Firm of the Future Profile: New Wave Business Solutions
Welcome to another in a series of profiles spotlighting the 2016 Firm of the Future finalists. In this new article, we feature Reuben Bergola of New Wave Business Solution, Australia’s winner. Stay tuned in 2017 for more information on how to enter next year’s Firm of the Future contest, and continue visiting our blog often.
Danielle Ernst: Welcome, Reuben! Tell us, what’s the 411 on New Wave?
Reuben Bergola: New Wave is based in a small town called Broadbeach Waters, on the Gold Coast, South East Queensland, Australia. We currently have four employees and serve more than 300 clients, spanning multiple industries, including construction, retail, e-commerce, restaurants and hospitality. We certainly have quite an impressive range, but ultimately, we like to think of ourselves as small business specialists.
DE: What makes New Wave a Firm of the Future?
RB: We’re very forward-thinking and love to use innovative products and technology to help grow our efficiencies so that we can actually focus more on the clients themselves, rather than just telling them what's going on or what has happened in the past. We want to tell them what could happen in the future or what they can do to improve their own efficiencies.
DE: What are some of the solutions, or app partners, you use with clients and in your own business?
RB: Using technology within our firm has become a crucial part of how we deliver our services. For clients, we always try to find a tailored solution depending on their industry, size and budget. We do a lot of testing, picking and choosing, but we do have a few solutions in our bag of tricks that we always come back to, such as Asana, Entryless, Fathom and Square. Using apps can increase efficiency and cut down administrative work by a third, so we always recommend getting on the cloud and taking the time to choose the appropriate solutions.
DE: How are you using technology to help your clients with tax prep and planning?
RB: We leverage off efficiencies provided by cloud accounting software, such as QuickBooks® Online, to access data any time and advise clients on their estimated tax position before the end of the financial year. This allows our clients to budget and know what funds they require to keep on top of their GST, PAYG and Income Tax. Having up-to-date figures takes away the uncertainty that many business owners traditionally had. We can also spend less time reviewing the integrity of the data and focus on assisting with business growth through value-added services, such as business analytics and forward planning.
DE: What is your number one recommendation to your business or individual clients, in regard to tax planning?
RB: My advice to businesses is to ensure that you are getting the most out of your accountant. You want a majority – if not all – of your accounting fees to go towards planning and counsel, and not fixing mistakes in your data file. You can do this by utilizing cloud software and giving your accountant access throughout the year. Spend more time in value-added services and less time on compliance.
DE: More firms are operating on the cloud than ever before, but there are stragglers. What is your advice to clients or other accounting professionals who are hesitant to adopt cloud technologies?
RB: Businesses don’t just want compliance. They want more. If a firm doesn’t move to the cloud now, they are going to get left behind, as the new age of advisors take over the field. There’s going to be greater competition, so start the transition now. Don’t be lazy or think you can’t do it.
DE: How has using real-time data changed the way you work with your clients?
RB: It has definitely made a huge difference in terms of how clients actually perceiving real-time data as an environment. Clients used to come to accountants only when they were in trouble – it was always too late. But, we’ve adapted and will keep on adapting to use the latest technology and leverage real-time data. I believe data is a million times more valuable than what has happened in the past. Now, clients come to us for advice and they don’t have to be scared to approach us, as we’re no longer charging them by the minute.
DE: How did you introduce value pricing to your clients? What was their reaction, and what changes have you seen in the way you collaborate with them?
RB: When I started New Wave, I started our pricing services with fixed fees. I didn’t have many clients at the time, so it was very easy to test out this new approach. We communicated to our clients that fixed fees were better for their own cash flow, as they’ll know exactly what’s going to happen every six months. This pricing structure came naturally to our firm, and it’s the way we will continue to price our services.
DE: What advice would you give those thinking about transitioning from hourly fees to monthly fixed fees?
RB: It's all about maintaining revenue that you are happy with, where you know it's fair. Offering three pricing tiers was a good way for us to present our options to a client. We not only managed to increase our hourly rate, but also now have a stable recurring income. It’s not easy figuring out where the thresholds are for each individual firm, but don’t be afraid to test things out and rejigger, as needed. Have confidence that you’ll be able to do the work. Have confidence in yourself and in your firm.
DE: How do you find new clients, or how do they find your firm?
RB: A number of sources from client referrals, social media and, oddly enough, my gym! We are actually very particular on who we accept as a client. We don't want it to just be a stagnant, boring relationship. When we onboard a client, we physically go to their restaurant or small business and search for areas we can fix. We create an end-to-end structure and identify actions that will help them grow. This is how we add value.
DE: How do you use social media channels to connect with prospects and current clients? Is there one that has been particularly more successful than others?
RB: I run a couple of e-commerce businesses as a side hobby and found Instagram to be the best social media platform in terms of customer interaction. If Instagram works for a product, it can work for a service, too, and it’s actually where we’ve gotten some of our clients. They approach us and say, “We saw you on Instagram. Can we come in and talk to you?” Keep in mind, though, that people don’t want to see stock photos. They want to see a real person, showing parts of their day in a fun and candid way.
DE: What future invention are you most looking forward to?
RB: It would be awesome to have a way to do accounting for anyone in the world beyond the limitations of a video screen, such as via 3D projections like they did with Michael Jackson. Then, I could be there sitting right next to them, but halfway around the world at the same time. That would be quite cool.