In the past few years, there have been some major changes in how people run CPA firms. Every accountant will face some issues as their workforce evolves, so it’s important to stay prepared. From remote workforce management to better marketing practices, our guide has you covered. Keep reading to learn more about the main challenges in modern accounting and what to do about them.
Getting New Clients
Of course, this has always been a challenge for any business, but it has become a lot trickier in the past few years. Accountants can no longer rely on just doing solid work and getting word-of-mouth recommendations. Most modern consumers are starting to rely on the internet to find quality CPAs. You need to have a solid online presence and a quality reputation for attracting customers.
If you stick to older marketing tactics, you may find that your business does not grow. Though it is always good to have a reliable client base, new clients are also important. Adding more people down for business to your company provides more opportunities. It also ensures your finances do not struggle if old clients decide they no longer need your business.
Here are some things you can do to help your business better appeal to customers:
- Write articles for local papers or blogs, to position yourself as an accounting authority.
- Remind your customers that you appreciate referrals and reviews.
- Set up a clear sales process and train all employees to follow it.
- Use a customer relations management (CRM) system to help manage your clients.
- Offer performance-based bonuses for employees who meet certain sales targets.
- Remember to follow up with existing clients so you can retain the business you currently have.
- Make sure you have a clear profile set up on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other commonly used social media sites.
Staying Up-to-Date on Current Tech
Accounting technology is constantly changing, so your business needs to change too. Customers are always counting on their CPAs to have the latest, cutting-edge technology in this field. Clinging to older technology does more than just make your business slower. It also makes you look outdated and less reliable.
There are all sorts of types of accounting technology to stay informed on. For example, you might want to look into remote workforce management software. This makes a business a lot more competitive because you can attract the best CPAs by offering this perk. Another good option is CPA data analytics which helps you predict outcomes and make smart choices.
How do you find out about all the exciting new accounting technology options? This can take a little work, but it is worth it in the long run. Start by choosing a person to actively research technology and stay informed on new concepts. Assigning this task to someone in your CPA firm helps to avoid overlooking new ideas.
There are several spots you can regularly check for accounting news. Depending on your firm’s goals and the amount of time you have for research, you might want to subscribe to some of these reputable industry resources and experts:
- CPA Practice Advisor
- Accounting Today
- Insightful Accountant
- The Journal of Accountancy
- Randy Johnston
- Val Steed
- Brian Tankersley
Encouraging Clients to Use Customer Portals
This challenge ties into our two earlier points. Research has shown that almost half of all customers prefer self-service over direct interactions with an employee. Having customer-facing technology manages to keep your business up-to-date while appealing to new customers. However, things aren’t as simple as just setting up a self-service tab on your website and sitting back while customers do all the work for you.
In the CPA industry, client portals tend to focus on integrating client input with your hard work. They usually do things like facilitate file-sharing or make it easier for a client to communicate with you. In addition to still working with the data your customers send you, you may also need to help them figure out how to use the portal in the first place. A confusing customer portal can be worse than no technology at all.
If you just direct all your customers to a website page and don’t communicate with them at all, they are likely to feel ignored and get frustrated. Instead, you need to work hard to educate them on how to use the portal. Start by selecting accounting document management software with a simple and easy-to-learn interface.
Next, you need to include a lot of supporting assistance on your website. Most companies can benefit from a few how-to guides, FAQ sections, and even videos that explain common processes. You also need to ensure a staff member is there to help if customers get confused. A live chat box and other contact information should ensure that customers can ask for assistance if something isn’t working for them.
The final step is making sure your existing customers are aware of your new portal. Take the time to chat with clients in-office and tell them what the platform can do for them. You may also want to email your customers links to all the new technology you have provided.
Maintaining Cybersecurity and Data Privacy
CPA cybersecurity is more important now than it ever was before. There has been a huge increase in attacks and hacks. These can be disastrous, causing companies to lose millions of dollars. Most cybersecurity attacks on CPA companies focus on getting customer data. Thieves want access to bank account numbers, social security numbers, and other information they can use to steal money from their clients.
