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What makes a stand-out business accountancy firm?

by jcp
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gawdo

By Emma Lewis, Tax Cloud Ireland

Accountancy is a competitive field – in fact, there are around 38,000 accountancy firms in the Republic of Irelandalone. It’s acut-throat world, with each one pushing to attract and retain clients while outshining their competitors.

Being an effective accountant means different things to different people and the job certainly requires a massive range of skills. But what is it that can turn a good accountancy firm into one that is out-of-this-world amazing?

Although the devil (as usual) is in the detail, there are several pretty easy wins here.

Offer the widest, most diverse range of accountancy services possible

Accountancy firms of course offer the typical bread and butter stuff like end of year accounts, tax returns and financial firefighting. But in addition to all the usual services clients expect, diversifying as much as possible is also crucial. R&D Tax Credits is a good example.

However, employing a specialist team that can administer extra services like R&D tax relief is often prohibitively costly. This is why many firms will instead work with a specialist self-service R&D portal that not only keeps things simple but also keeps overhead costs in check.

Be genuinely interested in clients and understand their challenges

Accountants have a head for facts and figures, but a good accountant is much more than just a number cruncher.

Highly competent accountants must be demonstrably keen to spend time actually getting to know their clients and what makes them tick. Knowing their business, their goals and their challenges is key in helping clients think of them as essentially an extension to their team. In other words, business owners should see their accountant as a source of sound advice and insights that form the basis of important business decisions. For example, is now a good time to invest in that expensive new piece of machinery or would it be better to wait?

An outstanding accountantwill also take a proactive role in offering real-time financial information to clients, contributing to their business plan and actively helping them boost their bottom line.

Be their shoulder to cry on (yes, literally)

Accountants are busy people – but so are clients. The economy is precarious right now due to residual Covid fallout, ongoing Brexit issues, souring costs and concerns over Russia. So it’s no surprise they get rather stressed/tearful/angry.

Being the still small voice of calm goes a long way in creating a robust professional relationship built on trust. Coming up with professional solutions when the proverbial has hit the fan means clients are much more likely to stick around long term.

Clients who feel comfortable and supported are also much more likely to approach their accountant early on when a problem does arise. After all, if they can’t pay their tax bill for some reason, knowing sooner rather than later can prevent a major headache.

Automate as many processes as possible

Human error means mistakes happen. But when those mistakes can potentially cost clients many thousands of pounds – not to mention a firm’s reputation – an accountant worth their salt will make sure to errors are avoided.

Accountants that outshine the competition will automate as many processes as possible, minimising human involvement and the risk of errors. Their firm will also be cloud-based, meaning all systems and documents can be accessed 24/7 from any device.

Automation also means that substantial amounts of data to be gathered and manipulated simultaneously. Additionally, the combination of efficient, automated processes and keen attention to detail makes providing clients with real-time business information that much easier. This is hugely beneficialfor business owners looking to grow or diversify for instance.

Stay updated onthe latest accounting trends

This one may soundobvious, but in the hectic day-to-day world of business accounting it’s easy to lose sight of the broader landscape.

As a sector, accountancy is constantly evolving with new laws, guidance and trends. Staying ahead of the game is what makes a good accountant excellent.

There are never enough hours in the day and finding time to take a CPD course, re-check legislation or read an academic paper may seem impossible. But it’s essential in not only administering an accurate, professional service, but in reinforcing the firm’s brand too.

Communicate, communicate, communicate

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said”Peter Drucker.

A really top-drawer accountant will remain in contact with clients regularly and the lines of communication will always be wide open. Complex terminology will also be avoided in favour of language that’s easier for clients to understand, limiting jargon where possible.

A particularly skilled accountant should also be able to predict the questions clients may ask and be armed with a comprehensive answer.

A flexible approach to delivering services is important here too in terms of accountant/client interaction. The way many businesses function has changeddramatically since the pandemic and while some clients still like to work face-to-face with their accountant, many more will expect the Zoomoption or similar.Make it easy for them.

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