Accountancy firms need to evolve to address the changes that the future heralds.
What changes? Well, there’s lots coming but the changes that will most impact your life and your practice depend on many factors.
It is just daft, if not lazy, to suggest that the same issues will affect ‘all’ accountants in 2019. Or even ‘most’ accountants.
What is it with this idea that all accountants need to do the same things? Quite obviously Partners and staff in the bigger firms need to do different stuff compared with sole practitioners and those accountants working in mid sized firms. I know, and you know, that the decisions and choices you need to make will depend on so many factors, including the size of your firm, the number of partners you have, the staff you have, your clients, your plans, hopes, dreams and so many other things.
Don’t let anyone tell you that you must all be doing the same things. With one exception. There is one thing that all accountants should do, in my opinion.
That is, to think about the future and how you and your practice will need to evolve over the next few years. What additional skills, talents and knowledge will you need to achieve your ambitions?
It’s naive to believe that anyone offering to tell accountants generally exactly how to prepare for the future will have a message that is directly relevant and appropriate to you and your firm. There is no single approach to doing anything in business that is right for everyone.
When you give business advice to clients, I’m sure you adapt the advice you give so that it is specific to the client and their circumstances. That’s when it is most likely to resonate with them as it reflects their experiences and needs. Thus your advice is most likely to be acted on when it is expressed in a personal way that will motivate your client to take action.
I’d bet you feel the same way about advice you hear or receive about your own practice. So much of the generic advice out there is little more than speculation and extrapolation. Too often this generic advice implies that major changes are around the corner and that your practice will not survive unless you take immediate action. This approach is often promoted by people keen to get you to buy their solution, services or training. And if you don’t do so – you’ll be missing out. Yeh right.
Most accountants have long been resistant to pushy marketing messages. And, rightly so. As we have seen over the last 20 plus years, the impact of new developments always takes longer than predicted to have a real effect on the profession.
MTD will have a big impact, over a period of time, as did the introduction of the self assessment tax system and the abolition of small company audits. Cloud bookkeeping has been around for over ten years but is only now really becoming mainstream.
I believe that accountants need an open mind and to prepare for the future that is unfolding. That future though will be very different depending on a wide range of factors. And the future will arrive faster for some accountants than for others.
In my talks about the future for accountants I reference these differing factors as crucial to planning and preparing. Failing to take them into account would inevitably lead to wasted time, effort and opportunity.
I have seen this so often in the past. The leaders of mid-tier firms who have big ambitions that are not shared by the longer-serving partners in the firm. They pay lip-service to the ideas, attend courses to develop new skills but then carry on doing what they’ve always done. This attitude demotivates the younger partners and managers. They may share the same ambitions of the leaders who want to plan for the future.
I’m reminded of my days in practice when many of my clients were professional partnerships. They were often stuck. Those charged with leading the firm often had little real power to drive things forward, to change things or to implement future focused plans.
Many accounting practices have limited growth potential as, too often many of the older partners don’t have the ambition to learn new skills and may even fear the future.
What THE future holds for you depends on where you are now
- What do YOU want to be doing in 5-10 years time? Same as now? Something slightly different or something very different? Will you be able to do this with your current client base or will you need to attract new clients?
- How different is that to what you do now? What new software, systems and skills will you need to be in a position to deliver those services and to get paid a good fee for doing so? How many people in your firm will need to be on board to ensure you evolve rather than stand still? How will you get them on board the evolution rocketship?
- How flexible can you afford to be? Will the evolution of your practice be fixed to satisfy your ambitions or flexible so that you adapt to suit the changing needs of your clients?
- Will your current client base require those services? Their needs will be evolving as will the option of how they choose to secure the help they need.
- What services will new (prospective) clients be seeking? To some extent it’s irrelevant what you want to be doing if there aren’t enough prospective clients willing to pay you decent fees to provide those services.
The questions go on. Are you carving out time to plan for what the future holds for you?
Some of my mentoring clients are using me as a sounding board to help them sense check their answers, their thinking and their plans for the future.