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Going remote

Working in the accounting industry has never been so exciting. The possibilities placed in front of us are vast and expanding at a rapid rate. No longer are we required to remain at our offices to wade through a plethora of compliance work. Sure, it still exists, but with software to deal with a lot of the grunt work, armed with digital efficiencies such as document filing, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning, our focus can now be placed on providing customers with financial and business advisory. Client expectations can now be exceeded and the rise of digital services offers greater opportunity to forward-thinking firms willing to embrace current technologies.

So how do you go remote?

The following are my tips on getting started:

Create a digital plan – To create a digital plan you first need to look at the tools, skills and knowledge to get started. When I look at changing my service offerings and/or business structure I often create a mind map that details each element of the plan. In the centre of the map lives the main purpose of the plan (such as the service you wish to offer) and then branching out from this are the separate elements needed to make that service a reality. For example, you could list each individual software program you will use to deliver a digital service. Start with your accounting software, how you will process and save digital documents, how you will obtain digital client approvals and signatures, which new workflows need implementing, how to manage your CRM, projects, tasks etc. Each of these items will be an individual branch from the central service offering. From there you can then add further sub-branches that contain detail on how you will implement each section of the strategy. This might include pricing, working out which products integrate, staff training and so on.

Another option is to complete this process in project management software, but I like putting it into mind mapping software first so I may visually review the full project’s scope. If it seems too large to start off with, I often then choose the most important parts of the project and break it down to get started.

Remember, the aim is to create a plan that focuses on reduced internal costs and increased procedural efficiencies that will also increase customer service opportunities and satisfaction.

Create your digital services packages – Now you know what you will offer, it’s now time to create digital packages appealing to your customer base. If you are unsure on how to do this, get started by surveying your current customers with different offerings to see where their interest lie. I.e. Do you offer management reports, budgets or cash flow forecasting with advisory support services to allow your clients better insight into their business? Do they understand and know their average debtor collection days or their breakeven point? Also, look at your current billings for each client. Could you increase these billings by offering a more customised solution where the client achieves greater value from the improved digital information and services you can now provide? Would it be easier and better for both parties cash flow to offer fix priced direct debit services that included some of the above-mentioned services?  If so, then why not implement a digital monthly plan that means you have more opportunity to delight your customers. With improved digital services and systems, this is all now possible.

Create a digital culture – When going remote and changing the central structure of your business there is a need to promote these advantages to both your customers and staff. There can be a great deal of fear or apprehension attached to a change in business structure. It is your job to therefore promote the advantages and to allay any fears prior to implementation.

Throughout this process, you may find some staff and/or clients are not suited to your new strategy. As with all business change, there may be a period where these people will need to decide whether to come on this new exciting ride with you, or to make a break. Leave this up to them, but when recruiting new staff and/or clients remember to always be on the lookout for modern thinking, adaptable people.

When creating your digital culture, you will also need to consider whether you will work offsite, or if you will still retain a centralised place of business. Either can work well and I have witnessed many accounting firms praise the benefits of going remote. Regardless of choice, when going remote, you will need to set up policies and procedures around how the business will operate post implementation. To be successful in going remote, I suggest concentrating on your policies, procedures, processes, and outcomes. You may work on this once you know the what, where and how of your new digital strategy. Getting this right will make the whole process smoother and easier and will allow your business to profit sooner from a more confident and structured plan.

About the author

Melissa Foote is the Managing Director and CEO of Total Business Services and Training (TBST) in Melbourne, Australia. TBST is a Registered Training Organisation that is accredited by the Australian government to deliver recognised finance and business qualifications. Melissa is also an author, software and accounting consultant and public speaker.