Last week we were lucky enough to attend the First Class Accounts annual workshop in Sydney. The franchise has a strong emphasis on client service, efficiency and moving beyond traditional accounting and bookkeeping roles.
In between sessions, we found time to catch up with Tony Austin, Development and Innovation Manager at First Class Accounts.
Receipt Bank: Hi Tony, thanks for chatting with us today. We’re in a period where lots of the traditional work of accountants and bookkeepers is being changed by new tools.
But the value of the work that organisations like First Class provide is still very real, especially when to comes to being a trusted advisor – someone in the client’s corner, looking out for their business. Accounting is still based on trust and relationships, but what role do you think technology plays in strengthening that connection?
Tony Austin: Technology provides the basis for efficiency and trust. It’s part of the systems and service that people can actually view and measure in dollar terms. Without great systems in today’s world, business performance will not be at its best and results will suffer.
RB: So, for the first time clients can now log on and see the results of good accounts management work any time they want and demand more from their accountant or bookkeeper. How have client expectations changed with the advent of cloud technology?
TA: Business expectations of technology are on a huge roller coaster with some still in denial and not jumping on for the ride; whilst others are jumping on and making the most of the thrills. And more importantly getting to a very different end.
Those who are open to change are enjoying the marketing opportunities and growth and helping ensure profitability, better controls and more efficiency: a future.
RB: There are loads of opportunities, but there are still challenges to face when growing your business. So what can accountants and bookkeepers do to be sure they’re adding more value for their clients while still running a profitable, scalable business?
TA: Modern bookkeepers can ensure that the best technology relevant to a particular client’s needs and situation are being used to their optimum.
We are hands on and take the pain away from understanding real needs. Part of that service is knowing the possibilities that can help a business grow and usually business owners aren’t aware of all these possibilities and how they can be integrated and enable growth and efficiency.
RB: Be the expert they need, and make sure your clients have everything they need to grow. That’s a great point. We are also entering the period where just having the right tech isn’t enough to be noticed in the crowd. What is the best way for accountants and bookkeepers to stand out in 2017?
TA: Develop a great reputation. If you are doing this, you will be doing the rest well.
Word of mouth is the best form of gaining new clients and they come with a fair amount of trust that can then be built on with the best solutions for that client at the time and that can be developed as the client’s business evolves.
RB: And what do you think makes First Class accountants and bookkeepers different in this new marketplace?
TA: Right now, I am in a room with 100 of them who are comparing stories, learning about experiences and ways of really helping clients.
This involves really understanding that clients have many needs which you have to take into account with your solutions. We know that you need your bookkeeping done and great reports to help you understand where your business is at, but you will probably also have cash flow issues, HR and payroll requirements, stock and system needs, but are also probably under great stress.
Sure we can help you be compliant, but the extra value that a great bookkeeper brings will involve giving you peace of mind and trust that your business is in a great place. Many of us are accountant’s, but more importantly, we are all modern bookkeepers.
RB: Well looking around the room, I have every confidence in the future of the profession. So, before we get back to the session, what are three key elements of a gold-standard client service in 2017?
TA: Trust that you can approach the bookkeeper with any business problem without being judged; trust that suitable solutions can and will be found and implemented in a way that suits you; and trust that as the world changes, you will be kept at the forefront of those changes to achieve your business objectives.
RB: Thanks for your time Tony, and thanks to you and First Class Accounts for an amazing experience.