Over the last several years, businesses have faced daunting challenges – Covid 19 shutdowns and restrictions, supply chain disruptions, market fluctuations, and a bevy of other challenges that have forced them to rethink not only their business models but the long-term adaptability and resilience of their operations. More than ever before, business owners are turning to bookkeepers and accountants for financial advice to inform their business decisions.
But while bookkeepers and accountants certainly have access to a plethora of financial information, their ability to provide quality financial advisory services depends on a few key factors. Namely, do they have enough quality data to provide real insights and time to turn this into outstanding financial advisory services?
If you’re an accountant or bookkeeper and you’re trying to shift towards providing your clients with valuable advisory services, you’re in luck. There are cloud-based accounting tools and advanced automation technologies you can leverage to simplify processes like data entry and management and provide useful insights.
So how do you get started? Let’s break it down into three basic steps.
Step 1: Identify the data you need to understand your client’s business
The advice an accountant provides is only as good as the data it’s based on. To that end, the first step is to assess your client’s business, and a great way to do this is through a consultation where you can dig deep into their business model.
What are their revenue streams? What point of sales and/or e-commerce systems are they using? How have they set up their bank accounts? Are they drawing on any sources of credit and if so, what are their payment obligations? How do they manage bills and invoicing? Salaries and benefits? Contractors and suppliers? Do they maintain inventory? The list goes on.
For Pancreatic Cancer Canada, it was important to look at their own processes and stakeholder needs before jumping straight into technology so that they could understand what their outputs needed to be, and why – as well as what inputs were needed, and from whom. They then worked with their accounting firm, AMLB, to determine what technology could help them to obtain those inputs and transform that data into their desired outputs. In the case of PCC, AMLB recommended Dext Prepare and Dext Precision to achieve these goals.
Once you’ve worked with the client to establish a thorough sketch of their operations, as AMLB did with PCC, you need to explore how this business data is currently being captured. If your client is relying on outdated methods of data capture (e.g. shoeboxes full of receipts, filing cabinets brimming with paper documents, hand-written cheques, etc.) you can direct them towards cloud-based accounting software that integrates with their day-to-day – whether they’re solely an e-commerce business or also has a store with digital payments and point of sale (POS) system, for example. Which leads us to our next step.
Step 2: Build a tech stack that generates quality data
Every business is different, but there are certain things that are somewhat universal. Every company needs a solid cloud-based accounting software (e.g. Xero, QuickBooks, Sage) which will essentially serve as their digital ledger. And every business needs some system for data collection and capture.
Tools like Dext Prepare and Dext Commerce can respectively capture expenses and sales transactions data automatically from various sources, extract the relevant information, categorize it, and push it to the accounting software. This data is gathered in real-time, meaning you (and your client) have access to the most recent operational and financial data available. These two tools complement each other perfectly to ensure your client’s financial information is always in order and tax-ready.
U.S. accounting firm Reconciled integrated Dext into their tech stack because, in addition to automated information collection, it gave their clients a practical data uploading tool on their phones. Reconciled figured that, since their clients’ businesses went everywhere with them, so should their accounting services. The ease with which clients were able to upload data (through a simple photograph or forwarded email) greatly helped to improve data quality and give them much-deserved peace of mind.
On top of this, you can integrate other apps and systems tailored to your client’s business – just be sure that any additional technologies used can be integrated into your base tech stack. Try to keep tech stacks as small, agile, and complementary as possible. You don’t have time to become an expert in every software that’s out there, and neither does your client.
Once you know the relevant data is being captured, you can leverage a tool like Dext Precision to double-check client data for discrepancies, errors, and missing information. Checks are performed automatically and updated every 24 hours.
Step 3: Identify your client’s needs, and answer them
Now that you’ve got clean, reliable, and up-to-date client data to work with, you’ve got a window into how your client’s business is performing. You can see their net assets, their real-time revenue and expenses, what they’re spending and where. By using a tool like Dext Precision, you can convert these data points into valuable insights and generate regular reports for your client.
With so much processing time saved thanks to implementing advanced automation tools, you and your team can stay on top of new rules and regulations, grants, or stimulus opportunities that would further elevate the services you’re offering to your clients.
Some clients already know the pain points they want to address. For example, they may want to pay off a business loan they took out during Covid. With so much data at your fingertips, you can easily develop cash flow projections and help them form a realistic plan for achieving this goal.
For the automated messaging platform Customer.io, their pain point was tracking and optimizing sales data. They were using Stripe and QuickBooks, but as their customer base grew, their existing workflows couldn’t keep up with the amount of data pouring in. With the bulk of their time spent on data entry, they had no time for data analysis, and the data itself was riddled with manual errors.
Using Dext Commerce, they were able to simplify the import of sales data from Stripe and other sources into QuickBooks, use Dext Prepare to extract higher accuracy expenses data, and Dext Precision to ensure data accuracy and convert that into insights. This perfect tech stack enabled them to optimize their previous workflows and enhance their reporting capabilities.
If you’re working with a client who’s less specific than Customer.io about the insights they’re hoping to glean, you might dig into their financial data to explore whether your client is overly reliant on a few customers or a few suppliers. Maybe they regularly underestimate their monthly expenses or are holding on to underperforming products or services that are tying up their resources.
In short, by implementing the right tech and making the most of it, you can collect quality data and generate powerful insights that will enable you to provide outstanding financial advisory services and help your clients grow.
Are you ready to take on the financial advisory role you’ve always wanted? To add meaningful value for your clients? Advanced automation tools can help, and we’ve created a FREE whitepaper to get you started.