Sometimes the only answer to a problem is to change the question.
Today, every business owner has a universal question i.e. ‘When will this pandemic end?’
Do we have an answer to it? No.
Now, let’s change the question.
How can my business survive this pandemic?
How can I change or tweak the business model to make it even more profitable than the previous model?
And there we have the answer.
We are suffering from the COVID-induced coma and unfortunately, there’s seems no end to it. The second wave has already hit the UK and the situation for businesses grows graver by the day. There is an urgent need for businesses to move on from their old models and formulate a new strategy that makes them relevant in critical times like these.
And that’s where the role of an accountant comes into the picture.
“Let me just go back to the beginning of COVID-19 when lockdown certainly hit here in the UK. It actually had an incredibly positive impact on accountants, maybe they didn't realise it straight away, but it seriously got accountants back on the map. Most of the accountants focused on being truly proactive in speaking to their clients, helping them to get access to the new legislation and schemes. They were being what accountants of this decade really need to be - which is human support.”
In this episode of our podcast, Shane Lukas, MD of AVN Inspiring Accountants and Author, has given some useful tips and valuable insights on how accountants can run a successful practice while living a rewarding life, both in and outside of the office.
He talks about how this pandemic is not a roadblock, but a massive opportunity that can make accountants a great asset to the clients. It’s a catalyst in expanding the magnitude of an accountant’s role which goes beyond accounts preparation and filing tax returns.
Keep reading to know about our takeaways from the podcast:
“What's the point in being in business, if we're just going to survive? I believe that accountants are in a great position to help them, not just survive, but to thrive.”
Now is the time when accountants need to become business advisors.
In this radically changing landscape, businesses have been struggling hard to devise a plan that helps them survive and revive. They do want accountants to do the numbers, but they also want someone to analyse those numbers to get an understanding of their business performance. And accountants can easily do the same, provided they have enough time.
Lukas believes that in order to be advisors for the clients, accountants must spend more time nurturing their relationship with them and understand their business inside out. Once you have a clear understanding of the business and the pain points, it will enable you to find opportunities to help them. Those opportunities can be as additional services that you can offer.
“Role of an accountant is to provide great data, but actually better analysis. Because better analysis enables better decision making. A better decision making for the business owner means a better business, which in turn means a better life, and so that for me is what the account should be doing. Get that data, sit down with them, provide the analysis, provide the interpretation and ask the great questions,” said Shane Lukas
To see the impact of the idea, Lukas introduced ‘Global Excellence in Challenging Times Awards’ where he invited accountants from around the world to share their stories of how they've helped and supported their clients in such critical times. And the stories that came out were actually impactful and brought a positive change in the lives of the clients and their businesses.
“Accountants are not really thinking about their own mental health and their lifestyle, they're just getting back into the grunt work and my worry is that they are working themselves. I get why they've got this obligation to their clients to get this work turned around. I understand that. But my worry is that things will get worse.
Accountants are busy beings, especially during the tax season. And they tend to forget themselves in the process.
“Amidst all the hustle, they miss out on spending some time with their family, with their friends and also on their health pursuing activities. We all need ‘Me Time’. But the reality is that often the needs of the practice start dominate that life,” said Lukas.
Lukas firmly believes that mental health must be one’s priority because that is the only way to be productive and efficient at work. The right balance between personal and professional is important. No matter how difficult it is, accountants must maintain that balance.
Numbers that also Matter
According to Lukas, accountants must also touch upon numbers like the working hours, working days, blood pressure etc. These numbers don’t fall under the accounts but are equally important for their wellbeing. They mustn’t work for long working silly hours at the expense of family, friends and health.
"When you're that busy, you run the risk of making errors. You don't have time to really make sure customer services are top notch. You don't have time to spend with your best quality customers. You're working, you're not spending time working on the business, you're working in it."
Processing numbers, interpreting them and then discussing the same with the clients.
Accountants indeed have a lot on their plates and doing everything on their own could lead to the risks of making errors, poor client servicing and burnouts, of course!
Lukas said, “ You're on this endless treadmill of just churning out accounts and you don't get a chance to have those conversations with them. You don't even get a chance to really examine the numbers in the accounts to find out: Is this business starting to go south?”
