In my role as Associate Account Manager for Xero UK, I deal with a large number of new Xero Accounting Partners in the early stages of their move to the cloud. In recent months I’ve noticed an interesting trend – more and more of these firms are being run primarily as businesses, not traditional accounting practices.
The subtle difference in many cases is the owner I talk to (or one of the owners) is not necessarily a qualified accountant but instead a business person/entrepreneur looking to take advantage of cloud disruption.
Firms which are built as a partnership between accountants and entrepreneurs are thriving with the entrepreneur driving the business side and the accountant doing what they do best: providing expert advice to clients.
With the direction of the accounting firm no longer driven primarily by someone with a background in doing traditional accounting work (such as annual accounts and tax preparation), the focus moves to marketing and business growth.
As these practices become established with Xero they move on to Senior Account Managers (SAM’s). The feedback I get from the SAM’s is that having a different profile of person at the helm of this new breed of accounting practice also has flow on effects to how the rest of the practice operates.
The firm’s owners don’t tend to have the traditional portfolio of clients to deal with – instead they focus on running the business, making sure existing clients are happy and attracting new clients. This has had a noticeable impact on three main areas that are all interconnected:
- The skill set accountants are hired on now includes client service skills. With more of the firm’s staff having face time with clients this skill set has become increasingly important.
- Marketing messages are shifting from establishing professional credibility to “certainty of fees”, or “proactive help to grow your business”. Behind the ‘fee certainty’ message is often a fixed fee bundled service offering – so this changes the pricing model.
- Fixed fees has lead to eliminating timesheets – reducing admin on staff and freeing them up to focus on the priority of delivering client service.
As clients expect more from their accountant and more for their money, being able to advise them in real time, and the ability to manage all clients in one place, is increasingly important.
I know from talking to my peers on the front line across the global Xero team, this new breed of firm is emerging everywhere. And given the UK has historically been considered a more conservative market it appears the time has really come for change in the profession.
How is your firm adapting to the changing environment and client needs? Talk to your Account Manager about how you can work with Xero to create the cloud strategy for your firm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.