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Guess what, accountants: You’re doing great.

Oct 9, 2015

Having read this article on “Why law and accounting firms struggle to innovate”, I thought it was about time for a little encouragement.

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Accountants and accounting firms get a pretty bad rap most days. Let’s face it: sometimes you give it yourself.  “Oh, well, that’s because we’re accountants,” you say.  “We’re not keen on change anyway”, or “Yes, accounting is pretty dull.”

Actually, it’s not dull at all.

The truly game-changing Xero, as well as the upswing in the economy, have been responsible for some of the change of outlook.  When I attended Xerocon last year, I was amazed at the way they had turned an accountancy conference into a technology and innovation conference.  Xerocon is – let’s face it – cool.

And the accountants we’re working with – and talking to – at the Profitable Firm are keen to change. They are excited about making the most of technology, understand what’s best for their clients, use the latest and greatest, make the most of social media – and yes, make more profit whilst doing so.

What you do for your clients isn’t dull, either.  You help people start businesses. Buy their first home (or second, or third).  Take time off.  Keep the family farm.  Develop that new product which makes life easier for people with life threatening illnesses.  There is nothing dull about that.

In many ways, the article I referenced above is right.  If accountancy firms don’t innovate, they will be left behind.

But, this week, I just felt like there was enough doom and gloom, and enough of the “you’re doing this all wrong” mentality.

Let’s talk about what you’re doing right.

You are willing to innovate.

So many accountants I talk to are willing, even excited about innovation. They just don’t have a clue where to begin – and this is an area which, if you just leap in without looking, you could waste a lot of time.

So they’re looking around. Attending events and webinars. Downloading ebooks and white papers. Listening. Sharing ideas. Hiring consultants and coaches and mentors.  And trying new things!

Well done at being open.  Stay on the lookout.

You’re charging fixed fees instead of billable hours.

The Globe and Mail article says, “The biggest factor is that professional service firms are driven primarily by billable hours and any time someone is not billable they are seen as not adding value. This means that in order to innovate someone has to “stop adding value” by not being billable.”

Actually, what I’ve seen is that most of you aren’t billing by the hour anymore. You may be tracking time by the hour, so you know where your time is going and whether you’re spending 40 hours on this client or 4 hours on that one, but your clients want to know what it’s going to cost, so you’ve provided that for them.

Good job. Keep it up.

You’re incorporating technology into everything you do.

I’ve got multiple firms who are appointing a “cloud technician” or a “technology specialist” (or some other cool title) in their firm. This person is responsible for all the software – Xero, Receiptbank, Chaser, Google apps, and more.  They’re young, excited about technology, and are great with the clients.

This shows me that accountancy firms are waking up to the fact that technology is not a part of what you do – it’s integral to your business, and to its success.

Good work.  Keep taking care of your team and technology.

You’re increasing your marketing efforts.

Naturally, I’m more aware of this because we’re a marketing agency for accountants, but the very fact that we exist and most accountants I speak to want to get started right away, means that you’ve realised marketing is not an optional extra.

It’s not a few Google ads and a half-page advert in the local paper – it’s something you do every day, every month, throughout the year, consistently.

It’s stackable, duck by duck.

And the most exciting thing to me is that this content-and-design approach we’ve been promoting for years is really kicking in the results.

One of my clients in the States told me this week that after we custom-created the Awesome 8 concept for him, he’s got new clients who spent $2k per year with their previous accountant now spending upwards of $30k per year with them (their new accountants).  It’s simple, it’s easily understandable, and you can charge more for it.

Keep marketing. (It’s working.)

The future is looking – at least a little bit – bright.

As one of the presenters in the ‘Future Proofing’ session at AccountingWeb’s PEP15 conference a few weeks ago, I took a little issue with the terminology of future proofing. Not only is it not possible to make sure your firm is “proofed” against the future – why would you want that? Why do you want to shore up, build tall walls and a moat, and hide in your castle from the future?

Many firms I’m speaking to are starting to peek out the castle windows and realise that the crowds gathering round the castle are not the enemy, coming to fight and destroy – but future clients, who would love to come in and look around and stay a while.

The future is bright. Go ahead and be excited.