To maximise client potential and maintain one’s own well-being, accountants try to strategise a way that brings them the maximum profits with the minimum cost. And Lukas believes that outsourcing is a great solution to the problem. Instead of taking the pressure of fulfilling the compliance work, accountants prefer hiring an offshore partner who provides high-quality services at affordable rates.
With numbers produced by the outsourcing partner, accountants can focus better on the analsyis and problem-solving, leaving them with ample time to have those important conversations with their clients.
In the book, Putting Excellence into Your Practice, Lukas has given a seven-step methodology to help accountants achieve their desired goal of running their profitable accounting firm. He shared three of them with us:
Start with a crystal clear vision that enables you to create a plan of action.
“Clarity is about starting with the end in mind. What is it that you really want to achieve? Start with down to the basics of how many hours a week do you really want to be working? How much income do you want to be taking? What kind of role do you want to play in the business? How much of a difference do you want to be making to your clients? And then from that, figure out what kind of business do you need to build which is going to enable that to happen,” said Lukas.
According to Lukas, Positioning is an important step because the current market doesn’t see accountants as someone who can do business advisory. So, it becomes imperative to let the prospects know that you are can do that and you are selling that as one of your services.
Your practice must have its own unique positioning that helps you distinguish your firm from the competitors. It’s not about using a specific set of keywords, or buzzwords but a unique selling point that helps you expand your clientele.
“Most accountants are positioned in the eyes of their clients and their prospects as of that awful stereotypical grey-haired nerdy type of accountant. Most business owners out there, see that accountants can do compliances and that's all they can do. And they find it very difficult to even promote and talk about the business advisory stuff because they're not receptive to it,” said Lukas.
Lukas suggests that value is about providing your customers with a seamless experience. Right from the point when a potential client discovers you till, they become your client and beyond that, the customer journey must be as flawless as it could be.
“So, if you imagine a customer journey from the moment, they discover you. Whether it's through Google, whether it's through your website or a recommendation. What's the value perception there? How many times the does phone ring before someone in your team answers it? What's the website saying to them? How quickly do they get their emails responded to?” said Lukas.
Once they become your client, you must put more time and effort into quality conversations that help to build up the relationship.
You can find the remaining four steps in the book: Putting Excellence into Practice. Click here to get your free copy: https://www.avn.co.uk/qx/
Here’s an amazing tip that Lukas shared with accountants to expand their service list and work more efficiently.
“What I like to do is to create a grid. Imagine an Excel spreadsheet. You've got columns along the top. So, in each column header type in the name of a service that you could offer to your clients and think about as many of these services as you can. List every possible service at the top and then each row with the name of every single client. This will motivate you to do that every time you see a client. Look at the items on that list and think, this time I'm going to talk about this service. This will help save your time, enabling you to focus on growing your business. Discuss if that service is something they’d be interested in and it's going to be a ‘yes’ or ‘no’. In that spreadsheet, put a T for told and put an S for sold. So, at least you know you've told them about it. And next time, pic three more," said Lukas.
According to Lukas, the pandemic has actually opened doors for the accounting industry. All that accountants need to do is put their efforts in the right direction having a well-defined strategy in place.
“A big challenge for accountants is that, just like anybody who learns a trade. They learn a trade, but they don't necessarily learn how to run a truly effective business,” said Lukas.
After all, a practice run by an accountant is a business and it could be a task being an accountant and a business owner, both. However, using the ideas and tips given by Shane will surely help you build a successful firm that gives you more revenue and more time for yourself and your family.
Shane Lukas is the managing director of AVN inspiring accountants and he is the author of ‘Putting Excellence into Practice’ and ‘What's Next for Accountants’. He is a doyen of the accounting world and a reputed member of the accounting community where he has helped over 3000 UK-based accountants massively accelerate their journey to success.
Stay tuned for more updates and wisdom talks with experts and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter with our social media handle @QXASLtd or reach out to our experts for consultations. Our experts will be happy to help!
Note from the Editor: This blog is a part of a special UK Accounting Industry Influencers Series’ with Dimitris Kasimis. Stay tuned for more updates!