Staying relevant is becoming increasingly difficult; the more technology advances, the faster it moves. It connects us to everything, and work/life balance is fast becoming a myth. Our office is working, even when we aren’t working! The goal, then, is to make things seamless. If you want to help your clients do the same, you have to show them how much easier it will make their lives.
As counterintuitive as it sounds, innovation takes time. The apps, software, hardware and other tools available take hundreds of hours to comb through, but it’s worth it when you find the perfect combination to make your day that much easier. Do the legwork for yourself, with your clients in mind. You’ll need to find tools in four main categories:
- Communication – Talk to your team/clients in real time; for example, we use Intuit® Link with our tax clients.
- Project Management – A tool to develop an organizational system and scalability.
- Data Collection/Reporting – The most important numbers and info you need to know about your business, delivered to you on a set schedule.
- Automation – Connect everything and create workflows to save time. Our firm uses Intuit ProConnect™ Tax Online, QuickBooks® Online Accountant, Intuit Online Payroll and Intuit Merchant Services.
Choosing your tools is only a fraction of the battle; you need to convince your clients of the benefits! We’ve done this constantly over the years, and made some key observations that make it a little easier each time.
Expect friction, lots of friction. Your clients will have growing pains, but so did you! Identify what could have made it easier for you, and make sure to prepare your clients for this discomfort. Use drip campaigns to let them know about the coming changes, why they’re necessary and how the changes benefit them. If at all possible, try to create visual guides to help them along. Screenshots work just fine! If you make yourself available to answer questions, they’ll feel better about adopting those changes. Leverage technologies your clients are used to using.
Of the categories mentioned, communication is the most important. Have multiple channels, on apps your clients already use, to help them out. For example, if you are going to ask them to send all of their source documents to you online, be available to tell them how. Platforms such as Google Hangouts or Facebook Messenger are great options, because most people already use them to talk with friends and family. In doing this, you’ll open their eyes to the endless possibilities their everyday apps can hold for their own lives and businesses.
Automate all the things. Automation is the key to success in growth and innovation. If you can find a way to connect the tools you use in just the right way, you can set up some nifty little chain reactions that free up a ton of your time. For example, when we create a new project, our entire team is notified, it’s added to our calendars, and every time we complete any part, the system sends a message to everyone involved. Our team knows what’s going on at any given moment, from anywhere in the world. This allows us fill in for each other on the fly and enables us to complete projects faster. Automation helps us better serve our clients. We even set up automation workflows for clients to help them save time, too.
Reduce it to the ridiculous. Conveying the true value of these changes is the most difficult part of the innovation process. Your clients are busy people, and you’re asking them to spend their valuable time on learning something new. They have to know that this is an investment. Explaining the value in terms everyone can understand is key, especially if any of these changes cost money! For example, you might tell someone that for the price of a cup of coffee every day, they could have financial data delivered to them visually, on their phone in real time, saving them a few hours each week on reporting. What savvy entrepreneur wouldn’t be interested?
Tax professionals like us have a lot of power. We hold the respect of our clients and have the ability to influence them. It is our duty to ensure their futures are prosperous and happy. After all, their well being is important to our success, too! We should be the ambassadors of innovation and call them to blaze the trail with us. We pass our innovation on to them, helping them grow and live their lives while running their businesses. Together, we will not be marginalized by the future and progress; instead, we will shape it and we will own it.