Technology has been a huge boon for accountants, automating many of the mundane tasks that once bogged us down.
With the help of new tools, we’re finally starting to combat the issue of accountants being held hostage to the glorified data-entry role. Thanks to automation, those things that we could do with our eyes closed no longer require hours and hours, and there’s a resulting time and cost saving which all of us have felt the benefit of.
But there’s a technology trap waiting for accountants, and many are falling for it.
TECHNOLOGY IS ONLY HALF THE BATTLE
That trap is an expectation that this excellent new technology can, on its own, make you a trusted advisor. That simply having the right software and using it with clients converts you from a typical accountant into one who adds direct value to the lives and businesses of your clients.
That’s not what the technology does. It simply gives you the data to start a discussion with your client.
When I set up My Accountancy Place, we chose two pieces of tech that we thought every client would need and use: Xero and Receipt Bank.
Xero provided a consistent accounts system with a simple cloud-based user interface (and features such as automatic bank feeds), and Receipt Bank a consistent expense system which addressed the one weak spot in the chain. The one thing that the accountant was still reliant on the client for. You didn’t need them for bank transactions because of the bank feeds, and you didn’t worry about sales invoices being raised because what client avoids raising an invoice? It was just expenses that remained a problem because you were always waiting for the client to find the time. Receipt Bank filled in that piece of the jigsaw so the whole accounting system was connected.
As we implemented this tech in our own accounting business, we saw that the real benefit of automation isn’t just the time saving: it’s the consistency and reliability. Things aren’t dropping off the map the moment someone is sick or busy or on holiday: it’s all done consistently and accurately, every time.
HOW TO DELIGHT
When we presented Receipt Bank to one of our clients, they said, “You’ve just told me about a piece of technology costing £9 a month which I used to pay someone £18,000 a year to do.” This is powerful tech, and we and our clients love it.
And yet whilst these tools streamline the presentation of the data you can give to your client, we’re always aware that our role, more so than ever, is to provide the advice that impacts our clients’ businesses.
Our clients can now manage their costs, see reports quickly, and they no longer wait days and days after month end to do so. But reporting in and of itself does not constitute advice or advisory services.
THE JOURNEY TO TRUSTED ADVISOR
It starts with really educating them on the purpose of good accounting: what it’s for, and what difference it can make. It’s about tracking profitability and making sure they can are in the loop. Does your client truly understand how to use the reporting that they have access to? Have the systems been set up in such a way that they make the business more streamlined and profitable?
In the old days, when a client rang up and presented a problem or an opportunity, we’d take out pen and paper – or an Excel spreadsheet – and we’d think our way through it. We’d come up with a solution to what they faced, and we’d do it quickly because of our experience and expertise.
That’s what our clients expected and needed from their accountant. That’s what they still need, regardless of the level of technology you introduce into their business. You are in a privileged place, and you’ve got to use your thinking brain.
Don’t let the technology make you lazy – and don’t put expectations on the tech which it cannot fulfil. Let it help you support and educate your clients in a way you were never able to in the past.
That’s how you make a difference.