How to Become a Firm of the Future by Adapting in a Changing Industry
In this competitive, demanding, technology-driven world, firms will have to change the way they are doing business. Plain and simple, they need to be a Firm of the Future that goes beyond the norm barriers, seizes opportunities and rises to the top.
Is your practice a Firm of the Future? Are you ready to face what’s ahead? Let’s find out through these 3 steps:
Step 1: Get on the Cloud
In the cloud, you can meet client expectations, stay relevant through improved efficiency, achieve greater collaboration, realize more time savings and lower your costs.
Despite the public’s preconceived fears of security and cost, the reality is that the cloud is no less prone to danger than a computer’s hard drive. The cloud represents an inherently elastic, scalable environment where making large capital investments, system maintenance and on-site updates no longer exist.
The numbers speak for themselves. Take a look at the stats generated from a study conducted by Nielsen Consumer Insights for Intuit®:
- 65% depend on the cloud for their back-office needs, including bookkeeping and accounting. That’s a staggering number when you consider that just two years ago, 38 percent of small, midsize and large businesses had adopted the cloud, according to IDC’s U.S. SMB Cloud Adoption Survey.
- 65% use the cloud for invoicing and accepting payments.
- By 2020, Intuit predicts that about 80% of American small businesses will be cloud-adapted, according to an August 2014 “Small Business Success in the Cloud” report in partnership with Emergent Research.
Despite these remarkable statistics, accounting firms are not adapting very quickly. A recent CPA.com study found that only 8% of accounting professionals think the profession is future-ready, today. When you consider that 75% of accounting professionals will be reaching retirement age in 2020, there is a significant amount of work left to be done in order to transition into a Firm of the Future.
That work begins with using QuickBooks® Online Accountant (QBOA) and transitioning your clients to QuickBooks Online (QBO), Intuit’s simple, open, connected platform with more than 1 million subscribers worldwide.
Your clients demand and deserve access to all their information and data anytime, anywhere, and QBO does that. In addition, there are more than 200 apps at your fingertips that integrate with QBO. In fact, the average small-business owner uses 18 apps to run his or her business every day. We encourage you to find which apps are most valuable to your specific needs and habits, and integrate them into your firm.
From accepting payments to payroll to online tax, QBO provides the foundation from which any small business can create the online platform that meets its unique needs.
Step 2: Becoming a Trusted Advisor
Being a trusted advisor means different things to different people, including your clients, prospects and even your own staff and firm. In many cases, the “trusted advisor” status enjoyed by so many CPAs and accountants means that you are respected for your business acumen, above and beyond preparing tax returns or offering other core accounting services. In other words, clients (and prospects) are knocking on your door for you, not the services you necessarily provide.
Whether you’re already offering value or flat-fee pricing, or are on the fence about moving away from hourly billing, the Firm of the Future is compensated fairly for the services it provides. However, with this comes a paradigm-shift away to a client advisory services practice, where value-pricing is expected and services generate additional revenue for your firm.
While the decision on how to structure your billing is, obviously, a firm-by-firm choice, professional advisors to the profession have been backing the benefits of value billing for quite some time.
Think of it this way … when working in the cloud, you become more efficient, and the work you are doing today in the cloud for a client you have served the last three years, is done more quickly than when you did that work the very first time. If you are charging that client hourly, you are charging them less for work that has not decreased in value.
In this scenario, it takes less time to do certain tasks, while also creating ways to help your clients grow their companies, giving them considerable value. It’s time you try value pricing; the work, perspective and advice you provide is worth more than competing with other firms based solely on hourly fees.
When you’re open and transparent about your rates, starting from the very first discussion with your new client, there will be no surprises. You’ll also be surprised by how many of your current clients will adapt, if you demonstrate your value. You can take action now and create a monthly pricing model with low, medium and high monthly fees designed to meet the needs of your small, medium and large clients.
Step 3: Grow Your Practice with Digital Marketing
The days of storefront signs are out and the Internet is in. No longer are clients walking through your front door; instead, they’re searching for you online.
The web is your new lobby, where you connect and engage with current clients and prospects who want to work with a firm that works the way they do: leveraging cloud technologies and using the web to drive customer and overall business growth. If they can’t find you online, they will find someone else who is.
A key component of an online presence is to participate in social media. Here are some inexpensive ways to reach your clients through social networking:
- Update your LinkedIn profile and start engaging in at least a few of the many accounting groups available.
- Go a step further and establish goals, such as answering five questions per week on a help forum, purposing and commenting on a blog, or sharing your point of view.
- Actively participate in online gatherings, such as QuickBooks ProAdvisor Cathy Iconis’ QBOchat on Twitter, building your social brand and reputation.
This will not only help prospective clients find you, but also give you the opportunity to meet others in your field. Building relationships with accounting professionals may lead to referrals and partnerships that result in growth opportunities. The possibilities are endless, so get out there and take action!
Become a Firm of the Future
It’s time to reassess your firm’s goals and plans so that you can begin taking the steps to becoming a Firm of the Future. Use the suggestions and leverage the examples and resources to help you (1) Get on the Cloud, (2) Become a Trusted Advisor and (3) Get Connected. If you don’t think you have time to tackle all three, start with one and create one associated goal. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can improve your practice management, find prospects and retain more clients.
The Firm of the Future is NOW.