Accountants: Technology and Process Tips to Keep your Clients and Your Firm Healthy in 2019

Accountants: Technology and Process Tips to Keep your Clients and Your Firm Healthy in 2019

How is your health? Are you the type of person who takes medicine to get rid of your acute aches and pains? What about when it comes to vitamins? Do you eat a balanced diet and take supplements to lead a healthy lifestyle that (hopefully) prevents you from getting those aches and pains in the first place?

Regardless of how you manage your personal health, most of your clients are medicine takers. They hire you to get rid of a massive migraine headache (tax returns), the occasional chest pain (a tax audit), or a pesky cough (some payroll or after-the-fact bookkeeping). You give them their medicine, they pay you and you see them again the next time something flares up.

In 2019, start giving your clients vitamins instead. Keep them healthy with proactive business guidance and valued business insights. Understand their goals in order to help clients maintain a healthy business – that daily dose of vegetables, supplements and valued advice – to proactively keep the ailments away.

Wouldn’t you rather work with clients on a continuous basis throughout the year to monitor and correct their business health? It will certainly keep you more informed of your clients’ financial status and opportunities. And for your firm, this recurring work results in recurring fees. Think about how your practice will benefit from predictable, recurring revenue – steady cash flow, accurate revenue forecasts for managing your practice and personal income, and the ability to know how and when you can cover your expenses. Not only that, your valuation will be higher when you demonstrate reliable revenue streams. Buyers love the predictable, stable nature of recurring revenue.

Clients want your valuable business expertise when it comes to the market, financial processes and technology; and they will come to you for it month after month. But don’t just offer any old vitamin/expertise, you need to differentiate your client advisory services and will help you do exactly that.

Here are three ways you can give clients their daily vitamin dose of business expertise, instead of the occasional headache remedy.

1. Market advice

Every business leader wants to know the trends impacting their business outlook and insights into the local market. Differentiate your practice by specializing in one or a few industries, with a deep understanding of the costs, metrics, industry peers and customer needs. You’ll be able to offer ways to find the best suppliers, price their goods and services competitively, and become more profitable.

For example, some of the firms we work with specialize in accounting for medical practices like dentists and optometrists. With all the payment data in, the firms look across client expenses, run the Transactions By Vendor to know the most cost-effective vendors, and sync that data to the GL in real-time to see what a healthy gross margin looks like.

Use as the means to become the business expert your clients need by advising clients when their costs or profits veer too far from success benchmarks and local peers. When you manage AP for all of your clients in an industry (not just a handful, but your medicine takers too), you gain insight into the cost structure and market supplier dynamics that your clients aren’t able to find elsewhere.

2. Process advice

Help your clients refine their financial processes so that they can save time, reduce risks and bring new information to the surface that was previously buried. Your clients rely on you to recommend the workflows, roles, and separation of duties that will promote a healthy back office.

Your clients probably know more about where their Amazon package sits in transit or when their pizza is delivered than they do about where their bills are in the approval and payment workflow. That’s the wrong order of priority! Make sure you’ve set up a proper workflow where your clients ensure all bills are sent to and your firm codes and routes the bills back to your client for approval. This way there are defined responsibilities, low risk of errors or fraud, separation of duties, and transparency throughout.

For example, you can configure approval policies with dollar thresholds to ensure large payments are valid, which reduces fraud. You can also use these approval thresholds to only route bills to clients for approval that are over a certain amount, or require multiple approvals for large bills so your clients only need to get involved when necessary. Your guidance on the bill approval processes will ensure that bills entered are accurate and are paid to the right vendor. These approval workflows are auditable; each action of the bill approval workflow is tracked so the firm or auditors can review and apply controls.Your advice on process will ensure security and transparency for critical financial transactions – let’s see the pizza place top that!

3. Technology advice

Advise your clients on what technology to use to manage their business. They don’t have the time to sort through all the technology options and would rather have you prescribe to them a set of applications configured to handle their unique accounting, AP, AR, expense management, payroll, customer relationship management, and reporting needs.

Take a proactive approach with software and specialize in three to five applications you will consistently use to manage your clients’ workflow and accounting. You’ll be able to explain to clients how to interact with the software and why you’ve selected these solutions for them. Use to integrate with leading software like QuickBooks, Xero, Sage Intacct, Oracle NetSuite, Expensify, Tallie, Hubdoc, Receipt Bank, and Salesforce in order to unify processes and data flows between your practice and your clients. Also, be sure your clients download the mobile versions of these applications for anytime, anywhere access to their financial health status.

With the end of 2018 rapidly approaching, this is the perfect opportunity to meet with your clients and prescribe them the vitamins of year-round business expertise, starting with Your clients will be healthier and happier in 2019, and so will your practice.

November 26, 2018
Mark Gervase
Director, Product Marketing,
Mark works with accounting firms and bookkeepers to grow their businesses and achieve efficiencies through automation and cloud technologies. He is a former CPA, has a background in financial technology, and holds an MBA and BA in Economics from the University of California Berkeley.