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How accountants can serve for the clients of today 

By James Ashford, VP, GoProposal by Sage 

There are professions alive and kicking today that would have been inconceivable 20 years ago. We live in a world of fast paced business models with new and innovative ways of making a living. Just look at the rise of gig economy workers – the vloggers (…like me), the influencers (…many of whom I follow), and the internet-natives whose livelihoods aren’t your standard 9 to 5 (…I wish). These are the zeitgeists – and the clients who you’d think accountants would struggle to wrap their heads around.  

Yet, it’s the traditional professions that are pushing accountants to their limits: builders with new freedom to hand-pick projects, admin staff taking on a side hustle, and enterprises seeing a huge opportunity to scale. 

It’s not the type of profession that’s challenging accountants, but the changes to how we work, driven by the past couple of years of global economic, technological, and environmental disruption. Businesses need to adapt, fast. To do this, they should call on the financial know-how and strategic savvy of accountants. 

Industries thriving, demand for accounting support rising 

Since the start of the pandemic, some professions have enjoyed an explosion in demand driven largely by the shift in human behaviour and customer spending habits. 

The influx of demand for home renovations means that now, many tradespeople can pick and choose which projects drive the most value for their business and command a higher price for them. This growth opportunity has been afforded to those armed with decent financial planning and the support of an accountant. 

The truth is rapid growth is a scary concept for some small business owners, and the thought of ‘doing the books’ alone can be daunting.  As tax becomes ever more complex, small businesses are increasingly turning to accountants for guidance. They understand the importance of working with a trusted advisor who can take their business to the next level, while keeping a handle on their finances and compliance. 

Confidence in accountants 

The small businesses I speak with know the value of working with an accountant; and research by Sage highlights that despite accountants suggesting they feel underappreciated, 91% of UK small businesses rate accountants as critical to their businesses success  

Now, accountants need to convert SMBs confidence into the opportunity to make their true value clearer, showcasing their expertise, to a business community that clearly needs them. 

And the real impact that accountants can make is, helping their clients to earn an income that enables them to be secure and happy, regardless of the disruption going on around us.  

When speaking to new and existing clients, accountants should first be asking their clients what they want to get out of their business. Revealing the end goal by challenging their clients to consider: ‘What would make this year better than last year?’ ‘How can we work together to build a financial model that affords you the lifestyle that you desire?’ ‘What milestones are important to you – is it paying for your daughter’s university, or taking your family on holiday, or being able to buy that dream car?’  

Today, unlocking what matters most to clients is the key to a successful and profitable partnership. Then, it’s up to the accountant to support the client to make their dreams a reality – through human advice, strategic counsel, and the right technology. 

Commanding the true value of accountancy services 

Accountants need to feel empowered to have more open conversations with clients; not just now, but continuously as the world of work changes.  

Technology is freeing up time for accountants to spend with their clients and providing insights that strengthen their ability to solve real problems, no longer solely dependent on those gut feelings.    

In the initial consultations, accountants can use digitised services to help them analyse the client’s business, provide strategic advice, and break down the specific combination of accountancy services they require due to sector demand.  

The part many accountants avoid is the opportunity to show their clients how they will run their services. Being transparent – mapping out the process and sharing what an accountant must do to keep the client’s financial records in check – is something that many accountants miss out in those initial sessions, for fear that the client will see the recipe for success and run with it. Trust me, clients don’t have the time or know-how to do it themselves, but they will value the honesty. 

Accurate insights driven by technology and the power of transparency will ensure accountants have the confidence to charge the real fee for their invaluable services. 

Riding the waves of change  

Selling isn’t just about money. In my experience, accountants need to really get to know their client’s needs, treat them equally and uncover the diamonds – this is the route to happy, successful clients. In 2022 and beyond, the agile accountant will need to serve their clients to the highest level – doing it with passion will shape the client experience to meet whatever wave of change they’re riding.     

By James Ashford, VP, GoProposal by Sage 

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