What can I outsource in my firm?

 

Outsourcing is no longer out of the ordinary. The outsourcing journey begins with accepting that.

We all know that the accounting profession has seen some big changes in the last decade – out with the old and in with the new, the more efficient and the most profitable. 

Some small firms with a handful of tax-only clients may be able to coast along for a while doing things the way they always have. But for those looking to grow and thrive, it’s a case of adapt or be replaced. 

That being said, it seems there’s still some lingering misunderstanding about outsourcing, what can be outsourced, and how it can contribute powerfully to the growth of your firm.

As far as we’re concerned, outsourcing isn’t about just getting some help with compliance.

It’s a tool to help you transform the nature of your interactions with your clients. 

 

Are you stuck hoping the dam won’t crumble?

 

When clients come to us, they’re usually overwhelmed in one way or another.

Remember the story about the little Dutch boy and the dam? 

In the popular fable, a little boy notices a crack in a dam. Since much of the Netherlands is below sea level, a leak in the dam could be a fatal disaster. So the little boy plugs the crack in the dam with his finger. The leaking stops. The little boy knows that if he moves, the hole will get bigger and bigger and the town will flood. 

When he is finally found, the boy is hailed the hero of holland! It’s a tale of bravery. The only problem? He is still the only solution for an imminent flood. 

We find many firms in the same position, stuck recruiting anyone and everyone to plug the holes in their own businesses before an imminent flood. Often we find the business owner is doing their own part to plug the dam. At this stage, we find the same issues stopping you from taking your firm to the next level:

  • You just don’t have enough staff or time to find them
  • Your existing staff are doing work at the wrong level 
  • You’re doing, rather than advising as the Business Owner
  • Your team don’t have the skills required for you to scale up
  • You’re unable to retain staff long term
  • Your top talent are recruited by bigger firms with more to offer

Our solution?

 

Build a damn wall

 

Instead of trying to fill the gaps with anyone who is willing, change the structure of the way you do business. Build a wall so that you’re never fighting floods and you can do the work that is going to be the most profitable for you. 

That being said, you don’t have to be in a tax work crisis for outsourcing to work for you. You can outsource at different levels within your business, to allow you to deliver more than just accounts, or find the skill set to break the barrier into advisory work. 

We created the outsourcing journey, to help you identify where you are right now, but most importantly to show you what’s possible. From all of our experience working globally with firms like yours, we’ve identified that this is the route that leads to scalable growth and profitability.

Start – Everything is being done in-house. You’re maintaining, not growing.

Regular User – We combat capacity by starting with one process and nailing it. By outsourcing accounts and/or bookkeeping, you’re scaling up your team’s hours for higher level work.

Strategic user – Getting to strategic level is exciting, because you’re able to revisit your internal roles and really start to level up your team. At this point, you’re outsourcing reporting and the team are reviewing rather than preparing. Your Account Managers are able to step up and have more conversations with the clients. 

Strategic + – At this point, outsourcing is your default method for accounting, bookkeeping and reporting. You now have the ability to increase your billable rates and your departments capability. At this level, your outsourced team are giving prime delivery, allowing your team even more time for advisory work. 

Growth – You have built the wall. You’re growing at a fast rate, with the right structure for having the very best conversations with clients, and the right team skillset to support your client base.

 

It’s not just about freeing up your time, it’s about what you use your time for

 

Ask yourself why you became an accountant. 

You are the most valuable person to your client, which means that you need to focus on what they value the most in order for your own firm to be more successful. If you’re stuck doing work at the wrong level, you’ll eventually become obsolete in the eyes of your clients.

Whether you need to build a wall to allow you time to find the right staff, or get your existing staff in the right seats for scalable growth, or you just want to do more of what you enjoy – outsourcing to a trusted team can help you accomplish your goals.  

Clear on where you are in the journey? Tell us what you need

The accounting profession is sometimes accused of lacking creativity. But before compliance and process, there comes ideas. Kevin Reed has curated key words of inspiration from some of accountancy’s expert commentators to help set a path towards practice transformation

“Create a life of freedom”

Amanda Watts is a business and marketing coach, founder of The Pioneering Practice Programme and creator of the British Accounting Marketing Awards.

You’re not in accountancy for the sake of it – it’s to give you the life you want and the life your clients want.

I often have accountants and business owners say to me, “I can’t attract the right staff or clients”… Well, as the leader you have to show up to the game – you have to set the culture and direction, then share it.

If you think everything you need to do to promote your business is just about marketing, then you’re missing the point. Create a life of freedom for you, your staff and your clients.

