Accounting firms all over the world are embracing the change that comes with the advent of technology. From switching to sustainable business practices to adopting digital technologies, accounting firms are no longer your traditional bookkeepers managing a stack of paper bills and bank statements.
According to a recent survey conducted by Sage, out of the 3000 accountants surveyed, 90% of them believe there has been a cultural shift in accountancy and 85% of them agree that the profession needs to pick up the pace of technology adoption if they want to remain competitive.
If you are an accounting firm looking for ways to make your business profitable and reduce overhead costs, here are some straightforward business development ideas. These can help you stay on top of your work, boost productivity and help scale your business. In this post, we will be addressing the following concerns and needs:
- Why should accounting firms pursue innovation?
- How can accounting firms improve their business?
- 9 business development ideas for accounting firms
- How can accounting firms simplify complex business processes?
Why should accounting firms pursue innovation?
We all have come across the adage, ‘slow and steady wins the race’ and it probably did make sense a few decades ago when companies grew at a slower pace. Bookkeeping was mostly about tallying finances and was limited to handling accounts for mom-and-pop stores. The success mantra for accounting firms today would be, ‘Race faster and be more consistent’.
Here are the 5 main reasons why accounting firms should pursue innovation and adopt business development strategies:
- It is predicted that by 2020, 50% of the global workforce will be dominated by millennials. If you’re looking to scale your business, you need to cater to the needs of these clients and their preference for faster and innovative digital solutions. It’s time to make the switch from paper-based statements to online files and documents.
- Switching to cloud-based business solutions benefits both you and your client. Everybody has access to important data at all times and it minimizes dependencies. If you’re still using offline documents to manage your client data, give it a thought again.
- Time is money. You cannot be spending hours entering data manually in spreadsheets when this can be easily automated. Not to forget the errors that come with manual data entry.
- Online collaboration enables people to connect and engage in real-time. This is even more important for accounting firms where the need to have consistent communication with the client is extremely important. This is of increasing importance if you're looking to expand your business globally and target clients based outside your location.
- An accountant’s role has evolved from being a mere bookkeeper to a financial advisor. Accountants need reporting tools that can provide in-depth and real-time business insights and access to advanced accounting practice management solutions. Traditional ERP systems, however, are not equipped to meet these demands. A cloud-based centralized ERP solution like Taimer, on the other hand, is built to support the growing needs of accountants in the digital era.
9 business development ideas for accounting firms
1. Build strong client relationships
Who is your most valuable asset? Your clients, of course! You need to have a central database with all client information that you can access anytime, from anywhere. Details regarding an ongoing deal, recent and past activities, communication history, etc. are crucial for customer acquisition and retention.
A CRM system or customer relationship management system can organize all your client data in one place. You can get a complete record of your customer interactions, which can be leveraged to grow your practice. Unlike a spreadsheet or an excel file, all this information is easily accessible and you can retrieve any data you want in just a few clicks.
2. Track time and resources
Accounting firms manage taxes, payroll, company expenditure, cash flow and multiple other accounting services that are critical to any business.
If your firm handles such complex processes for multiple clients, you need a system in place to track the time and resources spent in managing these services, and a way to track billable and non-billable hours. This data can be very helpful in prioritizing customers which are more profitable for your business and to make better estimates in the future.
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3. Automate manual processes
One of the reasons why most accounting and CPA firms struggle with managing billable utilization is because of the amount of time their employees spend on manual and administrative tasks.
Precious billable hours get wasted on tasks such as, tracking work hours manually and logging them in spreadsheets every hour. Another example would be when employees have to manually keep track of their client data and task progress. All this can be easily avoided by investing in digital solutions such as a time tracking software or a task management system. Similarly, having a CPQ software can help simplify complex product pricing and quoting process.
4. Create a culture of online collaboration
Work gets done faster when there is room for communication and collaboration. While emails are a great medium for communication, it can be time-consuming for accounting firms. A lot of time gets wasted in the back and forth, and important emails are sometimes lost in spam. Also, accounting firms have to deal with a lot of documents and resources, which again should be easily accessible by both the customer and the accountant at all times.
Collaboration tools such as Kanban boards can help you with getting faster approvals, real-time file sharing, and collaboration, and in turn, improves the client experience. Also, if you have teams and clients working globally, then a medium for seamless communication could be helpful in managing teams remotely.
5. Set up an efficient invoicing process
If you’re looking to scale your business, you need to ensure you get paid on time. This would mean creating and sending timely invoices, claiming expenses and managing approvals and delayed payments.
Invest in an invoicing software that can help you create and send invoices digitally. For example, Taimer’s invoicing feature lets you invoice- hours, bills, products, expenses and set up recurring and scheduled invoicing. It also gives you data on invoicing rates per employee and a real-time view of invoicing estimates for the upcoming months.
6. Improve accounting marketing strategies
Never underestimate the power of effective digital marketing and networking. Build a social media presence and offer online consultation services. Outreach is the key here. Attend industry events and follow up consistently with prospective clients who may become qualified leads eventually.
A good CRM system with activity scheduling functionalities and calendar integrations can help you organize your events, and reminds you of upcoming activities so you never have to worry about planning and scheduling.
7. Get data smart
Just like any other industry, data is imperative even for accounting firms. With real-time reporting and intelligent business insights, accountants can aggregate data across all their clients to improve their business performance.
For example, a dashboard that gives you a complete overview of company expenses and revenue, invoicing estimates, target costs and cash flow details would be helpful in identifying potential clients and developing your most profitable customers.
8. Boost productivity with accounting software integrations
Time is a precious commodity for accounting firms. Investing in business management software that can be integrated with various other accounting solutions, e-invoicing platforms, and productivity apps would help you save both time and money.
For example, comprehensive accounting software solutions with e-invoicing functionalities such as Procountor, eFina, Talenom, QuickBooks, Netvisor, etc. can be easily integrated with Taimer. With the integration, you can generate invoices, bills, and expenses in Taimer digitally, and then transfer them to your accounting software for faster payments. This integration can boost your company's efficiency by automating accounting routines, on top of several other useful functions.
9. Pick a solution that you would recommend to your client
As an accounting firm, if you want to serve your clients better, choose a solution that can be recommended even to your clients and that supports their business needs. An all-encompassing solution that supports accounting practice management along with CRM, sales, invoicing and project management allows for both you and your client to manage different processes seamlessly from one solution.
Simplify complex business processes by investing in a unified solution
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If you’re looking to grow and diversify your accounting business, you need to focus on two goals. The first would be the retention of existing clients, and the other would be the acquisition of new clients. The easiest way to achieve these goals is by focussing on the strategies we discussed earlier. Also, adopting the latest technologies can help improve business processes and open up new revenue streams.
Many accounting business owners are now investing in SaaS solutions that can help with accounting practice management. A comprehensive ERP solution that is customized for accountants can help you with timesheet management, task management, real-time collaboration, resource scheduling, etc. They can also provide intelligent business insights and reporting functionalities that can help grow your business and boost revenue.
Last but not least, remember to invest in a solution that scales with your business so you don't have to worry about migrating to a new solution every time your business expands.
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