There are all sorts of ways that scammers can steal essential data from you. Some may exploit vulnerabilities in your website or software to hack their way into your system. Others may use sophisticated phishing scams to trick your employees into giving away their passwords.
There are also several CPA cybersecurity threats that involve viruses and malware. An employee who visits the wrong site could end up downloading keyloggers that sneakily collect passwords. Another increasingly common CPA cybersecurity threat is ransomware. This is a type of malware that shuts down your whole system and makes you pay them money to restore your data.
If you want to avoid these major threats, you need to be proactive. Here are some industry guidelines you can follow to make sure that you are meeting all your basic CPA cybersecurity needs:
- Set computers to require more secure passwords.
- Make sure that anyone who enters the office will encounter employees and get a casual security screening.
- Ensure that computers automatically update software as updates become available.
- Setup CPA data analytics to identify potential vulnerabilities.
- Regularly evaluate your system and make changes to security protocols if necessary.
- Run mock attacks so you can see how well your team responds to breaches.
- Only give employees access to the data they need to perform their job.
- Have multi-step identity verification, especially when using remote workforce management.
- Create clear rules about cybersecurity and provide consequences for employees who neglect the rules.
- Only do company business on secure company devices, not personal laptops or smartphones.
- Create multiple backups of your data, and store these backups in a separate network.
Being Overly Cautious About Automation and AI
In many CPA companies, employees see automation as the enemy. Many accountants worry that their customers will quit using their services, instead trying shoddy, confusing automated software. However, the reality is that accounting technology does not have to be the enemy. Instead, it can actually be a valuable tool for any CPA.
There are several benefits to automation, including:
- Less risk of silly little mistakes due to misspelling or writing down the wrong number
- Freeing up employees from grunt work so they can focus on building strong client relationships
- Easy to scale up as you get more business
- Lowering the risk of burnout among your accountants
- Being able to quickly access CPA data analytics
- Having the opportunity to monitor staff for carelessness or fraud
How do you get all these perks? There are many exciting ways to integrate automation into your firm. Most involve specific types of helpful software. For example, you can get an accounting document management system that automatically scans new files and sorts them based on specific keywords. Another popular use is getting programs that help with tax write-ups, so your staff members are not dealing with this tedious task during the busiest part of the tax season.
Keeping Your Workplace Efficient
Did you know that many companies are wasting time because they stick to old routines? The idea of switching things up in the name of efficiency can sound time-consuming and stressful. However, it is definitely worth it. CPA companies are prone to inefficiencies because tasks that might seem clear-cut can become overly complicated when you get more customers.
Becoming more efficient is all about considering your company’s needs, analyzing workflow, and finding more effective ways of satisfying customers. Though it can take a little time to implement more efficient procedures, the end result is a workplace that functions more smoothly. When your employees are not wasting time, they can better focus on serving customers’ needs and attracting new clients.
This is where CPA data analytics can be really useful. The right software can monitor your company and intuitively identify areas for improvement. For example, your accounting document management might benefit from an overhaul. Accounting document management software can help you tag and organize files better, so you can quickly find the right document for any client.
Here are some other ideas for ways to improve workplace efficiency:
- File each document as you receive it instead of ending up with a backlog of papers to handle.
- Create quiet workplaces where people can focus instead of open-concept offices.
- Have dedicated accountant stationers and printers to handle all your paper documents.
- Convert documents to OCR format, so you can use “control F” to search for relevant phrases.
- Take notes in all meetings to avoid forgetting anything important. Software like Livescribe can make this easier.
- Use cloud-based accounting technology, so you can access data from multiple devices.
- When handling multiple tasks, make a list of them and start the higher-priority tasks first.
- Set aside a block of time each day to answer emails and call clients.
Standing Out From the Crowd
Thanks to the internet, people are no longer stuck with picking the CPA company closest to them. Instead, they can talk to world-class CPA companies with the click of a button. This means that most firms have a lot more competition now. Instead of just competing with one other local firm, they can end up lost in a sea of similar-sounding companies all over the country.
If you want to remain competitive, you need to find things that differentiate you. Think carefully about what makes your CPA firm special. Your marketing material may need to emphasize things like your years of experience, your cutting-edge equipment such as accountant stationers and printers, or your use of new technology like AI.
