Why online accountants get all the best clients
Accountant & Bookkeeper Guides
5 min read
Alex Falcon Huerta has gone from zero to 65 clients in two years, with a young practice that’s surfing the cloud accounting wave. She explains why cloud clients are so awesome for firm growth.
Alex Falcon Huerta - Founder, Soaring Falcon Accountancy
This guide is brought to you by Xero and our Xero partner, Alex Huerta, because we share a passion for helping practices everywhere thrive.
I left my first job at a big firm because the work was manual and joyless. I’d seen how much faster and more interesting things could be at a cloud accounting conference, and joined a firm that used cloud technology soon after. Those cloud accounting clients were more engaged in their business, and valued what we accountants did, which made it easier to sell them more services.
So when I started Soaring Falcon, I exclusively offered online accounting. Most of the clients we’ve won have followed the same trajectory – from accounting novice to excited participant to confident business thinker. And they become more profitable to my business as they move along that spectrum.
Online accounting clients are different
Clients who take their accounts online have a different mindset. They want accurate data and they want it now. It sounds demanding but it shows they really care about their business. And that mentality makes them more profitable clients in the long run.
Even those clients who are initially daunted by online accounting still get hooked. Because they can see their financial situation in real time, they’re far more open to trying things. When we give them advice, they can give it a go and see the results immediately. It’s addictive.
We’re not dealing with early-adopters anymore
In the early days of online accounting, most clients came from the tech and creative sectors. They were progressive, bullish and very focused on growth.
But as online accounting has become more mainstream, we’re getting other kinds of clients. They’re from different fields and they mostly choose online accounting so they can automate record-keeping. They don’t want to spend time doing the books manually. I find that, while these clients have arrived at online accounting by a different route to their peers in tech, they follow the same path forward. They start to get more involved in their business.
They all start slow – even if they’re tech-savvy
Clients who are new to online accounting have a steep learning curve ahead, even if they’re tech natives. You’re not just teaching them technology, you’re teaching them accounting too. Most businesses will have been at arm’s length from their financials up until going online. After that, they have instant access to the numbers. You need to take them through accounting concepts so they know what they’re looking at. Pace their introduction. I’ve made the mistake of trying to cover too much, too soon. I’m much less ambitious now.
A client’s first priority is to have clean, reliable data in the software. If you give them comfort that that’s happening, they’ll be happy. You can get into the more complex concepts later. Some clients will want to move faster and that’s fine – let them. But don’t force it.
Those cloud accounting clients were more engaged in their business, and valued what we accountants did, which made it easier to sell them more services.
Onboarding should be really basic
I start with a two-hour training session focused on:
getting the tax right
A client who knows these things can get paid, keep creditors happy, and stay compliant. That’s enough to start with. Many will get lost even at this early stage. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve found that a lot of the stumbling blocks are the same so I’m making a video that addresses them. I’m going to send it to clients and hopefully I won’t have to keep answering the same questions personally.
Taking baby steps
Once the data is flowing into their online accounts, we pause the training. Clients are happy to know their books are accurate and up-to-date. We let them get used to that.
Depending on the contract they have with us, we’ll go into a client’s accounts monthly or quarterly. On these early check-ins, we’ll simply:
do a general finance health check
flag mistakes they’re making and explain how to edit and correct them
- make suggestions about what they should focus on in their business to get them excited about growth
Getting clients hooked on accounting
A few months after onboarding, we’ll generate some reports. This is where clients really start to engage with our work, and things can take off quickly. We start with the Profit and Loss report. For most businesses, I first have to explain what it is.
I use add-ons like Spotlight to help show reports as graphs and charts. Most people find the information easier to digest when it’s presented visually. They can literally see costs and opportunities in their business. It’s really powerful for them. Now we can start talking about taking control over what they’re seeing.
Opening the door to strategic conversations
When a client genuinely understands the management reports in front of them, we can really start to help. We show where they’re spending money and ask if the return on investment is good enough. There’s scope to offer advice. And when they act on that advice, we can show them how it moved the needle.
It shows a direct link between our work and their bottom line. It’s strengthened relationships and opened the door for us to do some excellent work.
Taking clients to the next level
We saw really early on how online accounting could transform a business. A young cloud development company came to us with their books in a mess. We fixed everything up, got them confident in the data, then started doing forecasts.
Those projections showed the business was ready to take off. It was a surprise to the client because they’d never seen their position in real time before. They had no idea of the opportunity. We made a strategic decision to hire more staff and go for it. Growth followed immediately – just as predicted – so they added more staff, and the growth continued.
Within months, their product had gone viral. They’re now a global company, with staff around the world. They would have missed that opportunity without online accounting. There’s no way they could have waited a year to look at the numbers and spot that opportunity. It was a month-to-month trend and we saw it. They’re huge now.
An engaged client is an asset
Clients who want to take their accounts online are good for business. I’ve known that since the start and it’s still true today. They’re engaged, they’re confident, and they have real-time data. It’s a powerful combination.
But it’s not just the early adopters who are like that. Any business that switches to online accounting will end up getting their accountant more involved. They’ll be more familiar with their business, they’ll see cause-and-effect more clearly, and they’ll feel empowered to try and take control. That’s great news for accountants who can help them do that.