Growing Your Firm in Changing Times: How Experts are Finding Success with Digital

In the current climate of digitisation, business growth is aligned with updated systems.

According to Information Week, “to get the full value out of technology investments, organisations need to focus on investing in what Accenture calls ‘Future Systems’. Generally speaking, these future systems rethink the architecture and technology a company needs to move quickly and take advantage of tomorrow’s opportunities.”

At Receipt Bank, we believe strongly in creating systems that ensure businesses are ready and able for whatever tomorrow brings. 

The latest Orange Select discussion went straight to the source and asked our partners what they believe is needed to achieve an ascending level of business growth for smaller and larger sized firms. 

We sought the expertise of cloud experts and Receipt Bank partners, Phool Ashraf of London-based Gains Accountants & Business Advisers and Liza Goodall, Director at Orange Trunk Consulting in Australia. 

In this digital age, business growth can be determined by a few factors in the accounting and bookkeeping sectors – increased efficiency, niche development, client numbers, service offerings and revenue.

We’ve collected a few nuggets of wisdom based on community queries for our last Orange Select round-up of 2019. 

Specialist vs Generalist, which firm type guarantees success?

Phool Ashraf sees cloud technology as a tool to deliver specialised services to SMEs in the UK. 

“The main reason for choosing a niche is to prepare our firm for the future. The accountancy industry is evolving at a fast pace, and this pace will quicken even more in the next decade. As artificial intelligence takes over some of the compliance tasks, in future, firms are required to build deeper relationships and provide detailed insights to businesses to survive.”

Finding your speciality doesn’t have to be a stressful process. For Phool’s firm, they fit right into their target market by shifting their perspective.

“Our niche is the Restaurant/Cafe industry. Once you are ready to niche, then it’s a step-by-step process to work out which industry you want to serve and why, which resources and skills you require and draw a plan. In my experience, changing your mindset is the hardest part.”

For generalist firms that want to explore more of the market terrain, success comes from variety. “My growth has come from many different sectors. Generally, my initial growth was with start-up businesses. But now I have a complete mix,” says Liza Goodall.

A successful practice isn’t tied to one format. It’s down to what will enable your firm to reach its potential.     

How do you use marketing to grow client numbers?        

Marketing in the accounting and bookkeeping industry is down to being digitally savvy in this online era. According to Digital Strike, there are 2.9 million email users worldwide. For many, email marketing is a prime channel for kicking off awareness. However, the grapevine still does the trick for Liza Goodall. 

“My best marketing is still word of mouth. My clients have been happy with the experience and have told their friends in the business. Good old-fashioned networking with local business groups is also a great way to attract clients. They get to know you personally. It might not happen tomorrow or next week but definitely come back to you.”

Liza also described a creative method for marketing cloud accounting software like Receipt Bank to reluctant new clients. “I let them keep every invoice until the end of the quarter and then ask them to have a ceremonial burning or shredding. They actually love the fact that their filing systems are nice and clean.”

Keeping the human element in mind when marketing your firm is something both Liza and Ashraf can agree on. Attracting new clientele requires a keen understanding of the people and not just the business you are helping.

Understand who you want to get as a client and learn about their problems. Offer them solutions, not services. People are less interested in buying services compared to solutions to their problems,” said Phool Ashraf.

How do you handle cost-shy clients?

In times of financial uncertainty convincing new clients to invest in accounting and bookkeeping services is difficult. Every region has its own constraints. In South Africa, one of our partners finds that falling on hard times is causing a decrease in demand.

“We are experiencing a very tough economic situation, and many of my clients are seeing the use of an accountant/ bookkeeper only as a ‘necessary evil’. They view it as a ‘grudge spend’ rather than seeing the value that real-time information brings.”

In the UK, Phool Ashraf flips the script to get her clients on board. Instead of focusing on the transaction she encourages clients to think long term.

“We communicate to our clients that the accountancy fee is not a cost for their business. It is an investment which will generate returns for their business and will ensure the survival of their business during difficult times.”

Liza Goodall breaks down the positive aspects of introducing new software into a stagnant environment.

I usually ask them how much their time costs or what their hourly rate is. I then say “How long do you think it would take for you to put all of this data in manually? Do you think it is worth the monthly subscription?” Then the penny drops. It is essentially letting them understand the cost-benefit of using software that makes their life easier.

How does technology support your firm growth?

McKinsey Global Institute estimates “that around 50 per cent of current workforce activities could be automated with already proven technologies, only 10 per cent of those jobs are automatable at a rate above 90 per cent.”

Automation is in a state of constant improvement but remains a polarising topic. Liza Goodall believes there is room for both staff and modern technology in the workplace. “I was definitely able to grow my firm without the need for staff. But as a sole trader with a family sometimes having a staff member as a backup plan is a necessity.” 

A middle ground is the best bet when considering how to integrate both automation and human workforce into your business. But what comes first for up and coming firms? Tech or staff? 

Phool Ashraf finds that staying ahead of the industry in terms of technology adoption works for her. “In the early stages, technology adoption as much as possible. Being an early adopter of cloud technology has really helped us to grow our firm.”

Once again, Orange Select continues to provide a bounty of relevant information. We are looking forward to the fresh new perspectives 2020 will bring. Click here to join the current Orange Select discussion on Pricing Strategies.

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