Like many of you in the accounting profession, I attend several accounting and technology conferences each year to listen to industry leaders and network with my peers. I read countless articles and survey result reports about the future of accounting and business, and pick the brains of the accounting conference sponsors.
It was the last week of April 2015. I was a participant in a special mini marketing/business growth program. I was required to report my firm’s growth plan idea to my designated advisor and I was running out of time. It all came together in an “aha moment.” I realized the answer was right in front of me all along: convert to a cloud-based accounting platform and use the real-time information to provide my clients with even better insights and business advice to help them grow and become more profitable.
My staff and I were already working closely with our business clients providing accounting services like payroll compliance, tax advice and preparation, pension advice, and financial statement preparation and analysis. We were processing historical data as we worked from the clients’ check register, credit cards, bank statements and their internal reports all via server-based tax and general ledger software.
I would love to tell you it was easy to make the switch and that we have 100 percent conversion and implementation. It was not and we do not, but the results were well worth all that hard work.
With the support of my staff, our wonderful software providers, and training from experts in the use of the cloud accounting software, we were able to convert most of our traditional clients. They are the winners who are now reaping the benefits.
I value the opinion of my staff, so my first step was to share my vision with them – I know this would never work without complete buy-in and commitment from them. I was teary-eyed at the end of the first two-day session when my last team member (typically skeptical and unyielding) agreed to the training and promised to support the conversion.
With the help of my staff, we reviewed and chose the cloud-based accounting software we would use for our clients. We evaluated security first then ease of use for our clients. We made sure that the software company was committed to excellent customer support, continuous research and upgrades. We understood that in order for the new system to work, our clients and their bookkeepers would need to be comfortable with the new system and happy with the results. We needed to be able to use the data to analyze their business results so we could help them better meet their goals.
My team and I recently attended an advanced training course for our chosen cloud-based software system. During the session, the trainer mentioned that she had visited our firm, and taught us how to set rules and preferences. I told her that she had given us a whole new staff of artificial intelligence robots. Our new role was to review the work of these robots and the financial documents, and to make more timely recommendations to our clients.
What about my clients, you ask? How did we get buy-in from them? The expression “If you build it they will come” plays true here. As the trusted advisor, it is your job to identify ways to help your clients run their business in a way that is more efficient and more profitable. You must show them how embracing technology will benefit them in the long run.
My advice: Move your firm’s accounting system to the cloud; you will see the benefits and love it. Then, you can share your experience with them.
As a New York City-based CPA firm, we review and prepare federal, NYS and city corporation and personal tax estimates each quarter. Our new system allows us to review and fine tune these estimates every quarter. I love to tell the story of December 2015 when my team and I could accurately calculate the taxable profit to Dec. 11, and then estimate the minimal activity for the remainder of the year. Our clients were able to pay in an adequate fourth quarter estimate, and plan for either their March or April tax or pension payments and give out bonuses – it was great!