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Right now you're busy and may be overwhelmed, but what are the opportunities lie on the other side?
YOUR BUSINESS 3 mins 29 Apr 2020 by Rebecca Mihalic
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Regardless of where you sit in the advisory vs compliance space, there is no doubt that Covid-19 and specifically the JobKeeper Scheme have made it abundantly clear that accountants bring clients value above and beyond preparing a tax return.

This is the second time in recent years that the Australian Government has been behind a program that has required accountants to do things in a new way and service their clients better. The first was Single Touch Payroll. Early adopters spent years spouting the benefits of cloud accounting and some followers joined the ranks and moved their clients to an online solution slowly. But for every accountant that did there was at least one that didn't, citing every reason under the sun not to make the changes or encourage their clients to. Then all of a sudden along comes STP and the easiest way to deal with the requirements for the bulk of businesses in Australia was to move their accounting systems to the cloud. So as naturally compliant people, accountants did what they had to do and started moving clients to new online solutions. (And in doing so, most completely missed the opportunity to provide a real tech stack and focused on the bare minimum service - but I won't dwell on that now!)

Now in the year of Covid, the Australian government has once again been the kick the accounting industry has needed to look at their services offering. The bare minimum requirements to do nothing other than be eligible for JobKeeper requires two things:

  • Real time access to data
  • Forecasting

Eligible businesses and their accountants will have 7 days at the beginning of every month to report actual revenue figures and forecasted data. Never before have we had to produce information to this extent this quickly for so many businesses.

Albus Dumbledore said “Happiness can be found in even the darkest of times, but only to those who remember to turn on the light” and the same can be said about this opportunity. Whilst these are difficult and for many dark times, it is also the opportunity lots of accountants have been waiting for.

Over the last ten years I've heard accountants repeatedly say “I don't know how to start the conversation about advisory with my clients”. Well guess what, the government is going to make you do it every month for the next 6 months. Don't squander this time. Use it to build those stronger relationships, show your value and prove what you can do for your clients. Engage with them in a whole new way, and then don't let this stop in 6 months when JobKeeper dries up.

Right now while we are madly scrambling to lodge initial applications, it may not be the best time for you to think far beyond next week. But as you are starting to spend the first week of every month reviewing your client's performance and forecasting the next month to fulfil your JobKeeper obligations, think about what this could mean for you long term. Think about more than JobKeeper and talk about more than that with your client. Build the foundation for ongoing advisory services, work with them to understand and improve their business and add those extra services to your library.

Use this time to build your confidence and skills in this space, learn about the tech you need to use, define what you will charge for your new additional services, train your team, build your marketing collateral, determine your new terms of engagement and most importantly get paid for all the great work you do for your clients.

Before the end of JobKeeper, while all of this is fresh in their minds, engage your clients in ongoing services. Extend out their forecast to the next twelve months, monitor their performance, work on their business continuity plan, help them move to the cloud. All of this translates to additional revenue for your business, stickier and more loyal clients, more interesting work and a more valuable firm.

You can’t honestly tell me you went into accounting to spend the rest of your life doing tax returns, so what are you waiting for?

Rebecca Mihalic is a Chartered Accountant and Director of BusinessDEPOT Sydney. She is also Head of Accounting (APAC) at Practice Ignition, a market leading tech solution that allows accountants and bookkeepers to eliminate the friction in their client engagements by sending a proposal that can be read, signed and paid all in the one place. Meaning more signed deals, no more accounts receivable and less back and forth for everyone.

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Rebecca Mihalic

Head of Accounting (APAC) at Ignition and Director  businessDEPOT

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Published 29 Apr 2020 Last updated 27 Oct 2022