Whether it’s food, toys, hairstyles, or cultural obsessions, trends will always come and go. When it comes to business, some trends disappear within a few years. But others transform the way we work.
Fast-growing accounting firms make it a priority to stay on top of the latest business trends, and savvy firms are those that can see the bigger picture and adopt new practices as they emerge. Progressive firms are adopting these trends and transforming how accountants work on a daily basis.
Let’s dive a bit deeper into the notion of a virtual accounting firm.
The virtual firm
Thanks to mobile devices and cloud computing, geographic barriers are not only eroding; they’re being eliminated. This trend is particularly relevant to small- and mid-sized firms. Video and conferencing technologies, such as Skype, WebEx and Join.me, mean it’s no longer necessary to be physically present to meet with clients face-to-face.
Along these same lines, a host of internet-based applications make it possible to employ virtual employees. With services from Dropbox, Google Apps and Box, team members can work on and share files instantly.
Smartphones, email, and instant messaging apps such as Slack make it possible to connect and collaborate with employees from anywhere throughout the workday.
This shift toward the virtual office is true of any profession adopting cloud technologies, and this shift is affecting an accounting firm’s ability to expand. Since clients can connect with their accountant from anywhere, firms can increase their workforce without having to increase their overhead or the size of their office.
Small firms that wish to take on additional staff during peak seasons — such as tax time, for example — can hire seasonal help and then pare down afterward.
Accountants who enjoy working from home, can work remotely. Those who prefer the more traditional environment will likely be pushed toward working at larger firms that still maintain large in-house staff.
In the same vein of becoming a virtual firm, the migration to the cloud is slowly but steadily being adopted by small businesses.
Encouraging clients to migrate their bookkeeping data from the traditional desktop software to a cloud accounting solution, like QuickBooks Online, is in your best interest as an accountant. Why? Because when clients hand over their books for you to work from, you’re starting with with accurate, organised data rather than a shoebox full of receipts. This gives you the chance — and the extra time — to evolve your services from data entry to a more overarching financial advisory role.
Turning back-end work into advisory work
Cloud software has opened up incredible opportunities for accountants to offer additional services. The need for tedious manual labor is quickly being replaced by something new: the opportunity for accountants to strategically think about their clients’ financial pitfalls and offer ways to help. Accountants will require specialised knowledge about particular industries.
As accountants gain anytime, anywhere access to a shared database of their clients’ information, they will be able to switch to an advisory role. As consultants, accountants can use all the information they’ve acquired about their clients’ personal, financial and business situations and offer advice to create better outcomes and avoid problems.
This trend is only just starting to take hold. As it becomes more prominent, accountants who are focused solely on compliance are bound to lose their competitive edge in gaining and retaining clients.
The biggest impact of this trend will be on the relationships between accountants and their clients. As clients increasingly rely on their accountants to provide a quick analysis of their real-time financial data, accountants will step into a longer-term, more profitable role.
However, this new advisory opportunity not only requires innovation, it requires new responsibilities for accountants. Soon, the most successful accountants will need to be well versed in conducting cash flow analysis, implementing budget-forecasting systems and providing estate and retirement planning.
The world of accounting is ever-changing. Are you among the progressive firms setting these trends?
The world of accounting and bookkeeping is constantly evolving. Are you among the progressive firms setting these trends? Or will you risk falling behind?