Standing out from all your competitors is about being consistent. You need to do more than just provide quality work. You also need to put in the time with marketing and networking. The ideal goal is to build a reputation that makes people specifically choose you instead of just picking the first generic-sounding CPA company they come across.
Getting the Right Equipment
Many CPAs make the mistake of thinking that they don’t need anything but a computer to work. While it is true that the majority of modern CPA work happens on the computer, you don’t want to forget about your other equipment. It can be challenging to overcome this viewpoint, but it is important to have an office that is properly outfitted. This makes it easier for all your employees to do their tasks.
The right equipment does more than just keep your employees from wasting time with a glitchy old printer. For example, accountant stationers and printers can help manage and streamline your document production. You can get many benefits from actively managing your equipment instead of just passively using whatever old supplies are lying around.
Every CPA firm needs to take the time to research quality equipment and find good supplies. These are a few of the essentials your office will need:
- Computers with at least 8 GB of RAM, so they can properly store essential data
- Multiple monitors to provide employees with enough screen space to view multiple documents at once
- Phone systems with multiple lines for all your employees
- Accountant stationers and printers
- Bookshelves to hold your reference materials
- Fax machines and scanners
- Folders and files for paper documents
- Conference tables and chairs to handle large meetings
- Ergonomic chairs that can accommodate long periods of sitting down
Finding Good Employees
Though the CPA field continues to expand, fewer and fewer young people are going into the field. As longtime employees retire, this is creating some concerning gaps. In the next five years, experts predict that the number of CPAs for hire will drastically decline. This may make it hard for firms to fulfill the demand for their services.
There are several factors at play behind this problem. First, many young people are picking different careers because they mistakenly believe automation will make CPAs obsolete. Another issue is that many mathematically minded people are starting to prefer jobs in the software field because these can be quite lucrative.
If you want your company to run smoothly, it is important to attract talented and dedicated employees. Fortunately, there are still plenty of ways to find good workers. Once you understand the reasons for the employee shortage, it is easier to find solutions for the problem. Here are some potential ideas that can prevent understaffing:
- Keep track of which employees will retire soon, so you can start planning to add new employees ahead of time.
- Research local job offerings to make sure you offer a competitive salary.
- Provide perks like remote workforce management or more vacation days to make your business a more appealing employer.
- Be willing to pay promising employees educational fees while studying for the CPA license.
- Emphasize the longevity of the position when you post a job listing.
Offering Services Besides Taxes and Audits
In almost every accountant firm, taxes and audits are the two main services. There is nothing wrong with focusing on these two services since they’re certainly the areas that most consumers need help with. However, it is worth noting that these services might not be quite as essential in the future. CPA data analytics report that more and more customers are switching to online tax websites and other automated accounting services
Therefore, CPA companies need to find new ways to offer value to their clients. You never want to end up in a position where your customer is thinking, “A website would do this for me for free.” Ideally, the services you offer should be ones that are affordable to provide and essential to your customers.
Here are some services you can add to your lineup if you want to expand your practice:
- If you work with businesses, consider offering financing preparation. This can make it easier for your clients to handle the complexities of applying for commercial loans.
- Strategic cash flow management can be very helpful for individuals and small businesses. Since most CPAs already have a lot of detail on client finances, this is a very easy service to add.
- Some accounting firms are offering to contract as a part-time CFO. This role is very similar to being an accountant, but it comes with some extra responsibilities and opportunities.
- Whether a client is a business that suspects fraud or an individual dealing with identity theft, investigatory services are quite helpful.
- Trust accounting and estate planning are somewhat complex, so many clients rely on CPA companies for expertise.
- Roughly one-third of companies don’t know their true value. CPAs who do business valuations provide an essential service to other companies.
For over 40 years, we have been helping CPAs to keep up with the ever-changing business world. Our family-owned business works hard to ensure that firms have the equipment and systems they need. We provide personalized solutions that address your unique business requirements. If you would like to learn more about our services, we are happy to answer your questions. Call us at Frontier Business Products to discover how we can help your CPA firm.