The advent of the internet began to quickly change some of the core functions of the accounting profession. Previously simpler operations like compliance and payroll have been affected by constantly evolving new technology and the continuing creation of even more advanced software. These changes to the accounting profession were before Covid-19.
Once the virus hit, suddenly small businesses and individuals started to depend on their accountants to add services not previously in their wheelhouse. A few of these newly required services are: navigating complex tax legislation, securing critical financing, and making high-stakes decisions about their employees. Businesses and individuals found themselves in urgent need of trusted advice about their most important asset: their people. Accountants stepped into that role.
It hasn’t been easy. Accountants are taking calls at all hours, working longer hours, and shouldering their clients’ stress. Nearly 40 percent say they’ve lost sleep from work-related stress since the beginning of COVID-19.
At the same time, many recognize the need to expand their services beyond advising on their clients’ finances. To thrive after the crisis, accountants must lean into their roles as holistic business advisors who guide decisions about people. There are a few important ways accountants can evolve into it long-term.
Let employee needs guide business decisions
When the pandemic hit, choices about payroll, benefits, and hiring became make-or-break business decisions. The urgency of the situation led accountants into all-hours Zoom calls with their clients to discuss everything from cash flow to keep their business afloat and ways to keep people employed. These conversations provided new visibility into the people and cultures that define their clients’ businesses.
Business owners and individuals will rely on accountants more than ever for advice on how to give employees peace of mind knowing they have a great place to work long-term so they can focus on growing the business.
This change is good for accountants’ businesses: it’s estimated that practices providing advisory services can generate 50 percent more in monthly client revenue. Accountants have demonstrated their value in consulting on people's decisions during the pandemic, and they have an opportunity to become long-term trusted advisors when the crisis passes.
Embrace technology to add value, not just automate work
While some automation has threatened accountants’ core job functions, the right technology partnerships can empower them to expand their advisory roles. Many tech companies have historically exploited their partnerships by using accountants’ client relationships as a sales channel, but there are enough options available that accountants can demand better.
Accountants must lean into the parts of their jobs that technology can’t do — like helping clients manage employees’ financial, emotional and physical well-being. Automation can’t adjust business models in real-time when a pandemic hits or build balanced and inclusive teams. But it can free up people to solve these problems, which are the most complex and critical for a business to get right. Useful technology brings an accountant and client together instead of pulling them apart.
Lean into the “risk mitigator” role
Accountants have always been mitigators for their clients, but during the pandemic, that role has taken on a new urgency. They’ve solved serious problems before they happen, whether it’s advising on major people's decisions like furloughs vs. layoffs or avoiding wrongful termination suits.
To thrive after the crisis, accountants must lean into risk mitigation as a central part of their jobs. Finding the right relationship with technology can help. With base-level compliance and payroll tasks automated, accountants are left with time and space to evaluate their clients’ business health and get ahead of challenges around the corner.
The MoneyThumb team hopes the above information will help settle any questions accountants have about how to navigate their new normal due to Covid-19 changes to tax laws and constantly evolving technology and relationships with clients. To help you and/or your accounting firm with these challenges, download this free white paper from Accounting Web titled Bringing Order to Chaos in Your Small Firm.
Below is a description of what you can expect to learn from this whitepaper:
The radical changes of the last three years – 2019’s TCJA, 2020’s PPP/COVID, and 2021’s PPP2/RRA, have taken a toll on every firm and its practitioners. Most of our firms have been busier in the last three years than at any time in the last three decades. During this time, technology has continued its inevitable march forward, and many of our firms are in desperate need of a technology and business process makeover. Even though you and your partners are likely exhausted and ready for a vacation, the significant changes in technology, the marketplace for professional services, and the business environment make NOW the best time to work on your business.