Three ways to grow and perfect your accounting practice
From streamlining the client onboarding process to developing a niche practice, there will be many ways to serve your accounting clients more efficiently as Canada moves to a post-pandemic economy
While limiting your scope of practice may seem counterintuitive, there are very good arguments in favour of developing a niche, writes Faye Pang, Canada Country Manager at Xero.
TORONTO – We live in interesting times, economically speaking. As we collectively step out from the shadows of a global pandemic, there is plenty of cause for optimism. As I noted in a previous article, experts have predicted that Canada’s great reopening will lead to an uptick in household spending, increased consumer confidence, and expansion of the economy.
That’s all good news. For the country’s small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), however, this is also a time of unprecedented tribulation. With Statistics Canada reporting the highest inflation in a decade, SMBs — already reeling from the effects of the pandemic and global supply-chain issues — have been hit with yet another challenge.
For accountants who work with business owners, this represents a great opportunity. Faced with both economic uncertainty and the prospect of better times just over the horizon, your clients will need your expertise more than ever. That means there’s no better time to grow and perfect your practice. Here are a few ways you can harness the power of technology to do just that.
Streamline client onboarding
With an ecosystem of more than 1,000 third-party apps, Xero makes it possible for accountants to streamline just about every aspect of their practice, from financial reporting and forecasting to the client onboarding process.
Onboarding new clients should be an exciting prospect, but too often it entails getting bogged down in paperwork. Cloud-based solutions can help automate much of the process, allowing you to send your clients online proposals that they can review, sign, and return to you electronically. Once they do, some digital platforms will also automatically set up a profile for the new client in your accounting software, and will also store a copy of the engagement letter, for compliance purposes.
Use tech to increase efficiency and go paperless
All of your clients, be they new or old, will appreciate increased efficiency — and so will your colleagues within your accounting practice. Over the past 15 months, with the widespread adoption of remote work, most of us have gotten used to Zoom calls and Microsoft Teams meetings. Post-pandemic, your busy SMB clients will be glad to be able to carry on having face-to-face meetings without ever having to come to your office.
And maybe you’ll be spending less time there too. With cloud-based software, you’ll be able to keep all your documents online, which means you’ll be able to send a client or colleague a document or data report from virtually anywhere.
This will save you from drowning in a sea of paper — which is also something your clients will appreciate. No more holding onto (or, worse yet, losing) countless receipts and bills. The right tool will enable them to upload all of those documents directly into their accounting software using a desktop PC, smartphone, or scanner. This will take a lot of pressure off of your clients, and it also spares your firm’s staff the monumental task of sorting through heaps of paper and entering all the data manually at the end of the financial year.
With the widespread adoption of remote work, most of us have gotten used to Zoom calls and Microsoft Teams meetings. Post-pandemic, your busy SMB clients will be glad to carry on having face-to-face meetings without ever having to come to your office. (XERO)
Consider becoming a niche practice
You might already be working within a specific niche, or heading in that direction without even realizing it. Perhaps there are certain types of projects, or clients from one particular sector — agriculture, construction, or real estate, for example — that are consistently more profitable for your firm. Lean into that. While it might seem counterintuitive to grow your practice by limiting your scope, there are very good arguments in favour of developing a niche.
If you do, you might discover that it gives you certain competitive advantages. For one thing, you may find that you gain in-depth knowledge of certain industries, which will give you the authority to deliver sound, sector-specific advice. You’ll also develop a strong sense of the business and regulatory landscapes of those particular industries, so you will be able to devise systems to deliver projects faster.
If you are looking to specialize though, how do you attract the type of clients you’ll need to develop your niche? One idea is to create targeted marketing campaigns that will direct prospective clients to a landing page or microsite for that particular niche. Perhaps the best way to grow your practice, however, is by word-of-mouth; once you have a few satisfied clients, they will surely pass the good word around within their industry.
Faye Pang is the Canada Country Manager at Xero.