Becoming a Trusted Advisor Through Communication.
The most common challenges in accounting can be resolved through improved communication. Leveraging technology can facilitate better communication and faster, more accurate numbers, allowing an accountant to provide more value through analysis and process improvement. Ensuring that clients understand the numbers they see and have a good handle on the company’s finances helps build knowledge, comfort and trust, positioning the accountant to become the company’s trusted advisor.
Facilitating Communication – The Accountant’s Most Important Skill.
At KATA Accounting, we use Apps and business processes (habits) to improve the flow of documents and improve communication with our clients, while maintaining regular personal contact to build relationships.
Challenge: Payments are made or funds are received and the accountant doesn’t know what they represent. Documentation has not flowed properly and is not available for the accountant or bookkeeper to associate with the transaction it represents. This can create significant headaches if your company gets selected for a review or audit and you have to go back and find the supporting documentation.
- A large payment is made, but no bills relating to it sit in accounts payable.
- A payment is received, but no corresponding invoice has been issued.
Solution: In today’s environment of Apps, API’s (Application Program Interface – the way the Apps talk to each other), mobile devices and tablets, entering bills, creating invoices and accepting payments can be done anywhere an internet connection is available. Whether you’re at a trade show, farmer’s market, flea market, on the road or on the shop floor, being able to create invoices, accept payment and enter bills is at your fingertips. Leveraging this technology to facilitate communication solves these problems.
Charles Beauchamp of Performance Envy (2235 Royal Windsor Drive), uses his tablet to do everything from the shop floor or while he’s on the road. Customer invoices are created in AllData (software specific to the garage industry) and sent over to QuickBooks Online (QBO). He then accepts payment by credit card right there by accessing QBO through his Google Chrome web browser and handing the tablet to the client to complete the payment. For customers who don’t live nearby, they can be e-mailed an invoice and pay from their home computer, laptop, tablet or phone.
When he’s picking up parts or paying bills, he simply has to take a picture with Receipt Bank, make sure it’s in focus, and send it into the process. A couple of times a month, he has a brief call with his accountant to clear up any questions.
There will always be the odd item that requires a phone call or e-mail, and maintaining personal contact with clients is the most important part of building a trusting relationship. The beautiful benefit of leveraging Apps is that an electronic copy of the document can be attached to the transaction to which it relates, making audit-proofing possible. Charles’ example of how he uses technology to spend less time on his books and more time on his cars can eliminate the vast majority of document-flow related communication issues.
Key Success Factor: The most important thing is to build habits. Taking a clear picture of the bill or receipt with Receipt Bank and filing it right away; and sending the invoice to the customer and accepting payment immediately are the habits that need to be built to successfully leverage the technologies Charles is using.
Financial Knowledge – Built Through Communication
At KATA Accounting, we use a variety of tools to have face-to-face meetings, collaborate and communicate with our clients. We schedule these meetings regularly to continually build financial literacy, understanding, comfort and earn the client’s trust.
Challenge: Management is not paying sufficient attention to company finances or does not possess the knowledge to have a good understanding of the numbers they’re looking at.
- Understanding the difference between accrual-based accounting systems, and the realities of cash-flow.
- Failing to understand cash-flow and getting into a cash-crunch.
- Thinking the business is worth more than it is.
Solution: Personal communication with a client to go over numbers and ensure they have a good understanding of company finances is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of a good accountant. In today’s technology environment, you can have face-to-face meetings around the world at any time, use walkie-talkie apps across continents and communicate with your staff and partners with a variety of tools.
UJ Ramdas, of Intelligent Change (intelligentchange.com) uses tools such as Skype, Zoom, Google Hangouts and Voxer to communicate with staff and partners of Intelligent Change.
During the regular meetings with his accountant on Skype or Zoom, UJ can give a final stamp of approval to the numbers, identify any potential errors, and get a deeper understanding of what the numbers mean. He can ask any questions he likes and give direction about areas where he wants a deeper understanding.
Always on the go, UJ uses Voxer, a walkie-talkie app, to communicate when bills are being paid or any questions he has that he wants to follow up on in the next meeting.
Whether the client prefers Skype, text message or good old telephone calls, maintaining personal communication is vital to providing higher levels of value and becoming a trusted advisor. By maintaining regular communication with the client, the accountant can build comfort and trust with the client while educating the client to avoid the examples mentioned above.
Trust – Built Through Communication
We use the tools mentioned in this article, and others, to communicate with our clients regularly. We do this to build and reinforce good habits and processes, to develop knowledge and understanding, and to create comfort and trust with the client.
Challenge: Management makes a major business decision without consulting the accountant. This often happens because the accountant has not become a trusted advisor for the client and the client simply doesn’t think to speak to the accountant first.
- Entering into a purchase agreement (buying a business).
- Starting to offer a new service or product without due consideration. In other words, not reviewing the fixed versus variable costs, break-even points and pricing adequately.
- Making unrealistic assumptions when reviewing potential business models.
- Failing to understand the tax consequences of a business decision.
Solution: Using the Apps available within today’s accounting ecosystems provides useful tools to clearly communicate and document transactions, allowing the accountant to spend more time reviewing numbers with the client and providing value through analysis and process improvement. Ongoing communication builds comfort and trust between the accountant and client and makes it more likely that the client will consult with the accountant before making a major business decision, ultimately, allowing the accountant to become a trusted advisor.