We asked Ali Jones and Charlotte Ing of Sagars to provide their thoughts on the Dext report: The Future Needs of UK SMBs.
Raising the bar
We completely recognise the diverse nature of the SMB community and their differing support needs and desires as their businesses grow, develop and mature (sometimes across several generations). For us at Sagars, the constant is our role as trusted adviser – helping clients with their decisions and supporting them to achieve their life goals. What continues to change and evolve is how we do this. Technology and digital solutions have enabled us to raise the bar and provide faster, better and more wide-ranging support to our clients than ever before.
The report presents some differing attitudes when it comes to the sorts of things SMBs turn to their accountants for; perhaps these differences are a good reflection of how certain accountancy practices perceive their roles. Those with a focus solely on traditional, compliance based services, who don’t harness the power of technology, are likely to miss opportunities to drive valuable conversations with clients about their business. Pairing technology supported analysis and predictive insights with the financial and business acumen of accountants is a powerful recipe to provide great support to SMB clients. Firms that master this will be instrumental going forward.
Technologies like Dext not only give us and clients visibility of information faster, but free up time for our team who can then focus more on delivering insights, advice and additional services to our clients. Examples of services we deliver, and are continuing to develop, which we’d recommend to all progressive accountancy practices include:
- Focussed goals sessions – both business and personal for SMB entrepreneurs.
- Regular meetings (in person or online) to analyse financials and KPIs and identify actions to improve business success.
- Supporting clients in both identifying funding needs and finding solutions.
- Using insights from data analytics to help clients to manage their businesses.
- Signposting clients to relevant experts and services that they could benefit from.
- Enabling clients to really gain traction in their business by supporting them to clarify their strategy, improve their processes, data and people systems, and develop effective accountability.
Becoming the ‘obvious choice’
There are some great insights into the ways SMBs can be supported by accountants. The positivity of entrepreneurs about the future economy and their growth prospects is also something that’s really encouraging. The report demonstrates we perhaps need to work harder at communicating the value that forward-thinking accountants can provide. This means we’ll be the obvious choice when clients look for support beyond the traditional compliance role.
If clients understand the value of our services, then they will be far more inclined to pay for them and we can narrow the ‘value versus spending’ gap, as shown in the report. Finally, the report illustrates the importance of adapting when interacting with clients. We should tailor our approach in order to meet that particular client’s preferences and expectations, while ensuring we do so in a cost-effective manner.
Delivering more for our clients and our team
SMBs really do need and want quality support and advice from their accountants and, at the same time, compliance-based services will become increasingly automated and less valued by clients. While that may sound frightening for conventional accounting, it’s actually a great opportunity to embrace technology. When we harness it, we can deliver much more for clients and provide interesting and fulfilling work for our own teams.
About the Experts
Ali Jones, Partner at Sagars
Ali provides strategic business planning, consulting and corporate finance advice and support to SMEs, professional practices and not-for-profit companies. With a first-class degree in Management Studies and Psychology from Leeds University, Ali qualified as a Chartered Accountant with a big four firm before joining Sagars. Now, as Consulting and Corporate Finance Partner, Ali specialises in supporting clients through periods of change, which is now more important than ever.
Charlotte Ing, Manager at Sagars
Charlotte is a Business Client Manager at Sagars. Specialising in cloud-based accounting, owner managed business and personal tax, Charlotte is well-placed to help accountants transition to more digital means and deliver dynamic solutions to their clients.