The 2022 AccountingWEB Live Summit in San Diego has wrapped up, and from all accounts, it felt good to be back. After a long break from events, the accounting community felt connected like never before. The post-pandemic reality is still uncertain, but one thing is for sure: human interaction and relationships will always lay the foundation for any business.
To summarize, AccountingWEB Live Summit 2022 was all about:
Building relationships with fellow firms and vendors
Moving towards a greater goal of enabling the industry
Improving your practice with the right technology
Here are some key takeaways, quotes and ideas from some of the sessions for those not able to make it (or for those wanting a recap from another perspective).
AI and machine learning are designed to make your life easier as an accounting firm leader. They take control of your manual and repetitive tasks, so you can control other, more high-value parts of running your business.
What this tech can’t do is build relationships. Clients and prospects don’t want a conversation with a robot. They want a conversation with a human. Technology is there to enable you, not to replace you.
Identify bottlenecks in your processes and assess how automation can help you work smarter, not harder. That way, you can reroute your time to building and maintaining strong, human client relationships.
Recommended reading: The Process Playbook
“Technology allows us to focus on the work we actually want to do.”
Fintech is continuously changing and has evolved drastically in the past 10 years. There are now over 25,000 fintech solutions worldwide, and they’re reshaping how SMBs offer financial services. Even though most fintech innovations occur in the consumer space, they do impact accounting services and how accounting firms operate.
Here are the 4 service offerings your accounting firm can focus on in the fintech space:
Fintech strategy consulting
Financial services offering
Productizing service offerings
Niche and benchmarking
Understand what fintech software your clients use and how you can adapt it to your service offering, or how you can encourage them to update their tech stack to your preferred apps.
Recommended reading: 5 strategies to get client buy-in for your tech stack
“We are in the toddler stage of SMB fintech. It’s just starting and holds a lot of opportunities in the future.”
Karbon's 2022 Practice Excellence Report reveals the business health, strengths, and weaknesses of 1,000+ accounting firms worldwide. It focuses on four critical areas to running a successful accounting firm: strategy, management, efficiency, and growth.
All accounting firms can be classified into four quartiles based on their Practice Excellence score, which allows them to see where they stand relative to other firms globally and highlight the areas they should improve.
Take the free Practice Excellence Assessment and see where you stand compared to other firms.
“Your sweet spot is where you want to be as a firm. You might want to have a lifestyle business or conquer the world.”
According to Lee Frederiksen from Hinge Marketing, only 42% of people in their mid-career are satisfied with their job. You might think that most people leave their jobs for a higher paycheck, but they account for only half.
In reality, it’s more likely that employees leave their current employer due to poor management and corporate culture. They think they can find better purpose-driven opportunities elsewhere.
Ask yourself: what makes people feel appreciated? Consider conducting ‘stay interviews’ with your employees where you ask them that very question: what makes you feel appreciated?
Think about intrinsic motivators—benefits beyond free lunches—like purpose and professional development opportunities.
“Your thoughts about why employees are happy or unhappy is what you assume.”
To maximize the ROI of your tech stack, you first need to point out what ROI means for you and your firm. Some see ROI as growth in revenue, client base, or number of deals closed. Others see it as getting time back to spend with their family and friends. Whatever your ROI might be, you need to build your tech stack strategically to help achieve your goal.
Look at your firm’s tech stack like your own baseball team. Which apps are pulling their weight? Which aren’t? Identify the positions that require the most attention and create an action plan to reassess if your firm has an actual need for these under-performing apps, and what the impacts would be if you removed or replaced them.
“If you don’t make a change, nothing will change.”
According to some, the AI revolution will presumably have the same impact as the industrial revolution. It will allow firms to increase consistency and reliability, produce better services for clients, and improve the quality of life for those doing the job.
According to PwC, AI is lined up to help organizations become 40% more efficient by 2035, unlocking an estimated $15.7 trillion USD in new economic value to global GDP by 2030.
Identify areas of your firm that can be automated with AI and assess if AI-based solutions can help you move the needle with your efficiency.
Recommended reading: The state of AI in professional firms
“I don't think AI and its definition is spot on. It's called ‘artificial’, but it should be called ‘augmented’. It doesn't replace you. It enables you.”
The key to successful growth, branding and relationship-building directly relates to your authenticity, no matter how large or small your accounting firm is. Your business story shouldn't dictate your personal story. It should be the other way around.
If you want to grow your firm, ask yourself ‘why?’ and ‘what does growth look like to me?’. The reason why should motivate everything you and your firm does in pursuit of whatever type of growth you desire.
“Once I started growing and working with more clients, I realized that I don't want to scale. I want to do something that excites me instead.”
It takes courage to firstly decide who you want to work with, and secondly, turn other potential clients away.
But once you become an expert in your niche, clients will find you themselves. To avoid burnout, it’s crucial to do what you love, and if you are lucky enough, the niche you chose will be your ‘forever niche’.
Find where your client is and target them accordingly. For example, interior designers don’t spend as much time on LinkedIn as attorneys do.
“We don’t need to be experts in their business. We need to be experts in accounting.”
Arguably, the accounting community proves to be even more connected and collaborative than in pre-pandemic times. The uncertainty of the past two years has brought everyone together and showed the actual value of human interaction and in-person relationship-building.
Now, as a result, conferences like 2022’s AccountingWEB Live Summit, prove to be educational and inspiring with an excellent line-up of presenters and exhibitions, but also deeply grounding as the community comes together again after all this time.