Why Accountants Should Be Their Client's Business Partners
Our clients rely on us for our analytical problem-solving skills, financial management insight and clear-headed decision making. Yet, in order to be most effective in this role, we need to have access to a large amount of information or data, as well as work with the client’s data in a structured manner in order to be most effective.
What’s the issue? The data – accounting, financial, tax, banking, payroll, compliance, legal and operational – is often spread out all over the place. As a result, we are only as effective as the data we can assess, manage or manipulate at one time.
Traditionally, we have tried to solve these problems by obtaining access to our client’s data that resides on their servers. We all know about this and it is a cumbersome process, at best. QuickBooks® files, payroll returns, tax returns and account reconciliations are likely scattered across networks and computers. Besides being frustrating, this setup hurts our strategy to work with the data in a structured, logical manner. It works to a point, but prevents us from really providing valuable insights to our client because it’s always after-the-fact and the data is spread across different places.
Solution: Live in the Cloud!
The accounting solutions and information we need, including financial accounting, tax, payroll, planning, document management, project/team/task management and CRM, are all available in the cloud.
When we develop capabilities using cloud solutions and design offerings, as well as solutions and business proposals that solve the problems we are trying to help our clients with, we start to become a critical team member for the our client’s company. The beauty of all of this data in the cloud is that the data syncs in real time. While the payroll system is updating accounting, banking is updating cash and financial accounts, including credit cards, loans and PayPal. It does not matter whether you are interfacing with the data on a laptop, an iPad, Android phone or on a browser on a Wi-Fi-enabled airplane.
Even though the cloud has been around for a while, working in this environment with dynamic, real-time results is still new and different to most accountants and their clients. When we can literally have the data we need right in front of us at the time we need it, we can use it to move beyond transactional/tactical and after-the-fact delivery to become the kind of strategic and long-term business partner who is relied on to deliver this type of service consistently.
Looking Beyond Real-Time Data
The cloud is great, but real-time data, on its own, just isn’t enough. What’s missing is the “human” element. By developing our expertise in the cloud, we can literally transform the relationships we have with our clients and become a valued member of the team. Think about it. Not only did we develop the integrated solution, but we also have the expertise to apply it to the client’s specific situation and objectives. On top of that, no one else knows their business like we do!
The bottom line is to change the way you’re doing business. You are in a prime position to transform your practice and create a deep relationship with your clients, if you find them asking you about the following topics instead of asking you to only review financial statements:
- Where their business is headed
- What types of products they make and which are the most profitable. Which ones should be dropped? Should they launch a new business line? Is their pricing correct?
- The innovation behind their core products
- The types of customers they service – how to get more, how to deal with clients who don’t pay on time and other related topics
- The types of problems they encounter and how they are trying to solve those problems
- Staffing issues
- Cash flow issues
None of these have anything to do with accounting or balance sheets! Instead, clients want someone to come alongside them and to help them look at these issues as a true business partner. The most logical person to do that, as well as help them look to the future and make better business decisions, is you, their accountant. We don’t usually do that; instead, we usually only focus on the books.
Using Numbers to Tell a Story
Clients will assume you know the numbers – that’s why they hired you. But that isn’t why they will keep you or recommend you to others.
You have to be able to tell the story that their numbers tell and help them make informed decisions based on those numbers. You also have to use the numbers as background to get them into a conversation about their business. Use your financial acumen to help them make much more meaningful, impactful decisions.
Remember, too, that the best part is that you don’t have to have all the answers to questions clients ask; they aren’t expecting you to have all those answers immediately. What they would rather have is a partner – someone they can discuss the business with in terms that are important to them. Instead of just saying, “I just work on your QuickBooks file,” the combination of the cloud and your new way of thinking allows you to completely transform your relationships with your clients. They will never go to anyone else because you will become such a valued partner.
I guarantee that your work/life balance will also change when you take these steps to transform your practice. It’s simple. Because you can work on cloud applications whenever and wherever you want or need to, you will get more control over your schedule. As a result, you’ll have more time to focus on clients and building your own practice.
In future posts, we will talk more about specific offerings, technology, packaging, staffing needed to deliver the service, how to build and lead virtual teams and other important components that help you become … a true business partner to your clients.