 3 weeks. Being self-employed one has to consider such things.

In short – my day job has been getting in the way of my other activities like blogging.

Here is a post that I wrote for MYOB last month which I think you’ll get something from. Hopefully it will make up for my omission during the week 🙂

I’m assuming, if you’re reading this article, that you’re an accountant or at least working in the industry in some capacity.  Let me ask you a question … “As an accountant what is the most important thing you do for your clients?”  Over the years I’ve been given any number of responses to this question.

Some say, “Keep my clients safe & compliant”.

Others say,  “Make their lives easier”.

While many say, “Get them a big tax refund”.

However, the most common response I receive to this fundamental question is, “to add value”. Like most business-speak terms, to add value just rolls off the tongue. It sounds right and makes people who hear it (at least at first) believe that everything is going to be ok and that you’re the right person for the job.

However, what does adding value really mean? We all know what adding means so let’s focus on the value bit. What is value to your client? Is your GEN Y self-employed IT contractor client wanting the same value as your 40+ years TAFE teacher? What about the single mother working two jobs or the construction company owner employing 100 staff?

It’s obvious that value means different things to different people. So how do you determine what is valuable for your clients and prospects? The answer is incredibly simple – you ask them.

A few months ago Thomson Reuters published a book I wrote titled, What do Accounting Clients Really Want?The book is a series of 20 interviews of people who buy accounting services for their respective businesses.  Statistically, of course, a pool of 20 interviews means nothing, however, 20 in-depth personal conversations does.  Overwhelmingly, the people I interviewed want their accountants/advisors to invest in a meaningful relationship with them. They don’t mean the odd lunch and/or drinks after work; but rather a relationship that tells them (i.e. the client) that you have their best interests in your mind and heart. By having a close relationship you can truly determine what is of value to them and what isn’t.

Kym Warner is the CFO of The Coffee Club – a national chain of coffee franchises generating over $320m revenue annually. When I asked her,  “What is the most important quality or attribute you look for in an accountant? Her reply was simple

… for me it’s about the relationship. I want to know that I can build a relationship with them…

Kym relayed the story of her first day as CFO for The Coffee Club and her relationship with her new external accountant.

It’s the relationship that we’ve built. I think the fact that when I started, my second day was the first day of our audit partner; we’ve really built a bunch of knowledge together.  We’ve shared the improvements in the business, so she understands where we’ve come from.  The partner herself is a lovely lady.  Very professional, knowledgeable and commercial. If we have any toing and froing, I can talk openly and honestly with her, which is great, because everything they do has to be reported to their sister firm in Thailand, which is where our investors are based.  I think this partner has a real empathy for my position; she seems to understand the pressures I’m under.  I want our auditors to be honest and ethical, and sensitive enough so my role is not undermined with the board and stakeholders within the business.

It’s the relationship rather than the process that means more to your clients than anything else.  What they are really after is someone who can connect with them.  A conversation with a client over a cup of coffee will do more to deepen the relationship than sitting at a computer in your office.  Don’t believe it?  Why don’t you try it a couple of times – you may just surprise yourself!

Until next time,
James E

Is your head in the cloud yet?

I’m often amazed how technology has changed our lives. When I started my business back in the late 1990’s I used a fax machine almost every day, made regular trips to the bank to deposit & withdraw monies and when things started to build started to hire staff and bought all the necessary computers, networking and software that came with an office of 6 people. When the dot-com crash came I had to downsize dramatically – cut costs wherever I could. Thankfully I survived intact and things started to improve a year or so later.

The above experience taught me a valuable lesson. Only spend money when you have to. The web, and now “the cloud”, offer an amazing array of free and low-cost alternatives to traditional methods of procuring and using products & services. One such area is software. Data storage, secure backups, document management, website analytics, market research, email, diary, international online collaboration & publishing are just a few examples of items I use almost everyday without any charge – completely free.

Now of course I run a one-man band (with the occasional help from one or two close associates) and its easy for me to set myself up in such a way. But I’m convinced that many accounting firms out there aren’t taking advantage of the low-cost environment that the cloud can offer.

Putting aside the usual objections of risk and “what would my clients think?” the cloud can offer accounting firms tremendous cost and flexibility advantages. Do a little reading in the subject – you may just surprise yourself who out there is using the cloud to run at least part of their businesses. A recent study indicated that the sample survey reported around 80% of respondents use the cloud in some way to run their businesses (see http://www.virtela.net/press-room/industry-news/cloud-news/new-study-reveals-80-percent-of-companies-using-cloud-computing-applications-800623031)

In fact there has been an explosion of accounting software available for business and professional firms that is exclusively cloud based. At last count there are around 200 available in the world market today. Here are just a few: Xero, Zoho, Outright, Kashflow, Freshbooks, Ledgerble, Bill.com, OpenBooks, Wave Accounting, Pransform, myERP, AccountRight, Concur, 24SevenOffice, Financial Software Solutions, Liquid, Compleat, Kashoo, TRACT Billing, WorkForceTrack, Priority, Averiware, Acumatica, Tallyzip, Yendo, e-conomic, ERiS, Remotia, Intrix, Skyledger, Clear Books, RSA eBusiness, MyB2B, Pansys, Slingsot Software, iWebNotes, Deskera, Replicon, Ofipro, Chrome River, AppFolio, Bill4Time, Cleanbill liteBooks, Expensify, Texthog Receipt Bank,LiveStream, Captoom, Crunch, Fanurio, RSDataWeb, Point of Sale Software, Digital Invoicing, Centerpoint Fund Accounting, FreeAgent, SurePayrol, Less Accounting,AccountsPortal, Aqilla, Portfolio Genioius, TurningPoint, Twinfield Online, NECS entreeWebExpenses, Merchant Mirror, myTooq, AccountExact, Reporta, Pantonium …

In fact the local (i.e. Australia) favourite MYOB is about to launch their  “Accounts Live” platform in the cloud in the next couple of months.

Maybe its time you put your “head in the clouds” (sorry I couldn’t help myself) for a while and had a think about what this brave new world can offer!

All my best,

James E