At Woodard, we interact with over 60,000 accountants and bookkeepers each year through our education programs and online resources, and we have deep levels of engagement with thousands of these advisors each year through our coaching and mentorship programs. This breadth and depth of engagement has provided us with a front-line perspective of the struggles faced by accountants and bookkeepers.
We find 5 of these struggles to be pervasive and particularly formidable.
First, accountants and bookkeepers are struggling to become and remain distinctive. Services like tax preparation, bookkeeping and assurance are highly competitive, creating pricing sensitivities that border on commoditization. To thrive in this environment, accountants must expand their portfolio of offerings to include less common services (e.g., micro-niche clientele or niche technologies). Then, they must focus on branding around these distinctive abilities.
Second, accountants and bookkeepers are struggling to stay current on technology. The technological landscape is always shifting, and we are in a season of rapid and disruptive-level shifts. Accountants who stay informed on small business technologies for their clients and practice innovations for their own practices will develop a competitive advantage within the profession and will increase effectiveness for their clients. This is especially critical with bookkeeping automation solutions (e.g. bank feeds from online banking into General Ledger solutions, document OCR and data parsing, expense reporting automation, sales tax automation, Accounts Payable automation, etc.). Accountants who leverage these solutions will significantly increase the profitability and scale of their bookkeeping operations. Accountants who ignore these automation technologies are at risk of being displaced by firms (or clients) who deploy them.
Third, many accountants and bookkeepers don’t prioritize the management and development of their practices. In other words, they struggle with the same E-Myth problem that Gerber assigns to all small business owners in his book The E-Myth. To overcome this challenge, accountants must become effective team leaders – delegating more and more of the productions of the firm to others and focusing primarily (if not exclusively) on growing and developing their practices.
Fourth, accountants and bookkeepers struggle to find and acquire the right clients. This struggle goes beyond marketing – though many accountants lack strong marketing and selling skills. The struggle is rooted in a lack of intentional focus within the practice. Accountants must define their ideal client and must do so by evaluating each client’s industry (for practices that are specialized by industry), the client’s business culture, the client’s business practices, and (most critically) the client’s willingness to listen to and heed advice from the accountant.
Finally, accountants and bookkeepers struggle with their value proposition. Clients perceive accountants as overhead – as a cost of doing business. To overcome this struggle, accountants must increasingly embrace coaching roles with their clients. For individual clients, accountants should operative as wealth managers and financial planners, not just annual 1040 preparers. For small business clients, accountants should become well versed in predictive analytics, forward-looking operational metrics and key performance indicators, and leverage these insights to transform small businesses.
To address these struggles, accountants and bookkeepers must become intentional – focusing efforts on matters that are proactive, that develop their practices, that grow themselves as professionals, that focus their services in specific business sectors (niches), and that expand their services beyond their client’ back offices and into their clients’ “board rooms.”
The good news: Pathways exist for accountants and bookkeepers to take this important journey. Woodard Institute is just one of numerous coached programs designed to overcome pervasive struggles throughout the bookkeeping and accounting professionals. Of course, I would love for you to explore our practice transformation programs at Woodard Institute, but regardless of the path you choose or the program you join, I challenge you to make the next 12 months game-changing for your practice.
This is your season to thrive!