From mandatory to magical: The transformation of the accounting industry

Book of Magic

The most exciting thing for me about working with accountants at this time is the fact that the industry started crawling out of the “boring” cave and is now emerging into a more beautiful place to do business.

Recently I watched “Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview” on Netflix.  I was fascinated to notice that he used words like:

  • Captivating
  • Fell in love
  • Miraculous
  • The germ of an idea
  • It was obvious
  • Feeling
  • Heart

Similarly, reading Rod Drury’s post “Accounting is at the next inflection point”, you see a similar theme. The post is filled with words such as:

  • Dreams
  • Heart
  • Light a fire
  • Beautiful
  • Magical

Xero’s tag line is “Beautiful accounting software”, and I remember Andy Lark commenting on this at Xerocon London 2016.

“It’s a beautiful product experience,” he said, as well as, “We actually love things.”  Coffee, tech, business, people.

Xerocon 2016 we love things

We’ve all seen what happened with Apple.  How it went from Steve Jobs’ brainchild computer idea, to a product that fits in your pocket and on which you may be reading this blog right now.  What Jobs recognised is that product is capable of transforming things, and in the case of Apple, the entire world.  In the case of cloud accounting, product is transforming an entire industry: and by extension, the entire world.

Accounting may be just an industry on its own, but the work accountants do affects the people, the businesses, and the ideas that change the world.  And the transformation at the heart of accounting is moving us from what was once a boring, dull, mandatory service to something that lives and breathes and excites and inspires.

Accounting doesn’t have to be boring.

You don’t have to be boring.

You’re not boring.

You have incredible, non-boring stories to tell

One of our clients recently published a blog post on this very topic: “Why your accounts and tax return are far from boring.”  This came out of a conversation we had with them in which he was sharing stories of clients who were able to keep an entire farm in the family (one that had been owned for hundreds of years going back to parents and grandparents and great-grandparents) because their accountants helped them get the funding they needed.

You the accountant have incredible, non-boring stories to tell. The business idea that came to fruition at the multi-million level rather than being lost amongst a myriad of others. The business owners who didn’t get a divorce, after all. The business partners who went their separate ways, and each became more profitable as a result. Families reconciled. Homes saved. Lives changed.

And all the technology is merely a tool in your expert, non-boring hands to help you deliver those stories and see them come to life.

The critical stage in this transformation is that you don’t lose the heart of what accounting really is, what it does, and how it changes lives.

Steve Jobs commented on this same principle as it related to his product:

“…So the people that can make the company more successful are sales and marketing people, and they end up running the companies. And the product people get driven out of the decision making forums. And the companies forget what it means to make great products. And the product genius that brought them to that monopolistic position gets rotted out by people who have no conception of a good product vs a bad product. And they usually have no feeling in their hearts about wanting to help the customers.”

This is the very thing you must avoid in your accountancy firm: the danger that technology is relied on to the point that you lose the beauty behind it. The best way to do that is to combine together the beautiful technology and your powerful, expert advice. 

Combine beautiful technology with brilliant accounting advice

One of our clients recently invested in finance director training and financial controller training for the senior members of his accounts team.  As a result his team are having better conversations. Focusing on more than just the accounts. Sending out videos in advance of client meetings so that the meetings are more powerful. Sharing little extras, such as a small business legal package, that their clients need.

(Incidentally, I’ve had so many requests for “where do I get this finance director training” that we’re talking to the experts on how we can deliver that for you.  If you want to get notified of that, drop me a line.)

The key is to remember who you are without the technology.  How would you advise a client if the entire internet went down? What would you draw on the back of a napkin? What kind of business plan would you put together at the pub without an iphone handy?

Start there – and then use this amazing technology to apply all that brilliant, expert advice to your clients. Go beyond the basics of setting up Xero or another cloud accounting system that you and your clients have access to. That’s just the standard these days.  What else can you do? Consider just some of the following:

  • Instant alerts to clients via CrunchBoards
  • Custom graphics or infographics for clients based on industry benchmarks
  • Personal videos sharing key client information
  • Slack teams for clients to connect daily with their accountants (note: this is what our accountants set up for us and I love it!)
  • Xero update emails targeted by niche
  • How-to videos on your own website
  • Finance director whiteboard training on YouTube

I could go on for days – and these are all real, live examples of what our accounting firm clients are doing to connect with their own clients.

And don’t merely borrow someone else’s ideas: come up with your own.

Technology is powerful.  Technology is amazing and exciting and beautiful and even magical, and it is changing the accounting industry for good.  So use it.

Use your head and your technology together, and your clients (and future clients) will see for themselves how incredibly un-boring accounting is.  How their accountants can do things in marketing that actually give them new business ideas.

That’s where the excitement is.  That’s where the magic is.

Enjoy the transformation.