It’s about being true to yourself and creating something that you want. You haven’t set up an accounting practice for the sake of it, you’ve done it because of other goals, such as going sailing or to have a great life with your children.

 

“The next ten years in the accounting profession will bring greater profitability… for the lucky few”

Mark Wickersham is a chartered accountant, public speaker and author – he is well known as a profit improvement expert in the accounting community. His 2011 book, Effective Pricing for Accountants, was a number 1 Amazon best seller.

Accountants work too long hours for too little profit with increasing pressure on price. That has been the case for the last two decades. But things are changing.

The rapid pace of change in technology, cloud adoption and automation is forcing the profession to look to new ways to add value for clients. The future is advisory, not compliance. The future is interpreting the data, not recording the data.

This future lends itself to a different business model, a model of leverage and scale, not billing based on time.

And when we combine that with pricing based on value (not time spent), accountants will find they are earning more than ever before.

I say “for the lucky few” because unfortunately, many in the profession don’t want to change. They cling to the past. They keep their time sheets. They continue to focus on compliance services.

Yes, if you are one of the few ready to grasp change, the future is looking rosy.

 

“Don’t create a strategy without the detailed operational plan to deliver it”

Peter Gillman is the former managing partner and chairman of Price Bailey, leading it through a period of growth and development to become a Top 20 firm.

A practice’s executive board needs a mix of skills: creative; pragmatic/commercial; operational; and people-orientated.

I worked with a brilliant board that combined these attributes. It included inspirational creatives that were sometimes high maintenance, but so important to creating an ambitious and successful business.

Not all colleagues could understand their value and needed me to be an intermediary at times.

The commercial people and the pragmatists would see the ideas that have client/colleague value, or were unlikely to work. The operational people would understand the detailed steps required to deliver the plan. The people-orientated folk would understand the sensitivities and communication needs to enable colleagues to accept change.

As for ‘perspiration’… It is really hard work to operationally deliver change. It’s remorseless – but sensitive management is required to say “this is where we need to get to and this is the timescale that we envisage to get there”.

Accountancy firms, in broad terms, employ above-average intelligence people. That can be positive (they are thoughtful, receptive and understand business needs), and less positive (they have ideas of their own that might work for them but are inconsistent with the strategy/operational needs).

Respect for the executive is key to implementation and that respect is achieved through treating people the right way, aligned to commercial success.

 

“Manage self-belief. Do that and everything else follows”

Paul Shrimpling is the MD of Remarkable Practice. He has advised owners and managers of accounting firms for more than 16 years, and recently wrote The Business Growth Accountant.

I’ve had to take managing partners to one side and say: “Your job is to inspire your people and your clients.”

As a client or staff member, do you want an optimist in the room or a pessimist? Of course you want someone that’s going to help them achieve greater things. They want positive support.

The role of an accountant – either for the client or their team – is as the promoter and arbiter of certainty.

To help clients increase their certainty about the future, you’re someone who can interpret numbers. Part of analysing numbers has been to look at those in the past, but now it’s about looking forwards.

And once you’re interpreting that information and having those conversations, then how do you habituate it? That’s the perspiration bit…

  • Paul will be speaking at the AdvanceTrack Client Conference 2019. For more details, email advice@advancetrack.com.

 

“Accountants will become an unstoppable force for good”

Steve Pipe (pictured right) is a researcher, adviser, business author, speaker, trainer, strategist and FCA. He describes himself as “committed to helping accountants run their practices in ways that serve their clients and the world better”. The following is an edited and abridged extract from his upcoming book, When Good, Then Good.

The ground-breakers have shown how easy, quick, affordable and rewarding it is to help the world achieve the UN Global Goals by making a small change to their business models. The goals are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

That simple change is to ensure that when something good happens in your business, something good also happens in the world. For example:

  • When something good happens in your business, such as receiving a referral, winning a customer, making a sale, delivering a service, getting paid on time, receiving a testimonial and so on…
  • Something good also happens in the world– because, for example, you give a child access to food, water, sanitation or education.

Because we are numbers people, the profession will soon realise that the cost of being a ‘Business for Good’ is tiny. It will also recognise that the tiny cost (for instance, such as the $1.85 it costs to provide grain seeds that will grow into a year’s worth of food for a child in Africa) of making something good happen in the world can easily be funded out of the much larger amount of money and other benefits generated when good things (such as new clients, sales and on time payments) happen in their businesses.

Some parts of the profession are leading the way in rising to the challenge of the UN Global Goals. Regardless of whether they use the label ‘Business for Good’, they are showing us a better way that is already making life better for us all.

Soon, the rest of the profession will follow them, spearheading a movement that really will change the world. And accountants will become an unstoppable force for good.