Despite the advances in cloud-based technology, a 2017 Xero study found that 18% of UK accounting firms use paper ledgers. How much more efficient could those advisors be with streamlined digital processes? Transitioning to cloud-based services is no longer the way of the future—it’s the new reality of accounting.
We wanted to talk about why survival means switching to the cloud, and the pivotal role that an advisor has to play in these tough times. Our UK-based Account Manager Loreena Maguet talked to Karl Gebhardt, Founding and Managing Director of Strafin, South Africa, and Richard Woolgar, Head of Management Systems, Armstrong Watson to break this down.
Utilising the Cloud
If you haven’t made the switch to cloud-based accounting software, there are a multitude of reasons why you should:
- Cloud software is vital for teams now working from home.
- You’ll be able to collaborate with your clients in real time, giving them up-to-date advice as soon as it’s needed.
- Your clients will be able to check their data anytime, anywhere, giving them peace of mind.
- It eliminates human error when it comes to preparing reports and statements—integrations in the cloud are far more reliable than manual input into an Excel spreadsheet.
- It can free up significant amounts of time, which you can then put towards the essential advisory services that matter.
- And it can help you up-sell these advisory offerings. Not only will you be a better advisor to your clients, but your clients will be happy to invest more in your services.
"If you're still doing management accounts in Excel, it's crazy. There's potential for errors, and it's no doubt taking you a hell of a lot longer than what it should be. Spotlight is a great tool to be able to set up templates and produce management accounts very fast, in a format that actually makes sense to most clients."
For Karl, using software like Spotlight Reporting to support his advisory work was a no-brainer.
"The huge advantage of Spotlight in terms of us interacting with our clients, is that a lot of business owners go blank if you provide them with a profit and loss in an Excel spreadsheet and it's just a bunch of numbers,” he says. “And without fail, when I send someone a graphical representation of what's happening in their business, it’s a complete revelation for most customers. It's something that they can actually understand, as opposed to just seeing a whole bunch of numbers in front of them."
Furthermore, Spotlight Reporting has opened more doors, and helped him drive important advisory conversations.
"Every client who gets a set of management accounts in Spotlight comes back to me with questions, or we have a session where we actually talk them through it,” says Karl.
Being More than an Accountant
Richard Woolgar, found that as the pandemic deepened in the UK, he began taking on a different role in his clients’ lives. Business owners began turning to him to talk about their worries and uncertainty, because of his understanding of their financial realities.
Many advisors find that their roles sometimes involve a mix of financial advice and unofficial counselling, simply because they are privy to a large amount of confidential information. While it might feel strange to you at first, leaning into that position can help you become a trusted advisor, and even let you identify roadblocks ahead of time.
Tip: Building these relationships are important, but it’s also important to pay attention to those who may not be as proactive in reaching out with information. Make sure you’re touching base with all your clients regularly, and that none of them are underestimating the current situation. In the current climate, keeping your clients up-to-date may prove the difference between sink, or swim.
That in mind, being a support for your clients shouldn’t mean taking on all their problems and working yourself into the ground. It’s important to make sure that you’re looking out for yourself, by creating space to rest and relax, and asking for help when you need it.
A Brighter Future
The current pandemic has spurred on a range of changes, many for the better.
"The days of accountants just being there for compliance, doing the taxes, producing financial statements, talking to clients once a year, I think those times are gone,” says Karl. “And if accountants are still doing that, I think they need to change their business model and look at cloud software, like Xero, like Spotlight Reporting."
Take this time to improve your systems, and you’ll reap the rewards immediately. Don’t keep your clients and your firm in the dark ages—now is the time to Transform!