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Learning from local business in San Francisco

I’ve spent most of this year working with our accounting Partners, but haven’t spent a lot of time with the small business owners they service. So when San Francisco Small Business Week came around, I jumped at the chance to host a workshop during the Small Business Conference to get a feel for what these men and women are really about.

Over the course of an afternoon, the folks from Xero Partner LIFT Consulting and I chatted with local small business owners about their relationship with their accountants. Here’s what I learned:

  • Business owners don’t think of “accounting” as “tax.” Tax preparation services are just one part of accounting. The small business owners I spoke with knew this, and wanted more from their accountants. One of them described what he wanted as “the Big 4 for the little guy.” That is, he (and lots of other business owners) wanted the full-scale management reporting, consulting and other valuable services that large organisations enjoy.
  • There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits all accountant. Not all businesses need the same services; not all accountants provide the same services. Different advisors have different areas of expertise, so if you want an accountant who offers more than tax preparation, you need to identify the accountant who knows what you need and how to offer it to you.
  • Legacy desktop software is holding people back. Business owners want to get business advice from their accountants. Accountants want to offer business advice. The reason this gap hasn’t been filled is because desktop software stands in the way. It forces business owners into a retrospective view of their business performance, and forces accountants to ask (and wait) for data if they want to give advice. So, even though it’s theoretically possible for accountants to get more involved in client businesses, it’s too impractical to be plausible. Translation? It’s too hard.
  • The cloud is the way forward. By removing the barriers between business owners and their accountants, cloud technology makes the “Big 4 for the little guy” relationships possible. When both business owners and accountants can access live data from anywhere, the hassle is taken out of offering consulting and business advice.

Most exciting, though, was that our accounting Partners have been saying the exact same things. This means that not only are there business owners demanding accounting and consulting services on top of their tax compliance, there are also accountants who are willing to offer them.

All we need to do is put Xero in the middle.

What kind of “Big 4″ services would you like your accountant to offer?


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Nick Bird
23 May 2012 #

I like the phrase “Big 4 for the little guy”. That is really what Xero allows to happen in the CPA/small business relationship. More of my clients are proactively looking for reporting/advisement that normally would be limited to a large company. I think the expectation will soon catch up in what clients expect from their advisers.

Gayle Buchanan
23 May 2012 #

Nice to see business owners around the world still wanting the same information from their accountants. Thankfully Xero Software means a win/win/win for all (the third one is for us bookkeepers!). Lets all get the world moving again, stick to our knitting and forge forward.
Go xero US team – doing us kiwis proud.

Kara Haas
25 May 2012 #

Great to see Xero continuing to grow as the bridge between like minded business people and accountants. You’ve made this process of working together much more fluid.

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