How some smart firms spent their summer vacations…
By Hitendra Patil
A new busy season is fast approaching and vacation season is coming to an end. But some firms haven’t been taking time off. They’ve been assessing the lessons from the 2014 busy season to apply to 2015.
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Here are six of the things that the most innovative firms have been doing. And no, they aren’t what you might necessarily expect.
1. Niche Identification
Every now and then technology and laws change, which inevitably uncover new opportunities in the marketplace. Visionary firms and aggressively ambitious accountants find such changes, and discover how to make the most of such changes by creating niche services or products around such changes, before others.
2. Trends Identification
Tax season is like being in another world, more often than not pretty detached from the world around. Most technology providers that cater to accounting professionals work hard during tax season to get ready with new features, products and processes. Immediately after the tax season, all of these new things come to market. Progressive firms step out and look for the cool new innovations and try them out. Pioneers identify trends and ride them, even if it means risking some of their time and profits. Visionary firms have “gut-feel” of which trends will make money, because they have always tried new trends early.
3. Increase Client Interactions
One of the top reasons accounting firms lose clients is communication –– rather, lack of it. And hence, contrary to the popular belief, it is not just during the tax season that leading firms follow up with clients. After the tax season, savvy firms use the “tax season recency” in client-touch to build stronger relationships. The clients of such firms generally do not say “I meet my accountant only once a year.”
4. Rethink Business Models
Why change what has worked for years? Leading firms don’t think so. They seek change. They question their own business model. They compare themselves with not other firms but other knowledge-based industries and ask questions like “why do we make less return per person than x, y, z industry makes?” Then they look for opportunities to revamp their business model by eliminating, optimizing or empowering certain aspects of their business model.
5. Technology Upgrade, but NOT Just at Firm’s Office
Cloud and SaaS products have driven the big change in technology visions of leading firms. The whole behavioral shift in terms of people wanting to have unobstructed access to their own information at the time of their choosing has created new multi-billionaires in the social media technology industry. And accounting firms that have a grip on customer psychology know this well. Their technology spend is being planned on not just upgrading versions and hardware but actually identifying and focusing on rolling out such technologies that empower their clients. Self-service client portals, secure documents sharing utilities, what-if analytics… The list will just keep growing.
The number one challenge, especially for small to medium firms, is focusing on only the most profitable activities. You don’t need to do everything yourself and your staff should be used for their special expertise.
But leveraging expertise for higher return requires focus. And it starts at the top with three kinds of focus, according to celebrity author Daniel Goleman, who says, “failure to focus inward leaves you rudderless, a failure to focus on others renders you clueless, and a failure to focus outward may leave you blindsided.”