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Future Accountant profile: Nicole

Nicole Rousseau is the co-founder of PKF Ignite, and a finalist of the 2020 Top 50 Women in Accounting award

Tell me about your business.

When I was introduced to cloud applications, I immediately saw the benefit it could bring to the firm and to our clients. And that’s essentially why we started PKF Ignite – a bespoke cloud accounting solution that’s tailored to each client’s unique business needs. This has completely revolutionised our practice – we have changed the way we work, the way we interact with our clients and the speed at which we can deliver accurate financial data to our client.

While the change was welcomed, it required a lot of education for both our team and our clients. It was very important for us to ensure that our team understood why we were changing and the benefit this would bring for the firm, our clients and for the them personally.

To assist with this, we created PKF Ignite champions and agents of change to drive the transition and support the team.

This was a massive change management undertaking and required segmenting our client base and utilising a phased approach. We made sure that the team was  fully upskilled prior to any client implementation.

I personally love helping my team grow and preparing them to go into commerce. Although this has been a big change for them, the challenge has been an exciting one and they have been able to further their careers by moving into an advisory role.

What is one of the key lessons you have learned?

That change requires not only bravery, but understanding! When we initiated this, our clients immediately saw the benefit and were on board, but there was some concern from our team. I think as accountants we tend to be reluctant to change – it’s a common personality trait. The biggest hurdle is getting team buy-in because they were comfortable with the status qou. Everybody took their own time to adapt, and we had to keep motivating and reiterating why we are doing this. The ‘why’ is very important. If I had known that earlier, I would have spent even more time preparing the team and getting them comfortable with the change.

How do accountants need to change?

As times change, so do client expectations and in turn, our approach as accountants should too. I believe that in the future, there will be a bigger focus on the soft skills. A focus on how good the accountant is at communicating, and if they can connect with client as a meaningful partner. These skills are becoming a lot more important, because as accountants we need to get more involved in our client’s business and become their sounding board. We can no longer just be be the person behind the scenes running the numbers!

Do clients want different things from accountants now?

As a society, we are so used to having information at our fingertips. The same applies to the business world. Business owners need access to their financial information in the same way, to enable them to make pro-active business decisions. As accountants we now need to be able to provide this information in a real-time environment and we need to present financial data in a meaningful manner that the business owner easily understands.

We need to be able to explain the numbers, explain what it means to their business, and guide them so that they can achieve their business goals.

How do you embrace constant change within your business?

As a person I am always open to change, but I must always take a step back and remember not everybody is like that. Everybody is different and adapts at a different pace. So as a team, we must roll with the punches and keep asking if it is the right decision for our clients and business. And then we manage the change process. Ensure we are clear and transparent with our team and be totally honest with them.

Is being innovative a selling point for your business?

Yes, we need to still sell it to our clients or potential clients and be able to explain the benefit to them.

When talking to a client, we focus on what Dext can do for their business and how it’s going to help them make decisions – allowing them to understand the benefits. We must sell the dream, the ‘why’: why it is better for the firm, why it is better for the client and why it is better for them to get them on board.

What is the main benefit of being innovative?

In any business, innovation leads to enhanced collaboration and better problem-solving as it creates a culture that promotes creativity and inclusivity.

Innovation leans to greater productivity and agility. If you are innovative, it is easy to pivot your business and adapt quickly to any changes. Being innovative does not mean you will not make mistakes! There will still be mistakes but the important thing is to learn from them. It can also strengthen your market position and make you stand out from your competitors. If you are constantly improving your business processes and the way in which you interact with your customers, you will become the partner of choice.

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