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Service providers must go big, go boutique or go broke – Xero

23 Mar 18

Article by Xero Australia managing director Trent Innes

Today, I spoke at the Accounting Business Expo about a topic that’s close to my heart – the decision available to every accountant and bookkeeper in the age of the digital record.

We all remember a time when the success of a practice was limited to its local suburb.

That’s no longer the case.

Technology has broken down the barrier of distance, and advisors everywhere are responding to the opportunity in their own way.

As practices digitise, streamline, scale and specialise, those who hold onto the traditional approach risk being left behind.

The choice ahead is exciting: will you dream big, dream boutique or go broke?

Go big

Accountants and bookkeepers who dream big take a highly strategic approach to their work – finding ways to attract and support a client base that can scale at speed.

They use automation to create best-practice efficiencies and seek out new ways to remain modern and profitable.

With such streamlined workflows, many turn to the connective power of a global platform to inspire more reach and opportunity.

Paul Lyons, a partner from Tasmanian-based practice WLF Accounting & Advisory, has seen huge growth in clients using the cloud to tap into growth markets for their products.

“With the advent of the digital economy, many small businesses have moved to exporting their goods and services via online platforms.

“We use the multi-currency feature a lot for our international clients. As an example, we provide a large client based in Norway with monthly financials, including accounts payable and receivable reports converted to Norwegian krone, at the click of a button.”

Go boutique

Advisors who dream boutique leverage the same technology to create a highly specialised service.

The beauty of this bespoke approach today is that even the most specialised services can be exported overseas, giving the model a new commercially competitive edge.

Bean Ninjas founder Meryl Johnston has 40% of clients overseas and a fully remote workforce that has been known to span Australia, Argentina, Bali and Japan.

She started her own business when she realised technology enabled her to work from anywhere, and choose to focus only in one area.

“This made it viable to build a company with a niche focus – bookkeeping for online businesses – without clients missing out on a full, streamlined service.

“Instead of trying to be a local practice that’s everything to everyone, we focus on online bookkeeping and build specialist processes around that service,” Johnston says.

“We then use the single ledger as a means to collaborate with virtual CFOs, tax accountants and cloud integrators – all in one client account.”

Or go broke

Technology is not here to determine the direction of your practice or your career, but it is here to give a platform to the humans at the heart of the machine – and that’s where advisors everywhere are stepping up.

Across our busiest metro centres and most isolated regional locations, forward-thinking bookkeepers and accountants are using real-time insights, cloud collaboration and a connected ecosystem of digital solutions to bring their vision to life, however big or boutique.

As small businesses and government mirror the move toward digitisation, the need to embrace the opportunity in our industry is clear.

Fail to define your own direction and you risk falling between the cracks, without any definitive display of the human qualities that will attract clients and talent to firms in the future.