As many accounting professionals know, the industry shift to using cloud accounting tools to run our practices is here to stay and has arguably been accelerated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This change is not only about leveraging technology to drive efficiencies and improve your operations, but represents an opportunity for you to reevaluate the way you connect and add value to clients.
I sat down with Allison Hawkins, Xero Canada National Ambassador and Owner of Hawkins CPA to discuss why this is an important piece to creating a practice that your staff want to work at and your clients love to work with.
Kerry: You and I have had the opportunity to talk to a number of large and small firms across Canada and help them develop cloud implementation plans for moving their practice online. While there is certainly a difference in the size and complexity of bringing a larger practice fully online, there are some underlying truths that are universal — a strong focus on operational improvements and a strong desire to better support the client. Is there anything else you would add from your perspective?
Allison: As someone who runs a CPA practice, outside of my role as a Xero Ambassador, the cloud has never been more important to running our day-to-day operations and serving our clients. In fact, with COVID-19, now more than ever, business owners are looking for support to keep them afloat. This usually comes in the form of providing real-time financial information so they know exactly where they stand with their cash flow, along with value-added services to help them make the right insights to run their business. An informed business owner can assess opportunities and make decisions, which is ultimately our goal.
Kerry: Typically, when we approach a partner that is just getting started on their journey to use cloud tools, we have to be very cautious in implementing change. It’s very utopian to want all firms using cloud tools to automate low-value, repetitive work, allowing them to redistribute that time to more value-based services that better serve the client. But that isn’t the reality and not all firms can make a change like that overnight. What are ways you’d recommend for firms to implement change?
Allison: As a firm leader, if you are deliberate about the type of firm you want to build, and focus your initial efforts on the vision and setting out the framework, it makes it much easier to get staff on board because they can see how they can fit into that vision and achieve their own goals. There needs to be a very calculated crawl, walk, run approach to successfully implementing change. Start by defining your internal support processes and automate simple tasks. By starting with changes internally, not only will you get the buy-in and support from your team, but they will better understand the value these efficiencies bring when it’s time to start selling these services to your clients. And by improving your internal workings, you create happy employees.
Kerry: That is a great approach. Some of the more difficult implementations that we’ve encountered have a lot to do with lack of staff buy-in. There is a sense that they are forced to change only to the benefit of the clients. But, if you can show how these changes improve your team’s daily life, you will create an internal change engine to support the broader goal. Have you noticed any other mindset shifts since COVID-19?
Allison: COVID-19 has put a spotlight on people’s lives and how they want to live. For instance, people are realizing they can work from anywhere or find a flexible work schedule that fits in with their family’s needs. Running your accounting or bookkeeping practice shouldn’t be any different. Make sure that the practice you build is aligned with the lifestyle you and your staff want to live. Give yourself permission to build a practice that you and your team wants to work at.
Kerry: This is great advice, Allison. Where can people learn more?
Allison: Join the Xero Canada team on October 6 and 7 at our online roadshow to hear more on this topic, and how you can start to plan your own ‘Practice of purpose’. Register today!