Every time I go through the grocery store self-checkout, I always think to myself, "Is this our business 5 years from now? Will accountants even be needed in the future?"
To answer this question, I had to reference my deep knowledge of The Simpsons. This question reminded me of an episode called Hurricane Neddy, season 8, episode 8. The following conversation occurred between Ned Flanders and Reverend Lovejoy:
Flanders: But, Reverend, I need to know. Is God punishing me?
Reverend Lovejoy: Oh, short answer, "yes" with an "if." Long answer, "no" with a "but."
So will accountants be needed in the future?
Short answer, yes if they figure out how to continuously find customers and add value to their businesses. Long answer, no if they continue to operate the way they always have, but there is still hope for them if they are willing to change.
More and more tasks of your accountant and bookkeeper are being automated by software. This January 2016 PC Magazine article ranks the best online accounting services for 2016. Notice that they are only rating software, not outsourced bookkeeping services. Just because you have software does not mean you are a professional accountant. There will still be a need for your accountant, it just won't be the same role that they have played in the past.
Dinosaur Or Entrepreneur?
If you are an accountant, you need to make a decision: Are you going to become a dinosaur or an entrepreneur? Leslie Seidman, the former Chairperson of the Financial Accounting Standards Board, had this to say about the future of accountants:
"[Accountants] must have intellectual curiosity and a willingness to learn and embrace change."
Accountants who embrace change and figure out what strategic pivots to make will succeed and thrive. They will become thought leaders in the industry and crush everyone. Those who don't and stay stuck in their ways because "This is how we have always done it" will go the way of the dinosaur.
Which route will you choose?
Turn Into A Consultant
The wave of the future for accountants (it's actually already here) is to become more than a button pusher for your clients; you need to be a trusted advisor. If you only know QuickBooks, but you don't understand financial reporting and general business strategy, then you are in trouble.
Successful accountants will have to figure out how to add value to their clients beyond just general financial reporting. If you can talk intelligently about financial reports and make suggestions on how to improve profitability, you are going to do well.
Successful accountants will figure out how to provide their clients with financial information and advise them on how to use it to grow their businesses.
Customer Service Is More Important Than Ever
With all the automation that is happening in the accounting industry, the role of the outsourced accountant and bookkeeper is becoming more and more virtual. While that can boost productivity, you need to be careful here and make sure that customer service and satisfaction is at an all-time high.
This is not a time to sit back and ignore your clients. Rather, figure out different ways to engage with them virtually. Running weekly or monthly financial review meetings with them via GoToMeeting or UberConference helps you maintain strong client relationships.
Another thing to consider is helping your customers by providing them with knowledge for free that you think can help them. This can come in the form of content that you share with your audience through you social media channels. You can also provide a newsletter with information that has helped you with your own business. The content can be original content that you produced or helpful articles that you found on other authoritative websites.
Another thing you should consider for your accounting firm of the future is to pick a few industries to specialize in. For instance, we are restaurant bookkeeper experts, so we really focus pretty hard on restaurant clients. When I get in front of a restaurant owner, it is usually a good fit on both sides. I have over 6 years of restaurant experience as a general manager and 15+ years of restaurant bookkeeping experience. Needless to say, I can speak the language of a restaurant owner and walk the walk.
If you don't have any industry specialties as an accountant, then you are just another face in the crowd; a very large crowd.
Team Building And Bandwidth Allow For Scaling
Accounting firms that embrace automation and figure out how to become more efficient will have the ability to add team members quickly and scale their business. Building an effective team for your accounting firm is going to become more important than it has ever been.
Having a good set of documented processes in place for your accounting firm will not only help with scaling, it will also help if you intend to eventually exit your business by selling your firm.
If you can build a kick-ass team with a strong culture, you will have a successful accounting firm.
What are your thoughts on the future of the accounting industry or other business services with the advances in technology?
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